Aftermath, part VII

By Seema

Formalities first: all the characters and places belong to the powers that be at Star Trek.
Delat Caron, Lieutenants Alvarez, Smith & Morrow, Arwin, Rong, Molig, Silvi Daria and Nokun are my own creations as is the story.

Also, I would like to thank Liz for helping me out with this part of the story!

~ * ~

The familiar tingle in her fingertips and then the feeling of solidness running through her veins, forcing Jadzia Dax to open her eyes. Instinctively, she pressed her hands to abdomen in a reassuring gesture, to calm the symbiont down. Dax was one of the few Trills who used transporter technology; most Trills preferred to take shuttles.

But it was the Curzon in her that made Jadzia disregard conventional wisdom and instead rely on transporters. And even though she had been transporting since she was very young, Dax still could not get used to the idea that she was literally being taken apart at the molecular level and though this mode of transportation was touted as being virtually painless, Dax knew that a malfunction could result in a death of the most painful variety.

But she banished those thoughts now, thinking this was not the time to be thinking of death. She glanced to the side, just in time to see Bashir and then O'Brien materialize next to her. Bashir shook out his hands and wiggled his fingers and Dax knew he was trying to get rid of the tingling that accompanied all transports.

"Ah, I see our escorts are here," Bashir said in a low voice as he indicated the Jem'Hadar soldiers who were standing there, blocking the entrance of the transporter room.

"You know what to do?" Dax asked O'Brien anxiously.

"You needn't worry about me, Commander," O'Brien said, his Irish accent coming through strong, especially on the last word.

Dax stepped off the platform and made her way to the door, "I'm here to see my husband. He hasn't been feeling well and I've brought our doctor here to treat him."

One soldier moved to the front, and Dax could see immediately that he was a Second.

"The Vorta did not clear any of the Klingons for medical treatment," the Second said gravely.

"Perhaps. But Worf is a Starfleet officer and under the rules of the treaty the Dominion signed with the Federation, he is entitled to medical care," Dax answered. "I insist you allow Dr. Bashir to treat Worf."

"His condition is very serious. He could die," Bashir put in. "I must be allowed access to my patient

"The health of prisoners condemned to die is of no relevance," the Second answered.

"Perhaps to you, but from where we come from, we like our condemned healthy," O'Brien put in.

The Second stared at the trio of Starfleet officers for a moment and then turned back to the other Jem'Hadar. Dax held her breath and cursed herself for not having learned the language of the Jem'Hadar.

"We will check with the Vorta. You must remain here," the Second said finally. "My Third will stay with you."

"Don't worry about us," Dax said. "We'll be fine."

The Jem'Hadar left, leaving only the Third standing guard. Dax smiled at Bashir and O'Brien; this was going to be simpler than they thought.

"Now," Dax said, turning to Bashir. "Is he an Alpha or a Gamma?"

"I don't know, actually," Bashir said, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "I see signs that he might be an Alpha, simply by his manner, I suppose. As for the Gamma traits, certainly they could be recessive."

The Third glared at the two humanoids with obvious disdain, "I am a Gamma."

"Ah, he's one of those!" Bashir exclaimed. "Say, do you mind if I take a closer look? Usually, when I encounter a Jem'Hadar, they aren't quite as amiable as you are."

"Actually," Dax said, whipping out her phaser. "I'm sure he'd be more than happy to let you take a look."

Before the Third could protest, Dax fired, and the soldier crumpled to the ground.

"That is on the lowest setting," Dax said. "Which means he will revive in five minutes."

O'Brien and Dax moved to a console and quickly began to upload the new logs into Arwin's terminal.

Meanwhile, Bashir busied himself trying to cover up the slight burn marks from the phaser. He then injected a substance into the Jem'Hadar's arm and then quickly covered up those marks. He then recovered Dax's phaser and had it beamed up to the Defiant.

"You had better hurry," Bashir hissed. "He's coming to and I don't dare to put him out again. Especially since the others may come back any minute."

"We're almost done," O'Brien answered.

Just as the Third opened his eyes, Dax pushed the last button triumphantly. By the moment the Third was on his feet, Bashir was hovering over the Jem'Hadar with all due concern.

