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The Light in Every Star

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Cadet Idaris is intimidating as hell. Intimidating and stuck up, Kira decides, despite being warned multiple times by multiple instructors that her road to command will be very short if she continues to jump to conclusions at every turn.

Jumping to conclusions has always worked pretty well for her in the past. When she first saw a Cardassian, she concluded she didn’t like them, and nothing they did afterwards ever changed her mind.

Idaris is tall and slim, her hair always in a tight ponytail with no strands ever out of place. She’s stiff in a chair and annoying in class, with an answer to every question, and then some. She’s never without a book or a PADD, and seems to do everything in her power to avoid having to interact with any living souls. She probably doesn’t even talk to her own roommate.

“We build bridges,” Kira’s instructors tell her, “not burn them.”

She knows they’re right. She knows a good captain has to be able to see all sides. She knows she wants to be a good captain.

But she still doesn’t like Cadet Idaris.

There is a rigorous physical exam, one that older cadets warn them about. They’ll have to navigate an actual constructed obstacle course. No holograms, no safeties, no temperature control: just ropes and platforms under the sun and sky, and nine minutes to get through it all.

Kira goes through breathing exercises as she stands in the group, listening to an officer bark instructions. Winning is not important. Making good time is important. Consistency is important.

Out of the corner of her eye, she catches sight of long dark hair and frowns.

Not tripping other cadets is important.

When their officer sets them loose, Kira bolts like never before. She’ll jump on every platform, climb every wall, make her hands raw against rough rope if it means she beats that snooty girl. There are more than enough people like her here. Kira can take down at least one.

Her nails scrape wood as she scrambles up a brutal climbing wall. It’s quiet, and then she hears another palm slap against the platform. A face pops up, expression miserable, like a hara cat woken from deep sleep. It takes her a moment to realize this person, with their hair disheveled and sticking to their forehead in unflattering clumps, is Cadet Idaris.

“Why didn’t I stay in bed,” she grumbles, heaving herself up. She has to take a moment to catch her breath, and Kira finds herself frozen in place, struggling to stamp down the bubble of laughter lodged in her chest.

More cadets are coming up behind them, and before she really thinks about it, she extends her hand.

“Come on,” she says. “You don’t want to lose this lead now, do you?”

Idaris looks up, sees Kira’s outstretched hand, and doesn’t seem to know what to make of it. Then she smiles, open and sweet, and says, “I don’t intend to.” She lets Kira help her up, and her eyes are bright in the sun.

Later, when the older cadets take their sore and battered underclassmen out to celebrate, she ends up on a bar stool right next to...

“Oh,” Idaris says. “It’s you.”

“It’s you,” Kira repeats. “I don’t even know your name.”

“Jadzia,” Idaris says. She moves to shake Kira’s hand, then turns red as she realizes her fingers are covered in gagh slime.

Right then, Kira finally does laugh out loud.

---

Being Jadzia’s friend is so natural. Sitting beside her in class, having meals with her, knocking on her door on weekday mornings so they can go for a run, all of this is as natural as the blood flowing through Kira’s body.

They drill each other on their weaknesses. Jadzia won’t let Kira leave until she can tell her ten complex chemical compositions, with no mistakes. Kira won’t let Jadzia leave until she can tell her proper first contact protocol for ten different scenarios. Now when Jadzia has her nose in a book, Kira does, too, and she can’t remember a time when things weren’t this way.

Jadzia tells her everything about Trill, about joining, about how she wants to be joined so badly, it hurts in her chest and flips her stomach over. Kira tells her everything about Bajor, about the Cardassians’ invasion and the Federation sweeping in to save them, about her own restlessness when everything was over.

“I knew I had to come here,” Kira says. “I owe Starfleet everything.”

“Hopefully I will, too,” Jadzia says.

The years fly by, faster than warp. On graduation day, Kira looks over and sees tears on Jadzia’s cheeks.

“What if we never see each other again?” she says, blinking rapidly.

“We will!” Kira reaches up and cups Jadzia’s face in her hands, wiping away her tears with her thumbs. “The galaxy’s not that big.”

But she knows what Jadzia must be thinking: that her uniform will be blue, and Kira’s will be red, and there are an awful lot of ships in the fleet.

---

It’s a long time before Kira sees the name Jadzia again, and when she does, it’s like someone is standing over her, trying to nudge her awake.

“She’ll be arriving today?” she asks, running her fingers over Jadzia’s personnel file. She has a new surname. Did she get married? Kira tries to imagine that shy girl she knew striding down an aisle, or whatever it is that happens at Trill weddings.

“Yes, ma’am, along with the last of our engineering team,” an ensign replies. Kira has so many names to learn.

She looks down at the file again. There’s a quirk to Jadzia’s smile that was never there before. It’s magnetic.

By the Prophets, she’s going to be Jadzia’s captain. Jadzia’s going to be her first officer. Her mind almost shorts itself out right in front of her baby-faced ensign. The galaxy really isn’t that big after all.

This is ridiculous, Kira tells herself as she stands at the shuttle bay doors. There’s no reason to be nervous. She shoos a strand of hair from above her eyes and straightens up.

She wonders what she looks like in her own personnel file. Did Jadzia notice anything different about her? Is she sitting on that shuttle, ramrod straight and nervous? It’s been years and years, and they are not as young as they were.

When the shuttle bay doors open, Kira really thinks she’s going to lose it. Out steps one officer in yellow, and another, and a third, and then after that, a surge of adrenaline shoots through Kira’s stomach.

She is still tall. Her hair is still long, but the ponytail isn’t so tight anymore. She moves differently, not so stilted and careful, but assured and graceful, like a wave of water pouring out from inside the shuttle.

Jadzia drops her bag and her face lights up.

“Look at you!” she says, and throws her arms around Kira in crushing hug. A crushing hug? From Jadzia?

And that’s when it hits her.

“You’ve been joined!” Kira breathes, looking her up and down. An odd sense of relief washes over her realizing it’s this, and not marriage.

Jadzia grins. “What do you think?” She turns a few times like she’s posing for a holoimage. “Does it look good on me?”

Better than Kira could have ever imagined.

---

It’s a good ship. They may not have the most luxurious accommodations, and they’re a far cry from a flagship, but it’s never hard to feel proud being on board.

Their crew is young; for most of them, this is their first assignment. They throw themselves into their work from day one with such eagerness and optimism, Kira’s heart swells just looking at them.

“I would fight a sinoraptor with my bare hands for these kids,” she says to Jadzia.

“Two sinoraptors,” Jadzia replies.

Jadzia slips into her role like she’s been at it her whole life, which, with a symbiont, might just be true now. While Kira’s still trying to piece together crew dynamics, Jadzia’s in the mess hall leading drinking songs. The whole crew adores her.

The whole crew also adores their youth, as it were. It’s a very… Kira can’t think of many appropriate words to describe it. “It’s a very energetic ship” is probably what she’ll put in her logs. “I think I’ve become captain of a pleasure cruise” is what she thinks to herself in the middle of the night. As it turns out, put a lot of young and beautiful scientists together, and they get some pretty creative ideas about things.

