The next morning, I woke much earlier than usual, unable to get my encounter with Stephen out of my head. Unable to find Benjamin at this hour, I found myself walking the nearly barren halls of the starbase and to my surprise and dismay, I felt a wave of self-pity come over me. No, it was more a sense of regret. Meeting up with Stephen again and looking into those eyes reminded me of what I had given up. I found myself utterly without will, helpless to forget that brief current which had passed between us.
"This is ridiculous," I murmured to myself.
In my daze, I did not notice the woman approaching me until she said my name.
I blinked, bringing the attractive woman into view.
"Sonora?" I whispered.
Sonora Lyse - now Lam, I reminded myself - was as beautiful as I remembered her. Her voice, as always, was carefully modulated and each word was uttered with perfect enunciation. At Starfleet Academy, I had disliked Sonora and had barely tolerated her, mostly because I knew of her affection for Stephen. Even now, that dislike bubbled to the surface and I found myself hating that Sonora could still have this effect on me.
"How are you?" I said.
Sonora fell into step with me and I found myself resenting her immediately.
"It's early," Sonora commented. "I didn't expect to meet anyone."
"Nor did I."
"How long are you here for?"
"Until the repairs on the Defiant are finished."
"The Defiant?" Sonora asked sharply.
"Yes," I answered coolly. "I'm the helm officer."
"Ah, a pilot."
Trust Sonora to reduce the helm to the lowest common denominator, I thought.
"I thought you wanted to be a scientist. Did that change when you were joined?"
I shook my head, "No, I'm still a scientist. At Deep Space Nine."
Sonora's lip curled up, "Deep Space Nine. That's at the very edge of Federation space, isn't it?"
"It's actually Bajoran space."
"Bajor. Hmmm. More trouble than it's worth. Pesky little planet."
"The Bajorans don't think so," I reminded her. "And neither does the Federation."
"Frankly, I wish this whole mess was over. Let the Bajorans handle the Cardassians. Why drag the Federation into it?"
"This isn't only about the Bajorans, Sonora. This is about control for the Alpha Quadrant."
"Romantic idea, isn't it? Paint the war in terms of the big picture and all of sudden, it is the proper thing to do. Chivalry, if I may. The Federation as the knight in shining armor, rushing to the rescue"
"That is one way to look at it. It's not the way I view it. I'd prefer to view it as a more mutualistic arrangement. There's so much Bajor could offer us and so much we could do for them. The ideas you talk about really don't apply here, do they?"
"Perhaps, but frankly, Jadzia, what you say surprises me. You're not the type to really have opinions different than the mainstream."
"That's where you're wrong," I answered quietly. "And I would think you were in the minority, with ideas like that. Or is it just what Stephen has told you and you just choose to believe it because of Stephen? Because I know what that's like, Sonora."
Sonora seemed taken aback and I passed up the chance to needle her; my bruised ego was not that petty. Sonora continued walking and I know she was mulling over what I had said. Of course I was not worried about Sonora's relationship with Stephen; she had always been able to take care of herself. Her self-sufficiency, at that time, had made me intensely jealous.
"You made Commander," Sonora commented, nodding at the three pips on my collar. "Very impressive. I would have never guessed. I suppose time does change people, doesn't it? And it is a surprise, Jadzia, really. I would have never guessed."
"I'm just full of surprises," I answered airily, thinking that I had no need to justify myself to Sonora Lyse.
I turned at the sound of Julian's voice.
"Doctor," I nodded.
Julian gazed at Sonora for the briefest of moments and then his attention turned back to me.
"This came for you," he said. "I thought you would want it right away."
I took the PADD from him, "It's from Worf. It just arrived?"
"Yes," Julian nodded. He looked at Sonora again.
"Oh, Julian," I said. "This is Sonora Lyse. We went to Starfleet Academy together. Sonora, this is Julian Bashir, chief medical officer for Deep Space Nine."
"Pleased to meet you," Julian said with less enthusiasm than I would have thought. "I will see you back on the ship, Commander."
