Characters and places belong to The Powers That Be at Paramount. I'm just borrowing them for a while. The story, however, is all mine. The characters of Daria, Kai Arin, Madison, Admiral Milly Fleming, Lora Riata, Arel, Yaroc and Alysia belong to me also.
Thanks to Liz, Jaz and Emily for their help in editing this story!
She rolled over in the dark, her arm sprawling against
her husband's chest. He snorted. She giggled.
"What?" he asked in an annoyed tone.
She propped herself up on an elbow, her dark eyes smiling down into his lighter ones.
"You know, it's really good to be back together again, isn't it?" she asked.
"I won't argue with you," he replied. He reached up and touched her cheek gently with his fingers. "I missed you."
"Well," she sighed as she rolled onto her back. "I don't think we should try the separation thing again. I know how you feel about us being on the station, but I feel safer when we're together."
"I feel the same," he admitted.
The couple lay in silence, their fingers intertwined.
"I was thinking," she said. "I was thinking we should go on a picnic. Just spend some time with the kids before the baby comes."
"You woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me that?"
"I didn't want to forget," Keiko O'Brien said. "I had to tell you while it was still fresh in my mind."
"You couldn't remember a picnic until tomorrow?" her husband asked.
"Well?" she asked. "What do you think?"
"I'm not sure..."
Keiko grinned and kissed him on the lips.
"What about now?" she asked.
"Maybe. Try again."
"How about this?"
"You're getting warm, Mrs. O'Brien."
"So am I forgiven for waking you up?"
Miles O'Brien considered, "I might need a little more convincing."
"Oh, I think that can be arranged."
Jadzia Dax shifted in her bed, her body pressed firmly up against her husband's. She loved feeling him next to her in the bed. He wrapped his arm around her. For a moment, she lay in comfortable silence but then propped herself up on her elbows.
"Are you awake?" she whispered.
"Worf," she leaned down and kissed him on the nose. "Worf, I can't sleep."
The Klingon opened one eye and gazed at his wife. She grinned down at him.
"What do you want?" he asked.
She rolled on top of him, kissing his neck, her hand running through his hair. His arms snaked around her slim body, pulling her close to him.
"Isn't it obvious?" she whispered. They kissed for a few minutes and then...
Jadzia groaned as she turned towards the sound of that little voice.
"Daru?" Jadzia sighed. "Daru, it's late, sweetie."
"I had a bad dream," the little girl said. Jadzia sat up in bed and held her arms out. The little girl climbed into her arms.
"Better?" Jadzia asked softly.
"Much better. The monsters won't come here," Daria said confidently. Jadzia met her husband's eye over the top of the little girl's head.
"No, they won't," Worf assured his daughter. "No monsters will hurt you here."
"Good," Daria whispered and promptly fell asleep. Jadzia smiled over at Worf. He shrugged his shoulders at her and then turned his back to her.
Jadzia snuggled against, Daria, wrapping her arms around the child. She loved these moments with her firstborn, feeling that soft little body in her arms. There were still moments when she could not believe she had given birth to this child.
Her sleep was disturbed though by the baby's crying in the next room. Jadzia sat up and looked over at Worf; he was sleeping soundly. She sighed and reached for her robe.
"How is Keiko feeling?" Kira asked solicitously as the Chief entered Ops. O'Brien nodded at the Captain who was going over some reports with Odo.
"Feeling better," O'Brien grinned. "I think we're going on a picnic this week."
"Sounds like fun," Kira said. "Where, Bajor?"
"Yes," O'Brien said. "I was thinking of Golanda Heights."
"Oh, that's nice. Molly and Yoshi would love that," Kira said. She frowned at her console for a moment. "Captain, if you have a minute..."
Sisko finished talking to Odo and joined Kira.
"What is it, Colonel?" he asked.
"A special communiqué from Starfleet," Kira answered. "It's marked urgent priority."
"I'll take it in my office."
Kira shook her head as Sisko headed off to his office. She transferred the message over to him and then looked at O'Brien.
"It's probably more bad news," Kira said. "Starfleet has gotten to be quite good at conveying bad news lately."
