By: Tori Morris
Copyright Notice: DS9 is the property of Paramount. They're not mine, I'm just borrowing them. Not that Paramount would notice, at the moment anyhow.
Author's Notes: This was written under the influence of t.A.T.u.
Three sleepless nights I
passed in sounding on,
Through words and things, a dim and perilous way
-- William Wordsworth
"He's going to need a lot of help. And I couldn't think of anyone better to help him than you." Julian's dark eyes and five o'clock shadow spoke wordless volumes to Jadzia about his concern. Dax felt that this might be time for one of her reassuring smiles, but instead she settled for a grave nod.
"I understand. Don't worry ... I'm sure I can do this. It'll be difficult, but I'm sure we'll all get through this. He's stronger than he looks, and besides, he's just too stubborn to give up."
Julian didn't say anything, he simply placed the PADD in her hands, nodded, and turned to tap a few panels on the wall of his lab. She turned to leave, and as she did, she marveled at the scientific wonder that lay before her. Of course, older and wiser voices warned her to restrain her curiosity. Odo was not one to participate in her little experiments at the best of times, and while she understood, it didn't stop her from wishing she could. From changeling to human in a few hours. It wasn't even possible for the Federation to do that yet. And logically, she didn't know if it ever would be.
Walking the Defiant's decks never took that long at the best of times, but it took even less when she was trying to deliberately be slow. She hovered over the door chime, fingers millimeters away from the panel, composing what she should say. He had never liked platitudes, so that ruled out ninety percent of Curzon's favorite comforting phrases. She finally decided on using a phrase or two from Lela, and cobbled together the rest on her own.
The chime went once; twice, unanswered. Finally, Dax typed in the medical override Julian had given her, and stepped inside. The lights were very dim, and it took her a moment to adjust to seeing only by the replicator materialization lights.
Odo was trembling under the blanket, and it wasn't cold at all. She frowned, and stepped over to the side of his bunk. "Odo?" She asked softly, once, and then again. He didn't answer, and she immediately began to worry. Her hand brushed the top of her tricorder, but lifted it away when she noticed that the changeling-- no, human now, turned to look at her.
"Odo, talk to me. Is something wrong?"
He looked away, although she felt relieved that the trembling slowly ceased.
Hoarsely, he said, "Trapped." Then, a pause and he did something she'd never seen before. He swallowed, and licked his lips. For a moment his eyes were disturbed, but then, they turned flat. Just as if he was sitting in some staff meeting, where O'Brien was talking too much about computers, or she was rambling about the latest wormhole developments, and only Julian was keeping up.
The dull look was more disturbing to her. That disinterested glaze was so unlike him, considering he wouldn't have given up an emotion like that so easily. She eased her body to the floor across from his bunk.
"I understand." She said, hoping it would work.
"No, no you don't." Quiet, and resigned.
"I do." She clutched her stomach, and felt the slight bulge of the symbiont. Dax itself moved, shifted, and disrupted their thoughts for a moment, before she decided that their story did have relevance. "There was a time.... Normally, a Trill symbiont is removed before the host begins the descent into the final stages of death. One minute, you're two, and then, you're back to one again." She looked into his eyes, and saw that he was listening. And not trembling. She continued.
"They do it that way because, a symbiont's neural pathways are tied into the hosts. Once the host begins to die, the neural pathways begin to stop sending information. It can seriously damage a symbiont's own neural pathways, and lead to death. They call it host-death trauma syndrome." She took a moment to reflect on how detached she sounded; ever the scientist.
A deep breath, and then, "When Torias died, the shuttle crashed in a thickly wooded area. He was so injured, and there was nothing I could do. All around me, I could feel our body, his body, ceasing to work as his lifeblood spilt out onto the grass. And then, there was nothing but me. All alone. For the first few moments, I kept calm, and tried not to think about how I couldn't feel anything. But then the temperature started to drop."
