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In From the Cold

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Time off was never easy to come by on Deep Space Nine, especially as the long war months ground on, but somehow Kira had managed it. She suspected it might have had a lot to do with her infamous temper and her habit of blowing off some steam at whoever was nearest. She’d been doing a lot more of that lately and she suspected that Sisko giving her leave wasn’t just for her benefit. Whatever it was, she wasn’t complaining—she had some leave time and she meant to make the most of it.

As far as Kira was concerned there were exactly two types of vacation: spiritual retreats to cleanse your worries and centre your pagh, and the sort of vacation where you did something athletic and slightly reckless to get the blood pumping. As much as she knew she could do with some spiritual centering, Kira craved the rush of sweat and adrenaline that came from doing something active in real gravity, with real sunshine on her face.

So, during the four blissful days she had off she was going hiking in the Dakhur hills, and her comm badge was staying off. She didn’t care if the station was attacked in the meantime, she was having this vacation and nothing short of the annexation of Bajor was going to stop her. She needed some time to herself to think and to process the events of the last few months.

After all, she was still grieving for her… for Jadzia.

All that was left was to pray to the Prophets that nothing would prevent Kira from catching her shuttle on time, and she’d booked the earliest flight possible in the hopes of increasing her chances. She’d gotten as far as the Promenade when she noticed a small figure hunched by a window on the upper level. The only people who should have been on the Promenade at this hour were Odo or his deputies, none of whom would be sat with their head in their hands emitting miserable noises.

Kira sighed; so much for a clean getaway.

Ezri was just about the last person she’d wanted to run into but it was definitely true that the Prophets moved in mysterious ways. The newest Dax was still having trouble settling in, no doubt about it. Which was hardly surprising given that everyone—including Ezri—still remembered her being Jadzia, not to mention the fact she had to deal with Jadzia’s overbearing widower. Throw in a case of space sickness that was truly unbecoming of a Starfleet officer and there was no wonder the young Lieutenant was miserable. And Kira had been keeping her distance, much to her shame, but she hadn’t known what else to do. She wasn’t Sisko; she hadn’t been through this whole joined Trill thing of maintaining a relationship from host to host before, and she had no idea what she was supposed to do. And the fact that Ezri looked like she could be Jadzia’s kid sister made the whole thing harder than it should have been.

There really was only one thing she could do at this point, and that was barrel head first into the problem. She tapped her comm badge. “Kira to Sisko,” she said quietly.

“Sisko here.” The reply was too quick and too clear for him to have been asleep. Seemed like Dax wasn’t the only one having trouble sleeping.

“Do you need Lieutenant Dax for anything in particular over the next four days?”

“Nothing that I can think of,” he said. “Why?”

“Because I’d like to take her down to Bajor with me. With your permission of course sir.”

An extremely put upon sigh came rattling down the line. “She’s still having trouble settling in is she?”

“It certainly looks that way. She’s curled up on the Promenade at 0500 looking sick to her stomach, I think she could use a few days off station in the fresh air.”

“Permission granted. Tell her… tell her whatever you want just make sure she goes with you. I need my counsellor to be at peak condition. I won’t make her take leave for this, if that helps. Good luck Colonel, I’ve a feeling you’ll need it.”

“Thank you sir. Kira out.”

She checked the chronometer; she still had plenty of time to deal with Dax and still make her shuttle. Hopefully.

Kira approached Ezri with all the caution she’d once used with a Cardassian patrol; she didn’t want to startle the poor Lieutenant. Mostly because startling people with space sickness usually leads to vomit everywhere. When Ezri failed to react to her presence Kira dropped her bag on the floor and sat down next to her.

“Still having trouble with the nausea?” Kira asked after giving Dax plenty of time to talk of her own accord.

“Whatever gave you that impression?” came the muffled reply.

“You’re looking, what is it I once heard the Chief say? ‘A little green around the gills.’”

Ezri gave a bitter little laugh. “You got that right. I thought I’d stop noticing the station rotating after a while but if anything it’s getting worse.”

“Why didn’t you go see Bashir for something to deal with the nausea?”

