Star Trek: New Horizons Season 2, Episode 7 (Fire and Steel) by captaintigranian
Summary: "With Fire and Steel did the gods forge the Klingon heart. So fiercely did it beat, so loud was the sound, that the gods cried out, 'On this day, we have brought forth the strongest heart in all the heavens…"
Categories: Deep Space Nine Characters: Kira Nerys
Genre: Action/Adventure, Romance
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek: New Horizons
Chapters: 7 Completed: Yes Word count: 10439 Read: 3168 Published: 28 Aug 2016 Updated: 28 Aug 2016

1. Chapter 1 by captaintigranian

2. Chapter 2 by captaintigranian

3. Chapter 3 by captaintigranian

4. Chapter 4 by captaintigranian

5. Chapter 5 by captaintigranian

6. Chapter 6 by captaintigranian

7. Chapter 7 by captaintigranian

Chapter 1 by captaintigranian
Organia System: Federation/Klingon Border

27th Day of the Year of Kahless, 998

"Captain, The Federation Starship, Yokohama, is approaching the border. They are broadcasting a message of truce and signal they are ready to conduct personnel transfer," K'Vresh said from the bridge over the transporter room's intercom.

"Acknowledged," Captain Torlek said. "Inform them to standby for our signal."

"jIyaj, Hod," K'Vresh replied.

Torlek turned to face a Klingon warrior, still dressed in his lieutenant's armor. He was shorter than the rest of them, but still sporting a thick beard and scraggly hair hanging down around his shoulders. The warrior rested his bat'leth on his right shoulder, a gift from his captain and brother. However, over his left shoulder, he carried a worn Starfleet duffel bag, the only reminder he still had of his old life among humans.

"It is time, Daniel," Torlek said. Tigranian was so full of anger and sadness, he couldn't speak. In the blink of an eye, the Federation and the Klingon Empire were once again enemies. Gowron, the Chancellor of the High Council, had ordered all Federation citizens expelled from the Empire, and Starfleet had recalled Lieutenant Tigranian back to the Federation in kind.

When the Sk'oh first received the orders, Daniel thought it was some kind of mistake. He had so little contact with Starfleet in the past five years, he had figured that they must have forgotten about him.

Commander Kentok reached out a hand and rested it on Tigranian's leather clad shoulder.

"I still can't stand humans. They are foolish, arrogant, weak, and often profess to know what they do not understand. You, however…" Kentok paused. "It would be an honor to kill you battle."

This was the highest compliment that Kentok had ever bestowed on him. Tigranian grinned.

"It would be an honor to kill you as well, Sir," he replied.

Kentok laughed.

"You could try, Son of Tigranian."

Torlek looked at Daniel with as much compassion as a Klingon could muster.

"Do not be troubled, my brother. You return home to your people."

Tigranian closed his eyes and then opened them again.

"They are not my people anymore, Sir. I do not remember them."

"Daniel," Torlek said grabbing Tigranian's arm. "You must learn to live among them again. Someone must show the Federation who we really are or any chance of restoring the Alliance will be lost."

Tigranian could only nod.

"Now," Torlek continued. "Emotional goodbyes are for weaker races. Go now, and don't look back."

With a final deep breath, Tigranian stepped onto the Sk'oh's transporter pad for one final time.

"If I don't not see you again in this life, Brother…" Tigranian called out.

"We will dine together at Kahless' table," Torlek replied. "jol yIchu'!"

Instantly, Tigranian was surrounded by bright light. As the transporter beam transitioned from deep red to light blue, he knew he was stepping out of the Klingon world, quite possibly for the last time.

The warm, pungent air of the Sk'oh was replaced by the cool, sterile atmosphere of a Federation starship. It was like stepping into a hospital reeking of disinfectant. A disapproving scowl registered on Tigranian's face as he rematerialized aboard the Yokohama.

He was confronted by the shocked faces of three humans staring back at him: a Starfleet Commander, a lieutenant, and a transporter chief who literally covered her nose and mouth when his powerful scent reached her nostrils.

The commander looked at the new arrival with an expression that was a mix of shock, wonder, and downright disgust. Tigranian stared back at him with intense eyes, not breaking the commander's gaze for a moment. Finally, Daniel couldn't take the awkward silence anymore and spoke.

"Permission to come aboard, Sir?" he said almost sarcastically.

"Of course," the Starfleet officer replied shaking himself back to reality. "I'm Lieutenant Commander Terrance Grigsby. Welcome aboard the USS Yokohama, Lieutenant Tigranian."

The three humans stood motionless, like they were in the presence of a wild animal who could strike out at any moment. Perhaps, in a manner of speaking, they were.

Tigranian marched off the transporter pad. The metal studs on the bottom of his Klingon boots scraped against the plastisteel of the transporter room floor like fingernails on a chalkboard. Without looking away from Grigsby's face, he pulled a Klingon PADD out from his bag and handed it to the commander.

"My orders, Sir."

"Well, I'm sure these are just fine," Grigsby said nervously glancing at Tigranian's bat'leth a few inches from his face. He took the PADD like it was piece of disgusting garbage and handed it to the lieutenant standing next to him. "Lieutenant Bailey here will take you to your quarters. We'll arrive back at Earth in three or four days."

"Yes Sir," Tigranian said following Bailey out into the corridor.

"Mr. Tigranian," Grigsby suddenly said from behind him. Daniel turned around. "You are back in the Federation now. The next time I see you, I expect you to be in the proper uniform and with your hair and beard within Starfleet grooming standards. Am I understood?" Grigsby said puffing out his chest a little in a pathetic attempt to reassert his dominance.

"Clearly Sir."

"Good, and one more thing, Lieutenant."

"Yes Sir?" Tigranian replied growing increasingly more annoyed at this glob fly standing in his presence.

"Starfleet Officers bathe every day," Grigsby said glancing over the transporter chief who was still covering her face with one hand.

A growl emanated from Tigranian's throat that literally caused Grigsby to take a step backwards.

"Yes, Sir," Tigranian replied with more than a hint of disgust in his voice. "They do," he spoke while turning up his nostrils at the insipid, lifeless air again. "Is that all…Sir?"

"Yes, that's it…Enjoy your time on board," Grigsby replied meekly as the glint of Tigranian's bat'leth caught his eye once more.

Daniel pushed passed Lieutenant Bailey and out into the corridor. She looked back at her first officer and mouthed the words:

"He's an animal!"

She turned to chase Tigranian down the corridor.

"And he stinks like wet dog!" the transporter chief said from behind her console. "I literally feel nauseated."

Grigsby rubbed his eyes in frustration. His only solace was that in less than ninety-six hours, this gagh-eater would be someone else's problem.
Chapter 2 by captaintigranian
Starfleet Academy

Stardate: 49032.6

Cadet Amira longingly stared out the windows of Griffith Hall towards the Japanese Gardens. She shifted in her uncomfortable cadet's tunic, longing to get out of class and enjoy the beautiful late summer's day outside.

