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Much Warmer in the Sunlight

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Kira doesn’t make friends so much as she makes allies. A person who won’t shoot you, that’s an ally. A person who won’t shoot you when your back is turned, that, she supposes, might be a friend. Friends are made hunched over warmed stones in cold caves, over repairing shoddy phasers with salvaged junk. Kira’s never made a friend over tea and coffee and sugar on sticks.

She should be happier, she thinks, about how things turned out. Terok Nor is liberated, clean, bright. They’re actually seeing more civilian activity. Oh, and her new commanding officer is the Emissary of the Prophets.

She leans on the railing on the second level of the Promenade and watches the vendors below, raising their curtains and setting out their goods for the day. Her commanding officer is the Emissary, and he’s not Bajoran, and that should be more than enough to keep her occupied. But that’s easy enough to trust to the Prophets; her concerns are a little more worldly.

It’s not enough for Starfleet to plant their flags and their people, bring their weapons and their security and their rules. No, Starfleet had to send her: a friend, a very old friend, for Commander Sisko to speak to whenever he likes. An old and trusted friend that can provide guidance and help him make decisions. It’s not hard to see the writing on the wall. Sisko may have requested a Bajoran first officer, but Starfleet’s made sure Kira stays irrelevant.

She’s just getting ready to leave when she hears someone say, “Major,” and she turns around.

There, in front of her, is Sisko’s friend, her hands behind her back and a smile on her face.

“I’m sorry, are you busy this morning?” Lieutenant Dax asks her.

Trills aren’t empaths, are they? Kira doesn’t think they’re supposed to be empaths. It’s strange that Dax would be right here, right when Kira was thinking about how much she doesn’t like everything she represents.

“Uh,” Kira says, suddenly not feeling very busy. “No, not really.”

Dax’s smile widens. “Great,” she says. “We barely had any time to be properly introduced yesterday.”

“No,” Kira says, her anger slipping away from her like silk through her fingers. “I suppose we didn’t.”

“Would you like to join me for breakfast, then?” Dax asks. “I was thinking, we’re going to be doing some extensive research on the wormhole and I’d love to know everything you do about it.”

Kira noticed it yesterday, that Dax seems so composed and gentle, and nothing about it seems forced or disingenuous. Kira feels calmer than she has all morning. Trills really aren’t empaths, right? It’s just so hard to be mad looking at Dax now.

“Sure, why not?” Kira says, and they begin to walk.

---

Kira learns many things about Dax in a very short time. She likes rare music. She likes drinking Klingon bloodwine. She likes talking, to anyone, about themselves, about herself, about anything at all, which Kira initially regards as completely stupid; revealing all your secrets to anyone who asks is painting a target on your back.

She actually says this to Dax in a moment of blind frustration, amid smoking consoles and blaring alarms, but Dax just smiles, slow and sure, and says, “Trust me, Major, I’d never get through all my secrets in one lifetime.”

It seems insane to live seven lives, let alone live them voluntarily. One is hard enough. The thought of more is enough to chill Kira’s blood.

“How do you do it?” she asks. They don’t know each other well enough for this, not even close, but the words tumble out of Kira’s mouth one morning before she can stop them. “How can you choose to live over and over again?”

“How long have you been waiting to ask that?” Dax asks, smiling like she always does, like everything is funny and she’s sharing about ten different jokes with herself.

But her expression soon softens, and her gaze slips far away. She puts her hands around her mug of raktajino and sits up a little straighter.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to pry,” Kira says. “Forget I said anything.”

“No,” Dax responds. “I’m just trying to think of an answer.” There’s so much going on in her eyes: pain and longing, relief and contentment, wistfulness and dissatisfaction.

Finally, when Kira thinks it has to be too much, Dax looks up and shrugs. “Life is life,” she says. “It’s the good parts that count.” She takes another sip of her raktajino. “You hold on to those with everything you have.”

Kira tries to think of what the good might be in her life and can’t come up with much. Trying to hold on to her good parts might be grasping at smoke.

“A little too deep first thing in the morning?” Dax asks.

Kira sits back in her chair. “I’m not sure,” she says.

---

There are habits Kira has picked up since coming to Deep Space 9. She says a silent prayer for everyone on the station before she leaves her quarters. She delivers duty rosters to Commander Sisko first, then orders her raktajino. And then there’s the pacing: she’s doing a lot more of it. Maybe it’s because standing still has never been one of her strong points. Maybe it’s because she’s not used to being able to wander aimlessly for no particular reason.

She is pacing now, alone in her quarters, her palm sweating around the earring in her hand. She really needs that runabout. She can’t will Sisko to think about it any faster, though.

