It is nothing more than the smell of her, and you are undone. A simple fragrance, undemanding in its delicate femininity, it unraveled all your careful defenses, the one thing you didn't—you couldn't—prepare for.
That you would want Lenara as much as you would want Kahn.
She isn't just a figment of imagined history, a memory worn down by time and faded into indistinct colors. She lives and breathes; she is undeniable.
After that first slip, it's smiles, soft touches, her eyes, her lips; the sliver in the shield widens into a chasm.
She floods into you, unstoppable.
She knows better, you tell yourself. Every time you long to reach out and brush a strand hair from her face, when the breath catches in your chest and you want to pull her close to steady you, every time you think that maybe… maybe. Maybe she's as much of a fool as you are. Maybe she feels it, too.
When she holds your eye for a second too long, sits a few centimeters too close, you dare to hope.
But no. Even if she does…she knows better.
Never. You only wish you could ask her how she does it.
She puts down the pad on the table and turns to look at you, breaking the comfortable silence you'd been sharing.
"You've done the Dax symbiont proud," she says, then she blinks, like she didn't expect those words to come out of her mouth.
You close your mouth quickly, feeling the blood rush to your face. You don't know what to say. As Torias's wife, as Lenara joined the Kahn symbiont, she could not give you higher praise.
"Thank you," comes out, rough, whispered, but true.
"I know," she says, and lays her hand on top of yours.
"You sure you're okay with this, old man? I'd hate to have to force you to take some leave." Benjamin's smiling but it's worried at the edges.
"I'm fine," you say, thinking of Lenara's fingers overlaying your own.
Benjamin lowers his head in the way he usually reserves for young cadets who're too big for their fresh-out-the-replicator uniforms.
"That smile looks like trouble to me."
"What smile?" As you parrot the question back to him you feel it on your face and do your best to wipe it off.
He sighs. "Just keep it to yourself, Jadzia."
"I imagine you're pretty nervous about it."
"It?" She asks absently, running her finger along the rim of her glass in a very distracting fashion.
"The second test? The whole objective of your visit here?" You're teasing, but what you really want to know is where her thoughts are, why they're not here.
She laughs a little, but it's so short that it doesn't even leave a trace of mirth in the air. "Ah, yes. The purpose of my visit."
And when she looks at you, her eyes tell you that her thoughts are nowhere else. Only here, with you.
Your lips find hers and everything else fades away, dims in comparison to the roar in your blood, the feeling of shattering creation and the hum that's vibrating under your skin, coursing through every nerve-ending: stay, stay here, never leave, never again.
The only thing that could give you pause, taint the greatest completion you've ever felt would be if she hesitated, pulled back; if she didn't want it, want you.
But her fingers are in your hair, her lips press to yours until you're breathing the same air, and she holds you just as you hold her: in love.
"May I join you?"
You gesture and Julian sits next to you. It's an effort to drag your eyes away from the now-cold cup of Tarkalian tea.
"Do you know the best part of my failed attempts to woo you were?"
You suppress the urge to snap at him and instead muster up a smile. "The many and always creative ways I turned you down?"
He just puts a hand on your shoulder. "It was that I tried, Jadzia. I would never have known otherwise."
He leaves you with your tea, now bitter, still refusing to reflect you an answer.
Your hand rises up under your shirt, resting where there's still a faint scar. You asked them not to heal it.
"How can I do this to you? To Kahn?"
As if in response to your question, the candlelight flares into sight-blinding radiance. Vision clearing, you see a face that is Trill and not-Trill, yourself, all your previous hosts.
Trust, daughter. The smile diffuses the brilliance and the room is dark, candle blown out.
You curl up in bed, unable to cry, sleep, or think.
The first time the symbiont speaks and it's to grant you permission to kill it.
There is no fear now, only certainty. The force field shimmers under your feet, the ship roars around you, but the world has narrowed down into one focus for you, one name that beats with your pulse and gives you the strength to keep moving.
"I don't ever want to lose you, Dax," she says, and the words find their way into your wounds, swiftly healing, giving you room to breathe again.
You hold her close and trust, trust that if you have nothing else, you have this. Because you won't, you can't, let yourself believe otherwise.
"It goes against all our training, you know." She traces a finger over your collarbone, teasing smile on her lips.
"Most of Dax's hosts have known when to break the rules." You feather kisses at her temples.
"Do you think Dax might be able to offer Kahn some lessons?"
"Of course—for a reasonable fee."
"You've been hanging around that Ferengi too much, haven't you?"
"Maybe. He'd be proud of my selfishness."
She raises her eyes to yours. "There is nothing selfish," she leans forward and kisses your heart to singing, "about this."
You laugh relief, tears mixing. "I know."