Normally, her lectures kept her attention better, but "Introduction to Sensor Theory" was proving to be one of the most mind-numbingly boring experiences of her life. If it wasn't required for cadets on the Science Division track, she would have dropped it within the first ten seconds of the professor's opening speech.

The topics that Professor Kane, a Starfleet Commander, was drilling into their heads were nothing she hadn't covered on her own in middle school: subspace reverberation equations, basic detection designs, electromagnetic spectrum de-confliction. Laria expected this to be one of the most challenging courses of her second year at the Academy, but while most Yearlings were struggling with Kane's syllabus, Laria thought she might literally die from the monotony.

She glanced up at the board. Commander Kane was sketching out the basic construction of a 22nd Century Vulcan Sensor Array and highlighting the differences between that design and modern units. To her left, another cadet was furiously scribbling notes into his PADD, trying to glean any sort of insight into the materiel that would be on next week's midterm.

Just as Laria eeked out a bit of pity for the poor lad from Alpha Centauri, a revelation crossed her mind. Early Vulcan arrays used a subspace reverberation chamber to amplify electromagnetic signatures similar to the way a drum or an acoustic guitar used empty space to amplify atmospheric sound waves. The concept had been abandoned in the early 23rd century in favor of enhanced array phasing, but Laria thought if she could somehow rectify the two methods, she could increase the baseline efficiency of a passive sensor scan by dozens of orders of magnitude. The challenge would be finding a way to compensate for the signal degradation between the reverberation chamber and the array.

She started sketching out a few equations and schematics on her PADD…

"CADET AMIRA!" Professor Kane's angry voice echoed through the classroom. Laria jumped to the position of attention.

"Yes Sir?" she said staring straight ahead.

"What exactly are doing?"

"Sir, I do not understand," Laria said nervously.

"This is the third time I've looked over to you and you just seem to be doodling. If I'm boring you, just let me know. I can save myself a lot of time and effort by just failing you now!"

"Sir," Laria said as her heart started pounding in her chest. "You are not boring me."

"I'm so relieved," Kane said sarcastically. "What exactly is so damned important that you feel the need to ignore me?"

"Sir, I'm not ignoring you at all. In fact, your lecture has given me an idea. I was just trying to get a handle on the math…"

"AN IDEA!?" Kane said charging over to her desk. "Second year cadets don't yet have the luxury of getting ideas. You are here to listen, learn, and do what you're told. Only then can you gain the appropriate level of knowledge and understanding…" he cut himself off as soon as his eyes saw her PADD. He picked it off her desk and started scrolling through her notes.

"You wrote these?" he said looking up at her in shock.

"Yes Sir."

The rest of the class was completely silent as they watched the exchange between the professor and Laria.

"Nobody gave these to you?" Kane said incredulously.

"No Sir, I was just working off some things I remembered from one of my high school research papers."

A few other cadets started laughing across the room.

Kane stood there for a few seconds dumbstruck.

"Cadets," he said looking over his shoulder. "Read chapters 3 to 7 for next week. Dismissed."

The rest of the class climbed to their feet, saluted, and gathered up their belongings.

"Amira," Kane said turning back to Laria. "Come with me."

Laria was nearly in a panic as she grabbed her backpack and followed Kane out into the hallway. He led her to the stairs and up to Griffith Hall's second floor where the senior faculty offices were located.

They stopped outside the door to Captain Vernabi, the Department Head's, office.

"Wait here until I call you."

"Yes Sir," Laria said as her knees started to shake. She was convinced that Kane didn't believe those were her equations and she was about to be expelled for plagiarism. It was the longest five minutes of her life.

"Cadet Amira," Captain Vernabi's voice eched from behind the wooden door. "Report." Laria wiped her sweaty palms on her trousers and then banged on the captain's door three times. "Enter."

Laria opened the door, marched inside, and snapped to attention.

"Cadet Amira Laria reporting as ordered."

Captain Vernabi was sitting at his desk staring down at her PADD. Commander Kane stood behind him. Neither told her to stand at ease. Her eyes nervously darted around the wood paneled room, decorated with mementos from a long and prosperous career in the fleet. Captain Vernabi had spent almost twenty-five years serving out in the stars conducting research and scientific exploration before accepting a permanent professor position at the Academy. More importantly, every cadet knew of his deep space credentials and respected him greatly for it.

"You wrote these equations, Cadet?" Vernabi asked glancing up at her.

"Yes Sir," Laria said. "Commander Kane's lecture inspired me and I just started sketching them out."

"Professor Kane is an excellent teacher, but without any offense intended, his lecture couldn't possibly inspire these…"

A very confused look crossed Laria's face.

"Relax, Cadet," Vernabi said as a smile crossed his face. "I know you're not lying, because I see the most cutting edge research Starfleet Science is doing in sensor design and these equations are about a decade ahead of that.

I just spoke with Commander Kane, and he and I agree that your talents are probably not best served by you continuing in "Introduction to Sensor Theory."

"I think you're probably right, Sir," Laria said allowing herself the slightest of grins.

"May I make you an offer, Cadet Amira?" Vernabi asked.

"Yes Sir," Laria replied.

"How would you like to try to build this thing?"
Chapter 3 by captaintigranian
Rakantha Province: Bajor

Stardate: 53313.9

"Bajoran, Klingon, Human!" Katie shouted as she was trying to figure out how to wrap herself in a long piece of peach-colored fabric. "This wedding needs to figure out what the hell it is before I lose my damn mind!"

"Would you calm down?" Alex said walking over to the other side of the room in the temple's rectory. "Laria's right on the other side of that door and she might hear you."

"Sorry," Katie said still very frustrated. "I just can't figure out this dress."

Alex sighed, grabbed the long piece of Bajoran silk, and gently draped it over Katie's right shoulder.

"Thank you," Katie said as Alex fastened a belt around her waist to secure it.

"Just remember," Alex said in a tone that caused Katie to roll her eyes. "This day is about Laria. The ceremony is exactly what she and the captain want, and we're gonna support them."

"Yes, Mom," Katie replied sarcastically. Alex grumbled something under her breath, but let the matter drop.

****

Lady Elessa finished the intricate Klingon braid behind Laria's neck and wrapped it around the bride's head. Lanassa then secured it with hair corsage made from Bajoran lilacs. Their purple blooms accentuated Laria's long cream-colored dress.

Lanassa was in tears as she looked at her daughter's reflection in the mirror.

"Laria-ga-ne. I can't believe it. It's finally your wedding day!"

"Men across the stars have fought battles for women with beauty such as yours, little warrior." Elessa said placing a hand on Laria's shoulder.

"Thank you," Laria said in shock as she stared at herself. She had never in her wildest dreams imagined she could ever be so happy…or so nervous. Laria climbed to her feet

"There is something else," Lanassa said. "When your father and I escaped Bajor, we had to sell almost everything, but there was one thing I couldn't part with."