Kira opens her hand and looks down at the earring again. If she were still in the resistance, she would have already left to rescue Li Nalas. That was the one good thing about the resistance: you just went, wherever you were needed, whenever the group was ready to go. The waiting started when you were already at your destination. More rules and more waiting are small prices to pay for fragile peace. But it does tend to increase the pacing.

She sighs. She’s only making herself more anxious and it isn’t helping. At times like this, Dax would probably suggest some time in a holosuite.

“Computer,” Kira says. “Location of Lieutenant Dax.”

“Lieutenant Dax is in Holosuite One,” the computer replies.

Imagine that.

When she gets there, Dax is sitting in front of her Altonian brain bubble, and the bubble shifts to a patchy mix of blue and green.

“Hmm,” Kira hears her say, and then the bubble disappears.

“Oh,” Kira says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t meant to throw you off.”

“You didn’t,” Dax says as she turns around, defeated but still bemused. “I just don’t have it today.”

“A lot on your mind?” Kira asks.

“No more than usual,” Dax says. “But what about you?” she asks, her expression softening. “I’d say you’re the one with a lot on her mind.”

Dax had scanned the earring as soon as Kira brought it to her, no questions asked. It hadn’t even been an order.

“It’s… difficult,” Kira says. “Someone very important to Bajor is out there, and there may not be anything I can do to help him.”

She talks about Li Nalas as much as she is able, as much as she can impart his impact to someone who wasn’t there. She paces some more. She admits she asked Sisko for a runabout.

“And?” Dax asks.

“And… he said he has to think about it,” Kira replies. “And I don’t blame him, I really don’t, what I’m asking of him is-”

“He said he had to think about it?” Dax interrupts.

“Uh,” Kira says. “That’s right, but-”

Dax is already up and walking toward the holosuite doors. She shakes her head. “Don’t worry,” she says, with the barest hint of a sly smile. “I’ll fix that.”

“Wait, wait!” Kira plants herself in front of Dax, dumbfounded. “That’s not why I came here, I didn’t mean for you to-”

Dax just puts her hands on Kira’s shoulders and says, “Don’t worry,” again. “That’s what friends are for.”

Friends. Despite what she said to Vedek Bareil, sometimes it’s like a new word she’s struggling to learn. But Dax makes something uncurl inside Kira, like the muscles in her body are relaxing for the first time in her life.

She feels the same thing later, stranded in the forest with their raider smoking behind them, when Dax looks at Kira like leaving her behind is the dumbest idea she’s ever heard.

A person who won’t leave you in a burning raider, that’s an ally. A person who drags you all the way to a Bajoran monastery to prevent you from bleeding out in the underbrush so you can stop your government from making an irreversible mistake and live to tell about it… that might be a friend.

When it’s all over and they’re back at the replimat, and Kira laughs for the first time in many weeks, that’s when she realizes this isn’t just some dream or illusion, and what she said to Vedek Bareil is true. She has a friend out here in the deep dark reaches of space, and it feels good.

“Well,” Dax says, rising from her chair. “I’m on duty in ten minutes.” She moves to take her plate, but Kira reaches out and grabs her wrist.

“Jadzia,” Kira says, relaxed, like she’s never been more sure of what she’s about to say. “Call me Nerys once in a while, okay?”

A slow smile spreads across Dax’s face, and she gives Kira’s hand a little squeeze before she leaves.

---

“You two have developed quite a reputation, you know,” Doctor Bashir says with a frown.

Kira shares a look with Jadzia from across Ops. “A reputation?” she asks, folding her arms. Jadzia, on the other hand, leans forward, elbows resting on her console, ready to be the center of the Promenade’s gossip mill.

“Your meals together,” Bashir says. “Everyone on this station knows not to get in the middle of those.”

“What are you talking about?” Kira asks. It’s the middle of their shift; the last thing they need is to be distracted by idle gossip.

“You two share a meal at least once a day,” Bashir says. “The rest of us are starting to feel like we’re missing out.”

“Uh huh,” Kira says. “But it’s not me you’re missing, is it?”

“Julian,” Jadzia says, and Kira swears she sees her bat her eyelashes. “Do you miss having lunch with me?”

“Just terribly,” Bashir answers. He looks like a little animal begging for food, doe-eyed and downtrodden.

“I don’t know, Julian,” Jadzia says. “You have some pretty stiff competition now.”

Jadzia gets along with everyone, even Quark, and she could choose to have lunch with just about anybody on this station. So many people, much friendlier people, and yet she keeps choosing Kira.

“You’ll just have to develop my winning personality,” Kira deadpans.

Jadzia grins at her, and Kira grins at Jadzia. Doctor Bashir, possibly overwhelmed by the sight of their glowing faces, sighs and leaves.

