Paramount owns characters and places. No profit or infringement intended; I'm just having some fun. Jennie Brand belongs to me.
Thanks to Liz for the initial idea for this story and also for providing the title!
He finished lighting the candles, stopping for a moment to feel the warmth from the flickering flames. He laid the lighter aside and took a step back, surveying the table proudly.
The china, white bone with a gold trim, was surrounded by silver utensils decorated with a rosebud pattern. The crystal glasses shimmered with a golden liquid and he once again felt pride at having secured a 2234 vintage Chardonnay.
He heard a rustle in the doorway and turned in the direction of the noise.
She stood there, framed by the door, her dark hair tumbling over her shoulders. She was dressed in red, a color which especially suited her.
He took a step closer to her, his hand extended to her in welcome. As he neared her, he could see the fine lines under her eyes. She smiled at him, a smile which warmed him and he felt comforted just by her proximity.
They needed very few words to explain how they felt about each other; time had taken care of that.
She looked into his eyes, seeing the warmth and kindness there. He may not have been the man she had dreamt of as a small girl, but now she could not imagine her life without him.
"Has it really been ten years?" she asked softly.
"Since our first date," he answered in that same subdued tone.
She touched his chin gently and traced the line of his jaw with her fingers.
"I never thought you would ask me," she said.
"I never thought you would agree."
"And now look at us," she said. "An old married couple."
"Not old. Not us. Not yet."
She laughed, placing her hand on his forearm, "The table looks lovely."
She went to survey the meal, her eyes widening at the offerings.
"This is the same dinner as the night you proposed," she said.
"Yes. I thought…"
"Shh," she whispered, placing her fingers against his lips. "You don't have to say it. I understand."
He pulled out the chair and she sat down. He took the seat opposite her. He looked at that face he had loved for ten years and marveled at how time passed.
He raised his wine glass to hers.
"To you," he said. "I am nothing without you."
"That isn't true," she teased.
"It is true," he insisted.
She fell silent, her eyes resting on his eyes. There was something very calm and soothing in her glance and then she smiled.
"And I am so grateful for you," she said. "So grateful for everything and for all of our blessings."
Their glasses clinked gently.
"To the rest of our lives," she said quietly. "Together."
The man felt uneasy. It was as if the bartender always knew what he was thinking and that made him nervous.
Miles Edward O'Brien, in general, was a private man and he didn't like thinking that Guinan knew what he was thinking.
Of course, he knew he had set himself up for this, since he had parked himself directly at the bar where Guinan was sure to come and talk to him.
He wondered what Counselor Troi would say about this. Maybe it was a conscientious action on his part, that he really did want to talk and the matter wasn't important enough to schedule an appointment with the ship's counselor.
Besides, he didn't know what was worse; Guinan's unnerving perception or Troi's empathetic abilities.
"Something on your mind, Chief?" Guinan asked as she poured O'Brien another root beer. O'Brien took a sip of the drink, wrinkling his nose at the taste.
"Just thinking," he said.
"You don't usually do your thinking in Ten Forward now, do you?"
"Today I thought I might come in here."
"Any particular reason?"
Without meaning to, he twisted his head to the side. Guinan followed his gaze and a knowing smile settled on her face. He turned back to her, hating that smile.
"Have you met Miss Ishikawa?" Guinan asked innocently.
O'Brien blushed furiously, the heat rising in his face.
"I guess that answers my question," Guinan said.
"Just for a few minutes. She's the new botanist on board. I spent some time in the greenhouse and she gave me a tour."
"And you enjoyed it?"
"Why don't you go talk to her then?"
"She's not alone."
Guinan arched an eyebrow, "Ah…"
"It seems like she's seeing him, you know?"
"I doubt it," Guinan said gently. She nodded in the direction of Keiko Ishikawa.
"I think she enjoys Ensign Lim's company, but I don't think it's more than that. Somehow, he doesn't seem her type."
"But how do you know what's her type?"
"I don't," Guinan said. "It's just a feeling I have."
O'Brien finished his drink and then turned back to look at Keiko.
"If you like her, you should ask her out," Guinan said.
