You don’t think about what you don’t know, what makes you nervous, what you worry about asking.
What you think about is the cool firm pressure of her hands and the way her left eye twitches when she’s resisting a smile. You ask yourself if she’s flirting when she bites her lip and says Yes, sir in that clipped way to all your orders. When she starts stopping by your quarters precisely nine minutes before your shifts begin, and she has a ready wry joke and brings you raktajino, you think, I could get used to this, and soon, you do.
It’s silly, you think. There’s a replicator right there.
You don’t ask yourself complicated questions, because you’ve never had the chance to develop the habit. You think about her smile and you pretend that ideas about the extent of her spots have never crossed your mind, and you stop there. And you learn to smile in the morning, because there she is.
Until it’s too late and it occurs to you that there really is a three-hundred-year-old symbiont inside this twenty-eight-year-old woman, who just happens to be naked in your bed.
Jadzia laughs. You love that; her laugh; that she laughs at you. You and your silly questions. But it really never occurred to you before. You didn’t let it.
It was trouble enough, having one lover. You never thought to consider you were getting two. Or eight. Or. Counting gets troublesome, so you stop. But you have so many questions, so you push her over in the bed and squish your nose against hers and push past her laughter with your questions.
Her breathing, her laughter lift and rock you and for a moment your questions fail to matter. But they persist.
Like muscle memory, she says. She doesn’t know why she clasps her hands at the small of her back, for example. Awkward young Jadzia never did that; Dax does. It’s simple; she honors its simplicity by not resisting it.
(She doesn’t know, but eventually, you will teach her. You will feel Lela Dax in your bones and know what that muscle memory is, all the days of your life. Long after –. Long after, while you are casting wary glances at awkward young Ezri, Lela will be with you. And you’ll tell yourself that command sits uneasily on your shoulders, but you will clasp your hands behind your back and Lela will give you the courage to lead.)
All right. Muscle memory. But there’s something you need to know and don’t know how to ask. But what about – she laughs again.
How’s that for a revelation – Kira Nerys can blush! She’s howling. What does she know.
You’re trying so hard but you lose it, too. You’re laughing naked in this woman’s arms because she just has that effect.
It’s a while after that before your questions manage to matter again.
She’s so quick, so gifted at stopping time. Your breath comes short – her hands, her hands; the strength of her, how she throws you down; the grin in her bite at your throat; how her teeth do things you never thought teeth should do and you wonder – but fuck, yes, there, yes, Jadzia, yes.
She settles over you, hands still pinning your wrists, with that smug look she gets when she makes you come so hard you scream. (Jadzia, you could say. I do that because it makes you purr against my skin and do you have any idea what that feels like?)
But it’s so serious, all of a sudden. It matters so much it scares you. You know what you must look like, flushed and tousled and post-orgasmic and pinned to the bed, and she’s still smiling, plotting her next kiss. But you hold your breath and just look at her. You have a stupid thought about seeing the answer in her eyes and you wince.
She brushes the tip of her nose along your ear, playful teeth snagging your earring’s chain. Rys, she murmurs, and it’s like you can’t breathe. Everything is too complicated and too important and you don’t know how to do this.
And if she weren’t pinning you to the bed you’d just run. She has that effect, you think. Of holding you down. That’s what you need from her.
But – there are just so many of you, you blurt and it’s so stupid and it’s not what you mean but that’s what you say. There are so many of her. She doesn’t laugh at you. She kisses your serious mouth with her own and rolls over. Her weight is gone but there’s her hand, flat and cool and strong on your sternum, holding you down. You finally let out that breath.
(It’s Tobin, you’ll later learn. That careful look in her eyes. They called him shy, she’ll tell you, remembering, being him for a moment. But he wasn’t. It was reticence. He was careful. You’re memorizing this look in her eyes now, the look you’ll learn to call Tobin. You’ll love him, for that.)
It’s not a question of number, Nerys. Anyone else would be condescending, frustrated. Not Jadzia. Jadzia just kisses you and thinks hard because she knows it matters to you. This, too, you need from her. It’s still so hard to breathe.
She takes your hand and presses it against her belly. There’s a syncopation to the rhythm of her breathing that you’ve never let yourself notice before. But it’s true that he’s been a lot of people. You smile and it surprises you. Pronouns are like counting, Nerys. You have to stop worrying about it or you’ll go crazy.
Curzon. That one you already know. First and best, you know Curzon. You’d have hated him, but he’s Jadzia; he’s her wryness and her decisive mind. It’s Curzon winking at you now. You decide to love Curzon. That part is easy.
I remember being a man. I like being a woman. I don’t know how else to say it. Your breath is coming easier – she anticipates you; she knows what you want to ask and she answers before you have to, and that makes it easier, but nothing’s getting simpler. You’d like to think your mind would race for a response but you come up blank. I remember making love to women, she says, as a man. When I touch you – and when she says those words it stirs something in you, so strongly – I remember what it was like to do this as a man. But what is that like? What is it ever like? The only answer is that it depends.
