"If I die, he must be cared for."
"I'll make sure he reaches your parents' home safely."
"No. They are elderly. They cannot care for Alexander. Counselor, I have a serious request to make of you. Would you consider..?"
"You want me to raise Alexander?"
"I have come to have a great respect for you, Deanna. You have been most helpful in guiding me since Alexander's arrival. I can't imagine anyone who would be a better parent to my son. If it is too much to ask..."
"I'd be honoured."
- Worf and Deanna, Ethics (S05 E16)
She didn’t really remember feeling anything, when it happened. When Worf died. It was like a gate had slammed shut, and there was only a sudden chill in the room, her own heart beating, Alexander’s small arms tight around her.
Emotions came later, more slowly. Grief, pity. And the emotions of others – Beverly’s anger and guilt, Will’s shock and disbelief, the captain’s sorrow, and most of all Alexander’s despair. It frightened her. Not just the depth and intensity of it, but the knowledge that she was suddenly responsible for it in a profound and unlooked-for way.
He didn’t leave her side for the next few days - she could barely prise him away for long enough to jump in the sonic shower. He was afraid that if he left her for a moment, something bad would happen to her too - and yet he didn’t seem to get any real comfort from her presence. He only spoke to answer questions.
She offered to move to Worf’s quarters so that Alexander could stay where he was, but he shook his head firmly, his mouth set in a straight line. She couldn’t blame him - when she went in there to pack Alexander’s things, Worf’s presence was tangible in every corner, like any moment he would come in from calisthenics practice and order a prune juice from the replicator.
Instead Alexander moved into her quarters and she put away half of her ornaments and decorations to make room for his, so that the space could be both of theirs. He didn’t unpack anything.
Meanwhile the captain sent the news to Worf’s family and received word back that his parents were on their way. Deanna talked with her mother over subspace, and Lwaxana insisted on coming too.
‘That poor little boy,’ she said. ‘How lost he must feel. And how are you coping, Little One?’
‘I’m fine,’ Deanna insisted, and for once her mother left it at that.
* * *
The captain dropped in more than once to check on Alexander, and to assure her that she should take as much time off as she needed. Data and Geordi came by to offer condolences. The children in Alexander’s class sent a card. Will spent an evening with them, passing on the news from the rest of the ship, helping to fill the slow hours of Alexander’s misery with something they could pretend was normal. After Alexander had gone to bed, he sat beside Deanna on the couch and she leaned into him.
‘What am I doing?’ she asked him.
‘The right thing, like you always do,’ he said.
There was too much in that for her to unravel, so she just sighed and burrowed closer and closed her eyes.
* * *
Deanna was wound up tight all day while they waited for the Rozhenkos to arrive. She’d only met them briefly once before and they’d sent nothing but a short message to say they were coming. She had visions of them demanding to take Alexander away, and she couldn’t decide what to do if it really happened.
The moment they materialised she knew everything would be all right.
‘Baba!’ yelled Alexander, and flung himself at Helena’s knees almost before she was back in one piece. She held him tight, Sergey joined in, and after a moment Helena detached herself and stepped off the transporter platform.
‘My dear,’ she said to Deanna, with a sad little smile. ‘Would it be all right if I hugged you too? I feel as if we are family now.’
Helena gave hugs like Lwaxana did, rib-crushing and warm. Deanna thought that was a good sign. Sergey took both her hands in his and held them while he kissed her cheeks, and she pretended not to notice that his eyes were full of tears. Alexander clung to the two of them alternately, solemn and silent while the adults talked. Deanna took them to her quarters first so that Alexander would feel at home, and replicated tea and juice and let the Rozhenkos get reacquainted with their grandson.
* * *
Lwaxana arrived less than a day later, with barely any luggage and much less fanfare than she usually demanded.
‘Oh, Deanna,’ she said, stepping off the transporter pad.
