Chance Encounter by Djinn

From her seat at the bar, Deanna Troi kept a watchful eye on the door of the lounge while trying to appear as if she were completely absorbed in enjoying her hot chocolate. She noticed the doors opening across the corridor, saw the conference delegates begin filing past, a few leaving their colleagues to duck into the lounge for a quick break, a chance to talk in more privacy or just enjoy a raktajino or coffee in peace.

She saw Picard and Will as they walked past, both absorbed in whatever the Vulcan Ambassador was saying. They didn't see her. Not that she was doing anything wrong, she told herself as she took another sip of the rich beverage. So what if she didn't have any business that required her to be in this section of Starfleet Command? So she was looking for one person in particular...that wasn't wrong. She smiled. She was getting as skilled as her mother at denial.

"Get us some raktajinos, Worf. I think that last speaker could bore the horn off a targ." Chancellor Martok pushed past the bar and her, heading for a bank of replicators. "Why did I let you talk me into coming to this outreach conference?"

Worf turned to the replicator by the bar, ignoring all but his task. She studied him as he ordered the drinks. He seemed wilder now, less civilized, less Starfleet. More Klingon. She looked away so that she could look up again as he turned, this time to say in wonder, "Worf?"

His eyes widened. "Deanna."

"It's been a long time."

He nodded, the two cups he held in front of him forgotten as he looked at her.

"Whoever this is, she better be interesting enough to keep your Chancellor waiting," Martok said, his voice laced with amusement.

She turned to look at him, held out her hand. "Commander Deanna Troi. Ambassador Worf and I were shipmates on the Enterprise."

Martok took her hand. She braced herself, but his grip was not crushing, was surprisingly light. "I believe he may have mentioned you a time or two." He looked at Worf, who still seemed at loss for words. Taking one of the raktajinos, Martok smiled at her. "I'll give you some time to catch up. Worf, I'll see you back in the conference."

Worf nodded.

She smiled, as Martok strode confidently into the crowd in the corridor. "He indulges you."

"I am from his house. And I did make him Chancellor."

She laughed. "So that story is true? You really were Chancellor of the Klingon Empire?"

"For a very short time, yes." He stood stiffly.

"Worf, sit down. I won't bite." She blushed then, remembering a time when he bit her.

He smiled, obviously remembering it too. "Hopefully, you can say the same for me."

"A joke? My, you have come a long way. Deep Space Nine must have agreed with you?" His smile faded and she felt hers die also. It hadn't been his time on the station that had taught him to tease; it had been Jadzia Dax. "I'm sorry, Worf. I wasn't thinking."

He looked down. "It has been nearly two years. I cannot let every mention of her upset me."

"It's a testament to how much you loved her that it does." Deanna studied him, read the swirling emotions she felt coming off of him. "I never got a chance to tell you how sorry I was."

He nodded.

"It was a senseless death."

He stiffened. "She is in Sto-Vo-Kor."

"I didn't mean..." Deanna stared down at her chocolate. "I'm sure she died bravely." She looked over at him. He too was staring down into his drink. Reaching over to touch his hand lightly, she said, "But too soon. Too young."

The rush of sadness, of loneliness that she felt as she touched him nearly sent her reeling. So sad. How could one person be so profoundly sad?

"I heard that the Dax symbiont didn't die?" she ventured cautiously, as she let go of his hand.

"It lives on."

"On the station, I think?"

He nodded. Then, before she could ask anything else, he said with forced cheerfulness, "You would be proud of Alexander, Deanna. He is on the Ya'Vang, serving as weapons officer."

"Yes, I know." At his look of surprise, she laughed. "Alexander and I became quite good friends, you know. He's kept in touch with me. Lets me know how he's doing from time to time."

"I did not know."

"Why should you?" She smiled softly. "You are proud of him then?"

"He does not dishonor our house."

She shook her head. Nothing had changed. "Wouldn't it be easier to just say, 'yes'?"

