Author's Note (11/00): We've all tried without success to understand why on earth Deanna Troi and Worf started dating, aside from the hurt/comfort thing in the episode "Parallels." When, thank God, they finally *stopped* dating, we were never privy to how the break-up might have gone. Here's my version. Written in April, 1999. Rated PG. "* *" indicates an emphasized word or a thought.

Disclaimer: Paramount owns it all. Always has, always will. I accept this.

by Diane Bellomo

Troi was troubled.

When the ship's counselor is troubled, it might be a cause for genuine concern. However, Troi's troubles were not affecting her ability to do her job. Aside from one isolated incident when she had temporarily lost her empathic abilities, she had always been very good at separating her personal life from her professional one. She had had, in fact, a very productive day, albeit a long one, one which had included achieving an unexpected breakthrough with Ensign Marsh that would finally allow the woman to begin the process of healing. So she was not at all troubled with the way her career was going.

As she traversed the corridor, headed from her office to her quarters, she allowed her thoughts to slide to the more troublesome ones, the personal ones, the ones she had been successfully keeping at bay all day.

She and Worf had been dating for several months now, if "dating" could be defined as the series of meetings that more often than not became a cultural clash of one sort or another. It wasn't as though they weren't *trying* to understand one another, it was just that every single time conversations or actions began to go deeper than the surface, one or the other of them would pull back. The date would then fall to tatters, leaving them both frustrated and unsure of just exactly why they were dating at all.

She thought about the evening they spent in the holodeck, listening to Klingon opera. That had been the first time she had actually *heard* Klingon opera, though she had certainly heard *about it* plenty of times.

* * *

. . .Nothing could have prepared her for it. She could discern no melody to follow, nor did her limited knowledge of the Klingon language afford her any sort of reasonable translation, even if she could have gotten past the sound of it. But she endured it for Worf, because every single time she stole a glance at him, he looked as though he had been transported to heaven.

She interrupted his reverie a few times to ask him a question about what was going on, but the third time she tapped his shoulder, he turned such a fierce glare to her that she was afraid to disturb him any further.

So she sat rigid until the end, her muscles cramping from the effort.

Somewhere in the middle of it, she had been able to erect some semblance of a mental barrier to keep out the sound, but she was successful only to a degree. By the end of the performance, her body was aching, her head pounding, and she was certain her ears had begun to bleed.

Worf was not even a little bit sympathetic, nor was he willing to answer any more of her questions about the opera, even after they were well away from it, walking down the corridor towards her quarters.

"But, Worf, I just want to understand why. . ."

He had cut her off with another murderous glare, filled his lungs and bellowed, "If you must continually ask me questions, then you do not understand, and you will never understand!"

So, tatters it was.

And then, to top it off, there was last night.

Last night, their date had surprisingly stayed just that, nice and friendly and pleasant - right up until the moment when they stood together in the corridor outside her quarters. As they drew together for a goodnight kiss, Worf put his massive hand on a very sensitive part of her anatomy and, lips meeting, growled into her mouth about maybe it was time they "deepened the intimacy of their relationship," although those weren't his exact words.

Tatters, times twelve.

Neither of them said a word, and it was a good thing, because Deanna had not been sure she could have even remembered how. She just pulled away from him, reached behind herself to key open her door, and took one step backwards, into the relative safety of her quarters, watching the door hiss closed on his startled dark face, or as near to startled as any Klingon would permit. . .

* * *

Still in the corridor, she realized she had now reached the very spot where that last little encounter had occurred not 24 hours earlier. She snorted softly and shook her head, sending her long black curls dancing across her back.

Keying open her door, she entered and went to sit on the couch, kicking off her shoes and curling her legs beneath her, still thinking about what had happened. It wasn't that she hadn't ever considered the very thing Worf had suggested. In fact, she'd already had a conversation with Beverly about the medical barriers to she and Worf taking things one step further.

