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“The Romulans really didn’t care that you mopped up a slave market, Dan, but in the future they request that you refrain from using nuclear weapons on their territory without at least asking their permission first,” Murphy said through the monitor in Tigranian’s quarters. The captain scoffed as he unzipped his jacket and hung it on the back of his desk chair.

“I had to make sure the cockroaches wouldn’t move right back in when we left. If they didn’t want me to nuke the place, then they should police up their own trash.”

“I tend to agree with you, but luckily Velos VII is not exactly a garden spot. You can’t go around obliterating more desirable locations in the future without Neral and the Romulan Senate reneging on their deal to let you run rough shot over their Occupation Zone.”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, Pete,” Tigranian said leaning back in his chair. “I just hope the intelligence that broker provides will keep moving us toward Devek. Shutting down that criminal network will be what makes this whole endeavor worth it.”

“If he knows where Devek is, Intelligence will get it out of him. In the meantime, enjoy your time off and be there for Laria as she goes through that ordeal.”

“She will be fine! I don’t understand why everyone thinks I’m leading her to an execution. Laria really enjoyed her time in Yerevan two months ago.”

“That was meeting your human relatives, Dan. Now, not only is she meeting her mother-in-law, she’s meeting her Klingon mother-in-law.”

“Elessa’s relationship with her is not quite the same as a ‘mother-in-law.’ All she’s doing is judging Laria’s fitness to join the House.”

“You have to understand how nerve-racking that must be for Laria?”

“I’m not worried at all, Sir. However, you just reminded me that I’ve got to start dinner.”

* * * *

Tigranian stood over a table covered with different ingredients, furiously combining them into a bowl. Just as he snuck a taste to make sure the blend of spices was right, the doors opened and Laria walked in.

“No!” he shouted. “Alex told me I’d at least another hour!”

“Getting rid of the fake black eye took a lot less time then she thought…” Laria muttered as she saw his culinary project. “You’re making hasparat?” she said with happy amazement.

“I had your mother send me her recipe,” Tigranian said with a grin. “She said it was favorite thing to eat after a hard day. I figured being sold into slavery counted.”

“You are amazing,” Laria said running over to Tigranian and planting a kiss on his lips.

“I’d wait to compliment me until after we see how it turns out,” he said before kissing her back. Laria held up his dk’tagh.

“Thanks for letting me borrow this, by the way,” she said. “It came in very handy down there.”

“As soon as Elessa approves of you, you’ll have one of your own to carry,” Tigranian said as he put the dagger back in its place underneath his batl’leth display.

“Oh Prophets, Daniel,” she said collapsing into a chair. “I had just stopped thinking about that for a while. Why did you have to bring it up?”

“She’s going to love you more than I do, L,” Tigranian said turning back to the hasparat.

“But what if she doesn’t?” Laria burying her face in her hands. “She can cancel our wedding!”

“I promise, she won’t do that,” Tigranian said flashing her a bemused look.

“How can you be sure?”

Tigranian walked over and lifted her out of the chair.

“Because I know the lady of my house, and I know you,” he kissed her again. “Now, I need your help to finish dinner,” he said pulling her over to the table.

“Oh, so much for being all romantic,” she replied in a mocking tone. “You just need me for free labor.”

“No,” Tigranian said. “I just need you as an official taste-taster.” He dipped his finger in the hasparat filling and held it up to her mouth.

“I hope that’s clean,” she said judging him with her eyes.

“I assure you, I’ve washed my hands more than once since we’ve been back.”

Laria tasted it.

“Hmmm, flavor is very good, but could use a little more hot pepper paste.”

“By Kahless’ hand! Do Bajorans have lead-lined stomachs?”

“Spicy food is just something we grow up with.”

“Well,” Tigranian said holding her close so she couldn’t get away. “You have to try this kava jam I got for the mapa bread…”

“Daniel, what are you doing?” Laria said nervously.

“It’s really sweet and delicious…” he said with a grin as he dipped a finger in it.

“Daniel…” she said feigning a struggle against his hold on her.

“It’s so tasty,” he said moving his finger toward her nose.

“Daniel, no!” she said starting to laugh. “DANIEL!”

He put a glob of jam onto the tip of her nose as she burst out laughing.

“What are you going to do?” he said not letting her go.

“Try to taste it,” she said playfully sticking out her tongue and attempting to lick the jam off her face. He pulled her closer and stared into her eyes.

“I love you.”

“Feeling’s kinda mutual,” she said leaning in for a kiss. Suddenly, he moved his lips upward and licked the jam off her nose.

“Ew! Daniel!” she said as they both laughed again.