“Commander,” Kira says one morning, taking her chair on the bridge. “Why is there a pair of pants where Lieutenant Grayson is supposed to be?”

Jadzia doesn’t look up from examining her nails. “Disciplinary reasons,” she responds.

Kira’s just about to ask her to elaborate when she hears the turbolift doors, and out comes Lieutenant Grayson, a little frazzled and running a hand through his hair.

He stops dead in his tracks when he sees the pants.

“You’re late, Lieutenant,” Jadzia says.

Grayson, the poor bastard, looks back at both of them with the whitest face Kira has ever seen on a human being.

“Do me a favor and take those back to your quarters,” Jadzia continues. “And if you’re going to let someone stumble upon your pants in the middle of the hallway, don’t let it be me.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Grayson stammers, snatching up his pants and stumbling back toward the turbolift.

Most of the rest of the current shift has the decency not to stare, but every single back straightens and every set of shoulders squares up. Even Ensign Talar’s antennae stand at attention.

Kira sits back, dazzled. “You’ve already got everyone on this ship-”

“Under. My. Thumb,” Jadzia says, her smile oozing satisfaction.

Kira pats her on the shoulder. “Don’t let me stop you from keeping up the good work.”

---

“You know, every time you have one of those in here, it feels like my lungs are on fire,” Kira says. “What is that?”

“What, this?” Jadzia asks. “It’s a raktajino.”

“A rakta-what?”

“It’s Klingon coffee. Here,” Jadzia says, putting her mug down and turning it to the other side before pushing it in Kira’s direction. “Have a sip.”

The aroma is overpowering. Not unpleasant, something akin to cinnamon, but so strong Kira has to fight not to recoil. “This is… a lot to take in,” she manages, and soaks in the warmth with her hands.

“This one’s extra sweet,” Jadzia says. “It’ll be good for you.”

When Kira takes the first sip, she thinks she’s going to choke, but then it settles, tingling all the way down her throat. It’s heavy, like a huge fur cloak thrown around her shoulders.

She must be sporting a strange expression, because Jadzia asks, “That bad?” and reaches over to take her mug.

“No, no,” Kira says, sliding the mug towards herself. “I’m just… going to have another taste.”

Jadzia grins. “Now you’ll never be able to have anything else in the morning.” She gets up and orders another one from the replicator.

“When did you discover these?” Kira asks, taking another, less cautious sip. It slips down easy and seems to screw her head on straight.

“Two lifetimes ago,” Jadzia replies. “Or maybe it was three.” She shrugs and slides back into her chair. “Who can remember after three hundred years?”

If Kira is honest with herself, she can admit she’s still not used to this. There are times when she’s not sure who she’s speaking to. Jadzia certainly has not been alive for three hundred years, although the Jadzia she knows now and the Jadzia she knew before are not all that different. It’s just that now, she has the ability to appear larger than life, as if she kicks open the turbolift doors every morning and asks the crew if they’re ready to burst out into the galaxy.

“You told me about it a long time ago,” Kira says. “About getting a symbiont, how it’s like waking up to a room full of friends every day. Did that turn out to be true?”

“Yes and no,” Jadzia replies. “It’s more like waking up every morning to family all around you, and they never go away.” She smiles like a mother thinking fondly of her children. “I couldn’t possibly describe how that feels.”

She doesn’t have to, Kira thinks. Her face says more than words ever could.

“I’m more curious,” Jadzia continues, “about what you see when you look at me.”

That’s not something Kira could describe with words, either. She sees someone powerful, who can’t be stopped, who radiates flame wherever she goes and challenges worlds to burn at her level. She saw that before, too, at the Academy, but that was a spark, and this is a blaze.

“I see someone who looks like they got everything they ever wanted,” Kira tells her.

Jadzia considers that for a moment, then chuckles. “No,” she replies. “There’s always more to want. Isn’t that right, Captain?” She eyes her over the rim of her mug.

“Yeah,” Kira says, and gestures with her own empty mug. “Like another one of these.”

Jadzia laughs and finishes her drink.

---

“Remember all those scans we ran when we settled into orbit here?”

Yes, those meticulously detailed, hours-long scans to detect mineral deposits, ecological formations, and most importantly, any hint of sentient life. Those scans.

Jadzia huffs over the comm. “They may not have been as conclusive as we thought.”

“What’s the status of the away team?” Kira asks, stepping into the turbolift. Unpleasant thoughts fill her head: they’re surrounded, they’re wounded, they’re dead.

“Fine, but,” Jadzia says, “we’re not being permitted to transport them.”

“Not being permitted?” Kira asks.

“Well, I’d love to pick their brains about it, but they’re no longer speaking to me.”

Kira waits until she’s on the bridge, standing beside Jadzia, to lean in and ask her, “What did you do?”

It’s a joke, more than anything, but Jadzia’s not laughing. “You can make fun of me later,” she mutters.

The channel opens to the other vessel, and on the viewscreen appears a wondrous woman, with a regal bearing unlike any Kira has ever seen. The Federation, too, has never seen anything like her before, with her lavender skin, the whiskers of flesh flowing down from her cheeks, and her dark eyes, slicing into Kira like daggers. If she is not the leader of her species, she should be.

“You are the captain of this vessel?” the woman asks.

“I am. I’m Captain Kira Nerys, of the Federation starship-”

“Your presence is an affront.”

She is nothing if not direct. Kira glances over at Jadzia, who remains stone-faced and silent.

That’s the first time a chill creeps up Kira’s spine. This might really be serious.

“We offer our most sincere apologies,” Kira says. “Our sensors detected no signs of your people on this planet.”

“Your inadequate technology is not our responsibility,” the woman declares. “You will depart immediately.”

“We would,” Kira says, “except some of our crew are on the surface, for exploration. We can’t leave without them.”

“Consider it fair warning to never again return here.”

Kira smiles, despite the situation. “Fair warning? This doesn’t seem very fair to-”

“Depart,” the woman commands, her voice stern and deep, “or we will open fire.” Then, she cuts the feed.

Consoles on the bridge begin lighting up.

“They’re powering weapons,” Ensign Talar says, eyes wide and antennae quivering.

Jadzia is already calling the transporter room, asking if they have a lock. They’re working on it.

“How long can we last without shields?” Kira asks.

“Two hits,” Ensign Talar responds. “Maybe three.” Her voice shakes. Kira has never heard an Andorian’s voice shake before.

“We’re faster,” Grayson says. “I think.”

“You think, or you know, Lieutenant?” Jadzia asks.

“I know!” Grayson amends. “I know.”

“Power us up,” Kira says. “Make it look like we’re leaving.”

The alien ship is golden, menacing, and enchanting. Their size won’t allow for quick maneuvers, and Kira prays that will be enough.

“Transporter room,” Jadzia asks, “what’s your status?”