After Beverly's initial demand for all the juicy details, they had gotten down to business. Deanna certainly knew she could become pregnant by the virile Klingon, but she also knew her contraceptive methods were firmly in place, had been for many years. Beverly had teased her about needing an additional hypo of vitamins and an economy-sized tube of KY jelly, but the reality of it was there were no medical barriers to speak of, at least not from her point of view.

The same was not true for Worf. The Klingon would have to endure a series of painful injections to his midsection to neutralize a particularly nasty Betazed enzyme that enjoyed gnawing on Klingon stomach lining - *both* of them.

Unfortunately, Worf's timing was rarely in synch with her own. Glaring proof of that had occurred in the corridor outside this very room and was, in fact, a point of contention between them. Deanna had long since recognized that some of the contention had to do with the fact that she did not always have the ability to sense Klingons the way she did with most other species. It was because her empathy was sporadic with him, rather than a firm yes or no, that her frustration was so. . .*frustrating*. She would have much preferred it one way or the other.

Nevertheless, she had to admit that while this *was* a point of contention, it was also a point of *desire*. Not quite knowing when she would be able to sense him was infinitely exciting to her.

She blew out a puff of air, reached up to twist her thick hair into a knot at the back of her head, released it, and allowed herself to consider the barrier she had pointedly *not* discussed with Beverly, the *emotional* one.

In synch or not, sleeping with Worf was not something she could do casually. Certainly, she was no prude, but Worf was a crewmember, someone she would have to work with on a daily basis. In the event things went sour, there would be no escaping one another within the relatively closed community that was the starship *Enterprise*.

This was one of the reasons she and Riker had decided not to rekindle their romance, among about a thousand others, many of which were suddenly threatening to rear their ugly heads and argue with her. Damn, damn. Why was it that every time there was Worf, there was also Riker?

*Why, indeed, counselor*? a faint inner voice admonished.

Refusing to allow herself to stray any further from the subject at hand, she shook her head to clear it of the Riker cobwebs and went back to thinking about sex with Worf.

Being a trained therapist, and half-Betazoid to boot, she had the mental discipline to be able to do this. Well, that and the fact that she always had to do this when she got to thinking too hard about the current state of her love life.

Releasing a heavy sigh, she picked absently at a loose thread in the couch cushion and considered once more her relationship with Worf and what he had suggested the night before.

She could not deny to herself that the idea of making love to a Klingon, with all their untamed rituals and customs, sans most of her empathic awareness, gave her a secret thrill she would die to admit, but she already knew she was not about to leap into bed with him for the sake of a righteous good time. Besides, there was Worf himself. He took matters of love very seriously. Mating meant a life bonding for his race, or something very near to it, and she was fairly sure she was not ready for that permanent a commitment with him.

Taking Alexander in the event of Worf's death was one thing. Marrying Worf and raising Alexander together was something else entirely - nevermind all the stuff that came *after* those untamed mating rituals. She wasn't familiar with much of it, but she knew it would probably involve enduring those painsticks and learning volumes of Klingon history, not to mention starting their own family.

*My god*, she thought with alarm, *what sort of a child would that genetic mix turn out? A hot-headed, black-eyed, dark-haired little person, with a wisp of empathic ability, pointed teeth, and a ridged forehead*?

No, she was *definitely* sure she was not ready for that permanent a commitment.

When she first began dating Worf, she had mistakenly imagined that his human upbringing would afford him a gentler attitude. She learned early on that, while he did respond in human fashion to some things, he was Klingon through and through.

And here was something she had not considered before. Perhaps Worf was not ready for sex, either. Since they had been dating for over three months, perhaps he was merely afraid that if he did not soon suggest this activity she would go elsewhere for it.

The idea of that huge Klingon being *afraid* of anything was almost funny, but she wondered if it might be true, because she couldn't fool herself about where Worf would think her *elsewhere* was.

And here she was, back at Riker.