I started to read the PADD, even before Julian walked away. To my annoyance, Sonora was still walking with me.
Worf's message, as dictated by Starfleet regulations, was brief and to the point. The words, which reached across the distance between us, were warm and loving. He was well and he hoped I was well also. He wanted me to know that he had sustained a wound in his right arm, but the injury had now healed. He regretted that his duty prevented him from meeting me, but he did want to emphasize that he missed me and that he loved me.
"I love you with all my heart," I whispered, not caring if Sonora heard me.
"Your husband?" she asked. There was a petulant note in her voice, as if she was hurt that Julian hadn't been interested in her. I wondered at that insecurity which seemed so at odds with Sonora's usual demeanor.
"My fiancé," I responded.
"He's fighting somewhere else. We haven't seen each other in a month. We were supposed to meet here but you know how it is with a war," I smiled off my disappointment. "We have to make our sacrifices."
Sonora said smugly, "I don't have to worry about that. I make sure that Stephen and I are in the same place all the time. You do know that we are married, don't you?"
"You made sure I knew at the time of your wedding."
"Jadzia, I hope you don't take this personally, but you and Stephen, you were completely wrong for each other. He needs a strong woman, a woman who can stand up for herself. I don't know what he even saw in you."
"It was a long time ago, Sonora. Let's leave it be. I'm happy that you and Stephen are happy and I have found a man who loves me dearly for who and what I am."
Sonora's upper lip curled up with disdain. It was, I thought, a particularly unattractive habit. "Well, then I wish you all the happiness," Sonora said. "Now, if you will excuse me, Stephen is waiting."
I shrugged, wondering what exactly Sonora was afraid of.
"What is it, Chief?" I looked up from my computer. "Something I can do for you?"
"I was wondering if you were still running that drill tonight."
"Probably," I said. "Depends on whether you get those thrusters up and running."
"That answers my question then."
"Good. Anything else?"
"Actually, I was hoping you could give me a hand with warp field coils," O'Brien answered. "Something's not adding up."
O'Brien pulled up the data he had been studying, "Do you see these fluctuations here? This doesn't make sense."
"No," I muttered. "And there is no real pattern I can discern. Would it have anything to do with the transitions between impulse and warp?"
"I don't think so but-"
I jerked my head back as Stephen Lam spoke my name.
"Hello, Stephen," I said uneasily.
"Jadzia," Stephen grinned at me and then at Miles. "Still having problems with the auxiliary LDP fuses?"
"No," I said sharply. "No."
"She almost blew out the LDP, did you know?" Stephen said to O'Brien. "I caught her varying the gradient by almost four percent."
"Actually," O'Brien cleared his throat. "I had modified the LDP circuitry so that the only way to fix it was to vary the gradient. The auxiliary fuses were never in any danger."
I ducked my head slightly in an attempt to hide the smile which was rapidly crawling across my face.
"Being at the very edge of Federation space makes it difficult to get what we want when we want it. As a result, we have to improvise a lot. I wouldn't follow the book too closely when it comes to working on this ship," O'Brien said with a friendly grin.
"It's true," I nodded. "Only the Chief truly knows how this thing is held together."
"Well then," Stephen said. "I'm sorry for bothering you then. You obviously know what you're doing this time."
I bent back down over my work, trying not to make eye contact with Stephen. I had noticed something in his eyes that gave me a feeling I could not quite understand. All I knew was that I had to concentrate on something other than those eyes.
"Anything I can do you, Lieutenant?" O'Brien asked. My head shot up then as I noticed the pips on Stephen's collar. Stephen looked mildly uncomfortable.
"Lieutenant?" I asked with a smile.
"Yes, actually. I took a demotion last year so that I could serve with Sonora here on Starbase 357," Stephen said. "But I see you did very well."
"Are you surprised?" I asked softly.
"Frankly, yes. Chief, you might not have known Jadzia before, but let me tell you. She was the shyest girl on campus. Gorgeous and brilliant, but totally lacking all social graces. She had no friends, never spoke up in classes. Very bookish, almost boring."
