This story is a sequel to "The Hands of the Prophets." Characters and places belong to Paramount. I promise to put them back nicely when I'm done playing.
Thanks to Liz for proofreading this one.
The light was gone.
She stroked the cool globe, trying desperately to feel a connection. But nothing came to her, no vision, no touch.
She shut the cabinet which housed the Orb and tried not to think of the dull, lifeless object which had once glowed so brightly from strength of the Prophets.
"I thought I would find you here," said a voice from behind her.
Kira turned, "Odo."
The shapeshifter took a step towards her, "Anything?"
"No," she shook her head. "Nothing. I keep hoping that the Prophets will come back."
"They will," Odo said. "It's just a matter of time."
"Yes, but how long?" Kira asked anxiously. "It's been a month, Odo, and still there is no sign of them returning."
Odo merely shrugged his fluid shoulders; he had no answers for her and he certainly would not claim to be an authority on a question of religion.
Kira took a breath, one so deep that it hurt. She pressed her fingers to her temple, as if attempting to ward off the headache which she knew would soon come. The same headaches which had plagued her since the disappearance of the Prophets. She noticed Odo's concerned eyes on her and she felt ashamed for making him worry and for her dismal mood.
"You're right. Of course they will be back," Kira said half-heartedly.
And without another word, Kira walked out of the temple.
The Promenade seemed different somehow to Kira Nerys. It was as if without the light of the Prophets shining on Bajor, the whole world seemed to be slightly skewed. It was a perspective that Kira did not particularly enjoy.
She leaned over the railing and watched the people below. Walking, talking, eating, laughing.
It all seemed so normal.
She turned back to look out the window, in the direction of the wormhole, which had closed on that terrible day when Dukat had extinguished the flame of the Prophets.
She kept hoping, hope against hope, that the Prophets would return, that the Prophets would emerge victorious over the Pagh'Wraiths.
But each passing day and yet the Orb in the Temple remained gray and cold to the touch.
Thirty days. Thirty days since Dukat had beamed into the Temple and attacked Jadzia. Thirty days since the Emissary had last heard the voice of the Prophets.
There had been a glimmer of hope; Jadzia had mentioned hearing and seeing the Prophets on Bajor just two weeks before, but evidence showed more strongly that Jadzia's vision had been a hallucination, an after-effect of her terrible ordeal at Dukat's hands. No, Kira knew. The Prophets were truly gone.
Kira touched the window with her fingertips, drawing an imaginary line between the distant stars.
She wondered how much longer this could go on.
Kira Nerys had not felt this alone in years. Throughout her life, she had always had her faith in the Prophets to sustain her. In the darkest days of her life - when her father died, when it seemed as if the Cardassians would forever occupy Bajor - Kira could always seek comfort with the Prophets.
The hollow in her heart hurt more than she could have ever imagined. It seemed unbearable to have such void in her life.
Unexpectedly, she felt tears creep into her eyes.
"How will I go on without you?" she whispered to the stars.
The quiet dismayed her. As she walked by the Temple before the usual evening services, she saw that few people had actually gone in to listen to the Vedek's sermon.
Out of habit, Kira walked in, but somehow the Vedek's words sounded hollow and weak. Without the Prophets, all meaning had escaped from the ancient ceremonies.
After the service, Kira went in search of solace and she ended up in Quark's.
Quark's was as usual - warm, friendly and full of laughter and the occasional shout of "Dabo!" Even Quark was unreasonably solicitous to her and she wished he would stop being so nice. Somehow, she lacked the interest to send off an insult in the bartender's direction.
"A game of darts, Major?" the doctor appeared at her shoulder.
"Not today, Julian, thanks for asking though," Kira answered.
"Please, Major?" O'Brien stood on Kira's other side. "It's no fair to play against someone who has genetically engineered reflexes."
"Not this again!" Bashir sighed heavily. "Really, Miles, if it bothers you that much, why do you even agree to play?"
