I had barely rounded the corner after my encounter with Sonora when I bumped into Stephen. He seemed almost furious, his eyes ablaze with a passion that frightened me.
He grabbed my arm before I had the chance to move away.
"What are you doing?" I asked furiously.
"I was thinking about you."
"I can't," he said defiantly. "Don't tell me that you can't stop thinking about me."
I shook my head, "Don't fool yourself."
"I could say the same to you."
"I just spoke to your wife, Stephen. She says you love me. I think you're incapable of that emotion. Don't you ever think of your children?"
"I provide for my children."
"And the other one? The one with that ensign?"
Stephen's face turned livid, his anger expressed in a variety of shades from purple to red. I had seen that look before and often, I had cowered then. This time was different; I would not allow Stephen to intimidate me now.
"'Nora told you about that?" he asked.
"Yes. She told me everything."
"I have nothing to say."
I started to walk away, hoping that Stephen would leave me alone, but no, he followed. His long strides matched mine.
"Jadzia, wait. Let me explain."
The look on his face reminded me of a pleading puppy dog; I relented, my anger slowly cooling.
"I didn't mean to take advantage of you last night," he said. "I apologize for that."
"It was just as much my fault as yours," I answered coolly. "Except that it bothers me."
"I haven't been able to stop thinking about you."
"How can you be so cruel?"
"You keep asking me that," I said in exasperation. I stopped walking. "What do you want, Stephen? What do you want from me?"
"You can't have it," I answered firmly. "Eight years ago, you had my love. Think of what you did with it then."
Suddenly, Stephen pushed me up against the wall, nearly slamming my head into the wall. I cried out in pain. He pressed his lips firmly to mine as I pummeled his chest with my fists. His hands held me securely and finally, I kicked him in the shin and then kneed him in the groin. He gasped out in pain, loosening his grip enough so that I could push him away.
"Don't ever come near me again!" I gasped out at him. "Never!"
I turned and fled in the direction of the Defiant.
"What happened?" Julian asked softly, as he tended to the bruise at the back of my head. I didn't answer right away. "Jadzia?"
"I bumped my head."
"What were you doing? Crawling in some conduit and coming up too early?"
"Something like that."
Julian finished healing the wound and turned off the delicate medical instrument he held in his hand. He gazed at me intently.
"I don't like being lied to, Commander."
"Please, Julian?" I asked wearily. "Just leave me alone, okay? Just leave me alone."
I slipped off the biobed and left the sickbay.
Our first day out of Starbase 357 was thankfully uneventful. There was no sign of Dominion or Cardassian activity anywhere.
"Not that I want to run into any bloody Cardies anyway," O'Brien remarked, "but I'm starting to miss their scaly faces."
Sisko grinned at the Chief in amusement. Even I managed a smile; however, my thoughts were more troubled. Soon, I would have to face Worf and I knew I could not keep my betrayal from him. I wondered what his reaction would be and how I would bear it. Most of all, I cursed myself for my own stupidity.
I turned from the helm, "Yes, Captain?"
"You are awfully quiet lately."
"Ah. How is your head?"
"Better. It doesn't ache so much now."
"Bashir said it was a nasty bump."
"Well, you know how these things happen."
"Actually," Sisko said in an even voice, "I don't. Would you care to explain it to me?"
"I'd rather not."
"It might be worth your while to report… the general area of the incident," Sisko said carefully.
O'Brien looked at me, "Where did you hurt your head, Commander?"
"It's not important," I told them. "In a dress shop. This Betazed dress shop, that's where I hurt my head. You know, crawling on the floor, and I didn't look up and I just hit my head."
"You were crawling on the floor in a Betazed dress shop?" Bashir asked sardonically from behind me. I whirled about, not realizing that the doctor had made an appearance on the bridge.
"Marisol had dropped something," I said hastily. "That's all. And it's really not important and we all have other things we should be worrying about, so…"
O'Brien was satisfied with my explanation, but I knew Bashir and Sisko wanted more answers. However, I knew I could not share that information with them until I had resolved my own feelings.
With distance between Stephen and me, I could finally take an impartial view of the situation. Well, semi-impartial.
I had been wrong, and I knew that, and what I had felt for him was not love, not desire, but something close to repulsion.
So why did I kiss him? Why did I let him touch me in that dress that I had bought for Worf's eyes only?