"That was quite a spell you had, old fellow," Bashir said with concern. "You just fainted dead away."

"I did not faint. She shot me," the Third pointed. Dax looked at him in what she hoped was a questioning manner.

"Shot you? That's ridiculous," Dax laughed. "Believe me, if I shot you, you would not be talking to me right now."

"Besides, we're all unarmed," Bashir said. "No, I'm sorry, but I do believe you fainted. In fact, let me show you on the tricorder. You have reduced activity in the neural cortex, a symptom of fainting. Do you see here?"

The Third nodded, but the expression on his face told the three officers that he did not entirely believe them. At that moment, the Second returned with Arwin in tow.

"Jadzia Dax," Arwin said. He rubbed his hands together and then approached Dax, offering her his arm. She shook her head.

"You would deny an old man the simple pleasure of escorting a beautiful woman?" Arwin asked, injured.

"As long as you have imprisoned my husband, I'm afraid so," Dax answered, almost cheerfully. "And since his health suffers so, until you grant Dr. Bashir permission to see him..."

"You are in no position to bargain with me, Commander," Arwin answered. "I have your husband. But I'm willing to make a deal with you."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm willing to release him."


"I will release him to you."

Dax could hardly breathe; suddenly everything felt slow motion and even the Vorta's face seemed to be the most beautiful thing in the universe at that particular moment.

"What is the catch?" Bashir asked suspiciously.

"She can have fifteen hours with him," the Vorta answered. "And then he must return here to face the charges."

"And if he doesn't return? Why should he?" Dax demanded.

"Then we execute all the remaining Klingons at the end of the allocated time. Not a minute more than fifteen hours. I'm sure your husband will think it less than honorable to walk away when he knows his comrades will surely die. If he returns, there is at least some chance I may change my mind."

Dax turned away, trying to calm her heart down. When Arwin had first told her that he would release Worf, her heart had jumped into her throat, but this condition he had placed on Worf's temporary release only made her more fearful. She could not imagine what Arwin would have to gain by Worf's temporary release nor did Dax believe that Arwin had empathy enough to give the couple time alone together. There was something more here, something more sinister, but Dax could not say no to Arwin's offer.

"He will be back in fifteen hours," Dax promised, trying to swallow the sick, bile feeling rising up in her throat. "I promise that. Please, don't execute anymore of his men."

"Of course not," Arwin smiled condescendingly at the Trill. He offered her his arm and Dax reluctantly took it.

"Come, my dear, let's get your husband."


Kira stirred, trying desperately to shake her lethargy. Her body felt suspended in a bubble and everything she saw around her was from the perspective of one caught in that bubble. She pressed her hands up to her face, trying to push away the pounding headache which was starting to make itself known.

"Stop it!" she scolded herself. She literally rolled out of bed, landing softly on the floor. She noticed that Delat was still sleeping and for a moment, she felt a tremendous sense of guilt.

"Because of Odo?" she asked herself as she made her way to the replicator. "Raktijino, please."

Surely Odo could not keep haunting her this way. Not after what he did to her. And how long was she supposed to stay faithful to him anyway? Was it fair to her?

"No," she said out-loud and with more force than she intended. She sank heavily into her chair, holding onto the mug for dear life. She gazed back at the bed, at Delat sleeping there, and found tears welling up in her eyes.

"Don't cry, Nerys," she told herself fiercely. "You wanted this. He was right. He was right about what you wanted. So don't go and spoil everything."

She stared into the murky liquid in her cup and for a moment, she could see her face reflecting back. Kira dipped her finger into the raktijino, and tried to stir the coffee up, trying to erase her image. But each time the image swirled away, it reconstructed itself a moment later. Kira gave up and drank her coffee in uneasy silence.


"You'll want to know this, Captain."

Bashir's clipped tones came over the subspace transmission as clearly as if he were in the next room. There was something in Bashir's voice that did not sound right to Sisko and immediately he leaned forward, hoping to hear something that Bashir could not directly say to him.

"What is it, doctor?" Sisko asked, wishing not for the first time that he had visual communication with Bashir.