Another pause. "It took them over two hours to find us, and another fifteen minutes to remove me-- Dax. The symbiont spent over two weeks in a regenerative stasis field before they joined it again." She realized now, that she was looking at the floor and her eyes were watering. She doesn't mention her next host, preferring to keep those memories dark, and as forgotten as possible. "So, now Dax is particularly susceptible to host-death trauma syndrome. I had to hear a lecture about it, right before they performed the joining." She leaned her head-- their head, against the wall and let out a deep, cleansing breath.
"I'm sorry, Odo. I guess that was a pointless little jaunt down memory lane." She murmured, once she had composed herself.
He looked at her, and blinked once before saying, "No. No, it wasn't."
She looked up. He looked like the old Odo now, no more twitching or disinterested looks. She stared, into his blue eyes, feeling trapped in his eyes. They said more in those moments than they ever had, previously.
She is dying, and he failed her; this is the mantra that runs through his mind as the transporter beam picks Jadzia's sprawling form off the floor of the Bajoran Temple. He gives cursory orders to the deputies just now arriving, and then leaves, threading his way through the crowd of confused Bajorans waiting to enter the temple and pray. As he walked, it was as if he could still feel the shake and wobble of the station below him as the wormhole blossomed and died against the field of stars.
The infirmary is busy; Julian's nurses are dragging out a large object from the storage room, and he takes a moment to help them, adding his changeling strength to their own. It's a curiously beautiful object; transparent aluminum and Federation silver curved like a beautiful bubble. As her pulls it, he catches a glimpse of a flash of red-- Julian's surgical outfit. Then they have it out, and in the surgery, and he's locked behind the doors. He never asks what it is for, he doesn't need anyone to tell him the obvious.
Worf comes and goes, and does not look at him. He feels relieved-- he could not hide the guilt he feels, and all the time he thinks about escape. He cannot leave; he is as trapped in the Infirmary as he was in his human body.
Eventually Quark and O'Brien enter; he spares a look for Quark, and is struck by the thoughtful pain in his eyes. He informs them to the best of his ability of her status, then he looks away. He does not tell the Ferengi, or the Chief, about how Jadzia's shallow breath warmed his hand, right before he pressed her combadge.
Time passes; those in the room do not speak. They hold vigil. Odo thinks a lot about Nerys-- the sparkle of her dark eyes, and the glint of starlight off her earring. And a part of him he doesn't want to hear whispers how lucky he was that it wasn't her, on the floor of the temple. He looks at a panel upon the wall, black and reflective, without really seeing it. Once he catches the eyes of the Chief, and recognizes the same look. Briefly, he misses the days when guilt was another thing he had yet to learn about.
Then she is there-- not Dax, but Nerys, his Nerys. He is so relieved to see her, looking so well, then he recognizes the look of grief upon her face, and looks back down. Bashir tells them what he's feared all along; Jadzia is dying. The symbiont will live, however, and that gives him some comfort, to know that Dax will live, but in a different form. Nerys waits with him, and the others outside, until they hear Worf's screams. Nerys presses her face against his shoulder and he looks down at the floor.
He takes her home, like he's done before. He'll take care of her, somehow. Only it's different now-- Jadzia was not Bariel, and was not Furel or Lupaza. He tries to talk to her, but she kisses him and leads him to her slender bed. He cannot say no to her, even though he feels she may regret this in the morning. In truth, he allows himself to think selfishly that he needs this just as much as she does. For Kira, life is reaffirmed with love, and for himself, it reminds him that he belongs here; that he shouldn't run because she still needs him.
What passes for night on the station fades quickly this way, and when he reforms in the morning, he finds her in the living room, chanting quietly, the mandela ablaze with candles. He replicates some fruit for her, and sits the plate next to her as quietly as possible. It's only then that he realizes that she's lost more than her friend, but her gods as well. It worries him, because the Prophets are the one area in which he can be no help to her. He slips out without interrupting her prayers.