When, when, when did all this become so mighty complicated? She had *enough* gray hairs at her temples, she did not need this kind of thinking to give her more! Leaning her head back against the couch, she wished for a moment she had a little robot to fetch her a cup of hot chocolate.

She fell asleep right there, sitting up on the couch, her dreams filled with hot chocolate, big guys with ridged foreheads and…one other guy, not so big, with twinkling blue eyes that hid nothing - and so full of himself she chuckled aloud in her sleep.

Her word for him uncloaked itself in the haze of her dreaming; a word she had not said out loud in quite some time, but remained the one bit of her vocabulary that was exclusively his: *Imzadi*.

* * *

The morning brought Deanna Troi awake to the sound of insistent beeping from her bedroom. She lifted her head from its uncomfortable position on the couch and yelled at the alarm.

"Off, for crying out loud! Off!" The computer obligingly quieted at the first command of "off," but it was fiendishly satisfying to yell at it again.

She uncurled her stiff limbs, stood and stretched, and tapped her communicator to contact Beverly.

"Crusher here. Oh, hiya Deanna. Are we still on for the swim this morning?"

"Yup, that's why I'm calling." She yawned hugely. "Oh, sorry!"

There was a moment of silent open channel and Deanna could almost hear Beverly's eyebrow arching.

"Late night?"

"No, smart-ass. I just didn't sleep too comfortably last night. As for you-know-who, I didn't see him at all yesterday, and I'm not sure I'll see him today, either. I'll meet you at the pool in ten minutes, all right?"

"Uh huh, whatever you say, counselor." The channel remained open and silent. Deanna couldn't even hear breathing. Just at the point when she was ready to burst out with "What?!" Beverly stirred to life with a quick "Crusher out" and broke the connection.

Oo, she hated it when Beverly did that.

* * *

Deanna and Beverly swam lazy laps in the Olympic-sized pool. They were the only ones there and so had programmed the computer to play a classical composition that lent itself well to relaxed swimming, unlike the usual pumped-up rock-n-roll favored by the power swimmers.

Neither of them noticed when a fully-clothed Will Riker stepped from the locker room and perched on a bench at the far end of the pool to watch them swim towards him. At least Riker thought neither of them noticed.

As soon as Will had stepped into the locker room, Deanna knew he was there. She did not always have this keen an awareness of his presence, but she knew her dreams on the couch the night before had something to do with it.

She stopped swimming and dog-paddled in place, lifting her hand to acknowledge him, smiling. He raised his hand in return. Beverly had stopped swimming and was treading water beside Deanna, watching this brief exchange with unfettered interest. She turned her blue eyes to Deanna and hissed, "Wanna share what's going on here?"

To Beverly, it appeared as though something very serious and very hot was going on here, and she without a bit of empathic ability whatsoever. She knew Deanna had not seen Worf for at least an entire day, and now here she was flirting with Will.

It wasn't that she didn't care for Deanna and Worf as a couple, or, well, maybe she didn't. But she'd never speak that aloud to Deanna. It's just that she preferred to see Deanna with Will, so she wasn't exactly upset to be witness to this little encounter, and she really didn't care if Deanna could sense it.

Right at the moment, however, here in the water, she would have much preferred to have more information, but knew she wouldn't get it with Will right there. She fixed Deanna with her sternest "doctor" look, in the hopes of gleaning at least a little something more.

While the effort darkened her eyes and might have intimidated a patient or two, it did nothing to gain her a clue to the current situation. Deanna simply gave her the Betazed version of this same look, something Beverly had seen enough times, a clear indication that she knew exactly what had been going on inside the good doctor's head.

Deanna kicked out and started swimming again, reaching the edge of the pool just ahead of Beverly. She draped her arms over the pool's tiled edge and watched as Will stood and walked over, squatted down in front of her.


"Hey, yourself. What brings you here?"