Somehow Kira never thought she’d have a reputation for anything other than being volatile.

She glances over one more time at Jadzia, already immersed in her work again and as content as ever.

As far as reputations go, Kira thinks, this one’s all right.

---

Kira was fourteen when she killed for the first time. She had been with the resistance for one year and forty one days, and she had just celebrated her birthday, alone on a pallet in front of a campfire, staring at the flames and thinking of her mother.

She had been in firefights by that point, all of them chaotic and bloody, but it was hard for her to focus on the details in the beginning. The faces blurred together in smoke, the bodies piled up in darkness, but she had never actually seen her actions cause a death. She just shot toward the Cardassians and hoped they had no time to shoot her back.

On that night when she fired that phaser and saw the beam hit someone, and they dropped to the ground and didn’t move again, she felt many things. At first, nothing. Then adrenaline, which kept building and building, until her mind rose up to the clouds, and she stared at the body of the Cardassian she’d just killed and was elated.

And then, when she realized how good she felt, she came crashing back to Bajor, sour and shamed.

The Prophets have always frowned upon killing.

Kira straightens, her hand hovering over the door panel.

Maybe she needs to give Dax more space. Maybe she shouldn’t be here right now. She is trying very hard not to think about Jadzia’s piercing, cold stare in the replimat. She is trying to tell herself that it wasn’t really her, gentle Jadzia who is never so cruel and harsh, but that’s the thing. It is part of her. It is her now.

Kira’s hand falls on the panel. The door opens.

The light is low in Dax’s quarters, and she is there, sitting on the windowsill with her face turned away.

Kira steps inside until the door closes behind her. “I didn’t see you at lunch today,” she says. Or breakfast, or dinner. Or anywhere.

“I wasn’t very hungry,” Jadzia replies. She continues to look out at the stars, and then she says with a sigh, “This is harder than I thought it would be.”

“It was never going to be easy, was it?” Kira asks. How could it be easy, finding out you have a murderer inside of you?

Kira moves closer, watching carefully for any signs that she shouldn’t. Jadzia doesn’t move, so Kira sits down on the floor beside her, her back to the wall.

“I can accept Joran’s memories,” Jadzia says after a while. “That’s the easy part. It’s…”

She trails off, and doesn’t speak again for what seems like a long time. Kira sits still, leaning her head against the bulkhead.

“Now I know why sometimes, in a fight, I feel… such a rush,” Jadzia says. “I always thought that was a Curzon thing, something about relishing the heat of battle.” In the low light, Kira can see Jadzia’s expression darken. “But it’s not Curzon,” she says.

They have fought together more than a few times now, and Kira can envision exactly what Jadzia must be picturing: the way her body electrifies and springs to life at the first spark of phaser fire, the flame in her eyes as she swings around and the heaving of her chest as she scorches flesh with the press of one button. The flaring blaze as someone drops to the ground and she whirls into the next clash.

“What does that make me?” Jadzia asks, nearly whispering.

Kira thinks of herself, fourteen and overcome with the power of snuffing out a life.

“No different than the rest of us,” she responds.

Jadzia says nothing, but Kira hears her expel a shaking breath.

---

“Have you ever thought about growing out your hair?” Jadzia asks.

“What?” Of all the things to be discussing first thing in the morning.

“It was so cute when I first met you,” Jadzia says. “And then you cut it all off; I never even had a chance to enjoy it.”

Kira blinks a few times, torn between laughter and exclamation. “You can’t tell me you don’t have more important things to be thinking about.”

“No,” Jadzia says with a sidelong glance and a smirk. “This is definitely the most important.”

This time, Kira does laugh. “My hair.”

“Is very nice the way it is,” Jadzia says as they make their way into the turbolift. “I’m just saying, a little longer would be incredibly flattering on you.”

Kira shakes her head. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine her life has calmed down to the point where she can be in a turbolift discussing personal appearance.

She’ll never let it get as long as it was in the resistance – that long tangle of hair she somehow managed to carry around through dust and dirt. There are times, though, where she misses having long locks to comb through, or locks of any kind.

And she does just so happen to trust Jadzia in all things.

“How much longer are we talking about here?” Kira asks, her voice low, like she’s afraid someone else will overhear.

“For you? Nothing too wild,” Jadzia replies. “I think right about…” She reaches out and brushes her fingers against the side of Kira’s neck, settling just below her jaw line. “Here.”

Jadzia’s hands are cold, they always are, but Kira feels warm just the same.

Later on, during a break in her shift, she rubs at her neck and swears that spot is tingling.

---

“How long’s she been in there?” O’Brien asks.

