SMALL PROBLEMS

by Lorraine Anderson

"Oh, isn't she cute!"

Worf growled and glared at the woman, showing his teeth. She flinched back. If he heard "cute" one more time, he was going to spit gagh. Or knock someone down. Or...

The woman retreated, which was fine with Worf. He had heard enough of cute for the past day to last him a lifetime.

If only he could get hold of that - Q!

But Q showed when he felt like it, and growling at an entity had very little honor in it. Q was below his notice. He had no honor, hiding behind supernatural abilities to mask a basic lack of courage. He was no warrior.

But Q made him so mad!

Apologize? Never.

A head stuck out of the wall about three feet above him. It looked down. "Oh, I forgot," Q said in a mocking tone, and the head slid down to Worf's level. "And how's my little boy today?"

Worf growled in response.

Q's arm emerged, and he tousled Worf's hair. With lightning quick reflexes, Worf grabbed the arm and attempted to throw Q over his head.

It didn't work.

Worf pulled again, even though he knew it was futile.

Q emerged from the wall in his Admiral's uniform. "Did you want me to go someplace, little boy?"

Worf growled in answer.

"Oh, I do believe I have a feral child here."

Worf closed his eyes. He felt so... helpless.

"No gratitude at all. Simply because I give you a body to fit your brain..."

Worf opened his eyes and looked at his arms. They were so small, so pale, so... weak. He entertained the possibility that he might remain this way the rest of his life, then put it out of his mind. A stray hair come down in his face. He pulled it out with a jerk, and Q flinched - feigned, Worf was sure. Worf studied the hair. Curly. Fine. Blonde. He stared at Q, then let the hair drop. Ignoring Q completely, he walked on.

"I'm still waiting for my apology, child," Q said, popping in front of him.

"And you will still be waiting. I have nothing to apologize for."

Q's face darkened. "Then you can stay that way." He disappeared.

Worf sighed. Jadzia had told him that he should apologize for punching Q. But what Q had done was intolerable... he had turned Jadzia male. Admittedly, he had turned her right back, but it had... scared... Worf. Q had gone too far.

Jadzia had said that she hadn't minded; she had been male before. But Worf wanted... needed her female, and loving a male was not his way.

And the punch felt so right! He was surprised though, that Q had not anticipated it.

Omniscient? Bah.

He squared his shoulders before he reached the promenade, then moved into the crowd with a steady stride. A few people looked at him, some startled at his determined air, others smiling at what they thought was a child playing at being Starfleet. Worf knew what they were thinking and ignored them all as he wove through the morning crowd, trying to reach Sickbay to get examined by Dr. Bashir. It was difficult. Many people simply didn't even see him... he was too small for them to notice.

Suddenly, Worf found himself on the ground. His tender back muscles stung from the impact. He looked up to see a Klingon face looking at him. "General Martok," he said, closing his eyes, then sprang up before the older Klingon could help him.

"Are you hurt?" the Klingon said roughly. Worf winced. A Klingon child would not have gotten such consideration. In fact, many Klingons would not have acknowledged the human child, but Worf knew that Martok had the honor to assist a weaker ally.

Worf shook his head. "General. I need to talk with you." His childish treble piped absurdly.

Martok raised his eyebrows at the temerity of the human boy. "I don't recall that we've met, child." He looked closer and narrowed his good eye. "You are wearing my family symbol."

"Yes." Worf looked around and noticed an alcove where they could be out of the flow of traffic. He pointed. "There."

Worf led the curious Klingon to the alcove, then turned and stared him straight in the eye. He took a deep breath. "Have you ever heard of a large piece of ... named Q?"

"Q? Can't say... wait a minute, Jadzia was telling me about an entity that bothered Sisko for a while." His eye widened. "Worf?"

Worf nodded.

Worf had never seen a Klingon giggle before, and hoped never to see such a sight again. Finally, Martok broke out in honest Klingon laughter.

"I fail to see the humor in this," Worf glowered.

"Oh, Worf," Martok said, laughing, stopping himself short of hitting Worf on the back. "You would. Your honor keeps you from having a sense of humor." He looked at Worf. "I suppose if I, too, were raised among humans, I would be more Klingon than most Klingons."

Worf glared at the crowd, more than ready to leave Martok's jovial company.

Martok's voice softened. "Oh, Worf, I don't mean to insult you. I know you have more to prove than the average Klingon, and you have done so commendably." Worf looked up at him. "I say this as the head of the house of Martok. I am proud of you." He smiled again. "But that doesn't mean that I don't find your present situation amusing."

Worf closed his eyes and sighed. "I do not find it amusing."

"No. Of course not. I would not, either." Martok looked at the milling crowd. "As one warrior to another, I would be honored to clear your way to your destination."