"I can't disagree with you," O'Brien nodded. "Unfortunately. And it doesn't help that the Cardassians have decided to join the party. I can only imagine the blood pressure levels at Starfleet Headquarters."
"The new Cardassian threat is potent," Odo said flatly. The others looked at Odo, knowing that the information that the changeling was sharing was not new. Yet, they said nothing. Somehow, hearing Odo say the words made the threat feel all too real - a reminder that they could not afford to be complacent.
"Their renewed strength poses a threat, especially to Bajor," Odo continued.
"Don't remind me," Kira sighed. "Oh, Odo, have you made the security arrangements for the Kai's visit?"
Odo nodded, "All is ready for Kai Arin's visit. I have ordered that security be doubled while he is here."
"When is he coming?" O'Brien asked.
"Oh, either Thursday or Friday, depending on when the Vedek Assembly lets out. He is holding a special service
for the Feast of Repentance," Kira said. "The service will be held on Saturday."
"The Feast of Repentance?" O'Brien wrinkled his brow. "What is that?"
"It's a sacred Bajoran holiday celebrated only when the Casieal Comet passes by. The last feast was seventy-five years ago and the next one isn't planned for another seventy-five years," Kira explained. "We basically atone for our past allegiance to the Pagh'Wraiths."
"But that was centuries ago," O'Brien said.
"Yes, we must satisfy the Prophets even so, to convince them that our devotion has not faltered in all this time," Kira said. "This is a very special event, Chief, and the Kai has graciously agreed to come to the station to conduct the services."
The comlink beeped one more time and Kira turned her attention to the incoming message. Yet another
communiqué from Starfleet marked "urgent priority." She sighed.
"Kira to Sisko."
There was a pause and then Sisko's voice, heavy with tension, came over the link.
"What is it, Colonel?"
"You have another urgent priority message from Starfleet, sir."
"Will you forward it?"
"Of course, sir. Kira out."
O'Brien took a deep breath, "That can't be good. Two messages from Starfleet in less than ten minutes?"
Odo nodded grimly, "You're right. There is no good news from Starfleet these days."
At that moment, Worf entered Ops. The Klingon took one look at his comrades faces' and asked, "What happened?"
"Nothing yet," Kira said. She tossed a glance in the direction of Sisko's office. "But it's the anticipation of bad news that's driving us to distraction."
"Ah," Worf said. Odo handed him some PADDs.
"I thought you might want to look at these sensor readings, Commander," Odo said. "I detected some unusual readings earlier. Ionic phase particles, to be exact."
Worf frowned, "Ionic phase particles?"
Kira shook her head, "From what?"
"I was hoping you could tell me," Odo said, turning to face the Chief who nodded his head.
"Ionic phase particles are most commonly used in transport," O'Brien answered. "A rather dangerous form of transporting that was outlawed by Starfleet years ago. It causes slow deterioration in the body's molecular structure and eventually, death. And also, it has a high cause of malfunction. I've read of some terrible cases where people were put together incorrectly after transporting and they all died horrible deaths."
Kira shivered, "So why are you finding traces of this on our station?"
Odo pressed his lips together, "I do not understand. I was hoping that Worf could spare some time to investigate with me."
"Of course," Worf said.
"Why would anyone use this type of transport?" Kira asked.
"It's virtually undetectable," O'Brien replied. "You can pick up the embarkation point if you reach that spot within a minute of transport. After a minute, there is no sign that a transport ever took place. And even if you did get to the start point, you will not be able to trace the actual destination. It's quite clever, really. I've known of some terrorists who have used it. Quite effectively, as a matter of fact. There was a case on the Enterprise, where there were some terrorists who were using this transport. Our doctor reported that it was killing them. Each jump furthered the cellular decay."
"Then you are saying..." Kira began slowly.
"That there may be some terrorists on board," Odo finished. "Yes, that is exactly what I think, Colonel. The Captain and I have discussed the possibility and he has decided that it is necessary to pursue an investigation."
At that moment, Sisko opened the doors to his office.
"I need to see you all in here," he said. "Commander, where is Dax?"
Worf sighed, "With the children. She will be here shortly."
"I need her here now."