Oh great. Despite the cool water, Deanna could feel heat rising from her chest straight up to tingle along her scalp. It irked her no end when he caught her so off guard, but she knew it was her own fault. She searched her mind frantically, trying to come up with a decent set of words to string together, but in the end could only repeat what he had just said.

"Um, Worf?"

"I saw him in Ten-Forward last night." The sentence echoed in the cavernous pool area.

All this did was deepen the blush, but at least Will had the decency not to comment on it. He could not keep the familiar twinkle from his eyes, but Deanna forgave him that. She knew she was, after all, red as a beet, and that had always genuinely delighted him, no matter the cause, although some occasions tickled him more than others.

Beverly, in the meantime, had arrived at the edge of the pool. Having heard this wordy discourse (and certainly noticed any physical reactions), she had sagely decided this was no longer the place for her. Placing her palms firmly on the edge of the pool, she kicked hard once and pulled her slim body out of the water, twisting neatly to sit on the edge, squeezing excess water from her mahogany hair.

She took a moment to cast an amused glance at Will and another at Deanna, allowing the corners of her mouth to turn up.

She could be worse than Will at times.

"Listen you two, even though I know you cannot possibly live without me, I've got some reports to finish. I'll see you later, okay?" She said this last with her eyes leveled directly at Deanna. Then she stood, grabbed her towel from the bench and exited for the shower room, but not without one parting remark.

"I trust you two will behave yourselves without a chaperone, now, won't you?" She spun on her bare heels and disappeared.

Will watched her depart and then turned back to Deanna, rolling his eyes and cocking his head back towards the shower room. "Doctors. You can't take 'em anywhere."

Deanna merely nodded in agreement. Beverly had a hard time keeping things from her on purpose. When she wasn't trying to block her, she might as well have been made of glass.

Will spoke. "Need a hand?"

Deanna extended her arm and Will pulled her effortlessly straight up out of the water, taking her other arm as she emerged to keep her from smacking into the side of the pool. She cleared the edge without so much as a tap. He thew a thick, oversized towel across her shoulders and they walked together to the bench and sat down.

She spent a moment organizing herself, feeling his eyes on her. She undid the tie that held her hair and shook it out, spraying him with droplets of cool water, and rubbed the towel over her arms and legs. Finished, she draped the towel over her legs and lifted her head to him.

She tried to keep the confusion from her eyes, but knew she had failed when she realized he was trying to think of how many other times he had seen this look in her eyes. He was having a hard time coming up with anything. She knew his mind had drifted and she let him go. When she saw his focus sharpen on her features again, she smiled wistfully.

"You're projecting all over the place, Will, but you're right. I am confused. I take it Worf explained what happened between us the other night?"

"Actually, no. We didn't speak."

"Huh? Er, excuse me. Well, then, what...?"

"C'mon, Dee, you know Worf and I haven't exactly been best pals since you and he started dating."

She huffed and looked away from him, but she could feel him next to her. No, more than just next to her. In her. He filled her the way light filled a room, completely, without a shadow or place to hide. He always had. And now there was something different about him, about the depth of his concern for her; something she had not felt from him since their days on Betazed, and even then it had not been like this.

Damnation, she never meant to be the wedge between he and Worf, but here she was, a small, black-eyed Betazed Wedge. But honestly, that part was not altogether her fault. First of all, although Riker and Worf were friends, they had never been best pals. In fact, what Riker said was true. The two men had really only started paying closer attention to one another after she'd gone out with Worf.

Riker had been fine with she and Worf's decision that she would be Alexander's "godmother" of sorts, agreeing to raise the child in the event Worf was badly injured or died, but it wasn't until the dating thing that the two men had really started competing like teenagers.

She suddenly recalled one perfectly ridiculous incident outside the concert hall before one of Data's violin performances.

She and Worf had arrived at the door at the exact same moment as Riker. Instead of simply allowing Will to enter ahead of them, Worf determined that they would enter first and proceeded to shoulder his way around the smaller man.