Lanassa pulled out a small blue box. As she opened the lid, Laria gasped. She covered her mouth with her hands as she held back her own tears.

"This is the betrothal bracelet your father gave to me, Laria-ga-ne," Lanassa said picking up an intricately detailed silver bracelet covered with small blue stones. "It was his mother's, and I wore it until the day I was married in this very temple. Now, it is yours my beautiful one."

Laria's heart skipped a beat as her mother fastened it around her wrist.

"It's perfect," Laria said examining it in the soft light of the rectory. "It's too bad I'll only wear it once."

"Once is enough for some things, child," Lanassa said stroking Laria's hair. "I'm so proud of you."

Laria turned to Elessa.

"You will bring great honor to the House of Torlek, little warrior, but I have something to ask of you also."

"Anything," Laria said with genuine respect for her Klingon matriarch.

"I have born two strong sons for Torlek, but I did not have a daughter of my own until you walked into my sunroom that day on Qo'nos."

Elessa removed the dk'tahg from over her shoulder and gently unsheathed it. She showed Laria the crest on the hilt.

"This was given to me by my mother at my Age of Ascension. It bears the crest of my father, Krisn'ath. I wore it the day I married Torlek and it would do me great honor if wore it on your wedding day as well."

"Laria," Lanassa said nervously. "It is very bad luck for a bride to touch a blade on her wedding day."

"Mama," Laria said reassuringly. "The Prophets will understand. Trust me on this one."

Lanassa nodded. Elessa gently placed the weapon back into its sheath and placed it over Laria's shoulder.

The three of them walked out of the dressing room to meet her dais bearers.

As Alex, Katie, and T'les stared, Laria smiled.

"I'm ready," Laria said before taking a deep breath.

"You look absolutely beautiful!" Alex said running up to Laria and giving her a hug.

"The captain is a lucky man, L," Katie said as her eyes started to glisten.

"Katie, are you alright?" T'les asked noticing Katie's change in emotional temperament.

"I'm fine," Katie said starting to fan her face with her hand. "It's just, I always tear up at weddings…and that's not to spread around, alright?"

Laria giggled.

"Your secret's safe with us, Katie," Laria said offering up another hug. Then, the bride-to-be turned to T'les.

"Your appearance is quite aesthetically pleasing, Laria," T'les said with an approving nod. "I was very grateful when you assisted me at my wedding. I will return the favor and promise not to be involved in the death of your husband at this event."

Alex, Katie, and Laria all laughed, but Lanassa and Elessa immediately looked confused. Laria turned to both her mothers and awkwardly smiled.

"You kinda had to be there…"

"We will take your word for it," Elessa said furrowing her pronounced brow.

"There is one more thing though," Laria said walking over to her bag in the corner. "She pulled out three small boxes and looked at her dais bearers. "Once I get married, I won't be able to wear the earring of the Amira family anymore. Traditionally, I would wear the earring of my husband's family, but since Daniel doesn't have a Bajoran lineage, I designed one of my own. Since you three are as much my family as anyone else, I got one for each of you."

She handed the packages to her girlfriends. When they opened them, Alex and Katie smiled. T'les nodded with approval. The earrings each consisted of a small Bajoran eternity wheel with the crest of the House of Torlek superimposed on top of it.

"It's very you, L," Katie said pulling off her own earrings, "and it's my honor to put it on. She fastened the pendant to her earlobe and attached the chain to the top of her ear. "Did I do it right?"

"Like you have been wearing one your whole life, child," Lanassa said with a grin.

"I do not mean to be a nuisance," T'les said awkwardly, "But I believe I will require some assistance." She had managed to get the pendant attached to her lower ear, but was struggling to attach the chain to her ear's point.

Alex and Katie laughed, but Laria walked over and managed to gingerly attached the chain to the top of T'les ear.

"Perfect, T'les." Laria said admiring the Vulcan's new accessory.

"Well, Ladies," Alex said picking up a bouquet of purple Bajoran lilacs. "I think it's time for us to get set. We wouldn't want to keep the lucky man waiting would we?" Elessa snorted derisively.

"I am the Lady of Daniel's House. He waits on his wedding day as long as I tell him too."

The women all burst out laughing.

****

"He looks like he's about to pass out," Murphy whispered to Torlek as Tigranian examined himself in the mirror for the tenth time in as many minutes.

"I have not seen him this nervous since the first time he saw battle on the bridge of the Sk'oh," Torlek replied with a grin. "But make no mistake, he's going into battle again today."

"You can't possibly believe that?" Murphy said to Torlek incredulously. "Marriage is a partnership, not a war."

"On the contrary, Sir," Tigranian said adjusting his blood red marriage armor. "All worthwhile endeavors in this life are battles: marriage especially. It requires preparation, dedication, and above all, honor."

"What the hell do you know about marriage, Sir?" Scharr said from his seat in the corner. "By my count, I have you beat on weddings three times."

"He apparently knows enough," Torlek said picking up a matching red stole and placing it over Tigranian's shoulders. "You speak like a true Klingon, my brother. Go forth and conquer."

The door to the room opened and Phil entered, still carrying his Ma'Staka.

"When do we get to beat you with these?" Scharr continued berating Tigranian while holding up his padded wooden stave.

"All in good time, my Andorian friend," Torlek said picking up a red sash and placing it over his right shoulder. "Is everything prepared?" he said turning towards Phil.

"It's all set," he replied. "The bridal party is getting in position now."

Tigranian audibly inhaled to steady himself.

"Well," Annabeth said picking up two ceremonial bat'leths. "It seems we finally found the great Daniel Tigranian's weakness: a 1.5 meter tall Bajoran girl with a love of science and bad Earth cultural history."

"I think you already knew that, Number One," Tigranian said with a smile that quickly faded as soon as he remembered Annnabeth and Alex's time on the Pershing was fast drawing to a close. Annabeth knew him well enough to understand what was on his mind.

"It'll be alright, Dan," she said walking over and placing an arm around him. "Just be in the moment for today."

"Thank you, Annabeth…for everything."

"It's not time to say goodbye yet, Sir," she said giving him a quick peck on his cheek. They both froze. Annabeth furrowed her brow. "That was weird wasn't it?"

"Yes, yes it was…" Tigranian replied.

"I'm never going to do that again."

"Please don't…"

"Well," Murphy said trying to retain some levity to the room. "Rather than say goodbye, I believe it's time to say 'hello."

There was a knock at the door.

"Phil," Annabeth said motioning to the helmsmen. Phil checked who was there before letting Vedek Grigan enter.

"Vedek!" Tigranian said walking over to the old priest.

"That's quite a striking outfit, Captain Tigranian," Grigan said with a grin.

"I doubt very many grooms have worn one in this temple," Tigranian replied.

"No, they have not," Grigan said shaking his head. "But then again, there haven't been very many grooms in this temple like you either."

Torlek couldn't help but laugh.

"There is only one Daniel, Son of Tigranian."