"The Vorta has had a change of heart. He has let Worf go."

"He has?" Sisko asked.

"Yes, sir. In fact, Jadzia and O'Brien just went to get Worf. I don't understand, Captain."

"Believe me, doctor, I'm just as confused as you are. I don't know why Arwin would do such a thing."

"I would not venture that perhaps he has a heart after all."

"No. Because this is something he could have done the very first moment I requested that Jadzia be allowed to meet with Worf. And since the Klingon High Council has left, it couldn't possibly a gesture to appease them. No, there is something more going on here."

"Well, sir, I thought you should know."

"Thank you, doctor. Keep me informed as best as you can."

"Aye, sir. Bashir out."

Sisko leaned back in his chair and tapped his fingers lightly together. Well, this was an interesting twist, he thought.


Dax could hardly contain her excitement, but Worf seemed curiously restrained as she led him out of the holding cell. In fact, he seemed almost distant from her and Dax hoped ferevently he wasn't going to slip into that sullen mood that he had during previous visits. Fifteen hours, fifteen precious hours and she didn't want to waste a moment of them on his silly moods.

Arwin was gone, as were the annoying Jem'Hadar soldiers. Only O'Brien was with them, but suddenly the old friend was an intrusion as well. But like O'Brien, Dax felt that something was not right and while she did not want to sully her time with Worf, she could not push the nagging doubts away. Everything had been too easy. From the moment she, O'Brien and Bashir had arrived till this moment, everything had been proceeding as planned.

"Worf," Dax said. "What would you like to do? We have fifteen hours to do anything you'd like."

"I would like to visit the Defiant," Worf answered, a bit gruffly.

"All right," Dax said. "We can do that."

At that moment Bashir appeared and O'Brien said quickly, "Why don't you two go ahead? Julian and I will join you later."

Dax seemed relieved at O'Brien's offer but Worf's expression did not change. O'Brien frowned but Bashir pressed Dax's slim hands in between his and whispered in her ear a warning Sisko had once passed on,

"Don't break any bones."

"I won't," Dax laughed.

The couple disappeared and O'Brien continued to stare after them.

"Something's not right but I don't know what," the Chief said.

"I was telling Sisko the same thing," Bashir admitted.

"Worf seems strange. The way he said he wanted to visit the Defiant. Why, the Defiant. used to be his home until he and Dax got married. It just seemed such an odd thing to say."

"You're right," Bashir said thoughtfully. "But do we really know Worf anymore? He was stuck on a miserable excuse of a planet for two years and then threatened with execution when he was finally rescued? It's enough to change any Klingon."

"But this is Worf," O'Brien said, unwilling to let the subject go. "I've known Worf for close to twenty years now and I tell you, something is strange."

"I'm not concerned about Worf as much as I am about Arwin. This whole situation is crazy. And why Worf and not one of the others? It doesn't make sense."

"Well, Worf is the Starfleet officer."

"As everyone keeps saying, but we both know that the Dominion doesn't give a flying fig about the Federation or Starfleet."

"Flying fig?"

"A figure of expression."


The two men proceeded down the hall. Bashir marveled at the coldness of Dominion architecture, with its cool steely walls, devoid of any ornamentation - including windows.

"A view would certainly be nice," Bashir said.

"A view?"

"I was just thinking out-loud how miserable this place is. No wonder the Dominion has no sense of humor."

"Or consistency."

"Consistency!" Bashir whirled on O'Brien. "That's it! That's what's been bothering me all this time. There's a definite lack of consistency in the Vorta's dealings. One moment he is ready to declare war on everyone from here to the Delta Quadrant and the next moment, he is releasing his trump card. Yes, he would have certainly failed Strategy at the Academy."

"As you say, sir," O'Brien said. The duo had reached the transporter room and Bashir took one quick look around and noted the lack of any Jem'Hadar.

"It's as if they are waiting for us to try something," Bashir said quietly. "But what is it they are waiting for?"

"I don't know, Julian," O'Brien said. "Didn't they teach easy answers at the Academy?"