“We have half the team,” they answer. “The other half is coming now.”

“The alien vessel is firing!” Ensign Talar exclaims.

Kira has just enough time to tell the crew to brace for impact before the first hit. Sparks shoot across the bridge and she keeps an iron grip on the armrests of her chair.

“Do anything to protect the engines!” Kira shouts. If they can’t leave now, they’re all dead.

The transporter room crackles through. “We have them! The away team is here!”

“Then by all means,” Kira says, “get us out of here!”

Grayson flies them past another volley of shots, but one manages to clip the side of the ship, and a few crewmembers fall out of their chairs. But the tug of warp is all around them, and as smoke hisses from a vent, the stars turn to streaks and the alien ship disappears from their view.

There is silence on the bridge. Slowly, people raise their heads, as if to make sure they’re still here.

The casualty report comes in. Minor injuries. No deaths.

Jadzia recommends a party.

“It was our first real fight!” she says. “And we’re all here to talk about it.”

Kira shakes her head and grins. “You don’t have to convince me; let’s do it.”

So, in the evening, the crew crams into the mess hall and champagne flutes get passed around. Kira arrives last, and the room erupts in applause.

“No, no, no,” she says, laughing. “Don’t do that for me, do it for you.” A glass makes its way to her, chained over hand to hand from across the room. She takes it, and says, “I want you all to know how I proud I am of you. We’re all standing here because of how you conducted yourselves today.”

Her heart is so full, and she’s not sure how to express it. It’s not every day a ship gets away from a skirmish with its shields down and its crew intact.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Kira says, “to call myself your captain.”

Everyone cheers. Synthehol rapidly disappears from every glass, and people start to loosen up and enjoy the energy.

Across the room, Kira catches sight of Jadzia. They raise their glasses, and watch each other knock back their drinks at the same time.

---

“Dax to Kira. Can you meet me in my quarters?”

In her quarters? This close to 0800?

“I’ll be right there,” Kira responds. She pulls at her collar and straightens out her sleeves.

It doesn’t really occur to Kira to ask why until she’s right outside Jadzia’s door, and at that point, there’s nothing else to do but go in. So she does, and the first step in is fine, but the second feels strange, like it doesn’t quite connect.

With the third, she realizes her boots aren’t touching the floor, and she’s in the air, and so is everything else in the room. The couch and its cushions, plants, statuettes and brass orbs, everything aimlessly drifting around.

Kira bumps her head on the corner of a book.

Before she can say anything – or yell anything – Jadzia comes floating out of her bedroom.

“By the way,” she says, gliding past the couch cushions like she planned this moment for an entire week, “artificial gravity’s out in here.”

“Is this the only reason you called me?” Kira knocks the book at her head and it spirals away across the room.

Jadzia grins.

“No one reported this to me!” Kira exclaims.

Jadzia’s grin doubles in size. “That’s because I ordered them not to.”

Kira can feel herself tipping forward, slowly rotating upside down. She doesn’t have any leverage and can’t stop it. “Am I even the captain of this ship?”

She should probably be concerned that artificial gravity has randomly failed in living quarters, but if Jadzia isn’t worried – and she definitely isn’t – then it must be under control.

“Why don’t you help me wrangle my stuff?” Jadzia asks. “The fragile things, at least.” She pushes off the opposite wall and catches Kira’s arm on her way over, turning her upright and giving her a nudge in the other direction. “Save my horga'hn!”

Kira grimaces and rolls her eyes.

They each grab whatever they can. Kira finds a perpetual motion toy made of thin metal, a pair of fat and lumpy drink glasses, some older books that look as if they might become separated from their hinges if they land wrong on the floor.

She comes across a picture frame next and turns it over. Inside the frame, there is an image of Jadzia, her sister, and their parents; a portrait taken a long time ago in a sunny park somewhere. Kira remembers their faces from graduation day, remembers how excited they were to meet her, and how even though Kira had no family there with her, Jadzia’s family made her feel like she was never alone.

“Hey,” Kira says as Jadzia passes her on the way to a vase. “How is your family doing?”

“They’re doing well,” Jadzia says, and then stops. “Oh. You grabbed those?”

Kira looks down at the bundle of things in her arms. “Which ones?”

“The glasses,” Jadzia says with a frown. “You can let those go.”

“Why?”

“It’s just… it’s fine if they break. My sister and I have very different tastes sometimes.” Jadzia reaches for the glasses, and Kira jerks away so hard she starts to slowly spin.

“Your sister gave you these and you want to let them break?!”

“Look at them!” Jadzia exclaims. “They’re hideous!”

Kira lifts one up to the light. It almost has the shape of a pineapple from Earth. “It’s charming!” she asserts. “If you’re going to make me come into this living fever dream first thing in the morning, then I’m going to save these glasses.”

Jadzia rolls her eyes. “Fine,” she says, and sets off toward a large blue dish.

When their arms are full, they just float for a while. Not having to use a single muscle is nice, and so rare, and Kira stretches out as she hovers above a table.

She takes another look at the picture. Jadzia looks so much like her father, and her sister does, too, but Jadzia is one with her father’s chin. (“And luckily,” Jadzia said once, “not his forehead ridges.”)

Jadzia’s parents had been so proud of her, and of Kira, too, and she wonders all the time if her own mother and father would have felt the same. Would they have been proud to see her leave Bajor? Would they have been proud of her leaving them to sit among the stars? Were they still alive, Kira sometimes thinks she wouldn’t have gone anywhere at all.

“Engineering to Commander Dax,” Kira hears, and Jadzia tells them to go ahead. “We’re almost finished with the repairs, ma’am. You should try to get above a soft surface, or get as close to the floor as possible.”

“Understood,” Jadzia says, then turns to Kira. “The floor is no fun. You want to help me get my bed off the ceiling?”

“Do I have a choice?” Kira asks.

The bed is very much on the ceiling, but at least not inverted, so they each tear away the pillows and the comforter and the loose sheets and give the mattress a good nudge.

For a moment, Kira wonders how they’re going to get themselves above the bed, much less on the same trajectory, and then Jadzia flips herself over and drags the heel of her boot along the ceiling. Her drifting slows, and she lets herself coast down. She comes into contact with the mattress with the tiniest puff.

Kira outstretches her arm. “No way. Pull.”

Jadzia frowns. “You’ll ruin my perfect velocity.”

“I swear,” Kira says, “I will order you to pull me over there.”

Jadzia sighs and takes Kira’s hand, easing her above the bed. It takes some patience and a lot of fidgeting, but they somehow manage to get themselves parallel to the mattress.

“Are you ready?” Jadzia asks.

Kira curls around everything she’s been holding. “Ready.”

The engineering team counts them down: 3, 2, 1, and then Kira’s stomach plummets inside her and everything comes crashing down. The mattress lands unevenly, just by a hair, but it’s enough that Kira bounces and rolls right off onto the floor.

Jadzia pokes her head over the side, wincing. “Are you okay?”