"That's for damn sure," Annabeth said shouldering her bat'leths. The others laughed.

"You are very lucky to have her, Daniel," Grigan said with a caring nod of his head.

"I know."

"Just as she is lucky to have you," Grigan continued as he placed a hand on Daniel's arm.

"Well," Annabeth said clearing her throat loudly. "Now, that we've gotten all the awkward emotional exchanges out of the way, I would be much of a sword-bearer if I let the groom be late to his own wedding."

"Indeed," Torlek said. "We are awaited on the battlefield."

"Finally," Scharr said climbing to his feet and walking over to Murphy. "What is that expression humans say? Let's get this show travelling?"

Murphy chuckled.

"That's close enough, Tren," Phil said placing his Ma'Staka behind his head.

"Alright," Tigranian said looking to Torlek one last time. "I'm ready."

"Then let the war begin. Qapla'"
Chapter 4 by captaintigranian
The tiny temple was overflowing with people in every manner of dress: Bajoran, Starfleet, and Klingon. Languages from all over the galaxy echoed off the low stone ceiling and the incense burning on the altar gave the whole space a reverent atmosphere. A small wooden platform had been erected between the spectators and the altar. It was covered in pale orange fabric and adorned with white flowers.

Torlek and Elessa made their way to the front row of the standing room only audience and greeted Amira Jion and Lanassa. Murphy walked over to other familiar faces in the crowd as Scharr and Phil took their places behind Torlek.

"Overgeneral Rhaan, Colonel Kira, Welcome! Glad you could make it," Murphy said reaching out a hand to each of them.

"How could we miss this?" The grizzled old Bajoran veteran said to the admiral. "She saved our world. The least we can do is wish her our best on her wedding day."

"Besides," Kira said next to him. "Rakantha has seen enough tragedy of the past generation. It's time it saw something really special."

"Well, I think this will certainly count," Murphy said.

"Admiral, what is that?" Rhaan said looking down at the wooden stick Murphy was carrying.

"Just wait, Sir," Kira said as her memory flashed back to Worf's and Jadzia's wedding in Quark's over two years prior. "The Klingons have to work physical violence into everything they do, including nuptials."

"Sounds…unique," Rhaan said skeptically.

"You have no idea," Murphy said shaking his head.

The door to the rectory opened and Vedek Grigan entered wearing his traditional wedding vestments. The crowd instantly quieted down and took their places. The old clergyman stood tall in front of the altar. Tigranian then exited with Annabeth following with her blades. Grigan beckoned him to take his place on the right side of the marriage dais while Annabeth took her place as Tawi'Yan on the ground behind him.

A nod from Grigan to an acolyte in the corner of the temple signaled the beginning of the wedding service. The young Bajoran pulled a chain to ring the bell of the temple nine times: one for each of the Orbs of Bajor and the holiest number in Bajoran theology.

At that moment, a harp player began playing in the back of the temple. The doors at the rear of the building opened to reveal Alex's smiling face. The crowd parted and Alex began walking towards the dais carrying her bouquet of lilacs.

As she walked, she caught the eyes of her wife standing behind Tigranian. Alex and Annabeth smiled at each other, tears of joy forming in their eyes. When Alex reached the front of the dais, she turned to face Jion and Lanassa, curtsied, and then took her place next to the dais across from Annabeth. Katie and T'les then followed, repeated the curtsy to the Amiras, and then stood behind Alex.

Then, the doors at the rear of the sanctuary suddenly closed. All the Bajorans in the temple raised their hands next to their heads with their palms facing the sky. The doors opened once more, revealing a beautiful woman dressed in a cream colored silk. A white veil hid her face from view. As she began walking forward towards the wedding party, Tigranian felt his heart stop in his chest. Everyone could not take their eyes off the bride as she walked towards the dais, another bouquet of flowers in her arms.

As she reached the front of the spectators, Alex appeared next to the bride and took her bouquet. Without a word, Laria knelt down in front of Jion and Lanassa and bowed her head. She raised her hands, and her parents took one in each of theirs. They slowly escorted her to the dais, and lifted her up onto the platform face to face to Tigranian. As the harp music reached its crescendo, Jion and Lanassa gently placed their daughter's hands into Tigranian's. Then, they reached up, grabbed the ends of Laria's veil, and pulled it back to reveal her smiling face. Tigranian's Klingon stoicism failed him, and he choked back a tear.

"Thank you," he whispered to Laria's parents.

"Welcome, my Son," Jion said stepping over and placing a kiss on each of Tigranian's cheeks.

"My beautiful boy," Lanassa said kissing him next.

With a final nod, they returned to their place at the head of the crowd. Vedek Grigan continued with the ceremony.

"Peldor Pai'en Pagh Ra'tren," he said raising his hands above his head in a gesture of peace.

"Pai'en vos chem'ha na'an," the Bajoran witnesses replied with the same gesture of peace.

"The Peace and Spirit of the Prophets be with you for those non-Bajorans in attendance," Grigan continued with a smile. Today is the happiest duty a Vedek has in the Bajoran faith: the joining of two young people in the holy union of marriage. However, today it is not only Bajorans we have with us to celebrate. Though the bride's parents are old friends of this temple, her first visit to her homeland was only a few months ago. The groom is from Earth, but now also calls Qo'nos home.

Now, in this temple, we have Klingons, Humans, Andorians, Vulcans. We have those who remember the difficult days that Bajor passed through during the Occupation, and we have those that only know the promise of a new tomorrow. It is in this way, that I hope this wedding will help bring the old into the new, and secure a bright and wonderful future for not only this happy couple, but also the whole of our planet."

Grigan's words caused Laria's ears to perk up as her experience in the Celestial Temple started push back into her consciousness. She shook off the strange feeling as Grigan continued with his remarks.

"The Bajoran wedding is a simple affair where two people affirm their lifelong commitment to each other in front of those that they love and in the eyes of the Prophets. However, while preparing for this ceremony, I also learned much about how Klingons view marriage out of deference to the groom and his family.

In the Klingon wedding, the officiant recounts the story of the creation of the first two Klingon hearts, and how they grew stronger once they joined together. Now, I do not believe I could do justice to the telling of that story as my Klingon is a bit rusty…"

The comment drew quiet laughter from the crowd.

"…However, one phrase in particular stood out in my mind. 'With Fire and Steel did the gods forge the Klingon heart. So fiercely did it beat, so loud was the sound, that the gods cried out, 'On this day, we have brought forth the strongest heart in all the heavens…'

You might ask, why would on old Bajoran be intrigued by this phrase? Well, because I have come to know Daniel and Laria very well. Their own personal strength is only surpassed by their love and dedication to each other. Their hearts are truly made of fire and steel, and may the mercy of the Prophets be with anyone who would try to separate them. And now, let us begin…"

Grigan turned to face the altar, raised his hands, and began to musically chant in old Bajoran.

"Aran vos t'has naren. Qu'rem ist la itane ist ne'en."