"Don't hold back, Stephen," I said. "Tell the Chief everything."
Stephen ignored my remark.
"We were in the same study group," Stephen went on. "Jadzia always had all the answers but she never spoke up. Frankly, I'm amazed when I look at you now."
"Quiet? Shy?" O'Brien looked at me. "That's certainly not the Dax we know."
Stephen flinched slightly at the name "Dax."
"It must have been the joining," Stephen said decisively. "I never figured you for command material, Jadzia."
"Well, then you're right," I said lightly. "I'm a science officer. I leave command to those who prefer it."
O'Brien cleared his throat.
"If you'll excuse us, Stephen," I said. "We really need to finish up here."
"Right," Stephen backed away.
After Stephen had left, Miles looked at me, almost in surprise.
"You know him?"
"I dated him. For four years," I smiled. "Can you believe that?"
"I can't see you with him. He is rather arrogant, isn't he?"
"A little, yes. But Stephen has always been a golden boy. On campus, everyone knew who he was and all the girls wanted to be with him. I guess, I was a little overwhelmed. Thrilled that he wanted me. I very nearly bent over backwards to give him everything that he wanted, just so that he wouldn't leave me. He held a spell over me that to this day, I still cannot explain."
"Did he? He certainly doesn't sound very…" O'Brien thought for a moment. "I just don't see you with him, Jadzia. He doesn't seem to be your type. But you say that he wanted to be with you?"
"In all the ways that a man can possibly want a woman," I answered softly. "And I wanted him at first as much as he wanted me. But we had different needs and expectations. I loved him and now, in retrospect, I don't know how much he cared for me."
O'Brien shifted uncomfortably and I realized that this admission had been more honest than anything I had ever shared with him before. But I was being honest, because I trusted the Chief and he was a good a friend. And because I felt the need to tell someone about my relationship with Stephen, I continued to speak.
"I didn't add anything to his status," I reflected. "Not the way Sonora Lyse did. Sonora was just like him, only a female version. Beautiful, intelligent, ambitious and her father was a high-ranking official on Mars. Sometimes I think he might have loved me just a bit but in the end, he picked Sonora's status over me."
"Is that it?"
"No," I sighed. The old hurt was bubbling up inside of me now. "I wanted desperately to be joined. He didn't like that. This was something important to me, something that I believed in. He couldn't accept it."
I turned my head away, thinking back to that last horrible day and how dirty I had felt hunched over in Stephen's bed. The day when Stephen had looked me straight in the eye and told me he wasn't going to wait for me to finish the initiate program and that he was going to marry Sonora Lyse.
I took a deep breath.
"Are you all right, Commander?"
"Just fine, Chief," I said brightly. "Now, where were we?"
I sat in my quarters, alone, trying desperately to compose a reply to Worf. It seemed a feat of Herculean proportions to tell him how much I missed him and how I longed for him to be with me.
I also wondered if I should mention Stephen. I had mentioned Stephen to Worf once, but it had all been in the past, so Worf had not been concerned. At the time, it did not seem like Stephen would reenter my life so the details had not been important.
Now I wondered if I should say something to him. I could not keep this news from him, but I did not want to perturb Worf unduly. If only I could find the right way to say it! But words sadly fail in times like this and finally, I just sat idly, staring into space.
After a few moments, I roused myself and went to find Julian.
I found the doctor with Chief O'Brien in the Defiant's tiny mess hall.
"Hungry?" Julian pushed a plate of a yellow grainy substance towards me. I eyed it warily, wrinkling my nose in askance.
"Couscous," Julian said helpfully. "It's good. Try it."
"Especially with hot sauce," O'Brien pushed a slender bottle of a red liquid towards me.
Gingerly, I dripped a bit of the sauce on the couscous.
"Careful, not too much," Julian cautioned.
I tasted the concoction and discovered that I did indeed like it.
"The repairs are almost finished," O'Brien said. "We will be leaving soon."