The world is heavy, and Kira doesn’t want to move. But she does raise the two pineapple glasses, intact and unscathed.

Jadzia scowls. “Damn.”

---

There has never been a plant so ugly. It’s the color of rotting fruit, and it droops to the floor like it’s already dead. The smell is something else: a cross between sweat and a molding berry pie, like someone spritzed perfume all over a targ.

“They must be going wild,” Kira says.

“One hundred percent,” Jadzia says. “I think there’ll be a party.”

That’s a surprise.”

They have every right to celebrate, discovering all-new flora. Maybe they’ll even get to name it, although Kira has no idea how any member of her crew can stay on the same deck as that thing for any length of time.

“Did you take a look at it?” Jadzia asks.

“I did,” Kira says, and tries to block out the memory with a large swig of raktajino.

“And?”

“And what?”

“And what did you think of it?”

She thinks Starfleet might court martial them all if they bring this atrocious thing back. “I thought it was… very unique,” Kira manages. “What about you?”

“It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen,” Jadzia says.

“Oh, thank the Prophets,” Kira says, “I’m not crazy.”

“No,” Jadzia says, chuckling. “It’s awful. And that smell.”

“The smell!” Kira exclaims. “Starfleet will never send us out again if this is what we’re giving them.”

“So many gorgeous flowers out in the galaxy,” Jadzia says, “and we found the nastiest one.”

“It’s no lilac, that’s for sure.”

“You like lilacs?” Jadzia asks.

Kira shrugs. “I don’t think all that much about flowers. My father always said the Bajoran lilac was my mother’s favorite, so I guess if I had to pick my own, it might be that.”

Jadzia sits back in her chair. “I’ll have to introduce you to the muktok.”

“Your favorite?” Kira asks.

“I’d say my favorite is more along the lines of an Earth rose. That’s an overdone answer, I know. But they’re simple, they’re elegant, and,” Jadzia says, with a suggestive smirk, “they’re very helpful when you need to speak the language of love.”

Kira laughs. “And who have you been speaking the language of love with?”

Jadzia doesn’t answer right away. Enough time passes that Kira looks up from her drink, and as soon as she does, Jadzia averts her eyes.

“There are some beautiful flowers on Vulcan,” she says.

Kira nods. “That’s true.”

She gets the feeling she’s missing something, like someone is standing just over her shoulder, waiting for her to notice.

---

 

Most of the away team has come back already, their expressions dreamy and full of wonder. It’s definitely made Kira curious about what there is to see down there.

Ensign Sevlek calls it “an extremely pleasing visual aesthetic”. Lieutenant Hardwell’s eyes grow big and misty, and she can’t describe it in words. And Jadzia says, “You really ought to come down. You’ll regret it if you don’t.”

So Kira beams down to the cave, and some of the last stragglers meet her at the entrance.

“Oh, Captain, you can’t miss it,” they tell her. “Just follow the glow.”

With that in mind, there is only one path, where the walls light up in soft blue. It grows deeper and more vivid the farther in she goes, and when she makes it to the spot, she has to remember to breathe.

It’s an ocean of sparks all around the room, twirling and twinkling in the air, the light rippling over the walls like a pond’s reflection. She reaches out to touch it, just to see if she can, and the lights explode into showers around her fingers.

Jadzia, in the center of the room, turns to her and spreads her arms wide. Sparks scatter all over. “I’m glad you took my advice,” she says.

Not only has Kira forgotten how to breathe, but also how to speak. “This is incredible,” she finally says.

She comes to stand beside Jadzia, and the two of them gaze up at the ceiling, at the dancing waves flickering on the stone. Kira has so many questions, but they fizzle away inside her throat.

Jadzia looks over at her, eyes gleaming. She appears different in the light, ethereal, like she was born from this room. Kira’s fingers twitch, as if she wants to make sure Jadzia won’t also burst into a shower around her hands.

“What did I tell you?” Jadzia asks, and turns her face back to the ceiling.

Kira follows the line of spots down the side of her neck, and somehow in her mind, she can only picture Earth roses.

“It’s beautiful,” she answers, her voice barely a whisper.

---

Kira doesn’t like to feel isolated from the crew. She heads to the mess hall for her raktajino one morning, because she wants to see happy faces, wants to say hello and see how everyone’s doing. She wants the crew to see her, too. An unavailable captain makes for an unhappy ship.

As she picks up her fresh mug from the replicator, there is one conversation that stands out amidst all the chatter.

“Every time we talk, it’s like we’re in different quadrants. I can’t seem to get him to understand.”

“What do you think you’ll do?”

“I don’t know. God, if I got along with my husband the way the captain and Commander Dax get along, marriage would be a piece of cake!”

It’s the kind of comment that settles in slowly. It barely registers at first, and Kira sips her drink, making her way back out of the mess hall. When she returns to the turbolift, the words replay in crystal clarity, and she nearly spits her raktajino out.

She stops the turbolift, slapping her combadge with a trembling hand.

“Kira to Dax.”

“Dax here.”

“Conference room,” she says through clenched teeth. “Now.

By the time Kira enters the room, she’s wide awake, and throws her mug back into the replicator. She is shaking and her face burns.

Jadzia enters, a little out of sorts herself. “What is it?”

Oh, she has no idea.

“Have you heard what they’re saying?” Kira bites out.

“Who?”

“The crew!” Kira says, much more shrill than she intends. “Our crew!”

“What happened?” Jadzia asks. She looks as if she’s expecting a Federation-wide declaration of war.

“They think we’re more than captain and commander!”

Jadzia raises her eyebrows, then smirks. “Is that all?”

“What do you mean, ‘is that all’?!”

“Nerys,” Jadzia says, and the use of her names sends a shower of uncomfortable tingles up Kira’s back. “If there was a rumor like that going around, I’d know about it.”

“I know what I heard!” Kira exclaims. She begins to pace, bringing a hand to her forehead. “You have no idea- the sheer- there’s no-”

Jadzia, more amused than anything else, folds her arms, waiting patiently for Kira to make a full sentence.

“It’s ridiculous,” Kira says. “Totally unprofessional!”

“Ridiculous,” Jadzia repeats. “Totally unprofessional.”

Kira whirls around, furious. “You’re not taking this seriously.”

“I am,” Jadzia says. “I seriously don’t care.”

“How can you not care?! Do you have any idea how inappropriate that would be? Do you have any idea what it could do to our careers if people think there’s something going on here?” Kira starts to pace again. “A captain and their first officer. The entire command structure would be rendered null and void!”

“It’s never the healthiest idea,” Jadzia says.

“It’s completely improper!”

Jadzia comes closer. “Starfleet doesn’t usually regulate fraternization.”

“Not between the crew, they don’t,” Kira says. “But this- this is the one line!”

Jadzia comes closer still. “Some lines shouldn’t be crossed.”