Will, of course, would have none of it, and proceeded to apply his shoulder in return. And what was most ludicrous about the whole thing was that they were both trying to make it appear as though they were not engaged in this "pissing contest," even though they were about as subtle as a shuttle accident and pretty much every eye had turned to them.

She had stood there in the corridor, not believing what she was seeing and certainly not about to fall into the arms of the "victor" of this particular battle. Instead, she had made an indignant sort of noise, raised her chin and walked around them both, entering the hall by herself. She listened to the entire concert by herself, as well, and refused to speak to either of them until many days later, and that was only after they had both come to her individually and apologized.

But looking at Will now, she realized she wasn't fooling anyone with her attempt to keep from telling him what had been going on recently between she and Worf. He had already seen Worf in Ten-Forward, and whatever it was Worf had been doing in the bar, it was enough to trigger concern in Riker. Of course, he would come right to her. And, of course, she would tell him.

If she really wanted to be nasty, she could start by laying blame squarely on Will for all this mess. But she'd never do that. Though he'd probably maintain his guilt for eternity for standing her up on Risa, he had told her straight up that his career came first. That they had not known until that moment with the captain in the turbolift that they had been assigned together on the Enterprise was just so much water under the bridge. They'd managed to do just fine in these past seven years.

Hadn't they?

She met his eyes and suddenly realized that they hadn't been doing "just fine" at all. They had certainly been managing all right, but just fine had gone out the airlock the moment she had accepted Worf's invitation to dinner.

She shifted her eyes to the towel over her legs and began to tell him what had happened in the corridor between she and Worf two nights ago, keeping it as brief as possible, knowing without really knowing that she had come to a decision.

When she had finished, Will rose from the bench and walked to the edge of the pool, turned, walked back and sat down again. She knew he was struggling both mentally and physically to find a place to settle, somewhere between wanting to be the good friend he already was to begging her to quit with the Klingon and come back to him.

He turned his blue eyes back to her. "Do you love him?"

Well, there it was. She could always count on Billy-boy to leap right to the heart of the matter. And really, the question was more valid coming from Will than it would have been coming from just about anyone else. She answered without realizing she was not speaking out loud, confirming without doubt the decision she had just made.


And she shivered, not from the water evaporating on her skin, but from something thrumming much deeper. Will reached to the shelf beside the bench for another towel and draped it across her shoulders.

The touch of his hands brought the deep thrumming to the surface in the form of a low moan. Hands still on her shoulders, she felt him draw her towards him. She did not resist, not even when he placed his lips tenderly against hers.

* * *

"Hello, Worf."


They stared at each other across the threshold to her quarters until he finally spoke again.

"I am sorry to arrive unannounced, but I feel it is important that we talk. If this is not a good time…"

"No, right now is fine. I agree, we have to talk. Please, come in."

She gestured him into her quarters and watched as he settled his big frame precariously close to the edge of her couch. When it came to body language, Worf's was always crystal clear to her. It never mattered that her empathy didn't always extend to him. On this subject, she didn't need it. She could read his body like a book. And right now, it was open to a major plot point. Clearly, he had something on his mind.

Suddenly a little shaky about how to begin, she opened with a standard line. "Can I get you something to drink?"

"No, thank you."

Well, she wanted something to drink, so she went to the replicator, resolutely ignoring the whisper of unidentifiable emotions she was beginning to sense from him, got herself a cup of hot tea and brought it over to the couch. She sat back in the cushions, at the opposite end from Worf, allowing him space, but not so much as to appear too distant.

As she settled into her seat, the whisper disappeared, and she was left with the vacuity that she most often felt from Worf. As she had ignored the whisper, she ignored her frustration over its disappearance.

Cupping the warm mug, she blew on it a moment, took a sip, and decided perhaps they should get down to business. Klingons first, she thought, and directed her black eyes expectantly to him.