Worf tapped his communicator, "Worf to Dax."
There was short pause and then a harried voice, "Dax here."
"The Captain would like to see us immediately."
"I'm on my way. I need ten minutes."
Sisko sighed "That's fine, Commander. We will wait."
"Rough morning?" O'Brien asked sympathetically.
"Yes," Worf nodded. "The baby was crying all night and Dr. Bashir says she has a bad case of colic. Daria had a
bad dream and would not let Jadzia sleep. Consequently, Jadzia is exhausted this morning and the children are acting especially troublesome."
"I know that feeling," O'Brien laughed. "This morning, Molly and Yoshi were quibbling over some toy. Keiko finally took the toy away and suspended their holosuite privileges for the next two days. That got their attention."
"I have faced many warriors," Worf said. "But none have been as fearsome as my daughter in a temper tantrum."
Sisko watched his people with a sphinx-like smile. Despite the threat of war, he liked these easy moments, where it seemed that a normal life was indeed possible. And listening to O'Brien and Worf talk, he knew that his crew would appreciate the news he had to give them.
Dax entered the room, looking slightly flushed in the face, her usually neat appearance slightly rumpled also. She smiled apologetically. Sisko nodded, making no comment on her harried countenance.
"Sit, please, all of you," Sisko commanded. "I have some good news for you."
"Good news?" Kira's brown eyes grew very wide. "From Starfleet?"
"From Starfleet," Sisko confirmed. "The Cardassians have agreed to a cease-fire."
"A cease-fire?" O'Brien asked.
"Yes," Sisko nodded. "The Federation has drawn up a treaty and they would like me to present it to the Cardassians. It looks good to me, though it appears that Bajor will have to make a concession to the Cardassians."
"What would that be?" Kira asked sharply.
"The Derenda Cluster," Sisko said. "The Cardassians want it."
Kira relaxed visibly, "All right, but why? It's a frozen wasteland."
"Yes, but it's the fifth proviso of the treaty and it's one that the Cardassians insist on, for reasons unknown to us. I'm sure Starfleet has investigated any reason the Cardassians might have for wanting that particular piece of real estate."
"I cannot think of any reason why the Cardassians would want it," Kira said. Her brow furrowed as she tried to think of any possibilities, scenarios she might be missing. She shook her head. Nothing.
"The Cardassians will be represented by Gul Marow," Sisko went on. "He is a keen negotiator, a dedicated statesman, but he is known for fairness and more importantly, he does want peace."
"Never heard of a Cardie who wanted peace," O'Brien said bitterly. Sisko eyed the Irishman speculatively, reflecting that O'Brien's encounters with the Cardassians had always been less than pleasant, bordering more on the side of traumatic. Worf also seemed to be unsure of this treaty but Sisko decided he would deal with the Klingon's misgivings later.
"You have now," Sisko said firmly. "And it's up to us to make sure nothing goes wrong. Is that clear?"
"Crystal," Dax said, a note of humor slipping into her weary voice.
"We leave today," Sisko said. "Commander Worf, you will accompany me. Also, Odo and O'Brien, I will need you also. Colonel, you have the station."
"When will we return?" Worf asked.
"I believe it will take three days," Sisko answered. "We will meet the Cardassians at Outpost 45 and hand the preliminary treaty over then. If everyone agrees, the Federation has indicated we should sign it on the spot. Otherwise, we must negotiate."
"Negotiate?" there was a sharp edge to Dax's voice. "That could take weeks. The Cardassians are never happy with anything."
Sisko regarded his old friend with a serene glance, "That is correct, Old Man. This time though, they seem receptive to our treaty. But yes, it may take some time."
Worf and Dax exchanged a look, but did not say anything.
"Anything else?" Sisko asked.
The crew looked at each other but said nothing in response to Sisko's question.
"Dismissed," Sisko said.
As they filed out, Kira made her way to Odo's side. They exchanged an affectionate glance.
"Are you happy, Nerys?" he asked softly. "Isn't this what you've wanted?"
"Peace with the Cardassians?" she asked. "Yes, I think so. If I could trust them, then yes, this is what I've wanted more than anything else."