“I don’t want to go see Julian,” said Ezri miserably. “He’s still looking at me like I’m his second chance with Jadzia. And I didn’t want to bother anyone else; Worf is pretending I don’t exist, Miles gets terribly flustered and formal whenever I try to talk to him and I told Benjamin I had it under control.”

“You could have come to me,” Kira said softly, reaching out a hand to tentatively touch Ezri’s hand, before deciding better of it.

“I could have done, but I wasn’t sure… you’re a lot scarier than you used to be, taller too. And besides, you’ve been avoiding me. And that’s okay!” Ezri said hurriedly. “Not everyone can deal with the whole Trill thing. Most days I’m not sure I can deal with the Trill thing.”

Ezri sounded utterly miserable and Kira’s heart clenched. She wished that her own behaviour hadn’t contributed to Ezri’s woes, but that was something she couldn’t undo. Going forward she swore to herself she would do everything she could to help Ezri adjust to her new situation and her new home. Kira wasn’t a joined being; she had no pearls of wisdom to offer and she couldn’t really do much to help Ezri adjust to that. But she could be a good friend. Ezri seemed to need that right now.

It was time to be the bigger person, put aside her grief for the person she had lost and focus on the person in front of her.

“I’m sorry…” Kira said. She paused, not really knowing what she was apologising for.. “I’m just sorry. I shouldn’t have been so intimidating, so wrapped up in myself. I should have seen you were suffering and reached out.”

“I’m the one who’s three hundred and fifty years old, I should have made the first move.”

“You might have eight lifetimes of experience but you’re also still a Starfleet Officer fresh out of the academy. I should have remembered that.”

Ezri pulled a face that indicated neither acknowledgement nor dismissal of Kira’s statement. As the minutes stretched the silence became awkward until Dax broke the tension by saying: “Don’t you have a shuttle to catch?”

“Mmm,” Kira said. She’d gotten quite comfortable on the floor and was dangerously close to falling asleep. “I’ve got some time. Ops has told them that they’re not to leave without me. Besides, you’re going to be catching it with me.”

That elicited a puzzled frown. “Me? I don’t think so, I’m not scheduled to go off station for a couple of weeks yet. I’m on duty in like three hours any way.”

“Not any more you’re not. You’re coming hiking with me, Captain’s orders.”

Dax groaned. “You spoke to Benjamin? But I told him I was fine!”

“I think he’s known enough Daxes to know that you don’t always tell the truth. On your feet Lieutenant, you’re coming with me.”

“But I don’t have anything with me!” protested Dax, resisting being dragged along.

“We’ll sort you out planet side. And don’t even think about arguing with me. Sisko isn’t taking any leave off you for this, if that’s what’s worrying you.”

Ezri pulled the most adorable pout Kira had ever seen. “Benjamin can order me to go with you but he can’t make me enjoy myself.” She jutted her chin out defiantly. Kira struggled not to laugh at her as she bundled Dax bodily down the corridors.

Protest though she might, Ezri’s relief was palpable at being given a few days reprieve. She looked more relaxed as soon as they stepped onto the shuttle and by the time they got to Bajor she was actually enjoying herself. As they stepped out into the warm Dakhur sunshine she took a deep, restorative breath and Kira knew she’d made the right decision in dragging her along.

“Come on Lieutenant, let’s get you kitted out,” she said with a grin.

They spent the afternoon going around the shops in Jolanda City, picking up climbing and walking gear for Ezri. At first she complained a little, not understanding why should couldn’t simply have replicated the stuff instead of eating into Kira’s paycheck. Kira had to tell her several times that she didn’t mind before Ezri quietened down.

That evening Ezri insisted on buying Kira dinner to apologise for being an ass and to say thank you for all her lovely new things, and Kira allowed it. Over a candlelit supper in a rustic Bajoran restaurant, the two women were finally able to relax with one another. Full of good home-cooked food and a bottle of unreplicated wine the slight awkwardness that had followed them most of the afternoon slipped away, leaving only contentment and camaraderie and slight tingle of anticipation. Kira thought that it was almost like being with Jadzia again. Almost.