“You’re damn right!” Kira turns away, bracing against the wall. “How does the captain give any order to someone they’re sleeping with? What if an admiral got wind of that kind of conduct; everything would be-”

She turns around, and Jadzia is right in front of her.

“-over,” she finishes.

There is a look she can’t decode on Jadzia’s face. It makes her nervous.

“A captain can’t do that to her crew,” Jadzia says. What little distance is left between them is closed.

Kira feels her back hit the wall. “She can’t.”

“It wouldn’t be fair.”

“It would be awful.”

Jadzia’s fingers brush against Kira’s cheek. “Terrible.” That look on her face – it’s hungry.

Each breath shudders in Kira’s lungs. Jadzia cups her jaw.

“I-”

“Shh.”

Jadzia’s lips, impossibly soft, brush against hers.

You can’t, Kira thinks, but her hand grasps the back of Jadzia’s head, and she finds she’s not the only one in the room who is hungry.

---

Three days go by, and neither one of them says a word about the conference room. They do what they do every day: get up, have coffee, sit on the bridge and poke at consoles.

Kira watches faces, to see if anything’s changed. No one seems to look at their captain any differently.

On the night of the third day, Kira can’t believe Jadzia hasn’t said something. She’s not sure what she expected – one trademark suggestive glance, at the very least. Something walking the line between innocent and dirty, something to make Kira’s face go red in the middle of the bridge. But Jadzia goes on with life as usual, and Kira drums her fingers against a bulkhead, puzzled and annoyed.

“Kira to Dax,” she says. “Report to my quarters.”

For her own peace of mind, they need to discuss it. Professionally and directly.

Kira hears her door chime. She smooths out her uniform.

The door opens and there is Jadzia, her hands behind her back.

“You wanted to see me, Captain?” The door shuts behind her.

Professional. Direct.

Kira gets in one breath before they meet halfway, tossing their combadges across the room and tearing at each other’s uniforms. Jadzia’s mouth is open and hot and Kira drinks it in, all her heat, all around her and filling her head.

---

At 0300, Kira follows the curve of Jadzia’s spine, watches her breathe in the dark.

At 0500, Jadzia runs her fingertips along the chain of Kira’s earring, and Kira opens her eyes and watches her do it. Jadzia’s face is drowsy and warm, and the rhythm of her movement lulls Kira back to sleep.

When Kira wakes up again, Jadzia is hovering over her, saying, “We’re going to be late.”

“What?” Kira asks, foggy.

Jadzia shows her the chronometer. Kira nearly knocks it out of her hands, cursing and shooting out of bed.

Their jackets are halfway across the room in a crumpled heap. There’s one visible pair of pants and three boots. Kira curses again.

“I’ll initiate a site-to-site transport,” she says.

Jadzia looks at her over her shoulder. “For who?”

“You can’t be seen coming out of here.”

“There’s nothing wrong with a first officer walking out of her captain’s quarters.” Jadzia eases the straps of her bra over both shoulders and hooks it together. “We were having a very important conversation in here.”

“A conversation,” Kira says. Real important “conversations”, sure.

“You’re the captain,” Jadzia says, picking her hair clip up from the floor. “You make the rules.”

Kira can think of at least one right away. “You need a fresh uniform,” she says.

“I wouldn’t be the first person on this ship to walk out of someone else’s quarters in yesterday’s uniform,” Jadzia responds.

Who is it, really, that’s making the rules here?

Kira throws on the rest of her clothes without another word. When they’re both finished, she hesitates at the door.

Jadzia’s expression sobers some. “I can take the site-to-site,” she says.

Kira takes another moment to think it over, then walks through the door.

“Come on,” she says. “If we hurry, we'll still have time to grab some breakfast.”

Jadzia smiles and follows her out.

---

Kira looks at the viewscreen through her fingers, and Jadzia has a fist pressed to her mouth, her shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter.

“Uh, as you can see, we, uh… oh, boy.” Lieutenant Hardwell steps out of the way as one of the aliens walks between her and the console. “Uh, well, I don’t know quite how to say this…”

Beside her, Ensign Talar’s antennae have practically curled in on each other. She flushes a deep blue.

“I thought this was another plant study,” Kira says. There’s a giant stamen bobbing very near Hardwell’s head.

“Uh, we thought so, too, and then…”

Ensign Sevlek steps into frame. “And then the plants grew appendages and are currently engaged in sexual intercourse.”

Jadzia snorts, and when Kira gives her a look, she clears her throat instead.

“Well,” Kira says. “Do your best to get back to the landing site.” One of the giant flower people, or whatever they are, shudders violently in the background.

“We will attempt to do so,” Sevlek responds, “although it appears these creatures are highly motivated with the presence of witnesses.”

Jadzia shuts her eyes and tightly presses her lips together.

“Are you really three hundred?” Kira hisses.

It’s completely the wrong time for this. The crew talks of nothing but sex for the rest of the day, and Kira can’t go anywhere without overhearing the most lurid, debauched tales. She has learned of nine different positions achievable by fifteen different species, has learned more than anyone ever should about the sexual history of the entire crew, and Jadzia – oh, Jadzia – milks it for every last drop.

“You know,” she says, a group all around her in the mess hall, “my last host died having sex.”

They erupt in raucous laughter.

Sex, sex, sex; she’s never heard so much about copulation in a twenty-four hour period. By night, Kira is wild and impatient.

“He died having sex, huh?” she asks, breathing hard, pressing kisses to Jadzia’s chest, sucking on her skin.

“Mmm,” she answers. “I’d like to think I’m a little hardier now.”

“You want to test that?”

“Mmm,” Jadzia says again, more urgently, and they pull each other onto the bed.

---

They have plenty of unspoken agreements, but very few that have been said out loud.

“I don’t think you have to knock anymore,” Jadzia says one morning. “Just use your code.”

“Uh, what if you’re not here?” Kira asks.

“Then you can leave me some surprises.”

As if Jadzia is ever surprised by anything anymore, but she gives Kira a look that really makes her want to try.

So the next evening, Kira takes a quick glance across the corridor to make sure it’s empty, and punches in her access code. Her captains only, master unlock, serious circumstances only code.

The pinch of guilt in her gut makes her almost certain she’ll never do this again.

She finds Jadzia at her desk, her laptop open and a smile on her face. When she sees Kira, she gestures for her to come over.

“Look who just dropped by,” she says, and Kira peers over her shoulder at the screen.

And then, when she realizes who she’s looking at, the blood drains from her face.

“Is that you, Nerys? It’s wonderful to see you!”

“Mrs. Idaris,” Kira says, her eyes feeling very large in her skull. She thought she came here to surprise Jadzia, not the other way around.

“Look at how you’ve grown,” Jadzia’s mother says. “Seems like only yesterday the two of you were graduating.”

If she is surprised to see her daughter’s captain just appear in her quarters with no invitation, she isn’t letting on. Kira’s probably just overthinking this. Probably.