"Because no one else will and I'm lonely," O'Brien retorted. "Believe me, if Keiko was home..."
"I know, I know," Bashir held up a hand. "I've said it before, Chief. I realize I'm a poor substitute for your wife. I accept that but..."
The two men drifted away and Kira was grateful. She was not in the mood for gentle banter and even the drink she ordered was tasteless and dull in her mouth.
She got up and walked out of the bar.
The days passed slowly. Kira would walk by the Temple and she would see the Vedek tending the Orb as lovingly as he had when the Prophets had still shone through.
She wondered dimly what was the point; the Prophets were gone and it didn't seem to be of any use to keep maintaining the Orb or even the Temple.
Kira could not bring herself to go to the services. And she noticed with each passing day, less and less people attended also.
It pained her to see the loss of religion among her people but at the same time, she could understand the utter feeling of despair. Didn't that same pain echo inside of her?
In some ways, the loss of the Prophets seemed to her more tragic and numbing than the loss of her parents.
I got through that, Kira thought. I will get through this also.
She found herself in front of Dax and Worf's quarters. She didn't know how she got there but somehow she felt the need to spend time with friends.
The doors slid open and she walked in.
She found Jadzia sitting on the couch, dressed in her nightgown, feet tucked beneath her, absorbed in a novel. Worf, also ready for bed, was sitting at the table, going over some PADDs.
"Nerys!" there was genuine warmth in Jadzia's tone as she got up to embrace her friend.
"I'm not bothering you, am I?" Kira asked hesitantly. Her friendship with Jadzia had remained unchanged since Dax's marriage to Worf, but the Bajoran was always aware that now Dax had other obligations and Nerys was unwilling to tread on those responsibilities.
"Oh no, not at all," Jadzia replied. "On the contrary, I'm glad you stopped by."
Kira took a seat, sitting at the edge of the sofa.
"How do you feel?" Nerys asked. She tried not to think that the Prophets had been exiled in the battle for Jadzia's life. She still remembered the horror of seeing Jadzia lying on the biobed in the Infirmary, clinging to life tenaciously. Later, Jadzia told Kira that she had witnessed a battle between the Prophets and the Pagh'Wraiths and the object of the struggle had been her life.
"The Prophets won," Jadzia had said with feeling. "But I'm afraid a terrible price has been paid for my life, Nerys, and I'm so sorry. I wish there was something I could do to make it up to you."
At the time, Nerys had hugged her friend, grateful that the Trill had survived. Even now, Nerys would not trade her friend's life for the presence of the Prophets.
"Much better," Jadzia beamed. "In fact, I talked to Julian today and we're going to try to have a baby again."
"Jadzia, that's wonderful news," Kira answered sincerely.
"Jadzia," Worf said in that warning tone. Jadzia turned to face her husband.
"Nerys is my friend, Worf," Jadzia said patiently. "She has every right to know that we're trying."
"This is a private matter," Worf said but Nerys could see that the Klingon was smiling.
Jadzia turned back to Nerys, "Julian has some doubts about my ability to conceive, but I have faith. With the Prophets on our side-"
"The Prophets are gone," Nerys said softly. "Why trust in what no longer is?"
Jadzia looked up at her friend, almost in shock. She had known that Nerys had had trouble dealing with the Prophets' disappearance, but she hadn't realized the severity of Kira's despair.
"Nerys," Jadzia said gently. "I only meant to say that-"
"It doesn't matter," Kira paced. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I just can't believe that you think the Prophets are on your side, not after everything that has happened."
"The Prophets saved my life."
"The Prophets are gone!" Kira exclaimed again. "Don't you see, Jadzia? They are gone and they aren't coming back!"
Worf stood up and came to stand by Jadzia.
"The Captain believes that the Prophets will return," he said gruffly. "You must believe also, Major."
"How can I? What is left?" Kira asked desperately. "I've been going to the Temple every day and the Orb is quiet and cool to the touch and the wormhole... the wormhole remains closed to us. All my life, I've believed that the Prophets were listening to me and now, I know that they can no longer hear me."