“It’s got to have been three hours by now,” Bashir replies.

“Three point five,” Quark says from behind the bar. “Normally I’d be more than happy to keep taking her latinum.”

“Normally,” Kira says flatly.

“Somebody’s gotta get her out of this mood,” Quark says.

“I think it’s a bit more than a simple ‘mood’, Quark,” Bashir says.

He’s not wrong. Jadzia’s been spending all her free time in the holosuite bashing holographic Klingons’ heads in, and it all started after Lenara Kahn left.

“Should we do something?” O’Brien asks.

“There’s nothing to do,” Kira says, sipping her drink. “It’s her business.”

“No, it’s my business,” Quark says, “and I’d much rather she come back to my tongo games instead of stomping around up there by herself.”

“It doesn’t matter what you want,” Kira puts her glass down harder than intended and gets up. “Just leave her alone, all of you.”

Leave her alone, don’t leave her alone, Kira doesn’t know what she should do, but she knows how hard it is to watch Jadzia, solitary and quiet wherever she goes. She’s all business in Ops. She declines all invitations. She takes PADDs with her to the replimat only to put them down and stare off into the distance. People are starting to notice, and to talk, and Kira wants to beat them all back with sticks. Everyone has the right to nurse a broken heart.

Captain Sisko doesn’t seem at all worried when Kira asks him about it.

“She’ll work through it,” he says, and then with a smirk, adds, “Although there may be a bit more holosuite violence before that happens.”

So if the captain isn’t worried about it, Kira decides she won’t be, either. Jadzia is no wispy flower; she won’t be knocked over by only a little breeze.

Still, the morning Jadzia finally joins her again in the replimat feels like a breath of fresh air, coming out of nowhere.

“You should join me in the holosuite today,” Jadzia says, sliding into her usual seat.

Kira looks up from her raktajino. “Uh, hi.”

“Hi,” Jadzia says, grinning.

A weight lifts from Kira’s shoulders, and she does her best not to make it visible.

“If you’re going in there to beat more people up, I’ll have to pass,” she says.

“Not today,” Jadzia says. “How about giving Camelot another shot? Or we could borrow one of Julian’s.”

“His ridiculous secret spy things?” Kira can never wrap her head around those, or why anyone would want to play something so completely detached from reality.

“It could be fun,” Jadzia says, with a look on her face like she’s giving real thought to leaping off tall buildings in a tuxedo.

Kira shakes her head. “I don’t want to be one of those weird girls slinking around all over the place with a gun in my dress.”

Jadzia feigns a gasp and gives her a light swat on the arm. “But you’d make such a good weird girl!”

They both laugh, but Kira shakes her head again. “No. Pass.”

“Okay, if not one of mine or one of Julian’s, how about one of yours?” Jadzia asks.

“What, you mean springball?”

Jadzia blanches. “Oh, God no. Not after last time.” She takes a good, long swig of her raktajino, and still ends up making a face like it goes down bitter.

“But our good doctor was able to get that bump off your forehead in no time,” Kira says with a small smile.

Jadzia glares at her. “Why don’t you pick one of your other ones?”

“I don’t have any other ones.”

“Still?” Jadzia asks. “It’s been four years and you don’t have any programs of your own?”

“Jadzia, what am I going to do with a holosuite program?”

“Play in it!” Jadzia puts her mug down with an audible thump. “All right, what if we made one for you? You’ve got to have at least one.”

Kira smirks. “I have springball.”

Not springball.

“Come on,” Kira says. “You know my imagination has never been that active.”

“Just think about what you’d enjoy if you could do anything, right now, this minute.”

“Really, I don’t know!” Kira doesn’t know, but she should at least humor Jadzia. “If I could do anything right now, I’d probably… I’d probably go to Bajor.”

“Great,” Jadzia says. “Let’s make Bajor.”

Kira sighs. “No, I don’t want to make Bajor. I want to go to Bajor. What I want is to… is to go to Kendra Province. I want to be on a hill, with the trees spread out below us and the mountains on the horizon. I want to take in that fresh smell of the flowers in the fields, I want to feel the warm breeze on my face, I want to lie down while the sun sets and the stars come out and just…” Her eyelids flutter shut. “Breathe.”

Jadzia is quiet for a moment, and then says, “Let’s make Kendra Province.”

“No,” Kira says. “It could never be the same. We have to go there.” She leans forward, putting her elbows on the table. “Let’s go.”

“What, now?” Jadzia asks.

“When we both have some leave,” Kira says. “We’ll go everywhere we can, not just Kendra Province. I’ll show you all the things you couldn’t see hiding in a vedek’s robes.”

Jadzia’s smile is infectious. “Let me know when we’re leaving.”