I could not sleep at night, thinking about how I was going to tell Worf. I knew I could not keep this perfidy from him, and I was desperately afraid I would lose Worf forever now.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid," I told myself as I sat up in bed, unable to sleep. I finally got out of the narrow cot and reached under the bed for the barrel of bloodwine I kept. I poured out one glass and when that was finished, I poured another.
My head ached as did my body. The hands shaking me did not help the situation. I pressed my hands to my stomach, feeling it lurch. Inside of me, the symbiont moved uneasily, aware of my inner turmoil.
My eyes opened with difficulty. Julian. I reached up to touch his face gently but somehow he seemed so far away, out of focus and distant.
He took my hand.
"You're burning up," he said curtly.
And at that moment, I did not care. My whole body could explode into flames and I would not care. Anything, I thought, to cease this torment in my head.
I felt the cool kiss of the hypospray and suddenly, everything was dark.
I woke, feeling drained and hungry. I looked about and realized I had been moved from my quarters to the infirmary.
"Julian?" I whispered. My throat hurt badly.
Bashir was immediately at my side; it was almost as if he had been listening for me.
"How do you feel?" he asked solicitously.
"Like I've been through a battle with a dozen Jem'Hadar. How long have I been sick?"
"Two days. Bloodwine poisoning."
I groaned, "I haven't done that since I was Curzon."
Bashir eyed me with compassion, "You made a mistake, Jadzia."
He was referring to the bloodwine, but I was thinking of another mistake I had made.
"A mistake that could cost me the man I love."
"I doubt it."
I looked at Bashir with hope.
"You do?" I asked softly.
Julian nodded, "I know how much Worf loves you, Jadzia. And I know you two belong together. It has never been easy for either of you, but I think you will make it through this too."
"Thank you for saying that. You don't know how much I've wanted…"
"I'm sorry I was so hard on you earlier. I just didn't expect such things from you. I guess I was surprised and shocked. I know things have been hard for you, and I know I haven't made it easier for you."
"No," I said firmly. "This has nothing to do with you. It was my mistake. And I should have been paying more attention to you, and not at all to Stephen Lam. I should have listened to Sisko and sent him away."
"What happened, Jadzia?"
I looked at Bashir, into those deep, brown compassionate eyes. Maybe in another lifetime, I may have had feelings for him, but not in this one.
"He came to my quarters," I began hesitantly. "He kissed me. That's all."
"You drank yourself silly over a kiss? Jadzia!"
"It was more than that," I said miserably. "He touched me and it was with each touch, he was burning my flesh."
"And?" Julian prodded gently.
I closed my eyes; I could feel Stephen's hands on my shoulders, gently peeling the soft fabric of my dress away from my skin.
"He touched the dress," I said hesitantly. "This stupid dress that I bought. He touched it."
"That bothers you?"
"Yes," my eyes flew open. "Very much."
Julian's brown eyes met mine; there was so much compassion there!
"I'm almost afraid to ask, Jadzia, is there more?"
I shook my head, "No, not really. He removed my dress and I don't know why I didn't stop him. I couldn't. It was as if I was paralyzed, bolted to the floor. And I knew it was wrong and I wanted him to stop, but it was like I was underwater."
Julian did not say anything and suddenly, I was very afraid. I could not read his expression and I knew immediately that he was disappointed in me. I rushed to go on, my words coming out in a jumble.
"He pushed me down on the bed," I recalled softly, my voice just barely over a whisper. I closed my eyes again and in the darkness, the nightmare was very much alive in my head. I could see Stephen leaning over me, my hands reaching out, pushing against his chest. He had kissed my neck, my face, his hands moving all around me, touching me everywhere. I could still feel his bare skin against mine, our sweat mingling as our damp bodies struggled in those sheets. And then something had caused him to lose his concentration and I had taken advantage of that and reached for my comm badge. I don't know if Stephen had been afraid I would call security because he left me there, without a word.
I took a deep breath, "He saw my scar. The symbiont scar, I mean. He saw it. That's the only reason, Julian, he left. And for me, that's the worst part of it all."
Julian nodded, "Because you're afraid of what might have happened?"
"You didn't do anything, Jadzia. You were not unfaithful."
"But I was, Julian," I took a deep breath. "If he had not stopped that second, I would have let him continue. I would not have stopped him. It was almost as if I wanted it to happen even though I knew it was wrong and that I did not love him. It was as if all my muscles had frozen and I had no will of my own. I do not understand."
"It could happen to anyone."
"How do I explain this to Worf?"
"I don't know, but you're going to have to. You know that."
I nodded miserably, knowing that my reunion with Worf was going to be less than wonderful.
At that moment, Sisko's voice came over the com.
