Well, I'm not entirely pleased with how this story turned out. I was trying to capture a more... tender side of Worf, and while I know he has one, I think we can all agree that it's not something we see often. Still, I hope at least a few of you will enjoy this story. TNG is one of my very favorite TV shows ever!
A special thanks to my brother, who's an even bigger TNG fan than me, for beta-reading this.
Reh Du Sigh vav il. (Your father is a part of you always.)
– Klingon proverb
Worf stopped short when the doors to his quarters slid open and he saw the odd assortment of food and drink scattered across the table in his dining area. His first thought, as the Security Officer, was to announce a ship-wide intruder alert. Someone had obviously entered his quarters, and no one aboard the Enterprise would've done that without his permission. He was reaching for the Starfleet badge on his chest to sound the alarm when his eyes fell on Alexander, sitting silently at the far end of the table. Worf quickly lowered his hand, a wave of guilt washing over him. He had almost taken his own son for an intruder.
It wasn't the first time that Worf had arrived back at his quarters after his shift on the bridge was over and been surprised to find Alexander there. Sometimes, during the course of his day, he still completely forgot that Alexander lived with him now – or, even worse, forgot that he had a son at all.
"Alexander," he said – a bit awkwardly, because all his conversations with the boy were awkward. "How was your day? How was school?"
"Fine" was the only reply. Alexander did seem to love giving his father monosyllabic answers. He could be so sullen, so silent – but then, Worf couldn't blame him. Had Alexander been sitting here alone in their quarters since he got out of school? Why hadn't Worf thought about that sooner, when he realized that he would have to stay on the bridge late today? Guilt overtook him again, and anger, too – anger at K'Ehleyr for waiting so long to tell him that he had a son, almost as if she were setting him up to be a terrible father; at himself, for being such a terrible father; at Sergy and Helena for insisting that he take custody of Alexander. He needs you, Worf, Helena had told him over and over. He needs his father. But what could Alexander possibly need from him that they couldn't better provide? It didn't make any sense.
Alexander didn't even look at him, but kept his head down, running one finger along the lip of the cup he was holding in his hands. Worf cast about the room for something else to say. Spread on the table between them were a large jar full of amber-colored drink, a measuring cup, some spoons, a few slices of dark rye bread, and several raisins and mint leaves.
"Did you make... kvass?" he asked, surprised.
Alexander raised his head sharply and looked at him. "It's mint kvass," he said, sounding surprised himself. "Grandma used to make it for me before I went to sleep."
Worf smiled. Of course she had. Kvass was a traditional Russian drink that Helena loved. She had never once ordered it from their food replicator. She always got the ingredients from the replicator and made it herself, using an old recipe that she claimed had been in her family since the Bolsheviks revolted against the tzar in the twentieth century. When Worf and Nikolai were children, she used to give them cold, sweet lemon or strawberry kvass on hot days, and almost every night, a cup of mint kvass before they went to bed.
It felt like such a long time ago. Worf hadn't tasted kvass for many years, since before he left Sergy and Helena's home for the Academy.
"May I have a cup?" he asked, as he pulled out the chair opposite Alexander and sat down. Alexander didn't answer, but he smiled – and Worf was sure it was the first time he'd seen him smile since he came to live aboard the Enterprise – and carefully poured a cup for his father from the jar, looking proud of himself.
They sat and drank in silence for a moment, as Worf thought about the strange way that life had tossed the two of them together. Here they were, Klingons who had been raised in part on Earth by Russian humans and were now the only two of their kind aboard a Federation starship.
"This is good kvass," Worf said, after a long sip. He meant that; it was almost as good as Helena's, in fact. "Did your grandmother teach you how to make it?" Alexander nodded. "Yes, she tried to teach your Uncle Nikolai and I how to make it too, but we could never do it. You must be a quicker learner than we are."
"It's easy to make," Alexander said. He smiled again, and Worf thought to himself, for the first time since finding out about his son, that perhaps he wasn't such a bad father, after all. "I could teach you, Father."
Father. Worf wanted Alexander to call him Vav, the Klingon word for father, but he'd never said so. Alexander probably didn't speak any Klingon at all. Worf imagined that K'Ehleyr had only spoken English to him, but he didn't know for sure and felt guilty over that. It was one more thing about his own son that he didn't know.
Besides, he couldn't expect Alexander to call him Vav when he barely even called him Father. He called Worf sir more than anything else.
"Perhaps you could," Worf agreed, smiling back at him. He drank another sip of kvass, then stood and began to pace the length of their dining area. This would be easier to say if he wasn't looking at Alexander. "I'm sorry I was so late getting back to our quarters today, Alexander," he said slowly. "I hope you know..."
Worf paused, considering the best way to finish the sentence – perhaps with that I'm doing the best I can. But it didn't matter because he happened to glance back at Alexander then, and saw that he had folded his arms over the table and laid his head down on them. He was fast asleep. Worf sighed. He had been wanting to say this to Alexander for some time, and now that he had finally found the right moment, the boy had fallen asleep on him. But Worf couldn't blame him for that. Drinking mint kvass again was almost enough to make him sleepy, too.
So Worf simply picked him up and carried him to his room. He knew Alexander was short – his head barely cleared Worf's waist when they stood side-by-side – but he felt almost impossibly small and light in his arms. Could a child this size really grow up to become a warrior? Perhaps not, but perhaps that didn't matter so much, as long as he grew up to become an honorable man. He thought Alexander was sound asleep, but as he laid him down on his bed, the boy stirred a bit.
"Maj rahm," he muttered drowsily, his eyes still closed. Worf straightened up in surprise, staring. Maj rahm. So Alexander did speak at least of a little of their people's language. He knew how to say good night in Klingon.
"Maj rahm," Worf answered back softly. He returned to their dining area and began to pick up the measuring spoons and kvass ingredients that Alexander had left lying on the table. Worf had never really understood why Helena still made the drink herself, when it would've been so much easier to simply order it from the food replicator. It didn't make any sense. Nikolai had asked her that question once when they were children.
"Order it from the replicator?" Helena had scoffed, and then she'd held up the piece of paper with their family kvass recipe. It showed just how old the recipe was that it was actually written on paper. "This is a family recipe, boys. A family tradition. You can't get that out of a replicator."
Worf paused with a slice of rye bread in his hands and those words still echoing in his head. Family. Tradition. He finally realized why, even though they probably could've done a much better of job of raising him, Sergy and Helena wanted him to have Alexander. He finally realized that it wasn't only Alexander who needed him, but that perhaps he needed his son, too.