"That's not true," Jadzia said.
"What do you know about faith?" Kira whirled on her friend. "You've never believed in anything in your life. Even before all this happened, you never took the Prophets seriously. How do you believe now?"
Dax shrugged her shoulders helplessly, "After my experience in the temple and again on Bajor..."
"This was a mistake," Kira declared. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have come."
She headed for the door. Dax reached out.
"Nerys, no," Jadzia said. "Nerys, please..."
Worf put his hand on Jadzia's shoulder, "Let her go, Jadzia. Let her go."
Sisko entered Kira's quarters, his face etched with obvious concern. Dax had told him all about Kira's outburst and the Captain was still reeling from Kira's words, as recounted by a shell-shocked Dax.
"It's not our Kira," Dax had told Sisko. "She seems colder and more distance. And worse, she appears entirely without hope. It's as if she believes in absolutely nothing and she doesn't care about anything at all."
Now Sisko felt he had to face up with his first officer. He had noticed Kira's aloofness but he attributed it to the stress of the war.
"Captain," Kira said quietly. "What are you doing here?"
"I thought we should have a chat."
"A chat?" Kira laughed slightly. "We never chat, Captain."
"Maybe we should. May I sit?"
"Of course," Kira indicated a chair with a slight wave of her hand. Sisko took the proffered chair.
"I wanted to talk to you about the Prophets," Sisko said quietly.
"There's nothing to say; they're gone."
"I know that. I feel their absence each day."
"You are the Emissary," Kira pointed out. "And if you can't feel them, what hope is there for the rest of us?"
"I don't know. I was hoping you could tell me."
Kira sighed, "You aren't supposed to ask questions, you're supposed to have the answers."
"I suppose so," Sisko knitted his fingers together. "But this time I don't have them."
"How do I go on, Captain?"
"Go on? What do you mean?"
"Before, when times were difficult, I could always turn to the Prophets. I always knew that they were listening and now? Now I don't know!"
"Before you knew about the Celestial Temple, before you know about the Emissary, did you believe?"
"Of course I did."
"Even though you didn't know where the Prophets were?"
"Yes, of course," Kira replied impatiently. "That's not the point, Captain."
"It is the point," Sisko raised his voice. "Major, the Prophets aren't gone, they are simply quiet."
"Isn't it the same thing?"
"No, it's not," Sisko answered. "It simply means that they are regrouping, preparing to make another attempt to defeat the Pagh'Wraiths."
"Is that what you believe?"
"That's what I know."
Kira sank into the chair opposite Sisko.
"Captain, I understand what you're saying," she said quietly. "It's just that I need some proof that the Prophets still exist, that the Pagh'Wraiths did not destroy them. Do you understand that?"
Sisko nodded, "I do, but a little faith can go a long way, Nerys."
"I can't. Not right now. It just doesn't feel right. I need some time to adjust. That's all I need right now."
"Fine," Sisko stood up. "Take all the time you need, just understand that you are affecting those around you."
Kira could feel the hot tears springing to her eyes as Sisko left her quarters. He didn't understand. Dax and Worf did not understand, Odo did not understand.
She went into her room and curled up on the bed, clutching the pillow to her breast.
Somehow Kira managed to pull herself together the next day. She knew her friends were concerned about her and she didn't want them to worry. She knew that she would be fine, it was just a matter of time before she could feel comfortable without the Prophets.
She got through her usual duties and met up with Bashir and Dax for a drink after work. The conversation was light-hearted and Kira actually enjoyed herself. She still felt badly for the way she had treated Dax the night before, but she could see that her friend held no grudges.
Still, she could not bring herself to believe. Her faith was gone and nothing could persuade her otherwise.
The weeks passed slowly and Kira managed to exist in a semi-content state. Exist was a good word to use, she thought wryly. And it wasn't just the matter of the Prophets which plagued her; it was also this insidious war which seemed to drag on forever.