"We're going to have watch our step very carefully," Bashir mused. "Because I don't like it. I don't like it at all."
And O'Brien had to admit that for once, he agreed with the doctor.


Kira appeared at the door, slightly rumpled, but alert.

"I have to talk to you," Sisko said, feeling a little uneasy at disturbing the major. She nodded.

"I will be right out, Captain."

Less then a minute later, Kira was in the corridor, clad in her usual orange uniform, signifying her status in the
Bajoran military.

"That was quick," Sisko observed as the two began to proceed down towards the bridge.

"You can't be slow in the Resistance. If you spend too much time getting dressed, you could get killed."

"Ah. Death is a humble motivater then?"

"You could put it that way, I suppose."

"I'm sorry I disturbed you."

"You didn't, honestly, Captain. I was just thinking."

"Anything in particular?" Sisko hated to pry but he got the feeling Kira wanted him to ask those questions. If there was anything that made Sisko a great leader, it was that he knew intuitively when to dig deeper and when to back away.

"Someone in particular."


"How did you know?"

Sisko shrugged, "Lucky guess?"

"He's been on my mind lately. I want to know why he left. I don't understand. I can't see how he could possibly choose them over us."

"Or rather the Great Link over you?"

"Perhaps, in a selfish way, yes."

"I don't know, Major. I wish I knew. In fact, there are a lot of things I wish I knew at this moment. Odo, well, I just don't know."

"If he came back, would you forgive him?" Kira asked.

"I don't know. I like to think I could forgive. But the betrayal of one's friends, well, I don't know, Major."
"I don't think I could forgive."

"That is your prerogative. But I suppose when faced with the man, you might have other emotions to worry about."

"I suppose you're right. But I don't think Odo is coming back. Do you?"

"Think Odo is coming back? No, I don't think so."

Kira sighed, "Then I don't feel so guilty after all."

Sisko stopped for a moment, "Guilt, Major? Why should you feel guilt?"

"I don't know. I just do."

"Do you feel guilty about being happy, Major? Because I know of no one who pushes happiness away more than you."

"I suppose I cannot get used to the idea of being happy."

"I think that you have the perfect opportunity now. You should take it."

They kept walking for a few moments and then Kira spoke again.

"What did you want to see me about?" she asked.

"Arwin released Worf."


"Exactly my sentiments."

"What's going on here? This Arwin is the most frustrating man I've ever met!" Kira exclaimed.

"You will get no argument from me."


"That, Major, is the million dollar question. Now if Quark were here, we would probably know why in a matter of hours. But since Quark isn't here, we're going to have to find out ourselves."

"Where is he now?"

"He and Dax came aboard some time ago. I wanted them to have their privacy, but now I think we can intrude. In fact, I insist."

"The better," Sisko said, finishing her thought.


Worf paced the length of their quarters, seemingly distressed about something. Dax desperately wanted him to open up to her, to tell her what was wrong, but Worf was curiously tight-lipped. Nor would he allow her to get too close.

This was not how she wanted to spend those fifteen hours, she thought.

"Worf, please, calm down," Dax said, trying to inject all the calmness she did not feel into her voice.

"We should go to the bridge," Worf said.

"The bridge? Why? There isn't anything going on there. Is there something you want?"

"I cannot stay in these quarters. It's too crowded."

"You liked them well enough once."

"I must have been crazy. The walls are closing in on me."

If there was one thing Dax was sure about Worf, it was that he wasn't claustrophobic. But then, people are changed by their experiences, she reasoned, and surely Worf had not emerged from all his ordeals unscathed. She got up off of her bunk and moved quickly to console him. Before he could react, she had grabbed him by the arm and placed her lips to his cheek.

"What are you doing?" he exclaimed and then in a fury he had never shown to her, he pushed her aside.

"Oh!" Dax cried as she hit the floor with a thud. She sat up for a moment, rubbing the pain in her side. There would be a bruise there in the morning, she was sure. At that moment, the door chimed and she called out,

"Come in."

Sisko and Kira came in. Both looked serious.

"Hello, Worf," Sisko said.

"Hello," the Klingon said, not looking at either of the newcomers.

Kira rushed to Dax's side and gave her a helping hand. Dax took it gratefully.