She was trying to to let herself think along those lines, because that would only lead to trouble and more. Still, it was hard; Ezri looked too much like her to ignore, and every now and again a flash of Jadzia came through. It made Kira’s heart hurt, but here, in this restaurant, full of food and wine, she found the pain was dulled somehow and she could take Ezri on her own terms.

“Are you okay?” Ezri asked, looking concerned. Kira realised that she’d been staring into space, completely lost in her thoughts.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Kira replied. “I think I’ve had enough springwine for on evening though,”

“Me too. I remember being able to sink mug after mug of bloodwine, but the thought of drinking like that makes me feel nauseous now.” She pushed her own half full glass away. “Maybe a walk to clear our heads?”

Kira nodded and left the table to pay for their meal. Exiting into the cool night air she feel somewhat refreshed and a little less drunk. She and Ezri strolled down the wide boulevards of Jolanda city, watching people and admiring the street stalls that were still open. They let their feet lead them where they would, just enjoying the night and each other’s company. Ezri’s arm brushed against Kira’s as they pushed through a crowd, and Kira jumped like she’d been electrocuted.

Definitely too much springwine, she thought as Ezri gave her a concerned look. Kira shook her head to put her friend’s mind at ease and continued trying to get through the throng of bodies. Once out the other side Ezri stopped to wait for Kira.

“Where are we staying tonight?” Ezri asked. “You sent our things ahead but I just realised I never asked what we were doing.”

“I’ve got us a room in a hotel not far away,” Kira said. “There’s only one problem though…”

Ezris quirked an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“I booked the room before I knew you were coming along.” She watched Ezri flush a little as she realised the implications of that. “I asked if they had any other rooms when I sent our things ahead, but everything was full. We’ll just have to share.”

“That’s okay,” said Ezri, pasting on an obviously forced smile. “We’ve both shared beds with people we barely know before, I’m sure we’ll cope.”

Kira nodded, glad it wasn’t going to be too much of a problem. It would be a little awkward, but they’d manage. When they got to the hotel, the concierge handed over the key to Kira’s room, casting a strange glance at the two women but saying nothing. Kira squared her shoulders and stuck her chin out, refusing to be embarrassed.

Once safely in the room they both kicked their shoes off and took in their surroundings. The room was small and basic, but with everything they needed; there was a separate bathroom with all the necessities, a holoscreen on the wall over the dresser and a small wardrobe in case of longer stays. The bed looked comfortable but comprised a single bunk pushed up against the wall. There was no sofa.

“I guess we really are gonna be sleeping in close quarters,” said Ezri, fiddling with the hem of her uniform shirt. “Unless you want me to sleep on the floor. Which I can do. I don’t mind.”

Kira shook her head. “I’m not going to do that to you. If you’re okay with bunking up together then I’m fine with it. Like you said, we’ve both done this before with complete strangers. It’ll be fine.”

They got ready for bed, taking it in turns to use the small en suite bathroom. There was a brief, awkward moment as they decided who was going to make the first move towards the bed. Despite their assurances to contrary, both of them were still feeling a little awkward. Kira solved the problem by climbing in first and gesturing to Ezri to join her.

They settled down, bodies pressed close together in the cramped space. Without saying a word they arranged themselves to that Ezri was the little spoon and Kira’s back was to the wall; Ezri knew from Jadzia’s memories that that was how she preferred to sleep since it meant no one could sneak up on her. After several long minutes of delicate shifting and muffled coughs, both women trying desperately to avoid disturbing each other, they managed to fall asleep.

When morning came, Kira found Ezri pressed up against her collarbone, drooling slightly on her shirt. Kira had managed to fling her arm across Ezri’s smaller form and her hand was resting dangerously close to her buttocks. There was a brief moment of awkwardness as they realised what it looked like, but then it passed and they just laughed.

“Sorry for drooling on your shirt,” said Ezri once she’d extracted herself from the bed.

“That’s okay,” Kira said, “Sorry about my wandering hands.”

They grinned at each other and any tension that had built up between them dissipated for good. Kira still felt a little odd around Ezri, seeing the ghost of Jadzia in her face and mannerisms, but after sharing a bed for the night she knew that her friendship with Ezri would be just fine. Ezri seemed to realise the same thing and soon enough they were laughing and joking over breakfast.