"The Captain seems to have a good feeling about this. I haven't seen him this happy in a long time," Odo remarked.
Kira rounded the corner and paused, leaning against the smooth, metallic wall. The Colonel took a quick furtive look around.
"I wish you all the luck then," she whispered as she leaned forward to kiss him.
They stood in the middle of their quarters, neither of them willing to speak first. Finally, Dax said softly, "I'll take the holocam, Worf. I'll record the whole thing, I promise."
The Klingon scowled angrily as he paced the length of the room, his anger evident in his clenched fist.
"Look, Worf," Jadzia began, but her husband held up a hand.
"It is not the same, Jadzia. I have taught Daria that poem and I fully intended to be there when she recited it. It was an event I was looking forward to."
"There will be other cultural events," Jadzia said gently, but the lump in her throat was growing too. She did not know how to explain to her daughter that her father would be absent from what was to be an important moment in her short life and all because of those blasted Cardassians.
Of course Worf and Jadzia would never say such things to Sisko; both were too proud to reveal the pressure they felt and the stress that their dual careers and parenthood was placing on their marriage.
"You will record every minute?" Worf asked.
"Yes, of course."
Worf returned to his closet and began removing his clothes to pack into a small overnight case. He packed methodically, as opposed to Jadzia's often haphazard manner of throwing clothes into a bag. Jadzia sat on the bed and watched him.
"You know," she ventured slowly. "We haven't spent any time together lately."
Worf nodded, but did not look at her.
"I mean, Worf, I hardly see you anymore. We do need to make some decisions here," Jadzia said. "Because, this is starting to get a little crazy."
Worf looked at her, his face growing gentle. He reached over and touched her cheek gently, his finger tracing the outline of her jaw. She took his face in her hands and kissed him.
"We will talk when I return," he promised as he broke away from their embrace. "I promise."
Keiko O'Brien handed her husband a pair of socks and then retreated to her chair, her hand absently stroking her bulging abdomen.
She never spoke her fears about her husband leaving the relative safety of the station; somehow she never feared the Dominion or the Cardassians when they were together. However, she did not like the fact that Miles was heading off to meet the Cardassians now, but she would never say so. He was a Starfleet officer and had an obligation and a duty to Starfleet and the Federation and she would never ask him to ignore that duty.
But still, the very thought of Cardassians sent a shiver down her spine. No matter how much she tried, Keiko could not believe that the Cardassians, after all this time, truly wanted peace.
"You are quiet," Miles commented.
"I was just thinking," Keiko said. "I hope these negotiations are successful."
"You and the rest of the Alpha Quadrant."
"Will it be very dangerous?" Keiko asked softly.
"Dangerous?" Miles asked, looking at his wife in surprise. "No, I don't think so."
"You know I will worry until you come back."
Miles dropped the clothes he was putting into the suitcase and came over to his wife. He knelt before her, placing his hands on her thighs.
"I will come home to you, I promise," he said.
"You better, because I'm not having this kid alone."
Miles grinned and Keiko ruffled his hair.
"I was talking to Worf earlier today," Miles said. "He and Jadzia are finding their children to be a handful. Makes me wonder why we're doing this again."
"You know it will be worth it."
"I'm just grateful we have another chance to be parents," Miles answered. He and Keiko looked at each other, understanding the unspoken words. While they were both enormously grateful to Kira for carrying Yoshi for them, there had been something missing. Now, with this third child, they felt that same closeness they had felt with Molly.
And Keiko was also grateful for reasons she would never reveal; she had felt a slight tinge of jealousy when Kira was pregnant with Yoshi. She had sometimes sensed that there was a bond between her husband and the station's first officer and there were times when that connection had made her nervous. Of course, Miles had never given her reason to worry, but she had hated herself for those moments of insecurity.
"Don't forget about the picnic," Keiko said. "I've promised the kids and they are counting on it. They've been cooped up on the station for so long, they are really looking forward to this outing."
Miles got to his feet, "I won't forget. Hopefully we will be back soon."
"I'm going to hold you to that promise, Miles Edward O'Brien."
Miles tossed back a cocky grin at his wife, "As soon as I give my best to the Cardassians, I will be back at your side."
