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Pravash Belt: Klingon/Cardassian Border.

Stardate: 53190.1

Tigranian sat back in his ready room’s chair with a mug of raktajino. He was still getting used to being back in Starfleet uniform. He also kept rubbing his newly clean-shaven face. Daniel had to admit, there were times when he missed the beard.

“I suppose I should welcome you back from leave, Dan,” Admiral Murphy said from his monitor.

“It was a fun trip, Pete. General Torlek was even kind enough to meet us at the border to pick up the ghargh and transfer me back to the Pershing.”

“Do you have any idea how angry Starfleet Headquarters was when they found out you left?”

“The twenty communiques I had waiting for me when I got back was a pretty good indicator.”

“It is very lucky for you that Chancellor Martok issued a personal statement of gratitude and commendation to you and the entire crew of the Pershing. He said it showed the Federation’s commitment to the well-being of the Klingon People and the strength of our Alliance…it seems to have calmed the Council and Starfleet down for now.”

“Gotta love politicians,” Tigranian said taking another sip from his mug.

“Still I wouldn’t go upsetting Admiral Paris for awhile…”

“I’ll be sure I lay low for at least a few weeks.”

“How did Annabeth like the big chair? Was she willing to hand the command codes back over?”

“Took a little convincing, but I finally managed to wrestle them away from her.”

“She’s a fine officer, Dan.”

“They all are, Pete. I’m lucky to have them.”

“Yes, you are. Just be sure you remember that next time something’s rotten on Qo’nos…”

* * * *

The Pershing flew side by side with the HoS and the rest of the Suk’valt Strike Fleet. The Klingons would be returning to Ty’Gokor in the morning, but tonight, they celebrated. Luckily, for the Starfleet personnel, most of the brawling and drunken mayhem had been confined to Torlek’s ships. By 2100 hours, only one Klingon remained aboard the Pershing.

Qoy qeylIs puqloD!
Qoy puqbe’pu’!
yoHbogh malthbogh je’ SuvwI’
Sey’moHchu’ may’ ‘Iw
maSuv manong ‘ej maHoHchu’
nI’be’yInmaj ‘ach wovqu’!

batlh maH ghbej’jyoqIjDaq
vavpu’ma’ DImuvpa’reH maSuvtaH
Qu’ DamevQo’ maSuvtaH, ma’ov

Tigranian and Torlek both screamed in triumph as they finished the final verse of “The Warrior’s Anthem.” With another grunt they slammed their chests into each other, sending two empty bottles of bloodwine careening into the carpet of Tigranian’s quarters.

“To Chancellor Martok!” Torlek said raising his tankard into the air. “True leader of the Klingon People, Hero of Boreth, and Wielder of the Sword of Kahless!”

“To the Chancellor!” Tigranian shouted before both men drank.

“My cup is now empty,” Torlek said through his drunken haze. “You’re failing in your duties as a host, Captain.” Tigranian forced himself up from the table, stumbled over to a cabinet, and pulled out another silver bottle.

“I was saving this for a special occasion, General...” he said returning to his seat and picking up his dk’tagh. He quickly sliced the cork off in one clean motion and poured the deep red liquid into each of their metal tankards. “…but since you challenge my hospitality…”

“Toasting victory with your brother and head of your house does not count as a special occasion to you, you toDSaH?” Torlek picked up his tankard and took a sip. As soon as the wine hit his tongue, he understood.

“Is this?”

“The last of my 2309. It’s a little hard to come by in the Federation.”

“I am honored, my brother,” Torlek said taking another sip. “However, I think I have another case sitting in my cellar on Qo’nos I can send you. Though Elessa would probably cut off my moQDu’ if I gave it to you. She was saving it as well…”

“And what occasion would the Mistress of the House of Torlek have to celebrate? Your death?”

Torlek laughed as he leaned in close.

“That woman would not celebrate my death. She still craves shattering my bones in our marriage bed like our first night together.” It was Tigranian’s turn to laugh. “No, she is saving it for the day you finally stop being such a little Mak’dar and bring her a woman to judge!”

“This again…” Tigranian muttered taking a sip of his own wine.

“Yes, this again, Daniel. A Klingon warrior has three sacred duties: bring honor to his house, bring honor to himself, and bear sons for the empire! So far, you have only achieved two of those.”

“You’re forgetting that I’ve met your wife, Torlek. Elessa would eat any woman I brought her alive. She’s the only Klingon I’ve ever met stronger than you.”

“plaQta’, and you know it! Elessa cares for you far more than she cares for me. You could bring home a mangy targ and she would welcome the creature into our house with pride.” Tigranian slammed his tankard back down on the table.

“Do not say such things! It brings dishonor to you and our mistress! No, my brother, when I finally bring a woman to Qo’nos, she will be worthy of our house and bring honor to our name! Until then, I will continue to bring that name honor on my own…” Torlek leaned back and smiled.