After a brief trip back up to the room to pack their things they were on their way. Kira could tell that Ezri was excited; Jadzia hadn’t spent much time on Bajor and this was Ezri’s first visit so it would all be new to her. Kira smiled.

“So, where are we headed?” Ezri asked.

Kira pointed to the highest peak off in the distance. “There,” she said. “If we make good time we should get there by tomorrow evening and have plenty of time to hike back before our transport leaves.”

“And if things don’t go to plan?”

“I have a portable transporter in my pack. We’ll be able to get back here in a hurry if we need to.” Kira paused. “You ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.”

In less than an hour they had left behind the urban bustle of Jolanda city and were making their way through the Dakhur wilderness. Kira picked her way through the brush, pointing out rocks and sink-holes and plants to avoid. She knew these woods and this wilderness like the back of her hand. All of her resistance cell did. That’s what had made them so effective.

The day passed quickly, and they fell into an enjoyable pattern; they would walk for a few hours, or until Ezri started breathing too hard and then they’d settle down for a rest. Despite being fresh out of the academy, she didn’t seem to be as fit as Kira. She thought she’d invite Ezri along to one of her workout sessions when the got back. Assuming Ezri got the nausea under control.

In their packs they had plenty of water, and some ration bars to keep them going They took an hour for a leisurely lunch, admiring the scenery. Kira enjoyed pointing out the various landmarks they could see at their current elevation. Ezri seemed to have an interest in learning more about Kira’s home province, and she took great delight in telling her.

The afternoon’s hike quickly turned to a climb, with them having to get the ropes out to scramble up several slopes. Kira would go up first, knocking in pitons and attaching biners as she went, letting Ezri climbed up after her. Kira was a little worried at first, knowing that Jadzia had been a little nervous about heights and given Ezri’s space sickness. Ezri was absolutely fine; they got through their climb without her complaining she felt sick. When they reached the top Ezri was flushed but wearing a grin that suggested she’d had as much fun as Kira had. They took a short water break to get their breath back and set out again. The ground evened out a little higher up in the hills and they were able to enjoy the brisk hike instead of the adrenaline inducing climb.

“Were you really going do this climb on your own?” Ezri asked during another break.

Kira nodded. “It’s not that hard when you know what you’re doing. And I've climbed much worse on my own during the occupation.” She went on to describe one incident when she was in the resistance that required her to climb a transmitter tower a few hundred feet tall, without any safety equipment. Ezri looked slightly alarmed but conceded that their climb wasn’t so bad compared to that.

They pressed on.

The afternoon passed in much the same manner as the morning and soon they were high in the mountains, watching B’hava’el slowly sink towards the horizon.It was cold at night this high up in the Dakhur mountains, even at this time of year. For a Trill like Ezri, whose body temperature hovered around the low end of average for humanoid, the setting of B’hava’el signalled the start of a chill she just couldn’t shake. Kira knew that it was time to bed down for the night and looked for somewhere suitable. Just over the crest of the next hill she found a small copse of trees which looked like a good place to set up camp. She quickly got a wind shelter up and settled Ezri in front of it with a foil blanket around her shoulders to conserve heat while she put the tent up. Less than five minutes later Ezri was sat next to the heat lamp in the middle if the tent, eating something hot. She looked a lot better already.

“Sorry about that,” said Kira, settling down with her own dinner. “I forgot just how damn cold it can get up in these hills. At least this time I’ve got Federation heat lamps and tents to keep me warm. Last time I was in this situation all I had was a threadbare blanket and my cell-mates to keep me warm.”

“It’s okay,” said Ezri, pulling the foil blanket from her shoulders. “I’m kind of used to this sort of thing. People often forget that Trill are a bit more sensitive to ambient temperature than most humanoids. And beside, I’d rather be freezing my butt off in these mountains with you than feeling space sick back on the station. It’s been nice spending some time with you.”