‘Hello, Mother,’ said Deanna, turning away quickly to avoid the incoming hug and leading the way to the guest quarters. It would be too much right now. The moment her mother’s arms were around her she would feel like a child again, and she couldn’t afford it.
They dropped off Lwaxana’s things and went to join the Rozhenkos, who had quarters down the corridor.
‘Lwaxana!’ Alexander said when they entered, and for a moment there was almost a smile there as he jumped up to meet her.
Ah, little Alex!’ she said, sitting and drawing him onto her lap. ‘I’m so sorry for what’s happened.’
He snuggled close to her while Deanna made introductions and Lwaxana offered her condolences to the Rozhenkos.
‘I didn’t know your son very well,’ she said, ‘but he seemed like such a kind, honourable man. I’m truly sorry.’
‘He was kind,’ said Helena. ‘He was always so like Sergey in that way, but sometimes he was so stern... it was not always easy for people to see that side of him.’
‘Ah,’ said Sergey, ‘do you remember that time when he was just a boy, and he brought home that kitten that he found half-drowned in the storm?’
‘I thought Worf hated cats?’ Deanna said.
Sergey laughed shakily. ‘Oh, he does... he did. He could never stand them, but still he was determined that it should not be left out in the wind and rain.’
‘It didn’t want to be rescued,’ Helena added. ‘He was all scratches by the time he got back. He was so angry with that cat!’
‘What happened to it?’ Alexander asked.
The adults held their breaths for a moment. It was the most Alexander had said in days.
‘Well,’ said Helena. ‘We dried it off and then we commed all the neighbours to see if anybody knew where it belonged...’
The Rozhenkos told stories about Worf’s childhood until Alexander was drowsing in Lwaxana’s lap and Deanna was fighting the urge to yawn.
‘I think it may be Alexander’s bedtime,’ said Helena at last, although Deanna could tell she would have talked for hours longer to keep the memory of Worf so close and real and warm.
They said their goodnights and Lwaxana stood, shifting Alexander so that she could carry him on her hip. He was much too big for it but it wasn’t far, and when they reached Deanna’s quarters he slid into his pyjamas and fell into bed instantly.
Once he was asleep and the door was closed, Deanna sat on the couch with her head in her hands.
‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ she said.
‘Nonsense,’ said Lwaxana. ‘Of course you can. Aren’t you a Daughter of the Fifth House? We are not in the habit of giving up when things get tough.’
‘But, look at how you are with him!’ Deanna said. ‘He cheered up the moment you got here, but with me he’s just...’ she opened her hands helplessly.
Lwaxana moved to sit beside her and put an arm around her shoulder. ‘With everything that child’s been through, goodness knows he needs some cheering up,’ she said. ‘And I’m glad to help. But that’s not all he needs, not by a long way. He needs more than just smiles and games, he needs the kind of emotional and psychological care that he can get from you.’
‘You’re right,’ said Deanna. ‘I just... I don’t know. I think I need to sleep. I’ll think about it in the morning.’
Lwaxana looked as if she wanted to say something more on the subject, but she just patted Deanna on the shoulder and stood up to leave.
‘Sleep well, Deanna.’ she said.
* * *
Deanna awoke the next morning to an urgent summons to the transporter room for her and Alexander. She barely had time to run a brush through her hair and get them both dressed, and she stumbled in feeling groggy and confused, just in time to see a tall, frowning Klingon materialise.
Alexander slipped his hand into hers and shrank behind her.
‘Commander Kurn,’ said Deanna. ‘Welcome to the Enterprise.’
‘I have come for the boy,’ said Kurn.
Deanna’s grip on Alexander’s hand tightened. ‘I beg your pardon?’
Kurn stepped off the transporter pad and towered over her. ‘My brother’s son is the last descendant of the House of Mogh. I have come to adopt him. Prepare him to travel, we will leave as soon as the death rites are complete.’
Alexander’s fear spiked so high it made Deanna’s head itch.
‘No,’ she said. ‘That’s unacceptable. Alexander cannot possibly be expected to make such a decision so quickly.’