There’s a part of Kira that thinks it’ll never happen. They’ll be too busy, or some catastrophe will arise, or the rising tensions all around the Federation will swell so much that they will all finally get swallowed up.

She even has this crazy thought, late at night, just as she’s on the verge of falling asleep, of Kai Winn blocking the airlock and wagging her finger.

“This is no time for fun, child,” she scolds, and Kira jerks awake so hard her muscles ache.

One morning after Kira does her usual delivery of duty rosters to Captain Sisko, he stops her on her way out.

“Don’t you think it might be nice to see some sun?” he asks her.

“Sir?”

“It’ll be warm in Kendra Province the next couple of days,” Sisko says, scrolling along on the PADD in his hand. “Or so the reports say.”

Kira gets the feeling that if she looks out the doorway right now, she’ll see Jadzia, looking back over her shoulder with a mischief-making smile.

“Nice time for a trip?” Kira asks.

Sisko grins. “Exactly.”

Sure enough, when Kira leaves his office, Jadzia eyes her from over at her console.

“Getting a little restless?” Kira asks.

“Don’t you think it might be nice,” Jadzia says, “to see some sun?”

The two of them catch the first transport to Bajor the next morning.

There are more people roaming Jalanda City now than Kira has ever seen. Vulcans, humans, Bolians, even a pair of Andorian antennae poking out from the top of the throng – there are all sorts of different people, and they’re all here on Bajor. They’re all exploring her home.

Beside her, Jadzia cranes her neck to see the tops of the spires overhead.

“Come on,” Kira says to her. “How about some breakfast?”

“Just no hasperat this early in the morning,” Jadzia replies.

The two of them work their way through the city, on a path that takes them through local shops and stalls and parks and gardens. They buy pink pastries from an old woman at the end of a street. They find freshly printed books to leaf through in a new shop. They listen to musicians stationed on corners. They admire the architecture of building after building, all shining with new repairs. They watch how jumja sticks are made, as well as how quickly they’re devoured by children.

As they move toward the outskirts, they hop on a transport to Kendra Province, watching through the windows as the city melts away in favor of rolling hills. The shadows outside grow longer and the sky turns to orange, and before they know it, they’ve hiked up to the top of a small hill with no one else around.

“Are you tired?” Kira says.

“No way,” Jadzia replies, her eyes on the sky. The stars are coming out, and out here with only the rising moon, there’s a whole ocean of them above their heads. It’s almost silly; they see stars all the time, nothing but stars, all day every day, out every window on the station. But Jadzia doesn’t seem to care, and she lies back against the grass, never looking away from them.

Kira, too, lies down, and takes a deep breath of the night air.

“Hey,” Jadzia says. “You have some pretty crazy constellations down here. Look at that jackdaw.”

What? Where are you looking?” Kira may have been on Deep Space 9 for four years, but she is positive no jackdaw constellations have formed during that time.

“Right there,” Jadzia says, pointing to it.

Kira squints hard. “That?”

“Yeah.”

“That, right there?”

“Yeah, with the long neck.”

Kira’s eyes widen, and she laughs out loud. “That’s the edge of a lightship sail!” She laughs harder. “Why would we have a jackdaw constellation on Bajor?!”

Jadzia lets her hand flop to the ground. “A lightship sail?” She takes one look at Kira doubled over with laughter, and bursts out laughing herself. “I don’t see anything other than a giant bird!”

Kira laughs until her stomach hurts. Jadzia wipes tears from her eyes. Even in these past four years, even with Jadzia, Kira is almost certain she’s never laughed like this before.

When they finish catching their breath, Jadzia says, “You were right. This never would have been the same. In a holosuite, I mean. I’m happy we came.”

“Me too,” Kira says.

They need a room for the night and they need to make it down the hill in the dark, but when Kira looks up at all those stars, she feels like she’s floating, and she doesn’t want that feeling to stop.

---

The pregnancy was easier than it had any right to be. And it’s over now, and Kira can see her own legs again, and Jadzia won’t be able to make fun of her marathon sneezing sessions anymore. The baby is where he belongs: with Miles and Keiko and Molly.

And it’s fine.

It’s fine.

Her door chimes, and she says, “It’s open,” and then Jadzia rushes inside and drops a duffel bag just inside the doorway.

“I’m sorry,” she says, coming straight to Kira. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here. I thought I told that baby to stay put until after the conference.”

Kira stares at the bag on the floor. “Did you come straight here?”

“I thought the transport would never dock,” Jadzia says, heaving a frazzled sigh. “I’ve never been so close to clawing my way out of a ship with my bare hands.”

“Well, I’m surprised you didn’t hear Keiko and Miles are having a party,” Kira says. “You should be there, not here.”