"Off to fight another battle," Bashir said gloomily.
I didn't say anything; what was there to say?
"What did Worf have to say?" Bashir asked.
"Nothing much. He was wounded," I said. "But the injury is healing now."
"Ah," Bashir nodded.
We sat in silence and I thought how horrible it was that we no longer had anything to say to each other anymore.
Whenever I wasn't working on the Defiant, I liked to slip off onto the Starbase. It seemed that I could collect my thoughts easier away from my friends. Besides, I liked looking around at the different things to see and of course, there were many interesting people to meet. I had just finished lunch in a Bajoran cafeteria when a shadow darkened my table. I looked up.
"Stephen!" I smiled. "Hi."
"Mind if I join you for a moment?"
"No, no. Go right ahead," I said with an enthusiasm that dismayed me. "Have you eaten?"
"Yes. And to be frank, Bajoran cuisine does not excite me."
"Well, I've gotten used to it. All this time at Deep Space Nine and actually, our first officer is Bajoran, so we eat a lot of it."
"You know, Jadzia," Stephen said languidly. "You've changed a lot."
"Hopefully for the better."
"Definitely for the better."
"It's good to hear."
"We had some wonderful times, didn't we?" Stephen leaned forward. "Do you remember that time you, me, Alara and Jacen went up to the Gorunda Caves and you scared the living daylights out of that couple?"
"I did too see a bear!" I protested.
"Some bear," Stephen grinned. "Turned out to be what… a raccoon?"
"It was only because you were talking about how famous Gorunda was for bears. If you hadn't said anything, then, well, I wouldn't have thought there was a bear around."
"Excuses, excuses. But that was funny. Classic."
"I'm glad you think so."
Stephen smiled at me and I felt myself melting. I had always found that smile of his to be devilishly attractive, one I could not say no to. Even after all these years, I could sense my old feelings about Stephen bubbling up through me.
"Would you have dinner with me, Jadzia?" he asked intensely.
"What about your wife?"
"Sonora? She can come too if she'd like. I was actually hoping for some time to catch up with you, some time to figure out what's been going on in the last eight years."
"Yes," I said without thinking. "I'd like that."
"2100 then? Here on the Promenade? We can go anywhere you'd like."
Stephen got up and walked over to me. He kissed my forehead gently and then looked down in my eyes.
"Until tonight then," he said softly.
After parting from Stephen, I made my way to a favorite spot on the Defiant, where I could escape the scenery of the highly unattractive Starbase 357 and instead stare out into the endless field of stars stretching out in front of me.
Somehow, I could see Stephen's face reflecting back at from the window and I took an astonished step back, nearly crashing into an ensign who was walking behind me.
"Sorry about that," I apologized. "Just thought I saw…"
I drifted off as I realized that this poor ensign would probably think I was nuts. He nodded at me, "Commander," and walked off.
I shook my head, but still Stephen was gazing back at me.
"That's it!" I said finally. I turned and left the window, trying not to think too deeply about what had just happened.
"Thoughts, Old Man?"
"On what?" I asked as I turned to face the captain. He was sitting in his captain's chair, looking very authoritative.
"Where would you like to go?"
"Go? Where? When?"
"We have to test the warp coils," Sisko said thoughtfully. "Dax, haven't you been listening?"
"I'm sorry. I was just thinking about other things."
"There's a lot of that going around, isn't there?" Sisko said. He came to stand at my chair, laying his hand gently on my shoulder. "Dax, you cannot lose your concentration. The others look to you and to Bashir and to O'Brien. You cannot falter."
"You're right. So what was the question again?"
By my smile, Benjamin knew I was teasing him now.
"Where do you want to go?" he asked.
"How about something in the direction of Betazed? Something calm and peaceful?"
"Sounds good," Sisko said. "Plot out a course. We leave tomorrow at 0800."
I met Stephen as planned. It felt good to be out of uniform and in something more feminine. I had chosen a pink dress that I had worn once before for the Bajoran Festival of Gratitude. On my way out though, I had bumped into Bashir and he had looked at me oddly.