Kurn glared down at her. ‘What decision is there to make? He is my brother’s child and I am the only one left who can raise him properly in the Klingon way.’
Deanna resisted the urge to glare back. Beneath his determination, Kurn’s sorrow for his brother was plain, and he clearly thought he was doing what was best for Alexander. A part of Deanna wondered if he was right, but she squashed it.
‘Let’s discuss this somewhere a little more suitable,’ she said, turning on her heel and leading the way out of the transporter room before Kurn could disagree.
* * *
It was a very strange meeting. The captain sat in his usual place at the head of the conference table, with Deanna at his right hand. Alexander was on Deanna’s lap, as far as possible from Kurn, who sat at the bottom end of the table. Lwaxana sat beside them and the Rozhenkos sat opposite.
‘He’s never even met Alexander,’ Helena was saying. ‘He hasn’t once even called him by his name yet! Did you even know his name?’
‘Of course I know his name!’ Kurn said. ‘My brother spoke of Alexander often in his letters and I have been proud to hear of his accomplishments as he grows. Worf was raising him to be a good Klingon... I do not see how a Betazoid can take his place.’
‘Just what do you think you...’ Lwaxana began.
‘Please, everyone,’ said the captain, in that quiet voice that could cut through anything. ‘I understand that this is an emotional time. And I think that all of us have Alexander’s welfare in mind here. But I don’t believe this is a clear-cut question - Commander Kurn, your willingness to adopt your nephew is admirable, but Worf specifically asked Lieutenant Commander Troi to take care of him. And we cannot ignore Alexander’s own wishes in this - he is old enough to have a say in decisions about his own life.’
‘Then what do you propose?’ Kurn asked.
‘I suggest,’ said the captain, ‘that you all remain aboard the Enterprise for at least the next few days or weeks, and all take the time to consider the question of Alexander’s future and what would be best for him. The counselor is right - this is not a decision to be made lightly. Commander Kurn, I would be happy to assign you guest quarters and transport once you are ready to leave. Does that sound acceptable?’
‘For now,’ Kurn said.
Deanna took Alexander back to her quarters. He was a tangled knot of pain and fear and helplessness and she despaired of where to start.
‘You know,’ she said. ‘I’m not going to let anyone make you do anything you don’t want to do.’
‘I know,’ he said, but she could feel that he didn’t really believe it. He’d known so little security in his short life - could she really blame him?
* * *
Much of Deanna’s day was taken up with preparations for the memorial service, which was taking place the next day. She sent an invitation to Kurn and he declined politely enough - he’d already visited Worf’s body to perform the death ritual and for him that was sufficient.
Alexander was prickly and silent and she let him be. Even a visit from Lwaxana didn’t raise a smile, and when he went to spend the evening with the Rozhenkos as arranged, it was with a dutiful air, as if he didn’t much care where he was.
‘It has been a difficult day,’ Helena said to Deanna on the threshold, as Sergey ushered Alexander in. ‘For you too, I’m sure. You go and spend some time taking care of yourself, all right? Pick Alexander up at bedtime.’
It sounded good in theory, but once the door closed Deanna didn’t know what to do with herself. She didn’t want to go back to her quarters, didn’t want to talk to her mother, didn’t want to go to Ten Forward...
Suddenly it was clear what had been missing in the last few days.
‘Computer,’ she said, ‘locate Doctor Crusher.’
* * *
She found Beverly on the holodeck, smacking tennis balls over the net with a ferocious gleam in her eye.
‘I didn’t know you played tennis,’ Deanna ventured.
'I don’t,’ said Beverly. ‘Not these days. I just wanted something to hit and this seemed slightly healthier than the alternatives.’
She served again and the ball thudded against the back wall.
Deanna nodded, and took a seat in the stands. She watched tennis balls flying for a while. She didn’t even need her empathic sense to feel the air thick with Beverly’s rage. It was in every gasp of effort as she swung the racquet, every echo of the ball slamming to ground.