"Varo ay tem." the Bajoran witnesses repeated in unison.

"Khost em'turuk man'e stam ekinem. Ra'tren alle' vos mev."

"Varo ay tem."

"Anaj voch t'lek garane nas te'as kana vas."

"Varo ay tem y Ma'kora."

Annabeth looked back into the crowd at her new friend Kira. Her eyes were closed, and she seemed lost in the ceremony. It was as if the Vedek's words were some comforting balm that carried her away to some place without worries or worldly troubles.

Grigan reached down onto the altar and picked up two crowns fashioned from Bateret leaves. Laria and Tigranian's hands were still joined as he held one over each of their heads.

Grigan turned to Laria and continued to chant.

"Laria, qu'es channe a Daniel y'tem? Tuk essa nas vok las lave a ara est Ra'tren alle' vos mev?"

He held up one of the Bateret crowns in front of Laria's mouth. A tear ran down her smiling her face as she gave her answer to the Vedek.

"Ayan."

Laria then gently kissed the crown. Grigan reached over and placed it on top of Tigranian's head. He then turned to the groom and held up the other crown.

"Daniel, qu'es channo a Laria y'tom. Tuk esso nas vok las lave a aro est Ra'tren alle' vos mev?"

Tigranian smiled and answered.

"Ayan."

He leaned forward, kissed the crown, and the vedek placed it over Laria's veiled head. Grigan then turned around and picked a silver bowl of spring wine off the altar. He raised it into the air and bowed his head before turning back around.

He then passed it to Laria who took it into her hands. She leaned forward enough for Tigranian to take a sip of wine. Laria then passed the bowl to Daniel. He then held it as she took a sip. Grigan then sealed their vows with a final chant. As he sang, another acolyte walked around the couple shaking a censer of burning incense. Several other Bajorans chanted something under their breath. The non-Bajorans didn't understand the words, but it's beautiful, lyrical tone literally sent shivers down their spines.

"Bore a pre aro' kei. Tol'ah ta en para bor'esh. Pree a' Daniel, Pree a' Laria. Abrem. Varo ay tem."

"VARO AY TEM!" The Bajorans in the crowd shouted joyously. Lanassa literally collapsed with joy into Jion's arms, and the old Bajoran man wiped away tears from his eyes. Murphy looked back at Kira and Rhaan who were once again raising their hands and genuflecting towards the altar. Rhaan was actually crying as well. Somehow, he knew that this wasn't simply because of the wedding. The expression on the Overgeneral's face said it all. It was as if all the struggles in his life were suddenly worth it. Despite forty years of Cardassian oppression, despite forty years of attempted extermination, this beautiful, musical ceremony of hope still existed in all its sacred glory.

Grigan grinned as he addressed those who could not understand the liturgy.

"Now, with the Grace of the Prophets, may I introduce Mr. and Mrs. Tigranian!"

The crowd began applauding wildly as Tigranian and Laria kissed for the first time as husband and wife.

"It's real, this is all real," Laria whispered to Tigranian in disbelief.

"Yes, my wife, it is," Tigranian said gently touching his forehead to his bride's.

Suddenly, a battle cry echoed through the temple as Scharr, Phil, and Murphy lunged at the dais wielding their Ma'Stakas. Laria and Tigranian looked up just in time to see the Andorian and two humans start to playfully hit them with their sticks. Annabeth then jumped up onto the platform and joined in the attack.

As Tigranian and Laria shielded themselves from the blows, they began to laugh.

"Will the great Daniel, Son of Tigranian not defend himself and his new bride from these villians?" Torlek called from the crowd while chuckling uncontrollably.

Finally, Tigranian looked over to Laria with a sly look on his face. Despite the leather balls pummeling her, she returned the glance with a nod. Laria screamed and lunged right at Phil. She grabbed the wooden handle of the Ma'Staka, pulled downwards violently, and sent him tumbling head over heels onto the dais. Tigranian ducked down and trapped Murphy's arms under his own. With an upward twist of Tigranian's hips, Murphy went down to the ground, releasing his grip on his own weapon.

Laria and Daniel were now armed and extremely dangerous. The bride flicked her veil behind her shoulders and held her Ma'Staka at the ready. Scharr tried another foolhardy attempt to charge, but Laria swung downward, knocking his stave away as Tigranian thrust his palm directly into Scharr's chest, sending him flying backwards right into Torlek's arms. Now, Annabeth was alone on the dais with the Tigranians.

"Do you yield, Number One?" Tigranian said with a grin.

"Never!" Annabeth replied still lost in laughter.

"I was hoping you'd say that!" Laria said rushing forward and knocking Annabeth's stick to the ground. As Annabeth gasped, Laria raised the Ma'Staka over her head for a knock-out blow. She yelled and swung downward violently. Just as Annabeth closed her eyes and prepared for the shock of impact, she felt a gentle tap on the tip of her nose.

Annabeth smiled as Laria wrapped her arms around her. Alex, Katie, and T'les ran up to join in the embrace. Tigranian leaned down to help Murphy and Phil back to their feet. Scharr pushed away from Torlek and brushed himself off.

"My apologies, General," the Andorian said trying to regain some of his dignity.

"None is required, Commander. You fought valiantly." Torlek said with a bow as he looked up at his brother and new sister-in-law.

Tigranian and Laria climbed back up at the dais together, linked their arms, and bowed to the crowd's thunderous applause.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," a jovial Grigan called out once again. "Once again, Daniel and Laria Tigranian. Certainly a force to be reckoned with"

As Laria rose from her bow, she glanced at over at her parents who stared back at her with a look of amazement and joy. As happy as they appeared, they still seemed shocked that the woman standing before them, strong and confident, was the same daughter they had sent off to Starfleet Academy five years before. Laria looked back at them with love, but then nodded her head as if to silently say that while she was still their child, she was now so much more.
Chapter 5 by captaintigranian
Grigan and his deacons had transformed the temple's outdoor garden into a wonderful setting for the reception. Long wooden tables set with white and orange tablecloths beckoned in the warm autumn breeze. A stage had been erected along the Esani bushes and the sweet fragrance of their flowers mixed with the candles and fading sunlight to create an absolutely magical atmosphere.

The guests were enjoying the end of their dinner as Tigranian and Laria made their rounds of the crowd. They wished everyone another warm welcome and thanks for their attendance. The dais bearers and Tigranian's groomsmen sat on the main stage talking with each other, but they couldn't help but notice the brazier burning brightly on the ground directly in front of them. Elessa and Torlek would systematically check it every few minutes, stirring the glowing coals inside.

Katie leaned over to Phil and whispered in his ear.

"And what precisely is that for?" she asked nervously.

"Don't ask me," Phil said taking another bite of his Kava caramel pie.

"I thought that after spending four days with the captain and Torlek, you would know everything about this Klingon stuff?" Katie asked.