"Sisko to Dax."
I took another deep breath to collect myself and then answered him.
"Commander, I need you at the helm."
"On my way."
I looked at Julian and his expression told me that I could trust him with my terrible secret. I walked to the bridge, my hands clasped behind my back and my head slightly bowed. I found Benjamin standing on the bridge.
I slid into my seat before turning to face the Captain.
"What course?" I asked.
He told me and then added, "Dax, it's the Rotarran. It's been badly crippled. The rest of the Klingon fleet has either been badly damaged or destroyed. Our orders are to bring Martok and any other survivors out. Starfleet says it's bad."
I couldn't say anything for a long moment and then I said softly, "Understood. Setting course."
"Do you know what we will find in Garida?" I asked Benjamin the next day as we walked together to the bridge.
"It won't be good, I know that. The Klingons are not ones to ask for assistance."
Just before we reached the bridge, Benjamin stopped me.
"You lied to Bashir," he said. "And you lied to me."
"Lied?" I asked shakily.
"About your injury. How you hurt your head. And Bashir told me why you were sick: bloodwine poisoning. I've known you a long time, Dax, and I know when you are lying. I'm not going to push you for the truth, but I want you to know that I'm available if you need to talk about it."
"There's nothing to talk about, Captain."
Sisko met my gaze and held it until I had to avert my eyes. How well he knew me!
"You're right," I told him shakily. "I just can't talk about it right now and honestly, it's not important right now. I mean, my own selfish problems can wait, can't they?"
"I just want to know that I can count on you, Jadzia."
"You can. You always have been able to and you don't have a reason to doubt me now, Benjamin. I can do my job. Please don't question me again."
"Good, because I need every good man I can get."
"You won't be disappointed, sir."
I followed him onto the bridge, my heart pounding fiercely. I knew I should tell Benjamin what had happened between Stephen and me, but frankly, I felt already too many people knew.
This, I thought, should be a private matter between Worf and me.
If I found Worf. It was a thought that I tried to push away, but one that continued to nag me during the entire journey to Garida.
We arrived in the Garida Cluster about thirty hours later, hopefully not too late, I thought, as I surveyed what remained of the Klingons' once proud fleet. Burned out hulks of ships littered the space between Garida I and Doral IV - the last Klingon outpost before Cardassian space.
There was silence on the bridge as we approached the debris cautiously. From his spot in back of me, Bashir spoke up once to say, "I'm picking up traces of Klingon DNA" and then he too was silent.
I navigated slowly and cautiously, thinking that it was good that I had gone back for my level five pilot certification a couple years back. Eventually, I turned off the impulse engines, in order to let us drift through this graveyard.
Sisko touched his chin thoughtfully; it was a gesture I knew well. He wasn't a man to show his fears or dismay readily, but I knew that he was deeply disturbed by the sight in front of us.
"That's the M'Kai," I said. "The Toris, the N'Klept, the…" my voice drifted off as I saw the Rotarran in front of us. The once proud ship lay complete dismembered, its shell charred and crumbling. I scanned it quickly.
"Weak life signs," I said. "Not many, ten or twelve maybe."
Bashir jumped to his feet, "Captain?"
Sisko nodded, "Of course."
I turned to face Benjamin, "Permission to go also, Captain?"
Sisko did not answer right away and suddenly I was afraid he wouldn't let me go. Finally, Benjamin said, "You may go, Jadzia."
I was so grateful at that moment, but I also knew that I was terrified of what I would find out there. I reached for my phaser and looked over at Bashir.
"Two to beam over, Chief," Sisko said and the bridge of the Defiant dematerialized.
I picked my way through the wreck of the Rotarran cautiously. I had set up force fields to protect us from the gaping holes in the Rotarran's shell; the last thing Julian or I needed was to be blown out into space.
Julian beamed the large flashlight around the interior of the ship. Several computer consoles were blown out, wires dripped from the ceiling and there was the occasional body on the floor. Julian stopped next to each body, assessing the cause of death. Most had died from internal injuries, he said.
Damage was particularly high in the mess hall; it appeared as if an inner wall had caved in on those inside. We could not move any of the debris, so we were unsure how many dead were inside.
"No survivors," Bashir told me.
I eyed what remained of the mess hall, "Can we get them out?"
The two of us tried to push aside the debris, but we could not budge any of it.
"Ow!" I exclaimed. I held up my hand.
"Jadzia," Bashir said. "Here, hold out your hand."
He quickly healed the gash in my hand.