Uncomfortably, he took his cue, shifting on the couch, but not really changing his position. "Deanna, about the other night…" He hesitated, as if he were half-expecting her to let him off the hook.

As if.

"Go on."

He gave her a very "Helena Rozhenko" exasperated stare, a clear sign of his foster mother's human influence on his life, squared his shoulders, and tried again. She knew he had never been any good at this "discussion" thing, preferring instead to either argue everything to a boneless heap or make some sort of dramatic statement and then clam up. She felt just a twinge of victory that she was able to affect him in this way, if only this one time.

"I am sorry for the…suggestion…I made the other night. I was out of line."

This was exactly the second time he had apologized for his behavior since they began seeing each other, and it was blatantly obvious that it grated him to do so even more now than it had the first time. She suspected it was because that first time had included Will, and this time he was on his own.

In spite of what she knew about Klingon mating rituals, it looked more like he would have much rather thrown something at her, in a very human response to the tension building in the room. This did not surprise her, and, in fact, she halfway wished he would, just so she could justify her own actions. If that wasn't a Klingon reaction, she'd eat her communicator. How about that? He was starting to rub off on her, much as she might have liked to believe the opposite.

Oh well, nothing for it now. He sat there, impatiently waiting for her to say something, and it became clear she would be getting no breaks tonight. Squelching the wish for a PADD to her head, she decided the best course of action would simply be to make her own apology, which she felt was necessary, anyway.

"I appreciate that, Worf, thank you. But I'm sorry, too. I should not have simply abandoned you in the corridor like that."

He merely nodded.

Cool silence began to fill the room, and Deanna was suddenly afraid they'd be squeezed out through the ventilation ducts if it were allowed to continue. Apparently, Worf was feeling something similar.

"Deanna, I…"

"Worf, I…"

They spoke at the exact same moment, and their little chorus served to melt some of the chill, but the silence continued. Then Worf reached over and took one of her small hands in his. He raised his big ridged head to her, his black eyes huge and bottomless. A red alert klaxon began clanging in her head.

So, this was the thing he had on his mind. After all her internal arguments, she almost couldn't believe it was going to happen like this. They were for once in perfect synch, but he had beaten her to the draw.

She was about to be dumped.

* * *

History has recorded that romantic break-ups can often be very messy things, involving a considerable amount of yelling and tossing of breakable objects, but no matter what Deanna might have originally hoped for, it was not that way for she and Worf.

Still with her hand in his, she let him say the words to her, then followed them with her agreement that it would probably be better if they stopped dating. Worf was quick to make sure he still had her promise that she would take Alexander in the event of his untimely demise (his words). He relaxed visibly when she assured him she would.

"Besides, my mother would kill me if I did anything less. You know how much she adores Alexander."

His throaty chuckle filled the room. It was a rare sound, although he did seem to laugh more when he was with her. Suddenly very sad, she thought she might miss that the most.

"Oh, Worf, I'm so sorry."

"Deanna, you have nothing to apologize for. I've been trying for several hours to think of a way to…to…say this to you, but everything I came up with sounded too severe. You deserve better than that from me."

As always, she was touched and not a little surprised, by his respect for her gentle nature.

"You are so…beautiful, Deanna, but you seemed so fragile. I thought you needed someone like me to protect you."

She sat up suddenly, yanking her hand from his, preparing to defend herself against this "fragile-in-need-of-protection" thing, when he rolled his eyes and held up his hand.

"Of course, I soon learned that you're anything but fragile and can protect yourself quite impressively."

This time her silvery laughter filled the room.

The conversation went on for some time in this manner. They covered quite a lot of ground, considering Worf's aversion to talking, sharing the good times and the bad.

Surprisingly, Worf brought up the night of the Klingon opera.

"Deanna, that opera was about two lovers, M'Tek and Lo'ra. These lovers were together in battle, and M'Tek was killed from behind by an enemy. Lo'ra swears revenge, but just at the moment when she believes she will have it, her enemy's brother kills her in the same fashion his brother killed M'Tek. There is no honor in their deaths, nor any with the men who killed them.