On what, you could ask, but it scares you. It might depend on you, and then you’d have to stop breathing again because you really, really don’t know how to do that.
(It will take Jadzia a very long time to understand that. She will give you space and she will be quiet when you need her to be and she will say she gets it but she won’t, not really, not for a long time. In the resistance, you’ll say, you’ll start so many sentences that way. But for all the things she’s been, she’s never been that and she doesn’t understand that. Joined Trill are a privileged people – a pampered caste, you think at your bitterest – and Jadzia will be long in seeing the significance of your dust-and-blood upbringing. Love in the resistance never needed strength or promises because it had no future. It’s so simple, but it takes her so long to understand.)
Don’t you remember other lovers? When I touch you, when you touch me, do you truly think of no one else? She says it like it’s an easy question.
But all your life, lovers were different from this. Lovers were not throat-constricting conversations at length and in safety; lovers were not the luxury of time and tangled sheets. All your life, you’ve known intimacy as ephemeral, desire always in the present tense. The gasp and thrill of touch was quick and fleeting by nature, love in the resistance taught you. To be cherished in the moment, before life moved forward, fast and loud and full of fire.
And now, this single lover, this intimacy that stretches and grows in memory and in anticipation, this lover in multiple tenses, this multiple lover and all this time.
A single lover is bewildering enough. One lover, one woman, this woman, every day, with her everyday touch and her morning smile, this woman who kisses you as a matter of course, who brushes her hand across your back so casually when your paths cross, so many times, every day, so bewildering, this simultaneous intensity and regularity of contact. A single lover is already so much, and there is so much more than that of her.
She pulls you to her and you realize you’ve said all that aloud, you’ve been talking without stopping like you opened a floodgate you didn’t mean to and you feel such a fool.
Rys. Kisses and her hands in your hair. Do you know the very first thing Benjamin said to me about you? ‘That Major – there sure is a lot of her,’ he said. It’s true. More true than he knew, knows. I’ve had a lot of time; I have a lot of memories; there’s a lot here. But there’s a lot of you, too, Nerys. Her hands; her hands. We can’t learn all we have to know at once.
That scares you, too. But Jadzia doesn’t seem scared. She says there’s a lot of you like it thrills her; like she looks forward to learning you; like she looks forward to you and everything you carry.
Her hands in your hair, her ankle crossing yours, the way it feels to nestle the bridge of your nose under the place where her jaw meets her throat; these things keep you here. These things, you can know and know now.
You press a kiss to her clavicle. Jadzia. You whisper her name like a talisman, Jadzia, Jadzia, because whatever else she is you know she is this woman, here, now, naked in your bed with her arms around you.
You will become capable of this, all of this, before you realize that you have become capable of this. You will learn a secret smile for those moments when the ghost of a Dax long deceased emerges on the surface of this woman and you alone know how to recognize it. You will learn silly things – that the agility you could attribute to Emony is in truth Jadzia’s, who ran hurdles at the Academy and demonstrates her skill leaping over tables at Quark’s after a bloodwine too many. You will learn difficult things – the way she looks at Lenara; you will not be jealous but there will be something terrifying in this woman who knew and loved your lover long before you were born. Your whole body will learn all the tricks Jadzia learned from Curzon, and you will be surprised how good and safe it feels to be so multiply loved. You will learn, and learn, and you will also teach her, watch her learning you, and that will surprise you, too.
For now, it is only your lips on her clavicle. She shifts in your arms, closer, and your sudden desire makes your kisses fiercer and your palm flat on her back presses her closer still.
She whimpers and tugs your shoulder. Not an hour gone, she pressed you into the bed so hard it hurt, and you liked the hurt so well you begged her to keep doing it; she growled and bit you and took entire charge of you, your body, pressed you into the bed and into the wild kind of pleasure you can only have when she takes you like that. And now she is all pliancy and soft pleading signals.
It occurs to you to wonder whether the first was one Dax and this now is another. When did Dax learn to press a lover into the bed like that? As a man, or as a woman? Of whom did Dax take charge, like that? A man, a woman? But you realize you are asking the wrong questions.
The person naked in your bed is only your lover, now. Now, your lover wants you and you nearly shiver.
You press her back against the bed, roll with her, let her hear and feel your want answering hers. You rise on your knees, hook one leg over her hip. You watch her eyes. Her breath comes ragged but her eyes are steady and intent on you. You take her hands and place them on your hips. You bend and twist to kiss her knee. And then you lower yourself slowly, until you are touching, pressed together. You want to say how good she feels, what it’s like to be tangled in her legs, to feel how wet she is and you are, but you’re having trouble breathing again and you say nothing. You bite your lip, your hands covering hers on your hips. She moans, unevenly. She closes her eyes and says your name.
Jadzia, you say. And you begin to move.