Beverly was always angry when she lost a patient, but this time she had more reason than most.
After a while, Deanna stood up and said ‘Computer – racquet.’
She held out her hand and it materialised. Beverly watched but didn’t say anything as Deanna took a ball from the bag, tossed it upwards, and swung the racquet to meet it. The ball rang through the air. Deanna took a long breath and let it out slowly.
‘I need to… borrow your anger,’ said Deanna.
Beverly met her eyes, nodded. ‘Plenty to spare,’ she said shortly, and she tossed Deanna another ball.
Deanna adjusted her shields, letting Beverly’s emotions in, letting them flood her until they made her skin tingle. She served again, at the same time as Beverly.
It wasn’t fair. She had never wanted this, never asked for it. But it turned out that what you got for helping people was just more requests for help. How could Worf do this to her? She wasn’t totally sure yet whether she wanted another child of her own, let alone a child like Alexander who had already lost so much and who needed so much, too. And yet Worf was dead and here she was raising his son, as if she had nothing else to do with her life! It was overwhelming, it was terrifying, it wasn’t fair.
Serve after serve, she hit the ball hard enough to send vibrations down her arm. Her fingers cramped from her grip on the handle.
She was angry at Worf for refusing to live, for leaving her with this responsibility. Angry at Toby Russell for her arrogance, her cavalier attitude, the ease with which she had left this horrible situation behind. Angry at Kurn for giving her a potential way out that she shouldn’t even be contemplating. Angry at Alexander for the simple fact of his sudden presence in every corner of her life. Angry at herself for how little she knew, how little she felt capable of, how badly she was handling everything, for being angry and scared and unsure and reluctant at all when she should have been focusing on Alexander.
She dropped the racquet and sat on the floor.
‘Oh god, Beverly,’ she said. ‘Everything’s such a mess!’
Beverly flopped down beside her. ‘You said it.’
‘I could never have refused Worf, and I love Alexander, but... I don’t think I really understood what I was agreeing to until it happened. That’s it. This is my life now, unless Alexander decides that he wants to go and live with Kurn. And that's... unlikely. And I just... I don’t even know where to start.’
‘Well,’ said Beverly, wiping her sweating brow with her sleeve, ‘in my experience, you get up in the morning and just do the best you can. And then you do it again the next day and you keep doing it. And... that’s about all.’
‘No gems of maternal wisdom, then?’
Beverly snorted. ‘That was it.’
‘That wasn’t what I wanted to hear,’ Deanna told her.
‘I know,’ said Beverly.
* * *
‘Kurn visited while you were gone,’ said Helena when Deanna returned. ‘He’s asked Alexander to spend some time with him tomorrow after the memorial service. He wants to talk to him about the House of Mogh’s history.’
‘Did Alexander agree?’ Deanna asked.
‘Well, he didn’t say anything much, but I think we convinced him it would be a good idea to at least try to get to know his uncle. I think Kurn must be a good man, really.’
She smiled wanly. Deanna could sense the flimsiness of her self-control, her determination to keep it together for her grandson’s sake.
‘Alexander!’ she called into the other room. ‘Come on, it’s late, time to say goodnight.’
Helena mouthed a thank-you.
* * *
The service was nice, as such things went. The captain spoke eloquently about Worf’s courage and his honour and his dedication to duty. It was probably the sort of eulogy Worf would have liked, but Deanna kept finding her mind wandering back to the story about the cat.
She cried a little. So did Helena and Lwaxana. Sergey cried a lot. Alexander stood stony-faced and untouchable between his grandparents, and ran away the moment the gathering broke up.
* * *
Deanna found Alexander in the arboretum, stripping the leaves off a particularly valuable Arfillian ficus. She sat down on the ground beside him.
‘Aren’t you supposed to be with your uncle now?’ she asked.
He shrugged. Deanna waited.