"Do you need Julian?" Kira asked in concern.

"It's not what you think," Dax said. "I'll be okay."

But Sisko and Kira did not miss the anxious glances Dax threw in Worf's direction. Sisko eyed the warrior pensively, and circled around Worf. There was something different about Worf, but he didn't know what exactly and the fact that he could not put his finger on it irked him to no extent.

"Worf wants to go to the bridge," Dax said, trying to ease the tension, but both Sisko and Kira could hear the hurt in her voice.

"Why?" Sisko asked.

"I need to see the bridge," Worf said. "It is important I contact the Klingon High Council."

"They have left," Sisko said. "They had no interest in you. Didn't Jadzia tell you?"

"Jadzia told me much, but not what I wanted to hear."

Dax turned away, almost bewildered by Worf's attitude. The last time they had spoken, when they agreed that she would tamper with Arwin's logs, there had been something in Worf's voice that said clearly he loved her dearly. And now, it seemed as Worf wanted nothing to do with her. Was he trying to distance himself before his impending execution? Was it a distance created by a fatalistic nature? She didn't know. But Worf had always been one to cease the moment, to do anything for her. In fact, he had given up any chance to advance his career for her. She did not believe that Worf no longer loved her. Rather, something had happened to him; something dreadful and she was determined to find out what.

"What do you want to know, Worf?" Sisko asked.

"Why did the Klingon High Council leave?"

"I told you already, Worf," Dax said. "They have some notion of you all being glorious martyrs fighting for the Empire. In fact, your deaths would be reason enough for the war to continue between the Klingons and the Dominion. I told you this already. Weren't you listening?"

"I must have forgotten."

"Well, you can go to the bridge if you'd like," Sisko said. "I actually have something to discuss with Dax and Kira. We'll only be a moment."

Worf nodded and exited the room, but not before the trio within noted the direction he turned.

"He should have gone right," Dax said softly. "Where is he going?"

They waited a moment and then followed Worf. At a four way junction in the corridor, Worf stopped and looked in all directions and then he proceeded straight.

"Worf!" Dax called out. "Where are you going?"

"To the bridge," Worf said, turning.

"The bridge is in the exact opposite direction," Sisko said quietly.

"I must have forgotten."

"No," Dax said. "You wouldn't have forgotten. Worf wouldn't have forgotten. There were times when Worf loved the Defiant more than me. He would not have forgotten the way to the bridge."

"Who are you?" Kira asked, accusingly. At that moment, the figure of Worf abruptly melted and disappeared into the cracks of the wall.

"Oh!" Dax slapped her hand to her mouth, in a mixture of dismay and grief.

"Now we know," Sisko said grimly. "Kira, you're with me. It's time we paid Arwin a visit. Dax, get security. I want that shape shifter found. Now."


Arwin apparently had been waiting because he was seated almost at attention when Sisko and Kira arrived.

"Ah, Captain," Arwin held out his arms expansively, in a welcoming gesture. "How good of you to drop by."

"You almost got away with it, Arwin," Sisko said. "Replacing Worf with a changeling was a clever idea, but you forget that we've had a member of our crew replaced before. We know what the signs are. And at least the shape shifter who impersonated Bashir had the good sense to at least act somewhat like him."

"Oh yes, the good doctor," Arwin sighed.

"I supposed you wanted to know our plans," Sisko said. "And it was quite clever, considering I confide most things to Jadzia Dax and she to her husband. If your changeling had not made an error, you might very well have found out everything you wanted to know."

"There is a saying on earth, I suppose, something about mice and men. It escapes me now, but some of our prisoners from earth were fond of saying it."

"That's not the point," Sisko said, pounding his fist on the table. He leaned forward, so that his nose almost touched Arwin's. "I've had enough of your deceit and your hollow words. Is it war that you want? Because if you want war, it appears that I have very little choice in avoiding it, don't I? It seems every option of mine, every solution presented, leads back to the same place. And that's what you want, isn't it? It's what the Founders want, isn't it?"