"All I know, Katie," Phil replied nervously. "Is that it is probably going to involve a lot of pain." Katie shot back a nervous look at him, but Phil just shook his head.

Daniel and Laria were off speaking with Jion and Lanassa. As Laria was hugging her father, Tigranian was speaking with his new mother-in-law. As usual, the little Bajoran woman was full of loving energy.

"Oh! Chat mes, Daniel-ga-ne. Yis kezza shad les lave," Lanassa said gripping him so tightly he was having trouble breathing.

"I love you too," Daniel said trying to get some air in his lungs.

"Let him go, Lanassa," Jion said turning to them. "Can't you see the boy is turning blue?"

"He is fine," Lanassa said pulling back. "He is a strong boy," Lanassa said playfully hitting his arm.

"So," Jion said to his daughter and newly minted son-in-law. "You are now married, and you will go back to you ship. When will you come back to Gault to visit?"

"Dade," Laria said. "We will visit soon, but let's just enjoy each other's company now."

"How can we enjoy each other's company now?" Lanassa said shaking her head. "You have to come back to the farm so I can cook for you."

"Mama…" Laria said shaking her head.

"Daniel! Laria!" a strong voice spoke from behind them. It was Lady Elessa. "It is time." The Klingon matriarch turned back towards the brazier and stood at the ready.

"Time for what?" Lanassa said nervously.

"Mama," Laria said hugging her mother tight. "I just want you to know that I'm going to be fine. You and Dade just need to sit down and be calm for a while."

"Laria-ga-ne?" Jion said angrily. "What do you mean?"

"Jion, trust me." Tigranian said. The old Bajoran looked at him suspiciously, but finally acquiesced. He grabbed his wife's hand and they took their seats.

Daniel and Laria walked towards Torlek and Elessa, but just before they reached the brazier, Tigranian leaned over and whispered in his wife's ear.

"Laria, you know you don't have to do this…" he said.

"Daniel," Laria said gripping his arm tightly. "I don't have to, but I WANT to," she said with steely resolve in her voice.

"Alright," he replied with a final nod to Torlek.

"EVERYONE!" the Klingon general said loud enough to silence the whole crowd at once. "Take your seats," he commanded. Everyone froze. Torlek looked over to Daniel who shrugged. Torlek growled, but realized that other species were not as direct as Klingons. "…Please," he added with a bit of polite disdain. Without another word, Torlek handed the floor to Tigranian.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Tigranian said. "Thank you for coming and sharing this special day with Laria and me. However, a Klingon's wedding day is more than just a union of two people. In our tradition, it is also the union of two houses. Before the wedding, Laria and I traveled to Qo'nos, where the Lady of the House of Torlek, Elessa, judged Laria as being fit to join us. Now, that we are married, we must welcome Laria as one of our own..."

He stepped aside as Elessa stepped forward. The crowd fell silent as they watched Elessa remove the veil from on top of Laria's head. Without a word, she reached up and pulled the pin out of Laria's braid. It fell away from her head and lay flat down her back.

"Are you ready?" Elessa asked.

"I am, My Lady," Laria replied with a bow of her head. "En'Cha."

Elessa placed a gentle hand of Laria's cheek.

"I know you are. I am so proud of you."

The lady drew her dk'tagh and cut open her palm to the gasps of many in the audience. As the blood dribbled down her arm, she walked over to the brazier and let it flow onto the coals. They sizzled as the blood hit their white hot surface.

"LET ALL KNOW!" Elessa shouted to the crowd. "That this woman is now a member of the House of Torlek. May all her enemies be ours, and ours hers…"

Torlek then drew his dk'tagh, clicked open the blades, and held it aloft so that everyone could see.

"LET ALL KNOW," he repeated his wife's words. "That this woman is now a member of the House of Torlek. May all her enemies be ours, and ours hers!" He violently cut open his hand and let his own blood join his wife's in the inferno.

Tigranian walked up to Laria still standing in front of the brazier.

"Let all know that this woman is now a member of the House of Torlek." Daniel pulled out his dk'tagh and stared at his wife's eyes as he sliced into his palm. "Let all her enemies be ours, and ours hers." He didn't break Laria's gaze as his blood dripped into the fire.

Elessa reached down and grabbed a metal handle extending from the brazier. Laria looked down and Elessa pulled out the brand of the House of Torlek. For a brief moment, Laria saw its glowing, downward facing blades silhouetted against the flames of the burning coals.

Suddenly, time stopped and the words of the Prophets in the Celestial Temple echoed through her mind.

"She will be reborn in fire…"

The feeling of Elessa's grip brought her back to the moment. The Lady grabbed Laria's left sleeve and ripped it away to reveal her pale skin underneath.

"Welcome to the House of Torlek, My Daughter," Elessa said before shoving the red hot branding iron onto Laria's arm. The entire crowd gasped as Laria gritted her teeth against the pain. Jion and Lanassa grabbed each other in sheer terror, but to their credit, stayed quiet.

After a few seconds, Elessa pulled the brand away and Laria looked down to see the crest of her house permanently seared into her flesh. She stood there silently and gazed at the bleeding, blistering mark in wonder as the pain magically disappeared from her consciousness.

"Are you alright?" Tigranian whispered, worried she might be in shock.

Laria looked up and stared into her husband's eyes. Suddenly, she struck him across the face with the back of her hand and then pulled him in close for a kiss.

"She is fine…" Torlek chuckled as he whispered in Elessa's ear. The two Klingons grinned.

After the commotion ceased, Alex and the other dais bearers walked up to Laria to share both their admiration and their surprise.

"You never cease to amaze me, L," Katie said shaking her head. "Starfleet officer, proud wife, and now Klingon barbecue."

"While I admire your dedication to your husband's clan, I fail to see the logic in defacing your body in a possibly hazardous way when a simple vocal affirmation suffices in most cultures," T'les said raising a slightly judgmental eyebrow.

"Some things are worth suffering a little for," Laria said as Alex wet a clean cloth napkin with water from a nearby pitcher.

"Far be it for me to criticize a bride on her wedding day, but that was stupid. Shock, infection, gangrene…" Alex said expertly wrapping the cool compress around Laria's singed limb.

"I think she gets the point, Babe," Annabeth said to quiet Alex who flashed an angry look back at her wife. The doctor magically produced a hypospray from her handbag and injected Laria's neck.

"This will help with the pain and prevent infection."

"Do you always keep a hypospray in your purse?" Katie asked furrowing her brow curiously.

"Only when I suspect Klingon shenanigans might be happening," Alex said turning back to Laria. "Honestly, sometimes I question whether or not I need to confine you to sickbay on a psych hold."

"Come now, Doc," Tigranian said from behind her. "Be nice."

"And that goes for you as well, Sir," Alex said grabbing another napkin for Tigranian's bloody palm. "I'm getting really tired of seeing you bleed…whether it's intentional or not."

"It is not the first time Daniel has cut his flesh in the name of honor," Torlek said proudly walking up and placing his bloody hand on Tigranian's shoulder

"And it won't be the last," the captain replied.