“Why aren’t you there?” Jadzia asks.

Kira opens her mouth to make some excuse, like she’s tired, which she shouldn’t be. She should feel refreshed and sated now that the baby is out, but instead she feels flat and empty.

Keiko, bless her, was everything in that room. The baby came so easily. She can still hear the rhythm of the instruments in her head.

She can still feel the sensation of reaching for Jadzia’s hand, and remembering she wasn’t there.

The baby isn’t here, either.

Instead of words, what comes out of Kira’s mouth is a sob, and then she covers her eyes with her hand while she stands there and cries.

“Oh, Nerys,” Jadzia says, putting her arms around her.

Kira leans into Jadzia, shoulders shaking as she sobs. Her tears soak into Jadzia’s uniform.

“I love him,” she says, “and I want to hold him.”

“Shh,” Jadzia whispers, gently stroking her hair.

“They can’t know,” Kira stammers. “They can’t.”

“Who?” Jadzia asks.

“The O’Briens, they can’t know, they’d be beside themselves, they’d feel so guilty.”

Jadzia should have been with her. Lupaza should have been there, and Furel. So much has happened.

“Come on,” Jadzia says, separating them just long enough to guide Kira to the couch. She keeps a steady arm around her, and the one glimpse Kira gets of her face, she looks as if she might cry, too.

Kira’s head begins to hurt and exhaustion crashes down on her in punishing waves. She doesn’t quite understand how she has any tears left in her, but they just keep coming.

“Do you miss your children?” Kira asks. “From the previous hosts?”

Jadzia’s hand trembles against Kira’s hair. “Sometimes,” she answers.

Kira tries to concentrate on breathing.

When she first got the baby, when she was suddenly four times bigger than she was that morning, when she had to spend an entire hour replicating a whole new wardrobe to accommodate a child she never conceived, Jadzia had taken one look at her and her whole face lit up.

“Look at you!” she’d exclaimed. “You’re beautiful!”

“Hey,” Jadzia whispers now. “Let me put you to bed.”

Kira realizes, belatedly, that she’s lifting her head from Jadzia’s shoulder. The lights in her quarters are low, and she doesn’t know what’s happened in the past couple of minutes. If it’s even been only a couple of minutes.

“What?” Kira asks, her voice gravelly with sleep.

“Go ahead,” Jadzia says. “Go change, I’ll wait.”

Kira stares, thinking maybe she is asleep right now and this is the dream, but she gets up and stumbles toward her room. She goes through the motions of putting on an old shirt, one that hasn’t fit for exactly five months, and lies down on her bed.

The next thing she’s aware of is the covers being pulled up over her arms. There is no light coming from outside her room, but Jadzia’s silhouette is clear in the dark.

Kira mumbles something, fighting her drifting eyelids.

“Go to sleep,” Jadzia whispers. “We’ll have breakfast in the morning.”

Maybe it’s a dream, and maybe it’s not, but Kira swears she feels Jadzia press her lips to her forehead. Whatever the case, sleep comes easy after that.

---

The first time, Jadzia says, “Oh, and I almost died.”

What? Kira says.

Julian stops with his cup halfway to his mouth, so Kira must look as pale as she feels. “It wasn’t that bad,” he says, elbowing Jadzia. “I had you fixed up in no time. And with nothing more than a medkit and some sticks, I might add.”

“You almost died?” Kira asks. She is still so raw from losing Ziyal, and this is just enough to maybe start a tailspin. “That’s all I need,” she says, “the thought of burying you to keep me up at night.”

“What about me?” Julian asks.

“Debatable,” Kira replies, and the mood is sufficiently lightened and they don’t talk about it again.

The second time, Kira takes a seat at Jadzia’s bedside and says, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”

Jadzia gives her a drowsy, lopsided smile. “It wasn’t that bad,” she says. “Julian had me fixed up in no time.”

Her lips haven’t completely regained their color. Julian says she’s been spending most of her time sleeping. That’s a lot of sleep for someone who mainlines raktajinos.

She must notice her staring, because she whispers, “Nerys. I was prepared.”

“Stop,” Kira says. “I don’t want to hear that from you.”

“Neither did Worf.”

“Remind me to thank him.”

Kira stays until Jadzia falls asleep again, and when she leaves, she has to look down for a moment to make sure she is steady.

The third time, Kira replays the first two times in her mind, over and over again.

---

There is a great big blank space that starts at the funeral, when Kira sits in the front row and doesn’t cry.

There are speeches and every single one comes through muffled in her ears. If people laugh, she laughs too, but mechanically, artificially. If people grieve openly, Kira walks the other way.