* * * *

Tigranian rolled over and looked at the chronometer on his nightstand. Laria was sleeping soundly at his side. Slowly, he pushed the covers off of him and gently removed his arm from around her shoulders. She stirred, and with a quiet whimper reached back and pulled his arm back around her. He smiled, leaned over, and kissed the back of her head. She finally relaxed enough in her slumber to let his limb go.

The captain climbed out of bed and walked over to his desk. He keyed a few buttons on his monitor and the face of his brother appeared on the screen.

“nuqneH, Daniel,” General Torlek said with a grin. “I hear your mission to Velos was quite successful.”

“It was indeed,” Tigranian replied. “Please thank Captain Loskitha for me. Her bird of prey proved very useful.”

“Eh, I was glad to send her. Chancellor Martok has most of the fleet scattered across the Kavrot Expanse hunting for new conquests. Meanwhile my fleet languishes in port denied battle and denied honor. At least one of us should have the chance to see action.”

“Brother, the Chancellor trusts you enough to have the Suk’valt guard Ty’Gokor: the very heart of the Empire. It is a great honor he bestows on you.”

Torlek scoffed.

“That is an uncharacteristically human interpretation of our mission, Daniel. A true Klingon is only happy with his disruptors charged and his blades pointed at the enemy. Not endlessly orbiting a headquarters without hope of combat.”

“I wouldn’t call what we just did ‘combat.’ We merely disposed of some vermin.”

“You should still rejoice. By conquering them, you have made the universe a better and more honorable place.”

“I don’t want to rejoice yet. We still have to find Devek.”

“The kill is merely the end of the hunt, my young brother. Do not forget to enjoy the journey to your foe. Often, that is what makes the triumph much sweeter.”

“It was always like you to look on the bright side.”

“No, the bright side will come shortly. When do you depart for Qo’nos?”

“We’re putting in at Earth Station McKinley for annual services first. Then Laria and I will board a civilian starliner for the Empire.”

“I would have sent a ship to bring you from Earth. A starliner was not necessary.”

“No, that would have been a little too much for Starfleet Command. Klingon warships entering the Sol System on personal business are a little hard to explain, even for me.”

Torlek scoffed, but let the matter drop.

“In any case, Elessa has everything prepared for her arrival.”

“I’ll make sure Laria is prepared for the trials.”

“Our lady has something special prepared. Of course, she refuses to tell me what it is.”

“I wasn’t concerned until you told me that.”

“Have faith, my brother. Elessa will make sure she feels worthy of joining our House.”

“I know she will,” Tigranian replied quietly. “I just wish I knew how to make Laria understand that.”

“Non-Klingons fear what the future will be far too much. Savor the approach to battle: even battles with our own loved ones. The Bloodwine will be ready to toast your arrival. I’ll see you on the homeworld in eight days.”

* * * *

“Oh, that feels so good,” Katie said as she lay on her bed with her eyes closed. Phil stood over her, rubbing her shoulders.

“It’s the least I can do for you, I suppose,” he said with a chuckle. “When the captain and Annabeth came up with that plan, I thought they were crazy.”

“It’s why they picked the two women on board most capable of handling themselves in a fight,” Katie replied. Phil laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Katie said turning to look up at him.

“It’s just I never thought Laria would become such a fighter. When she first came on board, she could barely walk straight without tripping over something.

“She really proved herself against Kival. I would have loved to see that spoon-head actually try to lay a hand on her.”

“You know, I’m not sure Cardassians enjoy being called that.”

“Then they shouldn’t have tried to conquer the Alpha Quadrant, Phil.”

“Point taken…” he said trailing off. After a few moments, he changed the subject. “You know, we haven’t talked about what we’re going to do for shore leave on Earth.”

Katie sighed.

“I didn’t really want to think that far ahead.”

“Well, I was thinking about spending a few days hiking around the Canadian Rockies. Maybe spend a night or two camping around Lake Louise. Then run over to Yorkshire to see my fam. What about you? You want to head to Long Beach see your parents?” Katie sighed even louder. “Sounds like you’re not thrilled by that idea.”

“No, it sounds fine, but I have to spend a day or two in Northern Virginia….”

Phil raised an eyebrow. Katie buried her face in her pillow.

“I promised Pam Montgomery I would drop by the next time I was Earth.” She immediately turned to face Phil again. “It’s just that since her husband and Paul passed away, I’m the only person she really has left. You’re not upset are you?”

“Of course not,” Phil said with a smile. “I’m just worried you might be putting too much on yourself.”

“Maybe, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Phil leaned over and kissed the back of her neck. “Tell you what, why don’t we take that camping trip and then I’ll head to England for a couple days while you visit Pam. Then, afterwards, we’ll link up in Tokyo for a night of sushi and sake in Ginza.”

“I love Japan…”

“That’s kind of the point,” he said with a wink.

Katie gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

“You are incredible, you know that?”

“I try…”

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