Small Gifts

By Laura Schiller

Based on: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Copyright: Paramount

At the end of her shift in Ops, Jadzia was just closing down her station when she felt a familiar presence over her shoulder: someone tall and broad enough to cast a shadow, as well as someone who radiated heat. Someone who clearly wasn't sure what to say. She smiled to herself before turning around.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Worf?"

Commander Worf cleared his throat, a rumble as of a distant avalanche. Anyone who didn't know him might assume he was annoyed, but after almost a year of working together, she could recognize Klingon shyness when she saw it.

"Commander Dax …. will you be visiting Quark's Bar this evening?"

Now why would he ask that? He knew the bar was one of her favorite places on the station. Especially now, when Quark (though the stubborn little man would never admit it) needed all the support he could get after being blacklisted by the Ferengi Commerce Authority. Jadzia intended to spend as many credits as her budget could spare on food, drinks, holosuites and tongo, even knowing full well that Quark would use his situation as an excuse to hike up his prices.

Could Worf be working up the nerve to ask her on a date? She felt her heart beating faster, rather as it did during their martial arts lessons, when one or the other of them was about to get pinned to the floor. Finally. Maybe.

"As a matter of fact, yes," she said, rising smoothly to her feet and giving him what she hoped was a charming smile. "Would you like to join me?"

"Not tonight."

"Oh … okay. See you tomorrow, then."

It was silly, she told herself firmly, to feel so let down, as if she – and her previous hosts – hadn't been rejected thousands of times before. But she walked a little faster than usual on her way to the elevator. Of course, Worf with his long legs had no trouble keeping pace with her. He shouldered his way through the elevator doors just as they were closing.

"Promenade," he ordered. Then, turning to her: "When you see Quark, please give him these."

He took three holosuite data rods out of his pocket and held them out to her, without meeting her eyes. They were labeled in Standard: The Jungles of Betazed, The Wild West, and Exploring Alaska.

"Gifts from my former shipmates when I served on the Enterprise," he said gruffly. "I find them too tame for my liking. But perhaps Quark's customers will not."

Jadzia took them, noting the slight shiver that went through him when her cool hands brushed his warm ones.

"Wow, these are going to bring in a small fortune! I thought you disliked Quark," she said, looking down at the slim plastic data rods with amazement.

"I do," said Worf. "I do not trust that honorless little worm as far as I could throw him. However … " His voice dropped to such a low volume, she felt it more than heard it, vibrating up through the soles of her boots. "I know what it is to be exiled from one's people."

Of course he knew. Standing there with his Klingon warrior's baldric over his Starfleet uniform, his wild hair tightly braided, his head bowed with the weight of his family's dishonor, he was the very image of an exile. She knew how much he longed to be accepted by his people; she had seen that during their quest for the Sword of Kahless. And yet, he had willingly given up that chance, let her beam the Sword into space rather than fight Kor over it, because his personal code of honor mattered more to him than anything else.

Unlike Quark, who had broken the Rules of Acquisition rather than die for them. But the two men had one thing in common, though they'd never admit it: they had minds of their own, and the courage to use them.

If there was one thing Dax had always admired, it was independent thinking.

"I'll deliver these right away," she said, trying to sound professional, trying to keep all traces of sympathy out of her face and voice because she knew it would only irritate him.

The turbolift came to a stop.

"Do not tell Quark where those came from," said Worf, gesturing to the data rods, then marching out the door in double time.

Jadzia glanced at them one more time before putting them in her pocket. The plastic was scratched and scuffed, the labels faded, as if they had seen many travels and much use. "Too tame for his liking", yeah, right. They must have been some of his favorites.

She watched his long braid swinging as he walked away. This settled it.

One of these days, she was definitely going to make a move.