With Kira here, Mrs. Idaris’s curiosity about life aboard their ship becomes insatiable. She peppers them with questions about their studies, about their crew, about the places they’ve visited and the things they’ve seen (they mention the garbage dump flower, but leave out the flower people).

“I’m so happy to see the two of you together again,” Mrs. Idaris says. “You must be having so much fun.”

Jadzia puts an arm around Kira’s shoulders, pulling her close. “So much fun,” she says. “Isn’t that right, Nerys?” With her face turned away from her mother, she waggles her eyebrows.

Oh, Prophets.

Every day after that, Kira requests entry like anybody else, and at least Jadzia has the decency not to ask why.

---

Slow and languorous has never been Kira’s style, especially in bed. She is in pursuit from the first kiss, chasing images of Jadzia, neck arched and sighing, her hair caught in her mouth and her eyes glazed over. And Jadzia, too, chases her in return, letting Kira grind against her to take whatever she needs. It’s always frantic and exhausting, and they sleep like the dead, but the feeling of being dead doesn’t go away in the morning when they wake up sore and tired.

She is more than ready for the usual again, but Jadzia places her hands against Kira’s arms.

“What?” Kira whispers.

Jadzia slips out from under her and eases her down, pressing her back against the mattress. “Just relax,” she murmurs in her ear. She sits back on her knees, removes her hair clip, and places it on Kira’s nightstand. “Computer, dim lights.”

The room goes dark. It’s quiet, and Kira becomes very aware of the sound of her own breathing.

Jadzia returns, leaning over her, and her hair cascades over her shoulders. She stays like that, looking into Kira’s eyes, not saying a word.

“Hey…” Kira says, alarmed by how exposed she suddenly feels.

“Don’t worry,” Jadzia says, “about anything.”

Easy for her to say.

She starts at Kira’s neck, the hollow of her throat, her collarbone. She leaves a trail of warm, wet kisses, then lingers at her stomach, glancing at her like she’s asking permission for something. Her palms come to rest on Kira’s knees.

Oh.

At first, Kira moves to open her legs, but Jadzia holds her still, then gently pushes her knees apart. She wraps her arms around her thighs and then her head dips down, and Kira feels her mouth, bucking her hips to meet her.

Jadzia tightens her hold. “Don’t move,” she says, “or I’ll stop.”

Just the sight of her looking up from between her legs is enough to make Kira go feral. Don’t move? How will she ever-

But, for the love of all that’s holy, she doesn’t want her to stop. Kira stays as still as she can, waiting, and then Jadzia lowers her head again.

With no other options, all Kira can do is breathe in stilted bursts. She grabs a fistful of sheets and shuts her eyes.

When she comes, Jadzia holds her in an iron grip, guiding her through it. When she comes a second time, she cries out, and tears roll down the side of her face.

Her jaw feels slack, and she lays in the dark for a while, catching her breath. She looks to her side and finds Jadzia there, leaning on her elbow, watching her.

“You want to go to sleep?” she asks.

Kira nods, and she sleeps curled against Jadzia’s chest.

In the morning, Kira stretches out, newfound strength buzzing through her body. When she sits on the bridge, she forgets there’s a chair beneath her.

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Jadzia staring at her.

“What?” she asks.

Jadzia shakes her head. “Nothing,” she says, and lets the back of her head rest against her chair. She closes her eyes and smiles as she sighs.

---

That rancid flower turns out to be medically viable, and they’re invited to a reception honoring their discovery at Starfleet Medical.

“There… there will be admirals here,” Ensign Talar says, eyes wide. Hardwell and Grayson look just as anxious. Ensign Sevlek is the only calm one in the group, but he’s got an unfair advantage.

Jadzia gives Talar a pat on the back. “Come on, half these guys couldn’t hurt a Tarkalean fruit fly.”

“What should we do?” Hardwell asks. She shifts her weight nervously and fiddles with the hem of her dress uniform.

“Listen,” Kira says, “you’ll all be fine. All you have to do is shake their hands, listen to their stories-”

“Laugh at their jokes,” Jadzia interrupts.

Kira nods. “Yes, laugh at their jokes, that never hurts. An admiral is just another Starfleet officer.”

“Who could boot us from the fleet in two seconds,” Grayson says. Even Sevlek twitches at that one.

“Okay, don’t… think about that, just go in there, have some food, have a good time, talk about the flower. Go, go, go.” Kira ushers the whole group of them inside, and they scatter in separate directions.

“You think they have the flower on display somewhere?” Jadzia asks.

“Not if they know what’s good for them,” Kira says.

It’s not long at all before Jadzia charms her way into the center of a conversation, and their kids stick together in nervous pairs, but they’ve all got the ears of various admirals already. Kira heads straight for the food: the single best part of any Starfleet event.

She’s in the middle of filling up her plate with shrimps and mini-quiches when an admiral of her very own comes to introduce himself.

“Captain Kira?” he asks.

“Yes, sir?”

“Ah, wonderful to meet you. I’m Admiral Hart.” Admiral Hart is a very hairy man; his white, bushy eyebrows practically cover his own eyeballs. He is a little shorter than her and a little portly, and seems genuinely enthusiastic to be shaking her hand. “The Athena’s a good ship, and you’ve already done so well by her.”

“Thank you, sir” Kira says, grinning. Compliments right at the start – this is a pretty good reception after all.

“Let me tell you, nobody could believe that flower-” He makes a gesture in front of his nose with his hand, “-was holding such wonderful secrets.”

“Believe me,” Kira says, “none of us could have ever predicted it, either. We debated for at least fourty-eight hours over whether or not to bring it in!”

“Well, we’re all very happy you did,” Admiral Hart says. “Although those among us with more advanced olfactory organs are having to bravely handle their struggles.”

Oh, her crew should be the ones lucky enough to have this easy admiral, so much like a jolly grandfather. They’d have a great time with him.

“You know, I’m not the only one who wanted to meet you tonight; I wonder where…” Hart looks around for a moment, then says, “Ah, there she is,” and ushers someone over. “Captain Kira,” he says, “I’d like to introduce you to my wife, Doctor Hart.”

Doctor Hart’s face lights up. “Oh, call me Elena,” she says, and shakes Kira’s hand, too. “So you’re the captain of the Athena? I told Frances he was not to let me leave this party without meeting you.”

“Oh, I’m not the one you should be meeting,” Kira says, suddenly bashful. “I wasn’t even on that mission!”

“Nonsense,” Elena says. “You’ve clearly encouraged your crew to look for interesting things in unlikely places. Only a hardened bunch could have brought that flower to us!”

They’re just about the nicest couple Kira has ever met, and they talk her ear off, but in a harmless way. There is an ease and comfort to the way they interact with her, and to the way they interact with each other, with playful nudges, feigned shock and laughter. She steers them in the direction of Talar, whose face is looking a little purple now.

As they turn to go, Admiral Hart’s hand comes to rest against the small of Doctor Hart’s back.

There are a lot of wives here, and husbands, and second and third and fourth husbands, and husbands and wives at the same time. She would have never noticed before. It’s not that Kira expects to come to these events with someone.