Captain Sisko’s voice breaks once during his eulogy, but like everything else, it happens behind a screen. Everything happens through someone else’s eyes, because she is somewhere else entirely. The only thing Kira feels is nothing.

She watches the casket, waiting for the moment when Jadzia pops the lid open, turns to the crowd, and says, “Gotcha.”

The lid stays shut.

---

“Molly’s been asking for you,” Keiko says. “She says she wants Miles and me to go out so you can babysit.”

Kira has to chuckle at the image of Molly asking her parents, in that incredibly blunt way of hers, to please leave the house so Aunt Nerys can come over.

“I told her how busy you’ve been,” Keiko continues. “If you can’t, she’ll understand.”

“I can,” Kira says. “I would love to.”

Keiko smiles wide, and exhales like she’d been holding in a breath. Before she leaves, she squeezes Kira’s shoulder.

“Odo,” Kira says later. “Why am I getting the feeling that people don’t think that I’m okay?”

“I think people’s concerns right now are a bit more generalized,” Odo replies.

Kira looks at the spot on Sisko’s desk where his baseball should be. People certainly have a lot to be concerned about.

When she heads over to Miles and Keiko’s, Molly runs up to her immediately, throwing herself at her legs.

“Come on,” she says, grabbing for Kira’s hand. “We have to color.”

“Okay,” Kira says, nodding. “Then let’s get to work.”

When she looks back at Miles and Keiko, they both look relieved, and Keiko reaches for Miles’ hand.

Molly works on a bunch of different pictures – animals and suns mostly – and Kira spends her time keeping Yoshi from eating crayons. She distracts him by drawing big long loops across a sheet of paper while Molly diligently colors in the wing of a giant blue bird.

“Sometimes,” Molly says after a while, “I still feel like I want to show my drawings to Aunt Jadzia.”

Kira stops mid-loop.

Molly doesn’t look up from her picture, and she doesn’t stop coloring in the wing. “But I know I can’t now,” she says, and picks up a yellow to give the bird a long pointed beak.

Yoshi starts to fuss in Kira’s arms, and she bounces him and strokes his hair. Her throat feels strange, like she can’t quite swallow right.

When Miles and Keiko come home, Kira gives Molly a kiss on the top of her head and says, “Let’s draw again soon, okay?”

Molly nods, and then Kira is home, and she can’t remember the walk back to her quarters. There is a rushing in her ears, and she is very much overwhelmed by the urge to sit down.

She doesn’t even make it to the couch before her legs give out and she is doubled over, her arms wrapped around herself and a horrible sound coming out of her throat – something between a scream and a strangled gasp.

People are right. She’s far from okay.

Hot tears dot the carpet. Her stomach hurts and her throat is raw.

There’s so much she never told Jadzia.

That blank space stretches on and on in front of Kira, with no end in sight.

---

“Hmm. I’ll help you with the back, if you’d like.”

Kira gives Odo a look through her mirror. “What?”

“Your hair,” Odo says. “It’s getting longer. I can trim the back for you.”

Odo is correct; there’s a little more hair to run through her brush each week.

“No,” Kira says, studying her reflection. “I think I’m going to grow it out.”

“Really?” Odo asks. He seems genuinely surprised, and intensely curious.

Kira nods. “Yeah,” she says, and touches her fingers to the curve of her jaw. “Right about here.”

---

Kira imagines that the Dax symbiont is back on Trill, now at home in a mother or a father, someone with their own life that they’d never leave for anything. She’s not sure where this came from, or why she is so sure of its truth. She supposes it’s because it would be the most painful scenario, and the painful ones are always the most likely to occur. Dax won’t come back to war, to death, to a husband who’s still alive but can’t be loved anymore.

When Captain Sisko and Jake return (thank the Prophets just doesn’t cut it), they are accompanied by someone new, someone they have never seen before, but she knows all their names and walks with her hands behind her back.

If Kira didn’t know better – and she does – she’d say she’s looking at a ghost.

---

Sisko has done this before, so it’s not fair that he should be so happy while the rest of them struggle.

“That’s the beauty of the symbiont,” he says, with an expression like he has gone outside and touched the stars themselves. “We never really have to say goodbye.”

But Kira did say goodbye, to Jadzia, and Ezri is not Jadzia.

Somehow, of all the possibilities, this is worse.

---

Kira learns many things about Ezri in a very short time. She is left handed. She hates Klingon bloodwine, and raktajino, and gagh.

And she has a tendency to stare at Kira, all the way across the Promenade, before she quickly looks away at anything else.

Kira sits on the couch, her head in her hands.

“I can’t do this,” she says.

Odo places a gentle hand against her back. “I’m willing to bet she feels the same way.”