"Good," Keiko said as a feeling of uneasiness began to form in her throat. It's nothing, she thought. Everything is going to be fine. I know it will be. Nothing's going to happen to Miles.
The Starfleet delegation had been gone for three days and the station felt unusually quiet. Julian Bashir found his way into Ops in search of some conversation.
"It's no fun fighting the Battle of the Alamo without Miles," Bashir said as he took a seat opposite Dax. "And the Infirmary is unusually quiet. I keep wondering if this is the calm before the storm - though I know I shouldn't have thoughts like that, I can't help it."
Dax offered back a weak grin.
"As you once said, eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow we die," she said softly.
"Please, Commander," Bashir shook his head. "When did you turn so gloomy?"
"I'm not gloomy," Dax objected. "Just realistic."
"I'm not having this argument with you. There's Kira," Dax said as she saw Kira emerge from Sisko's office.
Kira walked over to Dax and Bashir. She was smiling.
"I've heard from Sisko," Kira said. "The Cardassians have agreed to sign the treaty."
"Excellent," Bashir said. "That really is excellent news."
"Any word of when they will be back?" Dax asked.
"At the end of the week," Kira answered.
"Good," Dax answered. Her smile was replaced by a frown as she noted some unusual readings on her console.
"Kira, the scanners just picked up some ionic phase particles on the Promenade."
"Kira to Security," Kira said, her jaw tightening. "Meet me on the Promenade. Immediately! Commander, you have Ops."
Kira headed directly to the turbolift, remembering O'Brien's words about the ionic phase particles being traceable for only about a minute after transport. She only hoped that Dax's warning had not come too late.
She headed onto the Promenade, nearly colliding with Quark.
"Get out of my way," she told the Ferengi as she pushed him aside. Others on the Promenade cleared the way as Kira barreled down, meeting Security on the opposite side. She pulled out her tricorder. There was no sign of the particles.
In frustration, Kira slammed her fist against her palm.
"Nothing here," she announced to the Security force and to those staring at her in curiosity. "Not this time."
Dax found Kira in the replimat, nursing what remained of an Andorian Sunrise.
"Pretty strong drink for the afternoon," Dax commented as she slid into the seat opposite her friend.
"Yeah, well," Kira sighed.
"Still upset about that transport?"
Kira nodded, "I don't understand how people can be transporting in and out of the station without us knowing about it. With all of our security protocols, it doesn't seem possible. And surely, someone would have noticed any sign of transporter activity."
"Not necessarily," Dax said as Quark placed a raktijino in front of her.
"Jadzia," Kira said in a tone of exaggerated patience.
"No one would notice if small things were beamed out," Dax reached over and pulled Kira's PADD across the table. "Look, if I was walking on the Promenade, no one would notice if this PADD was suddenly missing from my
"You're saying that maybe it's objects that are transported in and out?"
Dax nodded, "You would notice a person who was appearing and disappearing, no matter how carefully the transport was conducted. But something like this would not be noticed."
Kira nodded grimly, her lips pressing into a thin line.
"That didn't occur to me," the Bajoran admitted.
"But I guess your next question would be, what are they beaming out?"
"You took the words right out of my mouth."
"Am I interrupting something?" Keiko O'Brien asked.
"No, no," Dax said. "Have a seat. We were just talking about some unusual transporter activity our sensors were picking up."
Keiko made a face as she carefully lowered herself into the chair.
"Miles mentioned something about that before he left," Keiko said.
"You know, you could order physicals on everyone the station," Dax suggested to Kira. "I think the Chief mentioned something about those transporters hastening the rate of cellular decay in individuals who use this method of transport. I'm sure Julian could detect it if someone was actually using these transporters."
Kira nodded, "That's a good idea. I will talk to Julian about it."
Dax turned to Keiko, "How are you feeling?"
Keiko grinned, "Okay. I'll be better in four months."
"Decided on names yet?" Kira asked.
"No," Keiko shook her head. "If it's a boy, I think Miles is leaning towards Edward. If it's a girl, I want Atsuko. But like I said, we haven't really decided."