She already came here with someone, but...

But.

Jadzia is not hard to spot across the room, with a group of people around her now, laughing at whatever she’s telling them, and she’s laughing, too.

Kira looks down at her plate, half-full with food, and abandons it for a drink instead.

By the time they get back to the ship, she has a headache.

“Are you all right?” Jadzia asks. “You look a little pale.”

The image of Admiral Hart and his wife, happy and affectionate, is burnt in.

“Too much ale, maybe,” Kira says.

“I know a few cures for that,” Jadzia says, leaning in.

“No, not tonight,” Kira says. “I think I’m going to sleep. There’s a little after party in the mess hall, right? Go have fun.”

“Are you sure you’re all right?”

“I’ll be fine in the morning,” Kira says, and heads into her quarters, where she stays up later and later, staring at the ceiling while her head pounds.

---

She is not fine in the morning. She has more in common with a taut rope, fraying from tension and ready to snap. There are bags under her eyes when she looks in the mirror, and the sight of them makes a nerve ache just above her eyebrow.

When she is dressed, she hears the door, and that nerve pulses painfully.

“This configuration,” Jadzia says when the doors open, her face in a PADD, “is all wrong.” Her brow furrows and she holds the PADD up to Kira. “Have you seen this? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we might actually have to cut back on the fun.”

She’s still talking, scrolling through the PADD and making faces, but Kira only hears a ringing in her ears. If she imagines that piece of rope, straight as a rod, it just keeps losing threads.

There aren’t a whole lot of threads left to lose.

Her hand clamps down on Jadzia’s wrist and she yanks her inside. She pivots, shoving her up against the wall, and the PADD clatters to the floor.

“Don’t worry,” Jadzia says, and Kira can hear the wry, pleasantly surprised smile on her face. “We won’t have to cut back on all the-”

She gasps, cut off by Kira thrusting a hand down her pants. Kira wastes no time, touching her immediately, burying her face in her neck, and Jadzia doesn’t have anything to say anymore.

Kira works her fingers with no delay, just a slow rhythm that she builds up while Jadzia stands there and lets her. She pays close attention to Jadzia’s breaths, to the things that make her inhale sharply and scrape her fingernails along the wall behind her. Kira does those things more, faster, harder, and Jadzia groans quietly. Kira shuts her eyes.

She keeps it up until Jadzia exhales sharply and shudders, her knees buckling, and then Kira withdraws her hand. She licks her lips and they are dry as paper.

“I believe you’re on duty, Commander,” Kira says, her throat raw. “Don’t be late.”

She retreats into the bathroom. Jadzia’s laughter, soft and deep in her chest, follows her out.

Kira does not activate the lights, only leans against the sink, gripping the sides so hard her arms tremble.

---

“You look awful,” Jadzia says, returning to the desk with her raktajino.

She isn’t saying it to be funny; that much is obvious from her concerned expression. Somehow, that makes this worse.

“I need a break,” Kira says, her voice rough in her ears.

At first, Jadzia looks at her like she’s not sure what she means – a break from what? But Kira holds her gaze and watches her understand, watches the barely perceptible slump of her shoulders.

“Oh,” she says. She lowers her cup to the desk. She takes a breath like she wants to say something, but she doesn’t, and then her face goes completely blank and she reaches for two of the PADDS to her right. “Here,” she says, handing them to Kira. “Duty rosters and the new maintenance schedules for the replicators.”

From then on, it’s all business. In a way, Kira is not surprised: surely Jadzia has had uglier “break” requests in three hundred years. Surely she’s done this so many times before, it’s old and overdone. What is a relationship to a centuries-old creature? What has Kira even done here that is new or interesting?

They’re interrupted by a call to the bridge.

“A distress call?” Kira asks.

“Yes, ma’am,” Talar says. “We’re the only ship within range.”

“Of course,” Jadzia says.

“There’s something else,” Talar says. “There’s no identifying information in this signal. It’s a general distress call, but it’s like there’s a piece missing. I’m not even sure how anyone sent this.”

Jadzia turns to Kira. “What do you want to do?”

“We can’t ignore it,” Kira says.

“No,” Jadzia agrees.

The decision is already made, and they take off for the source of the signal.

When they drop out of warp, they meet with a familiar sight. The golden alien ship, the one that housed that beautiful matriarch, looms large before them. It’s bombarded with phaser fire, and little bits of the hull shatter and break away.

Kira follows the beams, straight to the hull of a Cardassian cruiser.

“We’d know if that call was coming from the Cardassians,” Jadzia says.

“Exactly,” Kira replies, although she finds it hard to believe that majestic ship, cloaked in mysterious, undiscovered technology, could be failing to simple Cardassian phasers. Maybe the advancements only reach so far.

“Open a channel,” Kira says, “to the Cardassian vessel.”

They won’t answer right away, but they will, because it’s the Federation calling. Kira waits, watching more tiny pieces break off of the golden ship.

There is an answer - no visuals, just audio: “State your business.”

“My business is that ship,” Kira replies.

“That ship is none of your concern.”

“I’m afraid that’s incorrect,” Kira says. “Stand down.”

“You would defend a vessel that launched an unprovoked attack?”

Kira smiles, even though she can’t be seen. “We’re old friends.”

The golden ship is drifting, but intact. The phaser fire becomes more intermittent, but still constant.

“We won’t stand by and let you destroy them,” Kira says.

“And what will you do, Federation?” asks the Cardassian ship.

“Anything necessary,” Kira responds.

For a long time, nobody moves, and nobody talks. Kira keeps her eyes on the screen, ready to jump at the first hint of more trouble.

There is none, and the phasers stop, the Cardassians moving away from the other ship. Then they pack it in completely, and warp away.

That’s it? Kira thinks. The Cardassians really have become skittish.

“We’re being hailed,” Talar says.

“Put it on screen,” Kira says.

There she is again, the commander of the alien ship, just as threatening as the last time. Her eyes narrow, and she looks down, her chin held high among the smoke and sparks on her bridge.

Perhaps, Kira thinks, she can extend an olive branch this time without getting blown up. “Hello again,” she says, raising her chin in return.

“For what purpose did you interfere?” the woman asks.

Kira wants to believe this is a universal translator quirk – maybe “interfere” is the only word they have for helping someone else out. Or maybe it’s just going to be pulling teeth no matter what they do.

“To help,” Kira says, and leaves it at that.

The woman is silent again, light showering down behind her.

Kira wants so badly to ask her name, to know where she comes from, to ask the name of their ship, their species, their planet, but she has a feeling she will never get that chance. And indeed, she is not surprised when the transmission is terminated without another word, and the golden ship shimmers away.

Kira sighs. “Let’s head out.”

She sits back down in her chair, and things quiet down as the ship travels along. After a while, Kira notices there have been no sarcastic quips, no wisecracks, and that’s odd. She takes a look at Jadzia, leaning on her armrest, her chin in her hand and her gaze distant.