"Be careful," he warned me. I nodded, cradling my still throbbing hand in my other hand.
We continued our search, our flashlights scanning every nook and cranny of the ship.
"It must have been one hell of a battle," Julian said uncomfortably as we moved down the darkened halls. Every now and then, the ship creaked or we would hear a small explosion, usually from one of the uncovered electrical wires.
"We will have to locate the flight recorders," I said. "They should be on the bridge. Those should have detailed information on what happened here. The Klingons keep very good battle records."
"Naturally," Bashir said, grimacing. I did not blame him for the expression. The air smelled foul, of death and fire. I wrinkled my nose, trying hard to keep the nausea down.
"There should be more bodies," I said uneasily. "Or do you think anyone escaped?"
"They were blown out to space," Julian said. "You saw the infirmary; there was nothing left of it. Everyone in there…"
"Please," I said, holding up a hand. "That's okay."
We separated then, Julian heading to the left and me to the right. My tricorder was not picking up any life signs, but I realized that the electrical interference from the dying ship was jamming the tiny machine. I sighed and turned it off. I shined my little light all through the dark corridors, wishing that Klingon ships had not been so narrowly designed, with so many little compartments where people could hide.
Worf could be anywhere.
My heart began to beat louder as I stumbled over a body in my path.
"Oh!" I nearly screamed as I stared down into Lukasa's face; I had met Lukasa during the time I had served on the Rotarran. We had not been friends, but still it was a shock.
"Worf!" I screamed. "Worf!"
No answer, only the crackling of wires around me. I put my hand down on a wall and realized that it was still warm. Fire.
I backed away, not quite sure what to do.
Think, Jadzia, think.
I rounded a corner and found the source of the fire, a small blaze against the offending wall. I took off my jacket and dropped it on the flames, stamping out the fire with my feet. Now, with the immediate threat extinguished, I could take the time to look around. I was in a crew member's quarters, spartan and uncomfortable as Klingon quarters usually were. My eye caught the edge of a silver frame and I reached for the picture. It was a couple, young perhaps, taken somewhere on Q'Onos. I recognized the temple in the background as one Curzon had visited for a reason long forgotten. I put the picture down, my heart pounding wildly. I turned and looked at the figure on the bed, lying there so peacefully. I pressed my hand to my mouth and flew out of those quarters. I stumbled over a fallen beam and landed hard on the floor. I pushed myself up from the floor, cursing the weakness of my flashlight.
"There has to be someone left alive here," I said out-loud. My knee was throbbing from my fall as I limped around the corner. I heard a groan in the next room and my spirits picked up. To my dismay though, I found that the sound had been caused by a sagging conduit.
"Commander, I found someone!" Bashir's voice crackled over the comm.
"Where are you?"
I understood Julian's confusion; in the wreck of the ship, no section was clearly identifiable anymore.
"Don't worry," I said. "I will find you."
I was thankful for the time I had spent on the Rotarran a few months ago, because I was able to locate Julian from his visual descriptions. I found him in what used to be Martok's ready room, now a disastrous wreck of a room.
"He doesn't look good," Bashir told me. I looked down into the face of Lieutenant Krovac, one of Martok's good friends. He was breathing heavily, blood dripping out of the side of his mouth.
"I have to take him back to the Defiant," Bashir said.
"Of course. I will stay here," I answered a little too quickly. Until I had found what I came for, I was not leaving.
I shook my head, "I'll be fine, you go."
"I'll be back."
Bashir tapped his comm, "Two to beam over."
After Bashir was gone, I redoubled my efforts to find survivors. There were major sections of the ship I had not gone over yet and I had hope. However, I encountered more bodies as I moved into the unexplored regions of the ship. As far as I could tell, most had died when the Rotarran's structural integrity had collapsed.
I made my way down into the engineering portion of the vessel and there located several warriors still alive with superficial injuries. I quickly helped bandage one man's arm and then helped another to his feet.
"Dax to Defiant."
"Go ahead, Commander," Sisko's voice echoed through the room.
"Three to beam directly to the infirmary."
The three Klingons disappeared and I resumed my search. My initial scan had detected ten to twelve life signs; we had located four. I pulled out my tricorder and found nothing.
"Dammit!" I cried in frustration, nearly ready to throw the instrument against the wall. Hot tears welled up in my eyes and bitterness stung my throat. I swallowed hard, thinking that warriors don't cry. Well, damn it, I wasn't a Klingon and I was going to cry if I wanted to. I found myself in a small anteroom off main engineering. Here, the room was mostly intact but no one was there. I bent over the console, hoping to coax some information out of it, but the computer did not respond to my touch.