"Meeting someone, Commander?" he had asked.
"Just for dinner," I had replied. "Nothing important."
"Well, you look very nice."
I could feel Bashir's gaze as I had exited, but I had pushed the weight of his scrutiny away. Somehow, inside, I was feeling very lighthearted and to be honest, I was really looking forward to this dinner with Stephen.
He had come alone to meet me, not that I had really expected him to bring Sonora. That, I thought, would have been terribly awkward.
"Jadzia," he took my hand and brought it to his lips. "You look lovely."
"Where would you like to eat?"
"Sisko recommended the Cajun restaurant."
"Ah," Stephen said. "So much variety here on the Starbase. Well, Cajun it is."
The restaurant was dimly lit and smelled strongly of gumbo and spices I could not identify. As per Sisko's instructions, I ordered the chicken gumbo and looked on with fascination as the thick, chunky dish was placed in front of me.
"How is it?" Stephen asked as he cut into his blackened swordfish dinner.
"Very interesting," I answered. "I'm not sure how I feel about it."
"I have to be frank, but gumbo is not one of my favorites."
"I always like to try new things. The other day Bashir and O'Brien had me try couscous. I liked it very much."
"Couscous," Stephen mused. "Yes, that is quite delicious."
We talked about other things, things that we had been through in the last year.
"I like being an engineer here on the Starbase," Stephen commented. "Mostly because I work on so many different ships. It's always a new opportunity to learn. And of course, I'm exposed to more cultures, more species. Sonora, on the other hand, has a more administrative position and she often has to go on trips. She likes that. Frankly, I think she's just trying to get away from me."
"I'm sure that's not true," I laughed.
"How about you? How is Deep Space Nine?"
"It's about the same as what you were just saying. Very fascinating. No two days are exactly the same. And of course, there's the ever present threat of a changeling replacing a trusted member of our crew. In fact, it's already happened once or twice. Bashir, our chief medical officer, was replaced for two months and we didn't even know it!"
"How could you not know?"
I sighed, "That's the problem. These changelings are so adept, so good at mimicking that unless you suspect that person, you never notice that a friend has been replaced."
"So what do you do?"
"Weekly blood screenings and phaser sweeps," I smiled. "It's so routine now, but very necessary."
"I guess that's life on the front. Funny how they never taught that in Starfleet Academy."
"Yes, I suppose."
After dinner, we went for a short walk on the Promenade and then Stephen saw me back to the Defiant.
"I really enjoyed tonight," he said. "Maybe we can do it again if you're not busy."
"Of course," I said. "That would be nice."
Julian was waiting for me when I returned to my quarters. He was slouching against the wall as I approached the door.
"Hi," I said.
"Enjoy your evening with Lieutenant Lam?"
"It was very pleasant. We caught up on old times."
"Ah," Julian said. "Good."
I didn't like the way Julian was looking at me so I issued him a perfunctory "Good night" and went into my quarters.
I changed my clothes and got into bed. Dinner with Stephen had been surprisingly nice; he had been gentle and warm towards me. Could it be that he had actually changed? That his scathing attitudes and perfectionist personality had finally vanished?
"It's possible," I thought as I closed my eyes. "It's very possible."
The next morning, as Benjamin had approved my flight plan, the Defiant headed off in the direction of Betazed. I loved being at the helm and it was nice to have something to concentrate my attention on.
The sortie was very smooth and the engines purred, giving O'Brien a reason to smile. I was happy for the chief; he had not had much to be joyful about in the past few weeks.
"At this rate we'll be meeting the Cardies in just a few weeks," O'Brien exalted. I grinned at the chief.
"I suppose having all those extra engineers really helped," I said.
"Yes," the Chief answered. "Especially Stephen Lam. He really is a whiz, Jadzia."
"Oh, he's very good at what he does," I answered. "Benjamin, Betazed is just ahead."
We all looked at the peaceful planet, which for the most part, was covered in clouds. I could see patches of green and blue here and there through the dense cover.