“Of that I am sure, Daniel. However, don’t wait too long. Honor gives little comfort to a man alone in his home… and in his heart.”

That brought Tigranian pause.

“Very true…” he said trailing off. “That maxim? It sounds familiar. Did Kahless say it?”

Torlek chuckled.

“Perhaps, I don’t know. It does sound like something befitting of him, though.” Tigranian raised his tankard.

“To my future wife, future daughter of the House of Torlek, and mother to my children…wherever she might be!”

“To your wife, the mangy targ!” They both erupted in laughter and drank.

On the other side of the wall, the laughter drowned out the sound of Annabeth, Alex, and Laria’s current choice of movie. Katie was absent. General Torlek and the captain were singing, yelling, and arguing so loudly, the three of them could hear every word through the tritanium bulkhead. They just couldn’t understand anything because the entire conversation was in Klingon.

“Sounds like they just opened another bottle of bloodwine…” Alex said trailing off.

“How much longer can they possible go? They’ve already been at it for hours,” Laria said.

“Who knows with Klingons?” Annabeth said. “They’ll probably keep drinking till morning.”

“Should we move this to my quarters?” Alex said getting up. “We could check on Katie.”

“Yeah, let’s go, but I already checked on Katie earlier. She’s not really in the mood for people tonight. Computer, monitor off.”

As the women got to their feet and headed for the corridor, Laria turned and glanced back at the wall.

“What could possibly be so funny?”

* * * *

Katie lay on her bed mindlessly playing with the dog tags around her neck. She stared out the window towards the stars, lost in her thoughts. A full glass of Aldebaran whiskey sat untouched on the nightstand. She couldn’t stand the stuff, but it was his favorite…

“Lieutenant Stone, you have a transmission from Earth. It’s coded personal.” Katie wasn’t surprised. She knew she would call today even though she had asked her not to. Suddenly, she felt extremely selfish. It was a terrible day for her as well. The least she could do for the woman who was almost her mother-in-law was to take her call.

“In my quarters,” she announced as she moved to her terminal. The image of a smiling gray-haired human woman appeared on the screen.

“Hello, Pam,” Katie said trying to sound cheerful.

“Katie, I know you said not to call, but I had to make sure you’re doing ok.”

“You don’t have to worry about me, Pam.”

“I am worried Katie. You are young, intelligent, beautiful, and still have a life to live. Please tell me you’re not spending the evening alone.”

“It’s only been two years today, Pam.”

“Exactly, it’s been two years! How much longer are you going to punish yourself for something that wasn’t your fault?”

Katie rubbed her yes.

“I guess I’m just not ready to let him go yet…”

“Ok, I can see you’re not in much of a mood to talk, but I’ll leave you with this…” Pam paused fighting back tears. “My son loved you very much, which means I love you very much. He didn’t get you to that escape pod so you could spend the rest of your life suffering on his account.”

Katie fought back the urge to scream.

“Thank you for calling, Pam.”

“Thank you for picking up. Please visit the next time you’re on Earth.”

“I will. Bye.” Katie cut off the transmission and then punched the wall.

The door chimed. She ignored it. It chimed again.

“Unless you outrank me, go away.”

The door chimed a third time.

“Dammit, the ship better be on fire!” She walked to the door and opened it.

Phil was standing there with a six-pack of gold cans and a flat, white box.

“Go away, Phil.” She moved to press the “close button,” but he put a foot inside. “I will punch you in the face.”

“My face’s structural integrity aside, I wouldn’t be much of a friend if I let you be alone tonight. I brought supplies,” he said holding up the items in his hands.

“Beer and Pizza? Really?”

“Everyone loves beer and pizza.”

“I can’t deal with this tonight. Seriously…leave.” She was about to physically throw him into the corridor when he interjected.

“I am here as a friend…nothing more. We can eat, drink, talk, watch SFN, tell jokes, cry, scream, shout, or just sit there in terrible, awkward silence. It doesn’t matter. I just don’t want you to go through tonight by yourself.” It caused her to pause. “And just to prove that I don’t have any nefarious ulterior motives…” he said holding up the cans, “this is literally the cheapest, lowest-quality swill the replicator was willing to produce. Any woman I was interested in would be disgusted if I brought this to her. You and I, however, are brothers and it would be an honor to drink this with you.”

He actually managed to get a laugh out of Katie.

“Also, this pizza has only one topping…one that most people hate…mushrooms.”

“Mushrooms are my favorite…”

“That is an incredible coincidence,” he said feigning surprise. Katie turned and walked back inside her quarters. Phil stood in the doorway not sure if he should follow.

“Well, you might as well come in,” she said over her shoulder. “Pizza’s getting cold.”

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