I stamped my foot then, almost like a petulant, pouty child.
I heard a groan then and ventured into the next room. Martok.
Martok's eyes fluttered opened as I reached his side.
"General?" I asked softly.
"Commander," he said in a weakly hoarse voice. "He said you would come."
"Is he alive? Where is he?"
"I last saw him in the mess hall," Martok answered.
My heart nearly stopped at that moment as I recalled the mess hall with its collapsed walls.
God no, oh God.
"General," I held my tricorder over him. "You have severe internal injuries. I have to get you back to the Defiant."
"Sounds good to me, Commander."
I touched my comm badge, "Dax to Defiant. Two to beam over."
The insides of the infirmary appeared eerily bright compared to the darkness that had enveloped what remained of the Rotarran. I watched as Julian treated Martok.
"He will live to face the Cardassians again," Bashir told me.
"That's good to hear. The others?"
"They will live also."
I left the infirmary, my heart pounding loudly in my ears. This wasn't the way it was supposed to be, I thought. This wasn't the way it was supposed to happen. We were supposed to get married! Married, dammit!
Was this my punishment then? My penalization for those reckless moments with Stephen? I pressed the back of my hand to my eyes for a moment, trying to clear my vision and then I took a deep breath.
"Don't be stupid, Jadzia."
I kept walking, trying to lose those horrible thoughts in my head.
"I shouldn't have let him go," I said out-loud. "I should have insisted that he stay with me." Then I smiled wryly; when was the last time Worf had ever listened to me? He was too stubborn to listen to anyone, even me, his mate. Not even when I was so obviously right, I thought. And this was one of those times; I should have insisted more that we stay together and then none of this would have happened. I pressed my hand to my heart, knowing now what I had to do.
"Dax to Sisko."
"I want to go back, Benjamin."
There was a pause and then O'Brien said, "That's not a good idea, Commander."
"The warp core… I just detected a breach."
"You can't intend to go over there, Jadzia. The ship is liable"
I cut it him off, "Chief, how long?"
"An hour maybe. At the most."
"You have to let me go, Benjamin."
There was silence at the other end of the comm link and I pounded the wall in frustration. An ensign, passing by, eyed me with suspicion. I could tell what he was thinking, that Commander Dax had finally lost it all. I mustered up a shy smile and he nodded at me; I noticed how quickly he moved past me.
"Benjamin," I said, trying to sound patient. "Please…"
More silence and then finally, Benjamin's voice, "Permission granted, Commander."
"I will come with you," O'Brien said.
"Chief," I said. "That's not necessary."
"It is necessary," Sisko interjected smoothly. I thought about arguing, that there was no reason to put two people in danger and then I decided that time was too short; besides, O'Brien, once he had made up his mind, could be as stubborn as me.
A second later, the grip of the transporter beam tingled through my body.
We materialized on the Defiant. My eyes immediately adjusted to the surroundings and I beamed the light for the Chief's benefit. O'Brien nearly gasped as he took his first look around.
"I knew it was bad," he confessed. "But I didn't realize how bad it was."
He was referring not only to the broken paneling and other destruction, but also to the bodies littered about. I do not want to say that I was hardened to the sights on the ship, but I also did not want to dwell on the huge cost paid here. I could almost hear Sisko's voice in my head, "This is war, Old Man. This is what war does." And I could also hear Kira's voice asking if I was afraid of war and my own hesitant reply.
Of course I did not say all of this to the Chief; I had other things on my mind, including the imminent warp core breach.
"There isn't much time," I said impatiently.
O'Brien looked at me in surprise; I waved my hand around.
"This will take time to get through. There is no time to waste," I told him.
He seemed to understand my urgency.
"I will be in engineering," O'Brien said. He held up his tool box and I immediately understood what he meant to do.
I looked at him in amazement, "You're going to try to fix that?"
O'Brien nodded, "She is a good ship. We could use a good ship."
I didn't wait for further explanation; I had to find Worf before it was too late.
I had found Martok near engineering, but I doubted Worf had been there at the time of the attack. Instead, I took the opposite direction, and headed to the main crew quarters. I could not see Worf in his quarters during an attack, but I had not found him in engineering or on the bridge and I refused to believe that he had been in either the infirmary or the mess hall when those locations had been destroyed.
I found several more Klingons in this new area, all alive, but barely. I injected one with a pain killer and bandaged another forehead. One, I could not recognize, his face was so bloody. I had them beamed over to the infirmary and hoped they would live.