Kira could sense the quiet earnestness underlying Ezri’s tone, and she was touched. Ezri seemed more grounded in herself somehow, stronger and more confident. Kira didn’t think that a hike in the hills could do all that, but perhaps having someone believe in you and take take time out of their life to show they cared could. Whatever had done it, Kira knew she had made the right decision in pulling rank to get Ezri down here.

“Even if I did try to give you hypothermia?”

“Totally worth it,” Ezri said with a smile, and Kira could tell she meant it.

They fell into silence, sipping on their hot jumja tea as they watched the last rays of B’hava’el dip below the horizon. Soon after that, they settled into their sleeping bags, wanting to get the best nights’ sleep they could; Kira wanted to be up early the next day to make sure they could reach the summit before nightfall Despite the warm drink and the heat lamp in the tent, it quickly became evident that Ezri was still feeling the chill. She spent half an hour listening to Ezri’s teeth chattering, waiting for her to get up and turn the heat lamp up. When it became obvious Ezri wasn’t going to do that, Kira sighed loudly in annoyance.

“I didn’t mean to wake you up,” said Ezri. She sounded sheepish.

“I wasn’t asleep anyway,” Kira said. “You’re still cold.”

“A little,” Ezri admitted. “I’ll be fine.”

“No you won’t,” said Kira. “We need to get you warmed up. Come here.” She opened up her sleeping bag, inviting Ezri to join her.

Ezri paused, apparently unsure.

“Come on,” said Kira, annoyed at the hesitation. “We slept together last night. What’s the problem?”

“Nothing,” Ezri said, shifting over. Kira didn’t believe her but let the matter drop, With Ezri safely In her sleeping bag they shifted into similar positions as the previous night. Kira could feel Ezri’s limbs warming up and they soon fell asleep.

Kira woke up with her arms wrapped around Ezri and their bellies pressed up against each other. Ezri was looking up at her with what looked like hunger in her eyes. The embarrassment was gone, but a small frisson of tension remained between then; just enough to be exciting. That look belonged to another face, in another lifetime, but Kira couldn’t deny that it was exciting to see it again. That look did things to her insides that she hadn’t felt in a long time and she found herself needing to know how Ezri’s lips would feel against hers.

She kissed her. Ezri moaned a little, before taking a deep breath and pulling back.

“We shouldn’t,” she said, closing her eyes. Kira wanted to kiss her eyelids. “There are rules…” she trailed off as she moved to kiss Kira again.

Kira responded in earnest. “You’re right,” she said, putting a little space between them. “We probably shouldn’t.”

“The symbiosis commission,” Ezri pointed out, kissing a trail down Kira’s neck, .

“I know,” Kira said, drawing a deep breath for a heartfelt sigh. “No reassociation, the highest law of Trill society.” Kira moved down slightly to give the spots on Ezri’s neck some attention. Ezri moaned and Kira smiled; she knew full well how sensitive Trill spots could be, and she was using it to her full advantage.

“Well… that rule is only really to stop us joined Trill forming an elite in society. It doesn’t technically apply to non-Trill.” Her voice was hoarse and her breaths were coming in short pants. Knowing that she was responsible sent a thrill down Kira’s spine.

“You don’t say?” said Kira, her hand drifting up under Ezri’s shirt. “Well in that case…” She moved her mouth back to Ezri’s and kissed her in earnest.

They were quiet for a long time, lost to their kissing. Reacquainting themselves and getting used to how the sensations felt with a new set of lips, a new body. As they kissed they shifted in the sleeping bag, Ezri’s shirt working its way upwards. Kira pushed the sleeping bag down and straddled Ezri’s hips to take full advantage of the skin she now had access to. She pressed a line of kisses along the spots on her stomach, moving her shirt upwards as she went. She paused just above Ezri’s nipple, waiting for explicit permission before taking it into her mouth. “Are you sure about this?” Kira asked, her brow creasing.

“Are you sure?” Ezri said in response. “I’m not… I’m not Jadzia and–”

Kira pressed a finger to Ezri’s lips. “I know,” she said, her voice softening. “Jadzia’s gone, and I miss her. But this isn’t about you standing in for an old lover. I want to do this with you, with Ezri.”