"Oh, he got blood on the captain's wedding armor," Phil jokingly whispered to Katie. "That will never come out."

Both of them chuckled.

"Qapla'," Torlek and Tigranian said to each other in unison. Alex simply rolled her eyes. Then, Torlek gave Tigranian a glance. Daniel knew it was important.

"Come, Sister," Torlek said to Laria. "This concerns all members of the House of Torlek."

Laria nodded to her friends before following Torlek and Tigranian to a secluded corner of the temple's garden. Elessa was already waiting for them.

"It's Cardassia, isn't it?" Laria asked sensing the tense mood suddenly hanging in the air.

"Yes," Torlek replied with a nod. "The HoS has entered orbit. I must leave immediately."

"What?" Tigranian said in shock.

"The situation in the Occupied Zone grows worse by the hour. Gangs of insurgents are roaming the streets of the two lost planets. They're killing injured warriors, Klingon civilians, and any local suspected of working with the Occupation Authority. It's fast becoming genocide. The Cardassian Provisional Guard are already moving to pacify Sheva II, but on Senath III, the larger of the two worlds, the rebels have seized an industrial replication plant and begun construction of orbital defense platforms. It seems they're digging in for a protracted siege.

As if that was not enough, a faction of commoners on Qo'nos is becoming more vocal in their opposition to the Defense Forces acting decisively. They claim that it was the incompetence of the Noble Houses and the High Council that has brought us to this point. They are demanding Chancellor Martok resign and immediately call for free elections. It's like our society is ripping apart at the seams."

"Kahless forgive us…" Tigranian said shaking his head. Elessa simply lowered her gaze and gritted her teeth. Torlek continued. "The Chancellor has ordered the Suk'Valt to immediately reconquer Senath, if only to maintain support for the High Council among the Klingon people.

I'm sorry to leave you so suddenly on your day of joy, my brother and new sister," Torlek said to Laria and Tigranian, "but duty to the Empire calls."

"And you shall answer it," Laria said with confidence in your voice. "Go now to battle, my brother, and bring honor to our house."

Torlek smiled as her heard Laria speak those words.

"It is you, little warrior, who will bring honor to our house," Elessa said wrapping an arm around Laria.

"If I don't not see you again in this life, Brother…" Tigranian said reaching out a hand to Torlek. The old Klingon smiled as he remembered the transporter room on the Sk'oh four years before.

"We will dine together at Kahless' table," Torlek replied grabbing Tigranian's wrist.

"Qapla'" they spoke in unison once more.

Torlek than took two steps backward, pressed the comm badge on his right shoulder, and smiled.

"Torlek Sa' HoSDaq. jol yIchu'."

The general disappeared in a shimmer of red light.

Tigranian then turned to Elessa.

"Are you alright, My Lady? Do you have everything you need?"

Elessa actually scoffed.

"Daniel, I hate to see your human side. It makes you seem weak. I am a Klingon woman and the mistress of a great house! My husband goes off to wage battle for our people. Not only am I 'alright' I rejoice!

Tomorrow, I will return to Qo'nos as planned where I will pray to Kahless, the Unforgettable to give my husband a good death, but tonight, we still celebrate your promise of tomorrow."

Elessa turned and headed back towards the blood wine. Tigranian just smiled and put an arm around his bride.

"I had to ask," he said shrugging his shoulders. Laria laughed in reply. "What?" Tigranian asked at her strange reaction.

"She's right you know," Laria said glancing down at her new brand. "Sometimes, you are too human for your own good. Warriors like us would never ask such a pathetic question."

Then, it was Tigranian's turn to laugh as they rejoined their guests.
Chapter 6 by captaintigranian
Federation "Skunkworks" Dry Dock: Caleb System

Stardate: 52357.3

Ensign Amira Laria squeezed herself into a maintenance conduit in the Pershing's sensor control room. The temperature inside her cramped workspace was climbing above thirty five degrees Celsius and beads of sweat were forming on her brow. As her frustration mounted, she furiously unzipped her uniform jacket and threw it on the deck behind her. Every time she wiped her forehead, manifold grease from the plasma conduits smeared her light skin black.

"Mr. Scharr," she muttered angrily. "I could really use your help in adjusting the sensor power feeds. The signal resolution is not where it needs to be and I'm a scientist, not an engineer."

"Listen here, Ensign," Laria said imitating the Andorian chief Engineer's gruff reply to her request, "I don't give a damn about your sensor array. My only concern right now is the warp core. When the new captain comes aboard tomorrow, he's not gonna care about sensors if his engines don't work…." Her hand suddenly brushed against one of the power leads and she got a painful electrical shock. "Dammit!" she shouted shaking the pain out of her hand. "Thanks a lot, Sir," she muttered. "Stupid, Andorian wrench turner…"

Laria had given her life and soul to this sensor system for over two years. She had missed most of her senior year at the Academy, and would have missed her own commissioning ceremony if Captain Vernabi himself hadn't called her back.

This array was her achievement, her legacy. She had designed it and she had overseen its construction from the day the Pershing's keel was laid. It had even earned her the title of "Chief Science Officer" on a starship: an honor unheard of for an Ensign straight out of the Academy. It was going to work flawlessly, even if it killed her.

Laria was so engrossed in her work, she didn't hear the doors to the compartment open behind her and two pairs of footsteps approaching.

The young Bajoran banged her hand against the side of the power conduit again trying to loosen a retaining bolt.

"Ah!" she shouted. "By the Prophets! Work damn you!"

The sound of a throat clearing behind her caused her jump straight up. She slammed her forehead right into the top of the access panel and screamed loudly in pain.

A pair of hands grabbed her and pulled her free.

"My head…" she muttered through her vision of dancing stars. She pressed her palm onto the lump forming above her eyebrow.

"Are you alright?" a caring male voice asked.

Laria slowly looked up and was confronted by a pair of hazel eyes staring straight into hers. She paused for a second to look into them before scanning their owner's face. She didn't recognize it but saw four golden pips on his red collar.

"Sir!" she said trying to climb to her feet, but her legs gave out like they were made of rubber.

"Whoa there," he said slowly lowering her back to the ground. "Take it easy."

"You must be Captain Tigranian, Sir," Laria said still rubbing her bruised scalp.

"My name is…"

"Ensign Amira," Tigranian said slowly bringing her up to her feet.

"Yes, Sir," she said still trying to steady herself. "How did you know?"

"Well, I am the captain, and I happen to know there's not many other Bajoran ensigns on this ship that would be working in the sensor control room."

Laria blushed.

"Yes Sir." It was then she noticed Commander Geist, the ship's first officer, standing behind the captain rubbing her eyes.

"Ensign," Tigranian said turning serious. "You're starting to bleed pretty heavily from that gash. I want you to go to sickbay and get Doctor Hunter to take a look at you. Commander Geist, can you make sure she gets there alright?"