"Wouldn't it be nice to just stop here for a few days?" Bashir asked wistfully.
"I'm sure Counselor Troi wouldn't mind having us," the Chief answered. My head jerked back at O'Brien's words. Counselor Troi. Deanna Troi. The woman Worf had been so close to marrying before the Enterprise had been destroyed. And now, with Deanna Troi's image in my head, I thought about Worf and then about Stephen.
"Commander?" O'Brien asked.
"What?" I asked a little too sharply.
"Wouldn't you like to spend some time here?" he asked.
"No, not really," I said, suddenly feeling as if I couldn't breath. I had never had to doubt Worf before and I wondered now if he had reason to doubt me. I tried to tell myself that this was all ridiculous, that one dinner with Stephen meant absolutely nothing. But of course, there was this fact that I could not stop thinking about Stephen since we had been reunited.
Sisko came to stand by me.
"Maybe after the war," he said. "Commander, take us back to the Starbase."
"Aye, sir," I said with pleasure that my friends could not possibly comprehend.
That night, I wandered out onto the station. I had finally sent off the message to Worf; it had consisted of only three words: I love you. Somehow, I could not find a better way to tell him how I felt nor did I feel like describing the anxiety which sat like an enormous Bolian grindstone in my stomach. Likewise, describing the coolness I felt from those who were my close friends - Julian especially - did not appeal to me.
In the end, I decided that Julian had been right. That each of us was caught in our own individual stillness and in that stillness was a curious comfort.
I found a quiet little restaurant that specialized in Klingon cooking. I could not stomach gagh tonight, so I ordered a small piece of blood pie.
I had barely sliced into the quivering pie when a hand touched down on the table. I looked up. "Stephen."
Stephen Lam eyed me seriously and how well I knew that look!
"May I sit, Jadzia?"
We sat there in silence for a while. I contemplated the ruby glow of my blood pie; anything so that I did not look into those eyes again.
I had to look up; it would have been rude not to.
"Thank you for dinner yesterday," he said. "I wasn't sure how you would react to my invitation."
"It was fun," I said.
I began to cut my pie into increasingly smaller pieces. Stephen watched me and I sensed that he had something very important to say to me. The tension, however, was killing me.
"Whatever it is," I said finally. "Please just say it, because you're driving me absolutely crazy. I can't take you just staring at me like that. It makes me absolutely nuts."
Stephen nodded, "I'm just trying to find the right words, Jadzia. Give me a minute, okay? I want to say everything just right."
I understood and was silent; he needed his time and I was willing to give it to him. I continued to eat until his voice startled me. My fork clattered to the plate.
"Do you forgive me?" he asked softly. "Have you forgiven me?"
"For the way I treated you."
"I suppose so, yes."
"I am sorry. You do understand."
"Perhaps. Was that a question?"
"I don't know."
Again, silence filled the space between us; I shifted in my seat.
"Blood pie?" Stephen tried again.
"I did not know you liked Klingon food."
"After I was joined…" I broke off, knowing how the subject made him uncomfortable. I could look at him now, across the table, and see that he was uneasy around me. Suddenly, all the warm feelings I had had towards him dissipated and I found myself hating him with a passion that scared me. All of those old hurts bubbled up to the surface and all I could think was that here was Stephen, trying to be his charming old self, smoothing over all the pain with empty words. I had been wrong; he had not changed.
"Jadzia, I've wanted so many times to tell you so many things," Stephen continued.
"You told me plenty. You always did," I answered fiercely. I wanted him to know exactly how he had made me feel all those years ago, how inadequate and inferior I had felt to him. At that time I had not been strong, but this time, I was determined not to let him get the better of me.
"That's not what I meant."
"Isn't it?" I looked at him squarely. "You always told me things but you never listened. You never stopped to listen. How do you think that made me feel?"
"I'm sorry I never considered you."
"Considered me?" I laughed. "Did you ever care, Stephen? Or did you only care when I was in the bed with you?"