"The name is the easiest part of having a baby," Dax said. "You know, I've been a parent many times before, but I don't recall it being this difficult before."
"It's because Worf is never here," Kira said gently. "That makes it difficult on you."
Dax sighed, "I don't want to blame him, I really don't. I know he doesn't want to be away either but more and more it happens that he is away. Then he is upset with me or with the children when he comes home because of something we did or didn't do."
"Separation is tough," Keiko said sympathetically. "The times Miles and I were apart were very hard for us. It's a balancing act, Jadzia, and you will learn to adapt. It's just going to take time."
"Time is exactly what we don't have," Dax sighed. "If things don't change soon, I'm going to lose my mind."
The Defiant had returned and a jubilant Sisko led the crew off the ship. Kira and Dax stood in the airlock, waiting to welcome their comrades back.
"Congratulations, sir," Kira said as Sisko arrived.
"Thank you, Colonel," Sisko said.
"A job well-done," Dax added, her eyes searching for Worf.
"How did you get the Cardassians to finally agree to the treaty?" Kira asked, falling into step next to Sisko. Dax followed them with Chief O'Brien following closely behind her.
"We agreed to provide them with some much-needed technology courtesy of the Chief here," Sisko threw a smile back at his chief of operations. Miles O'Brien offered back a grin.
"Anything that could be used against Bajor?" Kira asked in worry.
"Nothing that important," the Chief put in. "Just some improved circuitry that will make their replicators operate more efficiently."
"It seems to me, Benjamin, that the Cardassians got a lot out of this treaty," Dax commented. "The Derenda Cluster and technology? Not a bad deal. What's in it for Bajor?"
"Cardassia has agreed to terraform some of the more promising continents on Derenda and allow for a Bajoran prison colony there," Sisko said. "A prison colony run by Bajorans, of course. The rest of the cluster would belong to the Cardassians to do with as they please. Frankly, from what I heard from Gul Marow, I don't think the Cardassians are going to do anything at all with the cluster. I think they just wanted it to be a buffer zone between them and Bajor."
"I think I understand that," Dax nodded.
The foursome entered the turbolift.
"Any problems while I was gone, Colonel?" Sisko queried.
"Yes, sir," Kira took a deep sigh. "We've had another incident of illegal transporting."
"Same circumstances as before?"
"Commander Dax seems to think that maybe our culprits are transporting objects rather than people. It would explain why no one ever sees anything when these transports take place. I've ordered Julian to conduct tests on the station's population to detect whether any cellular decay has begun."
"That could take some time, Colonel."
"I'm aware of that, sir, but it gives us a starting point."
The turbolift lurched to a stop in Ops. The group disembarked.
"Keep me posted," Sisko told Kira. "And Colonel, go ahead and make the formal announcement about the peace treaty."
"Aye sir," Kira nodded. "With pleasure."
"I thought so," Sisko answered. "And Commander?"
"Yes, sir?" Dax looked up, her eyes meeting Sisko's for the first time since the captain's return to the station.
"You have been actively scanning for these...?" Sisko seemed to lose concentration for a moment.
"Ionic phase particles?" Dax put in helpfully.
"If you detect them again, let me know immediately. We will beam a security team to the location at once."
Sisko sighed, "Can I see you in my office?"
Sisko led the way. Once the doors were closed behind them, Sisko sat at his desk; Dax took the chair opposite him.
"Look," Sisko said, pressing his fingers together. "I know you are under a lot of stress lately."
"It's nothing I can't handle, Benjamin."
"I know," Sisko reached for his baseball. "But I wanted you to know that I've noticed. And that if you feel the need to take some leave, just let me know and I can arrange it."
"That's very kind of you to offer."
"I'm serious, Jadzia."
Her clear eyes met his liquid brown ones.
"I know you are, Benjamin, but I'm fine. Things are difficult right now, but it's nothing I can't work through."
"Good," Benjamin Sisko offered her a smile. "But you will tell me differently, if the need arises?"
"Yes, of course."
"Good," Sisko said. "And keep me posted on the transporter problem."
"I will. And Benjamin?"
"Yes, Old Man?"
"Thank you. Thank you for the offer."
Go to Part II
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