He looked down. "Apparently not for me. Jadzia used to..." He trailed off and the silence between them was oppressive.

Deanna turned in her stool. "You _can_ talk about her, Worf. It might be better if you did."

"Better?" He looked at her suspiciously. "Better than what?"

"Better for you." She sighed. "You don't talk about her, do you?"

"I honor her memory."

"In silence?" She held up a hand as he turned to her with an argument. "I withdraw the question."

"I am not like you. It is not my way to"--he searched for the word--"emote about her." He gulped down his raktajino, busied himself with ordering a new one. He glanced over at her cup. "Hot chocolate," he said with a grimace. "Do you want another?"

"Yes, please."

"You still have a sweet tooth."

"I will go to my grave with one."

He shot a look at her.

"Worf, it's a figure of speech. You can't take every comment so personally."

He seemed to relax. "Martok tells me the same thing."

"The Chancellor is a wise man." She took the mug from him, set it down and stirred it gently. She could tell that Worf was staring at her. After a few seconds, she looked up at him. "What?"

"You are well? I have not even asked."

She smiled gently. "I am fine."

"You are still with Riker?"

She nodded.

"He treats you well?" He scowled, as if willing to do something about it if she said that Will didn't.

"He and I are fine."

Worf nodded. "I was at his table for lunch yesterday. He seemed...uncomfortable around me."

She raised an eyebrow.

"I think I remind him of a time when he almost lost you. It is not easy to have to face that."

"No," she agreed. "It's not." She waited for him to take a sip of his drink and put the mug down before she said, "It couldn't have been easy seeing the new Dax on the station?"

He didn't look at her. "It was not."

"Is she very like Jadzia?"

He shook his head. "She is her own person." Then he frowned. "Except there are all the memories of the previous hosts, including Jadzia, inside her. It can be very confusing." He looked at Deanna. "She is a counselor too."

"Not a warrior like Jadzia?"

"Jadzia was not a warrior."

"She was more of one than I ever was." Deanna grinned as she remembered all the times Worf had tried to teach her to fight.

"You did all right. For a Betazoid." He smiled, then the expression faded.

She could read some new emotions coming from him. "I never regretted it. Our time together." When he looked over at her, she leaned in and kissed him gently on the cheek. "I treasure it, in fact."

He lifted his hand, stroked her face gently. Then he turned back to his drink. "I too never regretted it."

Deanna smiled. "No, you just forgot it once you met Jadzia." At his look she raised her hand. "That's how it should be, Worf. That's what love is. What it does. It makes us forget everyone else that came before." She considered that. "Well not forget. But they fade a bit to the background, and only the one we truly love is there for us."

He nodded.

"She's still there, isn't she, Worf?"

He didn't bother to argue, just nodded. "I don't want to let her go. I can't."

Deanna turned back to her chocolate. "When it's time, you will."

"Will I?" He was looking at her, eyes almost beseeching. "Do I dishonor her by not allowing her to rest?"

She smiled gently. "No, Worf. There is no dishonor."

He looked down. "She would not be angry with me?" His voice sounded very tentative.

"Not if she loves you, Worf. She'd only want you to do what's right for you...in your own time."

"She would tell me to move on. To find another to love."

"Would she?"

"I told Ezri that." He saw Deanna's look and explained, "Dax's new host. I...we are friends now. I did not stand in her way when she fell in love."

Deanna grinned. "From the sound of your voice, you didn't approve exactly either."

Worf glared at her. "He is childish...not the man I would have chosen for her." His look softened. "Yet he appears to make her happy."

She smiled in understanding. "Sometimes that's all that matters."

He stared at her, his look becoming even gentler, more familiar. "We were happy once?"

She nodded. "We were." She took the hand he held out to her.

"You are happy with him?"

"I am." She felt him squeeze her hand, then he let go.

"Then I am happy for you." He drank the rest of his raktajino. "I must go. Martok will be waiting."