He arrives at work to find that Sisko has assigned a deputy to the Infirmary, according to Trill custom. He finds this satisfactory, and hours later, he takes a visit to the surgery. His deputy leaves him, in the dark and still room, with only the transparent tank and the symbiont. His palm touches the tank below the briny maroon waterline, and he's shocked by the warmth of the tank, for just a moment.
"I'm-- sorry. I failed both of you. Station security is my responsibility, and I couldn't keep Jadzia safe."
He didn't expect the symbiont to show any reaction to this confession of guilt. And to his credit, it doesn't matter that Dax continues to rest on the bottom of the tank, not showing a single sign of having heard him. He waits, watching it and memorizing its form with changeling clarity.
Then he stands up and heads to the door. It's time for the memorial.
"He's going to need a lot of help. He's got a big task ahead of him, but, if there's one thing Garak is good at, it's accomplishing the impossible." And with that, Julian took a drink of his recently replicated tea, and looked over to his current lover.
Ezri Dax smiled, and was about to add her own opinion of what the former Cardassian spy, turned tailor, should do with his new found position of authority, when she caught sight of Odo across the upper level of the Promenade. He would be leaving soon, undoubtedly. "Julian, I think I'm going to go talk to Odo for a minute. You wouldn't mind, would you? I just wanted to say goodbye."
Julian looked back at Ezri,
his brow wrinkling a bit in... well-- she didn't know for once! She felt surprised,
but also pleasantly hopeful. She wanted to learn all of those expressions, one
day. "Sure. Hey, tell him I'll miss him too, ok?"
"I will," she promised, as she stood up from their table in the replimat and started to walk towards Odo. He was by one of the large portal windows, looking out at the stars and the purple-ish tint of the Denorios Belt. Already half gone, she thought sadly. As she stepped closer, she knew he could see her reflection in the transparent aluminum, and she offered what she hoped was a wry smile.
"Lieutenant," he greeted.
"Hello Odo. I thought you had left already, but I'm glad to see you haven't." A part of her inwardly winced as her words tripped out of her as they so often did. She wished she could have Jadzia's grace, or Lela's practicality, when it came to conversations.
"I'm waiting for Nerys. She wanted to come with me, but she had to finish filing the report on the Captain's disappearance."
"I heard." Ezri's empty hand brushed her abdomen, and out came the words in a rush again, "I wanted to say goodbye, before you left. And good luck. So did Julian."
Odo turned to look at her, and Ezri felt the part of Dax-- the part of her, that was once Jadzia picking at her, and a flood of memories bubbled up slowly. Some happy, some sad, others just every day conversations. "What makes you think this is goodbye?"
"I... well, actually, I don't know. I just got the feeling that this was final-- that you weren't coming back. I guess that's what I got from Kira, on the runabout." Her counselor training wanted her to pick at this, to try and find the piece of important information she was missing, but she let it be.
He harrumphed and then there was quiet. "It's so strange, the way Ben disappeared. And now you're leaving, and Worf and the Chief. You know, I never told you this, but I was always grateful, that you were the first person besides Ben to call me Dax."
He looked at her, surprised. "I didn't know that."
"Well, I appreciated it, anyway." She said lightly, then paused for a moment. "I've lived such a long life; I shouldn't take anything for granted. But one of the things I do is that somehow, things always end up coming right back to where they began."
"And what then?" He asked, his intentions clear as he watched her.
"It starts, all over again." Ezri Dax suddenly felt so much wiser than she had just moments ago, and she decided that this was one of those moments of clarity. Jadzia had thought them rare, but perhaps she just hadn't known where to look. She smiled, savoring her own inner delight, and then turned to go. "I'll be seeing you." It wasn't much of a goodbye, but then again, Ezri Dax was somehow sure that she hadn't seen the last of any of those leaving.
So, she left him there by the window, and then returned to the table where Julian sat patiently. "You were saying?" Across the Promenade, had either of the new lovers been looking, a figure in red joined the one in brown, and both headed off, together.