‘I don’t want to do any more stupid Klingon things,’ Alexander muttered at last, not looking up. ‘My father died because he wanted to do things the Klingon way. If he hadn’t been so stubborn and so honourable, he might still be here.’
Deanna sighed. ‘Your father made the choices he thought were right for him, and we can’t change any of that now. I’m sorry that those choices hurt you, hurt us - but that doesn’t mean you should deny that whole side of your heritage.’
‘Why not? My mother always did. She never liked all that Klingon stuff. And she was fine until she got mixed up in it again.’
Deanna picked up one of the discarded leaves and rolled it between her fingers. ‘Alexander... you know that I’m half human, don’t you?’
‘Did you also know that my father died when I was around your age?’
‘... no...I didn’t know that. I’m sorry.’ His eyes darted up at her, just for a moment. ‘Do you still miss him?’
‘Oh, yes. It doesn’t hurt as much as it did, but you don’t forget. Anyway, after he died, I didn’t get back to Earth very often. My father didn’t have much family and I never knew them well, and my Betazoid family were right there while I was growing up. Things were... complicated for me sometimes, back then, and often it was easier to think of myself as just a diluted Betazoid, and not a mix of two peoples.’
Alexander’s face turned towards hers, listening properly now.
‘I don’t regret that - I coped with my situation the best way I could at the time. But I sometimes wish I’d had a chance to stay connected to my human heritage... I love Earth, but I never feel like I belong there. I never really feel like a proper human. All I have are bits and pieces - a song my father used to sing, the stories he used to tell me...’
‘Does it make you sad?’ Alexander asked.
‘Yes, it does,’ she said. ‘Alexander - I don’t want you to do anything that you’re not comfortable with. But learning about your Klingon heritage now will help you to choose how you want to live in the future.’
They sat in silence for a few more minutes while another handful of leaves met their end.
‘I’ll go and talk to him, I guess,’ said Alexander.
Deanna stood and offered her hand. Alexander took it.
‘I’ll walk you there,’ she said.
Six Months Later:
‘So, how was school today?’ Deanna asked, heading to the replicator for the hot chocolate they shared each afternoon now.
‘It was ok I guess,’ Alexander shrugged, coming in and dropping shoes and padds along his path. ‘Clara Sutter brought in an old warp coil for show and tell. And... we had to make art about our families.’
‘Oh?’ said Deanna. ‘What did you do?’
‘I painted the emblem of the House of Mogh.’
Deanna smiled and brought the hot chocolates to the table. ‘I think your father would have liked that.’
‘I think so too,’ said Alexander. ‘I was wondering... maybe I could give the painting to Uncle Kurn when I go there next summer.’
The details had taken some time to work out. Alexander thrived on routine and stability, so they had decided on a pattern - six weeks with Kurn every year, during the height of summer at his home on Qo’nos. Three weeks on Earth with his grandparents, every Rosh Hashanah. Two weeks on the other side of the year at Lwaxana’s house on Betazed, with Deanna and the Rozhenkos invited too.
‘I think that’s a wonderful idea,’ said Deanna. ‘Listen - I got a letter from your grandmother earlier. She’s been in touch with your mother’s human family on Earth. She thinks maybe you can visit with them, next time you’re there.’
A spike of anxiety, a bubble of curiosity. He was handling his emotions more easily since they’d started meditating together each morning.
‘Can I think about that for a while?’ he asked.
‘Of course,’ said Deanna. ‘There’s plenty of time.’
He nodded and took a sip of his chocolate.
It was strange, she thought, how quickly all of this had become routine. She’d rearranged her shifts so that she could be home when school finished. She’d grown used to checking his homework, noticing when his clothes were getting too small. It had taken over three months for him to unpack his things properly, but now they were strewn all over her quarters. He’d broken her favourite vase jumping from the couch to the table. (‘I couldn’t help it, the floor was warp plasma!’ he’d explained later.)
They were more or less happy. It more or less worked. And every day she got up in the morning and did the best she could, and it was more or less enough.