Stephen recoiled visibly. I laughed at his reaction, almost shocked at my own cruelty.
"You have every right to be angry," Stephen said softly. "You know, Jadzia, I never expected to see you again."
"It was as much a surprise to me."
"When I came aboard the Defiant and I saw you there, I thought there might be a second chance for us."
"You are married," I told him coolly. "There are no second chances, Stephen. Not in this case. And after the way you treated me, there was never any chance of us getting back together. Besides, your wife, she is very sure of you."
"You talked to Sonora?"
"Yes. Two days ago. I met her early in the morning."
"Sonora has done very well."
"Yes, she has. You must be very proud."
"Pride does not equate to love."
I jerked my head back and stared at Stephen. There was an intensity in his expression I had never seen before. He reached across the table and placed his large hands over mine. I wanted so to snatch my hands away but something prevented me from doing so. Instead, I recalled those hands on me, smooth and gentle, stroking and caressing. I closed my eyes briefly, as if remembering those wonderful times together.
"We did have good times, Jadzia. It wasn't all bad," Stephen said quietly, as if he was reading my own mind.
"You hurt me," I told him. "You had made up your mind that day, even before I came over. You knew you were going to marry Sonora and you know that even before you touched me. How could you?"
"I'm sorry. I was wrong."
"I can't believe what a fool I was then," I gazed off at some spot just beyond Stephen's shoulder. "I never knew that you and Sonora… how could I have known? I trusted you."
"I never loved Sonora the way I love you."
I gasped then, grabbing my hands away from his.
"You're a married man," I told him a trembling voice. "And you made that choice. You made it."
I stood up then, nearly knocking the remnants of my blood pie onto the floor. Stephen reached over and grabbed my wrist; the plate clattered to the floor, shattering into many pieces.
"Don't!" I cried out. I could feel the eyes of other patrons on us, but knew that no one would come to my aid. We were in a Klingon restaurant after all; spats like this were not uncommon.
Stephen jerked at my wrist, pulling me closer to him until there were but a few inches separating our lips. I could feel his breath condensing on my cheeks and I nearly placed my hand on his chest. At the last moment, I pulled away.
"You haven't forgotten me, Jadzia," he whispered. "And I haven't forgotten you."
He released my hand and stalked away. I stared after him, rubbing my throbbing wrist.
That night, I sought Benjamin out. I found the captain in his quarters, reading over the latest dispatches.
"Something the matter?" he asked me as I settled onto his bunk.
"You could say that."
I then went on to tell Benjamin about my encounter with Stephen Lam in the Klingon restaurant.
"Do you have feelings for him?" Sisko asked.
I laughed, a bit hesitantly, "Of course not."
"It obviously disturbed you."
"Disturbed me? Yes, of course."
"What do you want, Jadzia?" Benjamin asked. "Is that what you want me to tell you? What you want?"
"Don't be ridiculous. Stephen Lam, why, I hardly ever think of him. Ever," I laid deliberate stress on the last word.
Sisko stood up and paced the length of the room - measured in six quick and easy strides. I watched him, wondering what he was thinking.
"I could have security arrest him if he comes near you again," Benjamin said softly. "If that's what you want."
"I don't think that would be necessary."
"What?" my annoyance must have clearly shown through my voice, because Benjamin stopped pacing. He glared at me, a look that I had see often in my past life as Curzon; a look that told me that I had gone too far this time.
"If he comes near you again, you call security," there was steel in Benjamin's voice and I immediately regretted bringing this "problem" to him.
"I can handle it."
"I've heard that from you before. Have you forgotten Lenara?"
"That was different. Very different."
"Because you're in love now?"
"With Worf?" I allowed myself a smile, which slowly released the tension in my jaw. "Yes. Of course."
"Don't convince me. You have to convince yourself."
"Benjamin, don't do this to me!" I burst out. "Why are you doubting me?"
"Am I doubting you?"
"Yes, you are. Of all people, you know I am loyal. You've always known that about me, Benjamin. That hasn't changed and yet, here you are, doubting me. Looking at me as Odo would look at some petty criminal. Why?"