Kira almost asks her what’s wrong, until she remembers, and a chill washes over her. Of course Jadzia isn’t thinking about the Cardassians.

---

On the first day, Kira gets up, heads to her ready room, and finds Jadzia at the replicator ordering a raktajino. She pauses, then makes it a double.

The second day, Kira gets up, heads to her ready room, and finds Jadzia at the other side of the desk, raktajino in hand. She hands over a stack of PADDs and neither of them says a word.

The third day, Kira gets up, groggy. Her hands keep brushing cold sheets whenever she turns over, and she can’t seem to get warm.

On the fourth day, Jadzia says something that makes them both smile, but they smile for too long, and then look away in opposite directions.

The fifth day, Kira turns up the temperature in her quarters.

The sixth day, Kira orders the double raktajino. Jadzia looks drained.

And on the seventh day, Kira sits in the holodeck in the early morning, alone in her one and only program – her jumja tree on a hill – and rests her head against the false bark. The ship is so quiet, and the colors have turned dull, and this is much harder than what they were doing before.

“I’m sorry,” Kira says later. “I’m sorry about all this.”

Jadzia carefully lowers her mug onto the desk. “You don’t need to apologize.”

Kira shakes her head. “We should have had a real conversation.”

“You needed time,” Jadzia says.

“It was a lot to think about, all of a sudden,” Kira admits.

Jadzia puts her hands around her mug, watching the steam rise out, and asks, “Did you want to have a real conversation?”

“Not here,” Kira says. “Not like this.” Not where their work is, not in the place where their ranks sit between them.

“I understand.” Jadzia’s expression is tired; she has had more than one of this conversation before, too.

“Why don’t you come to the holodeck tonight?” Kira offers.

Jadzia looks up at her, searching her face. Kira wonders what she expects to find.

“Okay,” Jadzia finally says.

It’s a nothing day. They are traveling, on their way to a planet that’s still another half day away, and Kira has plenty of time to make it into the holodeck long before Jadzia. She turns on the breeze, listening to the rustle of the jumja tree’s leaves, feeling the wind in her hair. She places the sun low on the horizon, evening hues spreading out from the sky. She looks down at the ground, at all the tiny, just-blooming Bajoran lilacs in the grass.

Kira hears the whirring of the holodeck doors and breathes out, leaning back against the tree.

It’s a tall hill, Kira programmed it that way, but it doesn’t take Jadzia long to appear. Her ponytail keeps creeping up over her shoulder and into her face, and she is trying her best to keep it out, but the breeze is too strong.

Kira thinks of the physical exam at the Academy, thinks of how she saw an impeccably put-together girl comically fall apart in front of her. She chuckles to herself. “Your hair’s in your face a little bit.”

“Yeah,” Jadzia says, spitting strands away from her mouth.

“I guess I didn’t realize I had the wind on that strong,” Kira says. She turns it down and Jadzia flings her ponytail back over her shoulder.

“Thanks,” Jadzia says, with an edge of sarcasm. She sits down beside Kira at the base of the tree.

Kira doesn’t know where to start, and it seems Jadzia might not know, either. They don’t speak, and Jadzia runs her fingers along the tiny buds in the grass.

“You know, I didn’t want to mention it,” Jadzia says, “but they noticed.”

“The crew?” Kira is less surprised to hear that than she should be.

Jadzia nods. “They didn’t notice…” She trails off and gestures between the two of them. “They didn’t notice this, but they knew something happened. Talar asked me this morning if I was all right.”

Kira sighs. “This isn’t fair to them.”

“It was never going to be,” Jadzia says. “I think we knew that.”

“We did,” Kira says, “yet here we are.”

It’s bad enough they’re doing this, worse that they’re a certain level of transparent to the crew. Each time Kira thinks about how they need to stop, her chest burns just a little bit more.

“What did you think of me,” Kira asks, “when we first met?”

At first she looks surprised, but then the corners of Jadzia’s mouth turn up, and she ducks her head. Right in front of Kira again is that shy, quiet girl from long ago.

“I thought you were the most radiant girl I’d ever met,” Jadzia says.

There was a lot of that going around. Kira smiles, too, but it doesn’t last long.

“I should have known things would end up like this,” she says.

“Like what?” Jadzia asks. “What’s happened here that’s so terrible? No one on this ship has been in any danger because of anything we’ve done.”

“Not yet,” Kira says, looking out at the downward slope of the hill.

“Look,” Jadzia says. “I’ll admit, I’m not great at thinking about consequences anymore. But I think you’re thinking about them too much.”

“Or not enough,” Kira says.

Jadzia’s smile is weak and disappointed. “Why are you punishing yourself for things that haven’t happened?”

Kira doesn’t have an answer for that. She doesn’t think Jadzia is wrong, either. It’s just that she’s rationalizing, and doing it very well.

She’s about to ask her if she knows she’s rationalizing, when Jadzia says, “Listen, if you need to stop-”

“I don’t want to stop,” Kira says, so quickly it surprises her.

Jadzia breathes out as if she is relieved. “Well, I don’t either.”

Kira runs a hand through her hair. “Never thought the biggest drama on this ship would be between the two of us.”

Jadzia snorts. “Hardly. You haven’t been paying attention.”

Kira just wants to bang her head against the trunk of this tree until she bruises. There are worse things to be than in love with your first officer. She could be a micromanaging tyrant. She could be hasty and dangerous. She could command the ship into a black hole and not think anything of it. She could be deceitful, power-hungry, unethical.

Love was never supposed to factor into this.

“What if we can’t keep our heads above water?” Kira asks, tired.

Jadzia laughs. “My head went under the moment I stepped on this ship. All I could do was take a deep breath.”

They could go round and round like this for the rest of their lives, but here, in the amber glow of the evening, with Jadzia holding her gaze, going round and round sounds like a terrible idea.

“We’re in the holodeck,” Jadzia reminds her. “So what do you want, right now?”

Everything Kira wants has nothing to do with the holodeck.

She looks down at the lilac buds. “Computer,” she says. “Change to flower pattern Delta Two.”

The lilacs shimmer away, and a wave of red emerges in their place. The entire field becomes awash in fully open, thornless Earth roses.

Jadzia presses her lips together like she’s holding back a laugh. “Subtle.”

“You know me,” Kira says. “Renowned for my subtlety.” She glances at Jadzia. “What do you want right now?”

“For you to kiss me,” Jadzia says, with no hesitation. There is no doubt in her eyes, and she makes it very easy for Kira to lean over and grant her wish.

They stay close, their foreheads touching.

“Whatever happens,” Kira says, “the ship comes first. This crew comes first.”

“I would never ask you for anything else,” Jadzia replies.

“I know you wouldn’t,” Kira says, and maybe that’s enough. They know what this requires without having to say it.

Jadzia is warm, and soft, and sweet like nectar, and there is no one Kira trusts more to stay true to this promise.

There’s nothing left to do but take a deep breath.