She slid off her stool and pulled him into a quick embrace. "Take care of yourself, Worf."

His arms tightened around her, and for a moment he buried his face in her hair. Then he pulled away, his voice all business, his bearing proper. "It was good seeing you, Commander."

"Goodbye, Ambassador." She straightened, nodded formally. Then ruined it all by grinning.

For a moment, she thought she saw a twinkle in his eye, a tiny lessening of the sadness she felt coming from him. They stood staring at each other, then with a slight curl of his lips, he turned and left the room.

She watched the door for a long moment before sitting back down to finish her chocolate.

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Deanna was tired by the time she got back to her temporary quarters. She took a quick shower before sitting down to read her messages. There were several from her mother, long and full of gossip as usual. She was almost through the last one when her door chimed. She called out absently, "Come."

"Am I interrupting?" Will's arms snaked around her, as he leaned over the back of her chair and nuzzled her neck.

She smiled. "A very important letter."

He read over her shoulder. "Trixen did that? I'd have done more than just grounded him."

Deanna laughed. "Well, for once, you and mother agree." She felt her smile fade, said in a more serious tone, "But I don't want to talk about my cousin."

He let go of her, walked over to the couch and sat down. "What do you want to talk about?"

She turned in her chair, looked over at him. "I saw Worf today."

He took that in. "How is Worf?"

"He thrives professionally. It's clear that Chancellor Martok is quite fond of him."

"Like a father."

Deanna nodded. "That's what I thought too."

"And emotionally? Does Worf thrive emotionally?"

She got up and walked over to the couch, curling in beside him. "No." As he pulled her closer, she turned to look at him. "You were right. He is very sad."

He nodded. "Yesterday at lunch. I just felt as if he was floundering. Not that he wasn't in charge of himself. It was more..."

"What was going on inside him." She nodded. "Maybe you should be the counselor."

He shook his head. "I wouldn't be any good at it. Could barely talk to him at lunch. I kept trying to think of what I would want people to say to me, if I'd lost you. And since I couldn't come up with any anything that didn't seem trite, I settled for saying nothing." He smiled softly. "But I knew enough to send you."

She smiled. "Yes, you did."

"Did you help him?"

"A little." She leaned back in his arms. "Most of it is just going to take time. He loved her profoundly. He won't get over it quickly. But he'll be all right." She sighed. "That's as much as I'll be able to do for him, short of..." She trailed off in embarrassment.

"Short of what?" By his voice, it was clear he knew exactly what she meant. And that he wasn't having any of it.

She smiled. He was still jealous of Worf after all these years. She remembered Worf's expression and thought that the sentiment might cut both ways.

He leaned down and kissed her cheek. "I'm afraid if it's a choice of making Ambassador Worf feel better or keeping you with me that Worf is on his own."

"I had a feeling you'd say that." She looked up at him, remembered how concerned he'd been when he told her of running into Worf, how worried he'd been. "You're a good man, Will Riker."

As he leaned in to kiss her, he said, "Don't spread it around."

"I won't. Especially not to Worf." She grinned, as she watched Will blanch at the thought of Worf learning that he'd meddled in the Klingon's affairs.

Then Will smiled at her again but his eyes looked very sad.

"What is it?"

"Just thinking what it would be like...to lose you." He studied her face, touched her cheek lightly. "To not be able to wake up beside you ever again."

She could feel the sadness rolling off him at the thought; it felt much as Worf's had. She felt tears threaten as, in a moment of sheer indulgence, she let his emotion overwhelm her. He loved her so much. It was important to be reminded of that, too easy to lose sight of it in the face of everyday life. Blinking hard, she touched his face and said, "I'm right here."

He nodded, pulling her to him. "And that's where you're staying." He kissed her. As he lost himself in her, she heard him whisper, "Forever."

She thought of Worf. Felt a moment's sadness overpower her, even as she responded to Will's kisses. Forever.

Forever didn't always last very long.

FIN