"I don't know. I don't think so."
Guinan shrugged, "Okay. Have it your way."
"That's it?" he turned back to look at the enigmatic bartender. "That's all you have to say?"
"Well, it's your decision in the end. If you like her, I suppose you could ask her to go for a walk in the greenhouse. Whatever you do, the longer you delay, the more time she has to get to know Ensign Lim."
"So you like this guy?" Jennie Brand asked, flopping down on the bed. She propped her chin up on her hands as she watched her roommate comb her long hair.
"Who? John? No," Keiko Ishikawa laughed. "He's fun, but nothing more than that really. You know I'm not looking for a relationship."
"Still," Jennie argued. "You've spent an awful lot of time with John Lim."
"Well, mostly because he is nice and I'm new to the Enterprise. He's showed me around. That's all."
"If you say so."
Keiko twisted around, laughing at her friend.
"Jennie, you have to stop trying to find me someone romantic. You can't just look for someone, it just has to happen?"
Jennie sighed, "I suppose. I'm just a romantic at heart. I guess I want you to be as happy as I am."
"Jennie, I am happy. I don't need a man to make me happy."
"Then what do you need?"
Keiko considered, her brow furrowing in thought.
"I don't know," she admitted. "Nothing really comes to mind. I'm just generally content with my life."
"But you're not looking for anyone?"
Jennie sat up, holding her hands up in mock surrender.
"Okay, okay," Jennie answered.
"But if you do need to know," Keiko said, a secretive smile sneaking across her lips. "I did meet someone today. His name is Miles. He was in the greenhouse and I showed him around. He seems nice. Shy, but nice."
"Will you see him again?"
Keiko shook her head, "Maybe, but I doubt it. I saw him in Ten Forward earlier, but he didn't even say hi. I guess he doesn't remember me."
"But you like him?"
"I barely know him!"
"But you like him, don't you?" Jennie persisted.
Keiko allowed herself a broader smile, "Yes, I suppose. A little."
Riker had a date. This wasn't unusual. O'Brien marveled at the First Officer's confidence with women. He wondered what it was that Riker had that attracted women to him or what made him so sure that a woman would like him back.
O'Brien turned back to his drink, trying to summon up his courage. He had gone back to the greenhouse today and he had talked with Keiko Ishikawa a little more. He had enjoyed their conversation and had marveled at her knowledge of plants. Mostly, he liked the fact that she was not terribly technically oriented, that she could see beyond the sleek lines of the Enterprise.
Guinan paused by O'Brien, her smile cryptic but inviting.
"I like her," he said finally.
"Then ask her out."
"I don't think I could."
"I don't know if she likes me."
"How would you know if you don't ask?"
Guinan sighed, "You are a difficult man, O'Brien."
He smiled in spite of himself, "I'm just not looking for rejection."
"How do you know she's going to reject you?"
"It's just that she's so smart and wonderful," O'Brien said. "You should see the way she talks about the plants. She really feels the life within them. You should see the way she caresses the dirt, how she pours the water -"
"Okay, okay," Guinan laughed. "I'm convinced."
O'Brien turned back to see Riker laughing with his date.
"You admire him?" Guinan asked softly.
"Only because he succeeds all the time. I bet he's never been rejected."
Guinan leaned forward, "I can tell you that I have counseled Will Riker many a time over a lovely young lady. Believe me, Riker has faced rejection before. We all do. That's a part of life, Chief. And you will never know unless you ask. And what do you have to lose? Nothing, really. If you think she's the one for you, then why waste time? Why let John Lim be the one to reach her before you do?"
O'Brien nodded, "You're right. I should just ask her. That's what I should do."
Guinan grinned, "Good."
Keiko had just finished putting away her clothes when the door chimed.
"Come," she called out.
The doors slid open revealing a rather anxious Miles O'Brien.
"Miles!" she exclaimed. "Hello, how are you?"
"I'm fine. You?" the words sounded awkward to him the minute he said them, but she didn't seem to notice the hesitation.
"Come on in," Keiko said. "What brings you by?"
He shrugged, "I just thought I'd stop by."
