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Kira is in the middle of her shift in Ops when the Defiant limps back to the station after the failed experiment, and she ends up coordinating most of the immediate response and organizing the repair crews for the next few hours. The only report she got laconically said ‘one majorly injured, a few more minor injuries’ and the phrase is stuck in a loop in Kira’s mind until she’s able to go off duty.

“Dr. Kahn is fine now,” a worn-out Bashir tells her as soon as she marches into the infirmary. “We’re just keeping her under observation.”

Kira stops mid-step. “She was injured?”

Bashir frowns. “You didn’t know? She was in engineering when the incident happened. If it hadn’t been for Jadzia, she’d been vented out into space along with the rest of the plasma leak.”

Kira grips the back of a nearby chair, the support suddenly welcome. “I was down at the dock for the last three hours, and the report didn’t mention any names,” she mutters.

Bashir’s expression softens. “I sent Jadzia back to her quarters.”

Kira finds her there, staring out of the porthole with her arms crossed, like she’s daring the universe to try something else. She has no idea what to say to Jadzia, so she just walks to her side and waits.

“I don’t want to lose her again,” Kira hears her murmur.

“You don’t have to.”

Jadzia glances at her, then pinches the bridge of her nose with her left hand. “I wish it was that simple.” She twists her mouth bitterly. “I’m sure that as soon as Lenara wakes up, her brother will remind her that she has to go back on Trill and move on, that she can’t throw her life away for me.”

Kira blinks, the words failing to connect in her mind. “Throw her life away? Bashir just told me that you saved her.”

“If she decides to remain here it would be because of me, and we would both be exiled. She could never go back.”

Kira stares at Jadzia, mouth half open.

It’s Jadzia’s turn to be confused. “I thought I explained that reassociation between joined Trills means exile.”

“I know how it works, but Jadzia,” Kira says, opening her arms and planting her feet on the floor in front of the other woman, “you can’t tell me that either she lives here and forgets about Trill, or lives on Trill and forgets about you.”

“What other option could we have?”

“I don’t know, but it’s a lousy choice either way.” Before Jadzia can protest Kira adds: “Would you have asked me to either come live with you or forget about our relationship, especially after only a couple of days? To abandon Bajor to be with you?”

“It’s not the same thing,” Jadzia replies, frowning.

“How? Lenara’s whole life is on Trill. The fact that she met you again isn’t going to change that.”

Jadzia turns away from her sharply, and Kira exhales, closing her eyes. The whole situation is absurd, and it’s obvious that Jadzia is still reeling from the incident, too tired to think clearly.

“How about you try a compromise,” Kira suggests. “A long distance relationship, at least at first.”

Jadzia shakes her head, linking her hands behind her back. “If anyone got wind of that, and Lenara’s brother is already suspicious enough, we’d still risk exile. Or at least my communications with the planet would be intercepted.”

So much for middle ground. Kira looks again at the stars out of the porthole, then she catches her own scowling reflection on the glass.

An idea starts taking shape in her head.

Your communications.”

Jadzia gives her a perplexed look.

“You need a cover,” Kira says slowly. “A third person on DS9, someone who can pretend to be the one sending comms to Lenara, and receiving them from her. Then you could still be together.”

“Are you suggesting we trick people into thinking that she isn’t having a relationship with me, but with this third person?”

Kira nods. “Unless there are laws barring joined Trills to have relationships with aliens, sounds like a plan to me.”

Jadzia stares at Kira in silence. Her face is so comically open in her surprise that Kira has to press her lips together to not laugh.

“Don’t tell me you hadn’t thought of that.”

“Honestly no, I hadn’t.”

“Sounds like you never had much to hide from Trill authorities,” Kira observes drily.

“And I wish the Symbiosis Commission hadn’t repaid my trust by hiding things from me,” Jadzia replies bitterly, keeping her eyes on the black expanse on the other side of the glass. “Luckily I know a few people with a lot of experience about finding loopholes in the law,” she concludes with a smile.

“If you’re trying to compare me to Quark I’m going to hit you,” Kira says with a glare, and Jadzia actually chuckles at that before sobering up again, all too rapidly.

“I don’t know, Nerys. Lenara may not like this idea, and honestly I’m afraid that if she returns to Trill she’ll be reminded all too well that reassociation is not just illegal, but is also considered repugnant and wrong by a lot of people.

“Well you can’t make her stay if she doesn’t want to,” Kira retorts, “and you can’t control what she thinks. I understand that you don’t want to lose her, but she needs her space.” Just like I needed and still need mine, she thinks, hoping that Jadzia remembers it as well.

Jadzia closes her eyes and sighs. “I just— wish everything was easier. That all these complications didn’t exist and we could just be together,” Jadzia says, letting her arms fall at her side. “But you’re right, I can’t just ask her to leave everything behind and run away with me.”

“That may be romantic, but not very reasonable,” Kira nods.

Jadzia gives her a puzzled look. “Did you become a Vulcan overnight?”

Kira only glares in reply.

Jadzia smiles, and lifts her hands up in surrender. “All right, all right. I’ll discuss things with Lenara, but even if she agrees to your idea I still haven’t the faintest idea who could be our— beard. I can’t ask Julian to do it, after what he’s already done for me, and I definitely can’t ask Benjamin to be a part of this deception.”

Kira’s hands tighten in a fist, and she takes a deep breath. “You could always ask me.”

Jadzia stares at her for a long moment. “You.”

“Yes, me. Do I not qualify for the job? I assure you I can keep a secret.”

Jadzia frowns. “You’d be perfect, but you’re also in a relationship with me. Wouldn’t that be suspicious?”

“I don’t think that’s common knowledge outside this station. Or does Trill throw away resources to spy on every citizen that carries a symbiont?”

“Of course they don’t.”

“Then if I am the only person on DS9 that receives communications from Dr. Kahn they can’t prove I’m not the one who’s having a relationship with her.”

Jadzia blinks, taken aback. “That could actually work. Well, assuming that you manage to convince Lenara’s brother that all he thought about me and her was just an elaborate delusion, and you are the one she’s having an affair with.”

“If you discuss the matter with her, I’m sure she’ll know better than I do what could persuade him.”

Jadzia remains silent again, keeping her eyes on Kira with the kind of focused attention that always reminds Kira that she is much, much older than her physical body suggests.

“You’d really do this,” she murmurs.

“I would,” Kira says softly, not breaking eye-contact. “For you.”

“Nerys, this isn’t a situation we had considered when we first got together,” Jadzia says, moving into Kira’s space.

“I’m aware of that,” Kira explains patiently, rubbing the palms of her hands on the sleeves of her uniform. “But I told you, I can see that your feelings for Lenara are not something you’d easily set aside. If this can help you find happiness, I’ll do it gladly. We will talk about what it means for us later, if Lenara agrees to go along with it.”

Jadzia looks away for a moment. “I hope she does— it certainly beats not being able to talk to her ever again.”

Kira smiles. “I’m sure she’ll think the same thing.”

“And it’d all be because of you,” Jadzia says with a smile of her own, leaning in closer.

Kira accepts the kiss that follows with something akin to relief, and she allows the doubts that she isn’t yet voicing to subside for a moment under Jadzia’s cool touch.