"General," Worf said slowly. "You cannot clear my way all the time."

"No, of course not. " He regarded Worf with his good eye. "But I can do so now. Your destination?"

"Sickbay."

"Follow me." Martok swung out into the flow of traffic. "Make way," he bellowed. "Make way for a great warrior!"

Startled, the crowd gave way before Martok, then gaped at the small blond boy walking dignified before him.

#

Bashir looked at his tricorder, then at the readout on his screen. He then looked speculatively at Worf. Worf let it go on for a second, then said "What!"

Bashir glanced at Martok. "as far as I can tell, you are a normal human boy. No trace of any Klingon blood."

Worf slumped.

"It's always possible that Q might change you back," Bashir said brightly.

The walls reverberated with laughter. Worf and Martok dropped into a defensive posture and growled. Bashir jumped and raised his eyebrows. "Or maybe not." He looked at the tricorder again. "In that case, the good news is that you should grow up to be a normal human male." He winced. AIn about ten to fifteen years."

Worf winced. Martok put his hand on his shoulder.

"No," the wall said. "Actually, Doctor, the good news is that he isn't a small grease spot on the carpet right now. As he could have been after he hit me."

"Worf," Martok said. "Did I ever tell you one of Martok's sayings?" Worf shook his head. "'Only cowards hide in walls.'"

The walls were silent. Martok shrugged.

Worf looked at the Doctor. "I can go back to duty?"

Bashir looked at him at moment. "We've done every test I know. Your physical health is good, your mental health is unchanged..."

"Doctor..." Worf growled.

"I'll call the Captain immediately. I suspect that work is the best thing for you right now."

"Thank you." He strode toward the door, then hesitated at the teaming crowd of Bajorans.

"Martok laid his hands on Worf's shoulders. "I need to talk to Captain Sisko. Would you accompany me to the bridge?"

"I would be proud to," Worf said, grateful for Martok's subterfuge.

Together, they strode out into the hall.

#

"Stop laughing!"

"I'm sorry, Worf," Jadzia giggled into the nightgown she had over her head. "But you're so cute with your shirt off!"

"I am not... 'cute.'" Worf scowled into his raktajina.

"But you are!" Jadzia pulled her gown over her head, then started giggling.

"What!"

"I know you wanted children, Worf, but this is ridiculous."

"I am going to bed."

Jadzia pressed into Worf's back, then put her arms around him. "Aw, Worf, don't be mad. You have to admit the situation is humorous." She started kneading his shoulders. "I know you're upset. But I fell in love with you, not your body." He turned to look at her and she grinned. "Well, maybe a little." He looked at her again. She grinned even further. "All right, Worf," she said, kissing the top of his head. "You're the best lover I've ever had."

"Of course," Worf said.

"I just love this domestic bliss," the wall said. "I should turn Worf back just to see... but no, that would make him too happy. Tell me, Jadzia, is biting enjoyable?"

Jadzia's grin turned feral. "You mean, you haven't tried? You know, I know this little house where the ladies..."

"Touchy, touchy." He stuck a head out of the wall. "Cozy quarters. I wish I could have made it for the... honeymoon."

Jadzia smiled. "Well, gee, I don't believe you were on the list. Worf, do you remember putting him on the list?"

"No."

"Oversight. So sorry; what a pity."

Q sighed. "Yes, quite." He looked bored. "Well, I could stay and trade quips with you all night, but I have things to do, people to torture..."

Worf glared at him.

Q gave him a foppish salute and tousled his head. "Toodle-ooo," he piped, then vanished.

Worf growled.

"You know," Jadzia said, "he does have a sort of boyish charm."

Worf stared at her.

"But I prefer men."

Worf smiled.

#

"How did this happen?" Worf said, eyeing the hole in the floor dubiously.

Miles O'Brien rolled his eyes. "Worf, I just fix Cardassian technology, I don't try to understand their motives." He dropped to his stomach and trained his flashlight down the hole. "Where is that robot?"

"So?"

"It's an old station that's been through a lot. Things are bound to work loose."

"Why can't you just cut through the floor?"

"There it is!" O'Brien crowed, and picked up the camera-laden robot, setting it onto the deck next to him. He rolled over onto his back, then sat up. "We don't have remarkably good records for Terek Nor. We have blueprints on how a Cardassian station is generally put together, but the last engineer like to experiment, cobble things out of leftover materials, and didn't like to write down what he fixed. And then he hid all his cables. Behind metal plates. Underneath other wiring. In an air duct, yet." He shrugged. "It seemed more efficient to come at it from the bottom."

"So I'm supposed to fix it. Why me?"

"This hole is too small for even Nog." He looked away. "And Captain Sisko told me to ask you. He said he seemed frustrated lately."