Around her, the same air of despair prevailed and Kira wished something could be done to lift spirits, but unless something miraculous happened, she doubted that few people would feel real joy.
She began each day with breakfast at the Replimat, sometimes with Odo, but usually alone. This day, however, was different.
"Nerys," Jadzia slipped into the chair opposite Kira. "I have something to tell you."
"What?" Kira looked around the Replimat. It was quiet because of the early hour and Kira had come here to enjoy the tranquility. These serene moments helped her come to terms with the loss of the Prophets. With the quiet around her, she could gather her thoughts and reason things out.
Kira's eyes grew large, "Really?"
"Really," Jadzia smiled. "Julian confirmed it yesterday. I can't believe it. We'd almost given up."
"I'm so happy for you."
"And you know, a couple weeks back, right after you came to our quarters, I went to the Temple to see if what you said was true and I didn't feel that the Prophets were gone. For some reason, I felt like they were there all around me. It sounds odd, I know, especially for a non-believer like me, but I felt the same comfort that I felt when I was on Bajor. Maybe it doesn't mean anything, but I believe our baby was conceived that night. I just wanted to tell you that. It probably doesn't change how you feel, but I wanted to let you know."
Kira thought about arguing with Jadzia, but decided not to spoil the happy news with bitterness. At this particular moment, it was merely a question of faith; Jadzia had faith, Nerys did not. Kira reached across the table and covered Jadzia's hands with hers.
"I'm truly happy for you, Jadzia," she said sincerely. "And thank you for sharing that story with me. I do appreciate what you're doing."
"You're very welcome," Jadzia stood up and walked away. Nerys shook her head. She wished she could believe Jadzia's story, but she couldn't help feeling that Jadzia was just making it all up to make her feel better.
Kira sighed and looked down into her raktijino. There was only one way to find out if the Prophets were truly present and that was to go see for herself.
That night, Kira went into the Temple. She paused briefly in the door, feeling curiously like an unwelcome guest. She took a tentative step inside. It was dark and cold, but somehow it felt like home.
She opened the Orb and knelt in front of it and quietly recited the prayers she had known since she was a small girl quivering in her bed, wondering if the Cardassians would come that night.
A strange feeling of peace came over her, a serenity she hadn't felt in a long time. Her muscles relaxed and her mind cleared of all thoughts. She could only think, sense, feel the Prophets.
The Orb remained dark even as she placed her hands on it, but somehow, there was a curious jolt of electricity which flew through her body. She jerked back, almost expecting to see the Orb burst into flame, but instead it remained cold and silent.
Kira finished reciting her prayers and then sat back on her heels, looking at the Orb.
She thought about what Sisko had said, about whether she had believed before the discovery of the wormhole. The answer to that question was obvious and she could now understand where Sisko was going with that point.
It didn't matter where the Prophets were; she knew that at some point in her life, they had existed and she had had the honor of feeling them and experiencing them. And at that time, she had believed whole-heartedly.
"I cannot live without you," she said to the Orb. "If this is how it is going to be, well, then that's how it's going to be."
Still, no response. She took a deep breath and continued to talk.
"Before I knew about the wormhole - I mean the Celestial Temple - I never doubted you and I don't like that I doubt you now. If the Emissary believes you will return, then I must believe that too."
She stood up and took a step away from the Orb. She found a candle and lit it and brought it back to the Orb. The flame illuminated the Orb, its gentle light casting shadows throughout the darkened temple.
"I don't know if you had anything to do with Jadzia and Worf's baby, but they seem to do think you did and if you did, then I thank you for that. And I thank you for saving Jadzia's life and I thank you for being there all those times I needed you and for helping us defeat the Dominion fleet."
She held the candle a bit closer to the Orb and she thought maybe it glowed a little stronger.
"And I just want you to know that when you return, I will still be here. Until then, I guess midnight conversations will have to do. And I do hope you can hear me. I have to believe that you do because I can't be without you anymore."
She felt a little better then and closed the Orb. It was time for the healing to begin.
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