Miles thinks it’s weird, but he’s already shrugging and going along with things. Julian seems grateful for Ezri’s presence already and Quark wants to pick up right where he left off. Worf, of course, is having the hardest time, and none of them can fault him for it. Jake treats Ezri exactly the way his father treats her, like not a thing has changed other than Dax’s height.

“How is this making you feel?” Kira asks Odo.

Odo considers her question for a moment. “It’s a little strange, to be sure. But mostly…” His expression suddenly flattens. “Mostly I hope Ezri doesn’t have the same fondness for prank-based humor.”

Kira smiles, if only a little. Then she shuts her eyes and sighs.

She has a fleeting thought of Jadzia, her hands on her hips and a stern look on her face. “Don’t make this harder for that poor girl,” she might say, before turning Kira around and physically pushing her toward Ezri.

“There’s going to be a party for her tonight,” Odo says.

Kira nods and straightens a little. “I know.”

“Why don’t we invite her for dinner afterwards?” Odo asks.

The thought makes Kira’s stomach turn, but she thinks of Ezri, her nervous eyes always glancing in her direction.

Kira hasn’t answered, so Odo asks, “Do you think you might want that?”

“Yes,” Kira finally chokes out. “More than anything.”

---

Kira takes a deep breath and opens her door, and there is Ezri, so bright-eyed and small.

“Hi,” she says, her voice quiet.

“Hi,” Kira answers, a soft smile coming to her lips.

Just looking at her is a relief. Although it’s still so strange to be looking down at her. It must be strange for Ezri, too. Kira briefly wonders if she’s been tripping over anything, not realizing her legs aren’t nearly as long as they used to be.

“Look at your hair,” Ezri says, and she reaches out, brushing her fingers against the ends of it before pulling back.

Odo peeks past Kira’s shoulder. “Would you like to come in?”

Ezri jumps, startled, and Kira realizes the two of them have been doing nothing but staring at each other in the doorway. “Yes!” Ezri says, her cheeks flushing pink. “Yes, please.”

They all sit on the same side of the table with Ezri between them, and she tells them about her life before and after Dax while they eat. It’s surprising to hear that she never wanted to be joined. Kira thought most Trills must want it on some fundamental level, and the idea that Ezri didn’t have a choice makes her angry on her behalf.

“After all that, and all you got were some books?” Kira asks.

“I know,” Ezri says. “And it’s not like the books were even helpful. They can’t prepare you for… for this.

Words tumble out of Ezri’s mouth at a frenetic pace, and she talks about her newfound space sickness, how she introduced herself to her mother as Curzon, how she can’t seem to stop ordering foods she hates from the replicators.

In the moments when Ezri rolls her eyes, or says something sarcastic, Kira loses the breath in her lungs. Even if Ezri doesn’t feel like it right now, truly, she is already Dax.

Odo takes their plates later, and Ezri stares at the table, looking every now and then like she wants to say something, but then her shoulders droop and she doesn’t say a thing.

“What is it?” Kira asks.

Ezri smiles at her. “It’s nothing, really. It’s just... I’m just happy.”

And then she bursts into tears.

Kira looks over at Odo, frozen and alarmed by the replicator.

“I’m sorry,” Ezri says. “It’s not you two, it’s me, it’s all me.” She gets up, and Kira gets up with her. Suddenly she doesn’t have a clue what to do with her hands.

“What can I do?” Kira asks, and Ezri answers by wrapping her arms around her and crying into her chest.

“I’m so glad,” Ezri says, “to be here with you again.”

Kira returns the embrace, as tightly as she can. “Me too,” she tells her.

Odo can’t quite seem to digest this, looking from Kira to Ezri and back again, taking cautious steps back toward them both. Kira grins and rubs small circles on Ezri’s back.

Eventually, Ezri takes a deep, watery breath and straightens up. Kira gives her a fresh napkin to dry her face.

When she’s done, she catches sight of Odo, and her face crumples all over again.

“Odo!” she exclaims, rushing into his arms. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Odo looks like he’s one second away from full-blown panic, and Kira has to put her fist to her mouth so she doesn’t laugh at him.

“I’m sorry,” Ezri says again, “about the time I moved all your things two centimeters out of place and I never apologized.” That last word comes out in about four blubbery parts.

Odo looks down, agape, and awkwardly pats the top of Ezri’s head.

Kira laughs now, unable to stop. She laughs harder and harder the more it goes on, the more the realization sinks in for poor Odo that Ezri’s not going to let go of him anytime soon.

Something heavy is being lifted away from her, and what’s left behind seems to settle into place.

Life is life, after all; it’s the good parts that count.

You hold onto those with everything you have.