"I'm afraid you have found me out, Captain," Arwin said mournfully. "And I suppose replacing Commander Worf was probably not one of the more brilliant ideas I've had lately. But I knew the plan had a fatal flaw in it from the beginning and that was Jadzia Dax. But I did not expect it to end so soon."

"I don't care what you wanted or expected," Sisko said. "I want an answer. I've had enough from you."

"I have executed two Klingons," Arwin said. "My men like that. It keeps them motivated."

"You cannot continue to do this. It's wrong."

Arwin eyed Kira with some amusement, "Wrong, Major?"

Kira felt herself wilting again and she cursed herself. The last thing she wanted to do was allow the Vorta to catch her in a moment of weakness. She had already made a fool of herself once in Arwin's presence and she was reluctant to do it again.

"You must try these men first," Kira said, finally finding her voice. "In front of us. No more of this secret tribunal stuff."

"I don't see how you're in a position to make demands, Major. It seems as if I'm holding all the cards while you have nothing."

"We do have one thing," Sisko said with a smile. "We have the logs concerning the battle in question, the one near Vlata III."

"What about it?" Arwin frowned.

"Our logs showed that the Jem'Hadar fired first. If that is the case, and your logs match ours, then you have no reason to hold these men prisoner any longer."

"Our logs record the opposite."

"Why don't you check?" Sisko suggested. "The Major and I can wait."

Arwin eyed them curiously, but then conceeded.

"If I'm right, Captain..."

"We understand," Sisko said smoothly.

"And even if I'm not..."

"Yes, you will run to the Founders with the news of Lieutenant Alvarez. But I'm sure we can convince the Founders that Alvarez's act was one of complete lunacy. We are not concerned. Why don't you just check those logs?"

"Very well. As you wish."

Kira looked over and saw that Sisko's fingers were crossed. She bit her lip and crossed her fingers behind her back.


"I feel like a fool," Dax confessed. O'Brien smiled consolingly at her and patted her hand tenderly.

"It's all right," he said. "Anyone could have been taken in. Shape shifters are good that way."

"I can't believe I didn't recognize my own husband."

"People change, Jadzia," Julian said gently. "And I think you were just overwhelmed and so grateful at the chance to see Worf again that you weren't thinking straight."

"I just hope Worf is okay," Dax said quietly. And then a thought occurred to her. "He couldn't possibly have been...?"

"No," Bashir said. "I think the changeling only impersonated Worf this one time."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive," Bashir said, even though he wasn't.

Dax sighed and stirred her drink idly. Security was still searching for the changeling and she could hear phaser blasts all over the ship as one of the only ways to find the changeling was through a phase sweep. If this went on much longer, Bashir would have to order blood tests for everyone.

"I hope they find it soon," Dax said. "I would love to throttle it with my own hands."

"Easy, Jadzia," Bashir laughed. "Your hand still has some healing to do. Later, when it's better, you may throttle anyone you please, within reason."

"You shouldn't let me near Arwin then," Dax said. "Because he's liable to be the first one dead on my list."

"I think Arwin heads many people's lists," O'Brien observed.

"He certainly tops mine," Bashir said. "He would make a great villain in a holosuite program, don't you think?"

The other two just glared at him.

"Just a thought," the doctor said. "Just a thought."


Arwin recoiled as the words flew past him on the screen.

"This can't be right!" he exclaimed.

"It is right," Sisko said. "So, as you see, you can't hold these men anymore. You initiated the battle, they were only defending themselves."

"How come you didn't bring these forward before?" Arwin demanded.

"Because they were salvaged from the Rotarran's probe. We could only just decipher it clearly in the last few days," Kira answered. "So, if you will just turn the Klingons over to us, we will be on our way."

Arwin considered for a moment, staring at the log. Neither Kira or Sisko dared to breathe, afraid that they would give something away. The last thing they needed was for Arwin to realize that the logs were faked.

"All right," Arwin said. "You win. This time."

Sisko tried to not to show his elation.

"You will transfer the remaining prisoners, including the real Commander Worf to the transporter room for immediate transport," Sisko said.

"Maybe we should have blood screenings first," Kira suggested.

"That's right," Sisko said. "Contact Bashir, Major."