"Oh, that's all?"
"Yeah," O'Brien nodded. "I was in the area and thought I'd stop by. That's all."
"Well, okay. I'll talk to you later," O'Brien turned on his heel and walked out.
Keiko shook her head. He was a strange man.
"I'm detecting an unusual amount of energy," Lieutenant Commander Data announced. The Captain stood up, straightening his jersey as he rose.
"Source?" Picard asked.
"Unknown," Data responded as a brilliant flash of light illuminated the bridge.
"Q!" Picard exclaimed as a figure materialized in front of him. " I should have known."
Q, that all powerful-being, winced.
"Mon Capitaine, I expected a warmer welcome this. After all, we haven't seen each other in quite a while. Several months I believe."
"I have not missed you, Q," Picard responded. "That is certain."
"I am hurt," Q roamed the bridge thoughtfully. "Data, hello. Any closer to becoming human?"
"It is impossible for me -" Data began, but Q cut him off, waving a hand airily in front of the android.
In the background, Worf growled. Picard threw a warning look at the Klingon. Q looked at Troi, who was sitting primly in her chair.
"Ah, the lovely Counselor Troi," Q said. He took her hand and kissed it gently.
Troi wrinkled her nose at him.
"Very attractive," Q said. "And Riker! Riker, how are you?"
"I was doing quite well before you appeared on our bridge," Riker answered.
"I'm injured by your coldness to me," Q whined. "Picard, I have come here on a mission of goodwill."
"Goodwill?" Riker asked skeptically.
"Of course," Q sighed. "The Continuum has set upon us each the task of performing one good deed per century. I'm afraid I'm running out of time and so I have come here in search of a good deed."
"You do have thirty-three years left," Riker pointed out. "Can't you find somewhere else to perform your good deed?"
"Believe me," Q shook his head. "I have searched the galaxy many times over and I cannot find a group of people more in need of my assistance than you. Now, you all should be pleased at this news."
"Q," Picard said. "I refuse to allow you to interfere with the lives of my crew. You have disrupted us enough."
"Fine, fine," Q sighed and with a snap of his fingers and a flash of light, he disappeared.
Guinan frowned. Q. He was here. She could feel it in her bones. She walked into the backroom and there he was, that haughty, annoying creature.
"Guinan!" Q smiled. "How are you?"
"I suppose I should ask what you are doing in my backroom," Guinan said, ignoring the pleasantries. "Does Picard know you are here?"
"Yes, the spoilsport," Q replied.
"Ah, he asked you to leave, did he?"
"Yes and this time I came in friendship. All I wanted to do was perform one good deed. One good deed that I could take back to the Continuum, to show them that I was using my powers for the good of the universe."
"Sounds like a tall order."
"I'm desperate, Guinan. You should know that. I'm asking you for help."
"I'm honored," Guinan replied wryly.
"You must know of a good deed I can perform. As Riker so kindly pointed out, I only have thirty-three years left."
"Sorry, Q," Guinan shook her head. "Can't help."
"Guinan! You must know of a poor troubled soul whom I can help! This is a ship full of poor troubled souls! Just give me a name!"
"Sorry," Guinan said. "If you'll excuse me, I've got a bar to attend to."
Guinan went back into Ten Forward and was surprised to find O'Brien sitting at the bar. His expression was uncharacteristically glum.
"What happened?" she asked.
"I went to see her."
"It didn't go well."
"Did you ask her out?"
"Did you talk?"
"No. All of sudden, I had nothing to say."
"Sounds like you had a case of the jitters."
"Yeah and now I've blown it with her."
"I doubt it. She seems like the understanding type. Can I get you something to drink?"
"No," O'Brien got up from his seat. "I think I will go back to my quarters."
"Well, if you need to talk, you know where to find me."
O'Brien left and Guinan was sure that she would not talk to Miles O'Brien again about Keiko Ishikawa.
Well, she had tried her best. There was nothing more she could do. She could only hope that Keiko would make a move.
Q materialized in Miles O'Brien quarters, startling the Irishman.
"What are you doing in here?" O'Brien demanded.