Ezri seemed reassured by Kira’s words. “I want to do this with you too. Not because Jadzia wants to, because Ezri wants to. She pulled Kira’s mouth back down to hers and that was the last bit of talking either of them did for a while. Later, when they were finally getting dressed,they realised just how much time they’d spent distracted by one another.

“Oh no,” she Ezri, looking alarmed and a little guilty. “I don’t think we’re going to make it to the summit on time.”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Kira, kissing Ezri on the cheek. “Sometimes its the journey that matters more than the destination.”

Ezri smiled. “I guess so.”

“Come on then, lets see how far we can get before we have to turn back.”

They hadn’t made it to the summit by mid afternoon, but they did manage to make it to a nice rise on the mountain. From there they could look down at Jolanda and see most of Dakhur province. Kira seemed happy with their progress and that assuaged some of Ezri’s guilt. Kira suggested that they try to camp in the same spot as the previous night, and Ezri agreed; it seemed sensible to head for somewhere they knew was a good camp site. The rest of afternoon was spent in a leisurely walk back down the mountainside, Kira and Ezri enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, and of course each other’s company.

That night Ezri crawled into Kira’s sleeping bag without having to be prompted, much to Kira’s delight. They shared gentle kisses until they fell asleep and woke up in each other’s arms. The morning saw something of a repeat of the previous day, and they spent most of the morning naked and laughing together in their tent and they had to use Kira’s transporter to get back to Jolanda in time for their shuttle.

As they were waiting at the shuttle port, Ezri grew withdrawn and sad.

“Hey, you okay?” Kira asked, nudging Ezri gently. “You worried about the space sickness because we can get you something for that?.”

Ezri shook her head. “It’s not that it’s… What about us?” she finished.

Kira frowned. “What’s the problem?”

“How is it going to be for us when we get back to the station and you have to be my superior officer again? Are we going to keep this up or was it just the kind of thing that happens while your away and you don’t talk about when you get back? Because I’m not sure I like that–”

Kira shut her up with a kiss. “Does that help answer your question?” she asked when they parted Ezri nodded meekly. “I don’t know exactly how this is going to go when we’re back on the station, but I’m willing to work it out. This wasn’t just a fling for a few days, at least not for me. Was it for you?”

“No, no it wasn’t,” said Ezri, her voice sounding small and far away. She gestured between them. “This feels like the first thing I’ve done for Ezri since I was joined. I don’t want to lose that feeling.”

“Then we won’t. It won’t be easy, but we’ll work something out. Together.”

Ezri smiled so widely it was a wonder her jaw didn’t fall off. “That sounds nice.” She moved in for another kiss but was interrupted by the announcement that their shuttle was boarding. “I guess we should get going or we’ll be late,” Ezri said.

“We should,” said Kira taking Ezri’s hand and giving her the kiss they’d been robbed of earlier. “Let’s go.”

They boarded the shuttle and settled into a corner together, cuddling. Ezri snuggled into Kira’s arms, and was soon drifting off to sleep. Kira was glad of that; it meant that she was much more relaxed that on the outward journey. There was still a lot of things for them to work out; how to maintain a professional relationship as well as a romantic one, and their shared history through Jadzia. They’d have to deal with Worf at some point as well, but they’d work it out Kira was sure of it. Somehow she felt like they had a much better chance of success than she and Jadzia had ever gotten.

Her parting with the previous Dax had been mutual and amicable—Jadzia had been accepting when the Prophets had pointed her to Bariel, even if she hadn’t fully understood. It felt somehow different with Ezri, like a clean start for both of them.

Kira smiled as Ezri’s breathing evened out. She’d wake her with a kiss later, as they approached the station. Integrating their new status as lovers with their existing role as colleagues would be interesting, and she was sure the rest of the senior staff would have plenty of opinions on the matter, but it would be worth it. Kira watched Ezri sleep on her shoulder with a tenderness she hadn’t felt in a long time. She was glad this had happened, and glad it had happened with Ezri. She made the right decision in bringing her on her vacation—the right decision for both of them. In the end it had turned out to be a very good vacation indeed.