The Vorta and Sisko faced each other, neither saying anything. It was perhaps one of the longest moments in Sisko's life.

"You made a worthy adversary," Arwin said finally. "And you're wrong. I do not want war anymore than you did."

"Then why did you insist so much and work against everything I suggested?"

"I did as I was told. It's that simple."

"And now?"

"I will tell no one about your lieutenant."


Arwin leaned forward, his voice low, "I already told you, Captain. I don't want war. I did what the Founders asked me to do and you have presented me with evidence of why I should not continue. I doubt the Founders really want war with the Federation as much as the Federation seems to think they do."

"Thank you," Sisko said, his opinion of the man changing rapidly. "You have surprised me."

"I do not want you to think ill of me, Captain. And Weyoun always spoke highly of you."


"We are not evil, Captain. We simply do as we are told. Obedience is victory and victory is life."

"So I hear."

Sisko and Kira turned to leave.

"And Captain?" Arwin called. "You can tell your science officer she did a wonderful job tampering with my logs. A marvelous forgery, if I say so myself."


The new Bajoran delegation had arrived, to continue talks with the Dominion. Arwin, amazingly enough, was open to discussions of restitution for the Battle of Bajor and Silvi Daria was unwilling to pass up the chance.

"Good luck," Kira told the minister. "I wish you all the best."

The Minister nodded, "I'm glad of this opportunity and I'm glad you were able to save the prisoners."
Kira tried not to think of the two who were executed, but blessings, in any size or shape, were always welcome.

After Silvi had beamed aboard the other Bajoran ship, Kira went to the mess hall, where she found Dax.

"Silvi is gone to start talks on the Battle of Bajor," Kira told her. "And no, you have no reason to feel guilty. We would have all done the same. And you were defending Bajor, not attacking it. There's a difference."

"In my heart I believe it, but in my head, I cannot."

"Jadzia," Kira said firmly. "I don't want you to think about this anymore. You have so much to look forward to now. Please, don't think about this anymore, all right?"

Dax lifted her head, "I will try, Nerys."

"Good, that's all I ask."

Sisko's voice came over the comlink, "Major Kira, Commander Dax, please report to the bridge. The changeling has been returned to the planet, so we are free to leave now."

Dax and Kira exchanged a look.

"Well," Kira said rising. "I don't know about you, but I'm more than ready to get out of this place. The Gamma Quadrant gives me a headache."

Dax smiled and followed the Bajoran out of the room.


Three days later on Deep Space Nine, Kira walked with Delat Caron on the Promenade.

"You have to visit Quark's," Kira said. "He is a deplorable personage, but the food and drink is marvelous. It's an unfortunate set of circumstances, I suppose."

"I've heard much mention of Quark," Delat said, his arm encircling Kira's waist. "I suppose we should pay him a visit."

Kira laughed and kissed his cheek lightly, "Come then. Let me introduce you. Keep in mind, Quark holds me in less than his highest esteem."

"I look forward to it," Delat said.

Entering Quark's, Kira suddenly remembered that day so long ago when the last Dominion ship had gone through the wormhole and the crew had all gathered here in Quark's to celebrate what was a bittersweet victory.

At least Worf had been found and she had finally found herself in another man's eyes. More importantly, she had patched up the rift with O'Brien and more than anything, she hoped that one day, Keiko and the kids would come home.

"Come," Kira said. "I want to introduce you to all my friends."

And together, Kira and Delat found themselves a table.


"Are you sure you're the real thing?" Dax teased as she helped Worf with his sash. "You are not a shape shifter?"


"I'm not going to let you forget this ever," she laughed.

"I can't believe you did not know it wasn't me. I will not let you forget that." Dax laughed, circling her arms around his waist and leaning against him.

"Let's not do this again," she said. "It wasn't much fun."

"I agree."

She lifted her face to meet his and suddenly she could see a future in his eyes. Finally, she thought, a future together.

~The End~

Note from the author: I just want to take this moment to thank all of you who have sent me feedback about this story. This story has been in the works since November '97, so I'm glad to finally be finished with it! A big thank you goes to Liz for her idea of making Worf a changeling.

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