"Yes Sir," Commander Geist said taking the science officer's hand like she was a small child. Now, Laria was even more humiliated. "Would you like to finish your initial inspection tour later? I can tell Mr. Scharr to hold off on the engine room until this afternoon."

"Oh no," Tigranian said shaking his head. "I'll find my own way around. If I get lost, I'll just find the nearest turbolift and ask for the bridge."

"As you wish, Sir. Come on, Ensign. Let's get you to sickbay," Commander Geist said leading Laria towards the doors. "I'm sure Doctor Hunter will be thrilled to see me," the first officer muttered sarcastically under her breath. Laria didn't know what she meant by that, but just wanted to remove herself from this terribly awkward situation.

"Ensign Amira," Tigranian suddenly called out.

"Yes Sir?" Laria asked turning around nervously.

"We're going to be headed into a lot of dangerous situations together. Promise me you'll be more careful."

"Yes Sir," she said dejectedly as Geist led her out the doors into the corridor.

"Great, Laria…just great," she thought to herself. "Just met him and your captain now thinks you're a total disaster. Oh Prophets! I hope he didn't notice me staring at his eyes. At least he doesn't know I'm a twenty-one year old woman who still can't fall asleep if she doesn't have her stuffed animal named Rijo… "

Once the two of them were gone, Tigranian couldn't help but smile and shake his head.

"Wow," he said out loud before heading towards the exit himself. Then, he thought to himself "So, that's my new science officer…what am I ever going to do with her?"
Chapter 7 by captaintigranian
Musilla Province: Bajor

Stardate: 53313.9

Tigranian lay on the bed staring out at the rustic cabin's panoramic view of the Holana River. The moonlight outside the windows danced over the water as the low-hanging branches of the timpok trees swayed in the cool night breeze. A small fire crackled in the brick hearth a few meters from the bed, lighting up the chamber with a warm, inviting light.

The captain glanced over to the corner. Laria had left her suitcase unzipped after she went to the bathroom to change out of her wedding dress. Rijo's plush snout poked out from her bag, bringing a smile to his face. He had wondered where Laria's pugabeast companion had been hiding this whole time.

The wooden door to the bathroom opened and Laria stepped out wearing a black silk robe. Her hair was down over her shoulders and the firelight dancing off her skin was intoxicating.

"There you are," he said still grinning as his wife slowly sauntered towards the bed. Laria slowly loosened the knot on her robe and pulled out her left arm to show off her fresh brand.

"I'm Klingon now," Laria said smiling back at him.

"Yes, you are," Tigranian softly replied.

Laria let the robe fall off her body and she stood naked in front of him. Tigranian's heart skipped a beat.

"By this time tomorrow," she said slowly climbing onto the bed, "We'll be on Guada, we'll find a deserted little lagoon to land the runabout, and spend a long and uninterrupted week in each other's arms…but what exactly are you going to do to make this wedding night unforgettable, Daniel?"

"Well," he said slowly running his fingers across her arm. "I'm gonna start by doing this…"

"Uh huh," Laria said tensing with anticipation.

"And then I'm going to do this…" He leaned up and started kissing the side of her neck.

"I'm liking where this is going."

"And finally, I'm going to do this!" He rolled over sharply and pinned Laria to the mattress. Her breath quickened as he leaned down and kissed her. "My Lady…" he said moving his mouth down to her neck. "My warrior…" He slowly leaned forward to gaze into her eyes. Laria stared into the same hazel orbs that greeted her that first meeting in the Pershing's sensor room. "My Love."

Laria couldn't wait anymore. She wrapped her arms behind his neck and pulled him down on top of her…

The firelight continued to dance around the room as the logs slowly smoldered into embers.

****

In orbit of Bajor, Annabeth sat at the desk in her quarters staring at the white, electric glow of her computer terminal. She had changed from her wedding attire into an old Starfleet Academy t-shirt and sweat pants. There was a vacant expression on her face.

Alex stepped out of the closet in her nightgown and immediately grew concerned at her wife's flat affect.

"What's wrong, Beth?" she asked.

"It didn't' seem real until I opened up my inbox and found this…" Annabeth said not making eye contact. Alex walked around the desk, gently wrapped her arms around her wife's shoulders, and read what was on the screen:

Department of the Starfleet
Headquarters, Ninth Fleet
Starbase 10
Gamma Hydra Sector

ORDER NUMBER: 1128305-4378

COMMANDER GEIST, ANNABETH MARIE, You will proceed on permanent change of station to Starbase 10 to assume command of Starship, USS Venture (NCC-71854) effective Stardate: 53316.0.

Commensurate to this position, the President of the United Federation of Planets has reposed special trust and confidence in the Patriotism, Valor, Fidelity, and Abilities of the above named officer. In view of these demonstrated qualities and her potential to serve, she is therefore promoted to the Rank of CAPTAIN (O6) effective immediately upon receipt of this order.

//SIGNED//
TAVASSO C. WILKINS
Rear Admiral
Chief of Officer Management

When she finished reading, Alex thought about her words very carefully. Finally, she merely settled for a gentle kiss on Annabeth's cheek and a soft:

"Congratulations, Captain."

Annabeth reached up and placed a hand on top of Alex's.

"Admiral Murphy certainly didn't waste any time."

"No, he did not," Alex said standing up and walking over to the bed. "It's almost like the orders were already cut and the choice had already been made for you."

"I almost feel a little betrayed. They were gonna send us away from the Pershing regardless of what we wanted."

"That's Starfleet, Beth. You don't always get a choice where you go. I suppose I should check my messages as well. I probably have something similar waiting for me," Alex said running her hand over their comforter. "That's only two weeks away. We have to pack, make all our arrangements, and the Beta Quadrant is a bit of a trip."

"I promised Dan I would take care of this ship while he and Laria were on their honeymoon. I'm not gonna break that promise. The Venture can wait a little longer if necessary."

"I know a couple of fast transport ships. They'll get us there in time," Alex said with a smile.

"Good," Annabeth said turning her chair towards Alex.

"C'mon, Beth," Alex said trying to lighten the mood. "This should be the happiest moment of your career! We should celebrate!" Alex walked over to the replicator and came back with a bottle of champagne and two glasses. "How about a little bubbly?"

"Don't pop the cork yet, Babe," Annabeth said fighting a smile. "I've already had enough champagne, spring wine, and whatever the hell 'warnog' is to keep me buzzed for a week. Save it for when Dan and Laria get back. That way we can enjoy it together."

Alex nodded and put the champagne away. Annabeth walked over and joined her wife on the bed.

"Besides," Annabeth said brushing a lock of Alex's brown hair away from her face. "When I'm with you, it's always a celebration."

She leaned forward and they shared a long, slow kiss.

"This time, we go together," Alex said resting her head on Annabeth's shoulder and pulling herself into her wife's lap.

"It's like I told you, Babe," Annabeth whispered back. "We're never gonna be apart again."
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