"How do you want me to look at you, Jadzia? You came here looking for something and I'm not quite sure what is you want from me."
I didn't answer right away. Benjamin plunged ahead.
"Jadzia, I gave you an option and you refused to take it. What am I supposed to think? You are obviously troubled by this Stephen Lam and you did have what could be called a violent encounter with him. Yet, you do nothing. And you ask why I doubt you."
"It's not that. You know it's not that."
"Then what is it?" his voice was very soft now, almost gentle and caressing.
I couldn't answer him right away and I was ashamed of my own timidity.
Benjamin laid a hand on my shoulder, but it wasn't the comforting gesture I could have hoped for.
"Jadzia," his voice was very dangerous and low. "The next time Stephen Lam comes near you, I expect that you will do something about it."
I nodded dumbly, knowing full well how well Benjamin knew me.
"You have an obligation to Worf," Benjamin continued. "And he is a married man."
I stood up, fully understanding that Benjamin had said all he was going to stay about Stephen Lam and that the decision about what to do now was completely mine.
"And you're wrong, Jadzia," Benjamin said as I stepped outside the door. "I have never doubted your loyalty before because you've never given me reason to doubt."
But I could hear the suspicion in his voice and knew that he already suspected me of infidelity. I could feel the anger raging through my blood at Benjamin's words. I bit my lip and nodded at him. Outside of his quarters though, I leaned against the cool gray walls of the Defiant, feeling the hot salt tears running down my cheeks.
I found myself a secluded nook, a gentle curvature in the wall directly opposite a wide expanse of starry sky. I leaned weakly against the wall, trying to think about what Benjamin had been trying to tell me.
"A penny for your thoughts."
My eyes flew open, "Stephen."
Stephen grinned at me, that crazy, crooked grin of his. I straightened immediately.
"I always seem to find you, don't I?" he asked, reaching out gently to touch the communicator on my uniform. His hand (inadvertently?) touched my breast. "You can't hide, Jadzia."
"I wasn't trying to," I answered defiantly.
"You didn't answer me last night."
"Yes. I asked if you had forgotten me."
"That's not what you said."
"So the answer is no," Stephen said with a satisfied smack of his lips. "Come, Jadzia, let's take a walk."
"I'd rather not," I told him bluntly. "Stephen, I don't have the time for this. I enjoyed dinner yesterday with you, but too much has happened and I really don't think we should do this, okay?"
He took my elbow, "I want to talk to you. We have much to discuss."
At that last phrase, I jerked away. Stephen glared at me.
"Don't come near me again!" I told him furiously. I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks as I stalked away. Worse, I could feel the pressure of his eyes on my back as I retreated.
The next morning, I arrived a few minutes early for my shift. Benjamin was already there but he did not say anything to me. I didn't make a move to talk to him either; the tension between the captain and me was palpable.
The truth was, Benjamin did have every right to call me on my reaction to Stephen. While I could convincingly tell anyone and everyone that I did not love Stephen Lam, I could not explain my own reluctance to face him.
In all honesty, I did not want to see Stephen again because I was afraid of my own reaction. It was amazing how the distance of eight years could not dilute my feelings for this man. And those were feelings I could not quite distinguish; it was a curious mixture of antagonism and attraction, thankfully, nothing pure.
O'Brien jostled me out of my disconcerting thoughts by asking, "Commander, did you realign the thrusters yet?"
I shook my head, more in an attempt to clear my head of these thoughts, than anything else.
"Good," O'Brien said . "There was something I had to first. Thanks, Commander."
I poured over the console until a firm hand on my shoulder jolted me out of my concentration. I looked up into Sisko's face and he was wearing an expression I could not read.
"Why don't you take some time off?" he asked in a voice which was not particularly kind. I was about to protest but then decided not to. Maybe the time off would be good for me.
"Thank you, sir," I said with a formality that chilled me inside. I got up from my seat and left the bridge.
Go to Part III
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