The program ended, and the corpses of the insectoid opponents vanished, although the jungle-planet setting remained. A couple of murmured commands to the arch and the temperature became slightly more comfortable.
Worf's breathing was still heavy, his pulse still rapid. He was amazed that his companion's vital signs had already normalized. "I thought," he grumbled between choppy intakes of breath that were absolutely not gasps, "you said you were half human."
"I am," the other responded. Her voice sounded like a faintly amused purr. "Perhaps I'm just in better shape."
Worf eyed the woman's form. She was tall and lean but no so lean that delicious curves weren't evident beneath her training-weight body armor. Delicious curves and even more delicious muscles. Her hair was long, and slightly wild. Her eyes flashed with a fire that could only be Klingon.
"Perhaps you are merely better at hiding your exhaustion."
An arched eyebrow, a non-verbal scoffing sound. "Please," she said, her tone full of snark. Snark and challenge. "Your calisthenics program makes an excellent warm-up routine but for a real workout, you should give up combat against holographic opponents and try a real warrior's game."
He took a step toward her, realizing anew that they were of a nearly matching height. He could not intimidate her this way. (Nor, he admitted to himself, did he wish to. This woman was more interesting as an equal.)
His response was a growled statement, "I should be insulted. Tell me, K'Ehleyr, what game is more dangerous, or more complete a workout than – "
Her face was close enough to bite when she interrupted him, "I could tell you, but I'd much rather show you, if you're rested enough?"
"I am prepared for any challenge," he declared.
"Arch!" Again her commands were spoken too quietly for him to hear, but the temperature dropped rapidly as the jungle was supplanted by a frozen pond surrounded by jagged peaks of snow and ice. "Take this," she said, tossing him a long wooden stick that curved into a soft L-shape at the end.
"This is a hockey stick!"
"You know hockey? Good, that will help." Again with the purring. Why did she insist upon making that sound? Did she know how it got to him.
"My parents are Ukranian. I have played hockey. It is… exuberant… for an Earth game, but hardly a contest for warriors."
"True enough." K'Ehleyr sounded almost bored. "Which is why we're not playing hockey."
"Then what are we… playing?"
"Baskiceball. It was developed by my human ancestors and I think you'll find it more than challenging." Stepping onto the ice, she gestured for him to take the position opposite her.
Worf complied, noticing the stockpiled snowballs behind each of them, the nets suspended from wires at each end of the pond, and the orange sphere resting between them. He could surmise much of the object of the game from the equipment. Nevertheless he queried, "Are you not going to explain the rules?"
"Rules? Whatever made you believe there would be rules?" She lifted her head and called skyward, "Begin."
A whistle sounded.
Game play commenced.
The first time she tripped him with her stick, he howled in fury.
The second time, he objected, "Disallow! This cannot be a legal action."
"Who said anything about legalities?" she laughed, dancing away from him, surprisingly sure-footed considering they were on ice.
The third time, he spun her to the hard, cold ground, and pinned her there. "I find I prefer to be the one on top."
Her lunge pushed him off and away, but she dropped to straddle him in a reverse of their original positons. "I find that I do, also." Her loose hair swung into his face and tickled his brow ridges and the fire in her dark eyes seemed to warm him through. Leaning closer, she kissed him, in the human way, then bit his lip enough to draw blood, which she licked away.
Worf never saw her reach for her stick.
He never saw the motion that sent the ball hurtling toward her net.
He heard the sound of the basketball as it fell through the fine chains of the basket, and glowered at her. "What was that?"
"Game point." She laughed, and the sound moved through him from ridge to toes. "Care for a rematch?"
"Perhaps a… different game."
Notes: This is a crossover in technicality only. My friend Nuchtchas reminded me that Suzi Plakson wasn't only the actress who played K'Ehleyr, but also the actress who played Marshall's mother on HIMYM. In doing so, she created my new head-canon that K'Ehleyr's human family is descended from the Eriksens of St. Cloud, MN.