Worf thought of the controls in OPS he was too short to reach, and particularly the reactions of the other Klingons he was supposed to be a liaison for. "The Captain is right. I am tu'HomI'raH."

"Tu'HomI'raH?" O'Brien mangled the pronunciation.

"Useless. A burden."

O'Brien looked as if he were going to disagree, and Worf cut him off with a stare. He looked away. "Worf, I won't lie. I never thought of you because... um... of your current condition. And when Captain Sisko suggested you, my first thought was whether you can lift my tool bag."

Worf looked down at his pasty white hands. He hesitated for a second, then confidently strode over to the pack and lifted it up. He tried not to show the strain it took him.

He caught a strange look on O'Brien's face, then O'Brien nodded. 'Right. The camera bot showed you what you had to fix - just get that bad plating out of the way, splice the cable, and get out of there... Do you need help getting down?"

Worf had dropped into the hole. "Chief... I will not break."

O'Brien made a rude noise. "Excuse me, Worf, but who was the Klingon who broke one of his spinal cords? Worf, just be careful." He dropped the equipment behind Worf and hovered over the hole.

Worf dropped to his stomach and started shimmying down the hole. He flicked on his wrist light, then he winced. Odd shapes and shadows he could stand, but why did the Cardassian Vaq have to use mirrors?

"How are you doing, Worf?" O'Brien yelled after him.

He started forward again. "I am well, Chief." No, not mirrors, just highly reflective metal. He put it out of his mind. He went right at the first corner, left at the next, then right again. And there it was, in a large opening in the duct work. Sparks were pouring down through the ceiling, and a puddle of molten metal was on the floor.

Worf tapped on this communicator and sat up. "Worf to O'Brien. Chief, are you certain I won't disturb anything important?"

"I don't believe so," O'Brien answered. "I'm sure I have the main lines traced. I think it only connects to some of the rooms on the habitat ring, which is how we found it out. But I know it can't be left like that."

Worf took the crowbar and pried at the plate. It didn't move... then it budged a tiny bit. He put all his body weight on it, and pried it a little more. It barely moved, and he was getting tired. He raised the crowbar again, then lowered it and looked through the opening with his wrist light. Hmmm... a low voltage phaser burst should get it now. He reached for his phaser, then stopped. Didn't O'Brien say something about having a new cutting tool? He dug around in the bag - yes, it was a brand new laser cutting saw. He smiled, started the tool, and quickly cut the plate out.

He studied the cable. It was writhing like a snake. He stared in amazement, then he narrowed his eyes.

"Q," he shouted, in a soprano that echoed.

Q stuck his head through the ceiling just inches from Worf, who quickly laid down to get some distance from the entity.

"You bellowed?" Q sang.

"Quit interfering in my work."

"Oh, you figured that out, did you?" The cable continued to shake.

Worf could see only one solution to this. He closed his eyes in frustration. "Q. I apologize for hitting you." That didn't bother him as much as he thought. "Hitting was no solution. The honorable thing would have been to ignore you."

Q narrowed his eyes. "I accept your apology - I think. Besides, I'm getting bored with this..". He looked over Worf's head. "Oh, how wonderful! Your precious Captain Picard is being his usual arrogant self. I think it's about time I teach him a lesson." He started to withdraw his head, then looked at Worf. "I suppose I should restore everything here. Can't leave it messed up." He snapped his fingers.

Worf abruptly noticed that the chamber was much smaller. He noted in passing that the ceiling was fixed, then looked at his hands. He was... back to normal. He felt profound relief, followed by a disconcerting anxiety as he looked at the air ducts he had just shimmyed through: the air ducts that were now much too small...

"Q!" Worf bellowed in his normal bass voice.

"O'Brien to Worf B was that you"? his communicator said.

Worf sighed. "Yes, chief, that was me."

He heard a muffled curse. "We have a problem."

"Yes, chief," Worf growled. The next time he saw Q...

#

Worf strode down the promenade, watching in satisfaction as the crowd veered around him.

"Worf," he heard a call behind him, then felt a hand clasp his shoulder.

"General Martok," Work acknowledged.

"I'm glad to see you back to normal. I understand that piece of Vaq left you trapped in a floor."

"Four hours. I was able to help from the bottom." Worf turned to Martok. "I had much time for thought."

"And..." Martok glanced at him sharply.

"I thought of at least one hundred ways to torture a Q."

"Don't bet on that," a voice came out of the air.

Worf and Martok crouched in a defensive posture, then looked at each other and laughed, long and loud.

Martok clasped his hand on Worf's arm. "Come. I will buy you a drink in honor of your victory over your enemy."

They heard a rude noise behind them, and they laughed again and strode off. Q materialized briefly, looked at the retreating warriors, and shrugged.

"They're not worth it," he muttered, then disappeared.

END