"I should not have taken you to that opera for your first time."

He was apologizing again and it stunned her. Was he only able to do this when there was no hope for reconciliation?

Stop it, counselor. She brought her attention back to him just in time to hear him say K'Ehleyr's name.

"I think of K'Ehleyr often, Deanna. I miss her very much. We did not spend time together as would a married couple, since as you know, she did not think very much of Klingon customs and rituals, particularly the mating ritual, and rejected my declaration to mate. But our union gave us Alexander, and now he is my only link to her.

"Every time I look at Alexander, I see her. Every time he smartmouths me, I can hear her goading me into another fight about some Klingon ritual she found particularly ridiculous.

"She was proud, so full of honor, fierce and beautiful. Although she complained about it at long length, she held her position as Ambassador in high regard and worked hard for the Klingon Empire. In spite of her mixed heritage, she was loyal to the Empire, and she was very good at her job."

His eyes lost their focus as he dropped into a well of memories that Deanna could not join him in. He looked very much the way he had looked the night of the opera, and she wondered if that opera had not meant something more to him than he had just shared.

When he brought his gaze back to her, he also brought his feelings, jumbled and mismatched, but with a single thread of clarity that Deanna had no trouble reading.

He managed to voice an insistence that it was Deanna's exotic, Betazed beauty that had attracted him, carefully adding that he also admired her abilities as ship's counselor, but it was not very convincing, and his emotions betrayed him, anyway. Deanna could clearly understand that he was still searching for a replacement for K'Ehleyr, so this time she did let him off the hook.

"I understand if I'm not the one, Worf."

He sagged with relief at not having to actually say it.

Realizing how hard it had been for him to admit these things, she knew her time had come to confess a few things of her own. He most assuredly deserved that much.

"Worf, about Will and I…"

He cut her off abruptly. "It was dishonorable for me to even try to get between the two of you." He was suddenly full of his usual fierce Klingon rage at himself, but this time she would have none of it.

"Worf!" she snapped, snarling the Klingon equivalent of, roughly, 'shut your fat lip or I'll shut it for you.'"

Eyes wide at her outburst, he clamped his jaw shut, clearly amazed that she even knew such a phrase.

"You know Will and I have not been 'together' for many years. You did not 'get between anything' when you asked me out, and if you had, I would have said no, understand?"

He nodded.

"So shut up about honor, already, or I'll…I'll…sic my mother on you!"

She sucked in a breath and rounded her eyes at him. There was about two seconds of dead air before they both exploded in laughter, effectively evaporating the tension building between them. When they both had quieted, she softened her tone and went back to her previous line of thinking.

"Will and I have come to a new place in our relationship, Worf. Given our history, you'd think there wouldn't be a new place, but, well, there is. I'm not sure where we'll go from here, but I need to explore it.

"Will is more ready than he's ever been to give me a commitment. He's changed, he's more mature in his attitude about us. I'm not sure if it was our dating that brought this out, or if it was meeting Thomas Riker, or what." She stopped and looked away from him, her eyes shining.

"All I know is that I can't let him out of my life again."

There was another short silence before Worf nodded and stood, rumbling, "Deanna, I hope you know I will always be your friend and I'll be there if you ever need anything."

She stood as well, facing him, struggling to keep tears in check. "You know I feel the same."

After all the talking they had done, these words seemed inadequate, awkward, not the right thing to say, but neither did there seem to be any words more appropriate.

They embraced, and she felt him kiss the top of her head and stroke his hand down the length of her soft black curls, gestures of intimacy she knew she would miss as much as he.

He broke the embrace and exited without looking back. Turning to gaze out the window at the rainbow blur of warped starlight, she finally allowed the tears to fall.

* * *

History has also recorded that while break-ups are not always messy, it does not mean they are without heartbreak.