"I've come to help you," Q announced grandly.
"Help me?" O'Brien asked skeptically. "You never help anyone! Get out of my quarters!"
Q shook his head, smacking his lips in dismay.
"I've come to offer my services," Q said. "I seem to have overhead a conversation. Just by accident, really."
"You never do anything by accident," O'Brien retorted as he headed into the bedroom. "Just leave me alone."
"You really are in a bad mood," Q answered. "What is her name?"
"The lady. What is her name?"
"There is no lady."
"Yes, there is. I heard you whining to Guinan earlier. Of course there's a lady."
"Look, there's no lady and I just want you to leave."
O'Brien shut the bathroom door in Q's face, but a second later, Q materialized in the bathroom.
"I can help you win her affections," Q said snidely. "With a snap of my fingers, she'll be crazy about you."
O'Brien shook his head, "No, it's not like that."
"It's what you want, isn't it?"
"I don't know what I want, but I do know I want you out."
"You don't know what I could do for you," Q said.
"I do know what you can do for me and I don't want any part of it."
"'Tis a pity. I suppose you'll end your days, sniveling and alone, whining about your loneliness to any bleeding heart bartender who will listen to your pitiful stories."
"That's enough from you!"
"Well, I've had enough of you! See if I try to do something nice for you humans again!"
And with a flash, Q disappeared.
Jennie was out; Keiko had the quarters to herself and to be honest, much as she enjoyed Jennie's company, she was happy to have some time to herself.
She hummed to herself as she carefully folded some clothes. Then she examined her prize Trullian violets, carefully picking off the browning, brittle leaves.
"Looking healthy," she said with satisfaction.
She stooped to examine another plant, just as she heard some noise in the other room.
"Jennie!" Keiko straightened up.
She went into the other room but saw that Jennie was not there. But there was something new; a small vase of flowers (Creilan lilacs, pale blue and white) sat on the table. A PADD lay next to the vase.
Keiko took a step forward, her brow wrinkling with perplexity. She knew for sure that those items had not been there a minute before. She picked up the PADD and turned it on.
The message was simple: "The honor of your presence is requested by Miles O'Brien in holodeck three."
Keiko smiled to herself and then hurried into her bedroom to change. Hopefully she would have something wonderful to share with Jennie later on.
"You know," Miles cleared his throat. "I was just thinking that we have Q to thank for this."
Keiko's eyes, luminous in the candlelight, met his.
"Q?" she asked.
"Yes, he was there in my quarters and he said these terrible things about me being alone and whining in some rundown bar somewhere in the galaxy," Miles sighed. "I can't believe I'm telling you this."
"I can't believe you waited ten years to tell me this."
"Well, after he left, I thought about it a little more and thought that it couldn't hurt to try. And then I got that note from you asking me to meet you in holodeck three…"
"I never sent a note," Keiko said. "You invited me."
"That's not how I remember it. You definitely invited me. I still haven't figured out how you got into my quarters to leave that note."
"I never left you a note. You left me a note. I remember that very clearly."
"Well, we both can't be right, can we?" Miles asked skeptically.
Keiko shook her head, "No, no. I don't think so."
"Well, it doesn't matter then. The end result is what matters, isn't it?'
Keiko's face softened, "We've had some wonderful times, haven't we?"
"Yes. Some difficult, but it's mostly been wonderful."
"I think about how fast the years are going," Keiko said quietly. "And I'm just so glad that I'm spending them with you and I know I'm going to look back in fifty or sixty years and just be so thankful for you."
"I feel the same," Miles cleared his throat. He stood up. "How was the dinner?"
"Tastes just as wonderful as it did that night," Keiko said. Miles extended his hand to her. She took it.
"Happy anniversary, darling," he told her, kissing her forehead gently.
"You know," Miles said. "I really didn't send you that note."
Keiko kissed him, "Why don't we argue about it in the morning?"
An invisible Q hovered in the corner as he watched the couple embrace. A satisfied smile crossed his face.
"And that's what I call a job well done," he thought to himself. "A good deed indeed. And with thirty-three years to spare!"
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