I was moving now with a vengeance, almost angry at the survivors I had just found, as taking care of them had robbed me of precious time I could have spent looking for Worf.
"About twenty minutes to be safe."
"Understood. Dax out."
I stood at a crossroads, wondering where to turn now. Right, I decided. I would go right. The light here was dim and suddenly I heard a loud crash behind me; I jumped, dropping the flashlight. Suddenly, everything was dark.
I got to my knees and groped around for the flashlight but then I heard another loud bang and I realized that the corridor I had chosen was falling in on me.
"Good choice, Jadzia," I said as I decided to leave the flashlight behind. I kept close to the wall, feeling my way through the debris. Behind me, I could hear the walls collapsing.
I kept screaming, ignoring the nagging pain in my throat. I would scream myself hoarse if I could find Worf. I found myself in a narrow closet of a room, thankful to be out of the path of the falling walls. I tripped over a bat'leth which had been curiously abandoned in this hall, cutting my knee in the process. For a moment, I just sat there, shaking my head over my own clumsiness.
"This is insane," I said. "Absolutely insane."
I got to my feet and limped my way into another equally tiny room. Not for the first time, I was thankful that I was not claustrophobic. In fact, even in the best of conditions, Klingon vessels were closed in spaces, with crew packed in tightly. I shook my head, laughing at those inane thoughts running through my head.
Where would he be? I wondered as I stumbled my way through this little room.
"What is it, Chief?"
I turned down the corridor and resumed my yelling for Worf. If he was here, he would certainly hear me. I tried desperately not to think of the infirmary or the mess hall. Finally, from the dark reaches, I heard a weak, "Jadzia?"
I could hardly contain my excitement, "Worf? Keep talking. I'm here. I will find you. Keep talking."
And then awful, dreadful silence.
I headed towards the direction of Worf's voice.
"Worf, I heard you," I said desperately. "Please, I need to find you."
It was then I felt a hand on my leg and I knew that touch. I knelt down on the floor immediately and reached about until I touched him.
"Now you speak," I said softly. "Dax to O'Brien. I found him."
"Understood. O'Brien out."
"Dax to Defiant. Two to beam out."
"Did O'Brien get out?" I asked breathlessly as I reached the bridge. Sisko nodded.
"Worf?" he asked.
"Julian has him," I reported. "He has extensive injuries…"
"Commander!" the ensign who was occupying the spot usually taken by Kira turned to me.
"What is it?" I asked.
"The Rotarran. Warp core breach is imminent."
I turned to my panel to check what the ensign was saying. Indeed, the shock waves emitting from the Rotarran's warp core signified that yes, an explosion was forthcoming within seconds.
"Sir," I turned to Sisko. "The warp core will explode in three seconds."
"On viewscreen," Sisko commanded.
Our attentions turned to the viewscreen as the Rotarran exploded into a giant fireball. The Defiant rocked fiercely as the shock of the explosion dissipated through space.
"Get us out of here, Old Man," Sisko commanded. I nodded and piloted the ship to a safe distance. The scanners detected other Federation ships approaching to help with the salvage operation, so I sent them a communiqué, telling them to wait until the explosions had died out.
"That was magnificent," the ensign said in awe. None of us bothered to respond to that comment. Sisko stood and advanced to the viewscreen. He placed a hand on my shoulder.
"That was a fine ship," he said softly. "Many fine warriors on that ship."
I nodded, understanding only too well how great a loss this was. I knew Worf and Martok both would be devastated by the destruction of the Rotarran.
"We're a safe distance now from the ship," I said. "The shock waves should not bother us as much anymore."
"Good to know," Sisko said.
"Sir?" I turned to Sisko. "May I…?"
Benjamin nodded, "Dismissed, but I may call you back if needed."
"Understood. Thank you, Captain."
I made my way to the infirmary as fast as my weary feet and sore knee would take me; in the process, I nearly bowled over a hapless lieutenant, who immediately jumped out of my way. I barreled into the infirmary, nearly colliding with Bashir.
"Whoa, Dax," Julian laughed, grabbing me by the shoulders. "Where are you going so fast?"
"Sorry," I said. "I guess I wasn't looking where I was going."
"Let me take a look at that knee," Julian said. "That was one hell of cut you got there."
I had almost forgotten, in all the action, that I had gashed my knee on a bat'leth. Now my knee began to throb painfully, reminding me of those horrid moments on the Rotarran when I wasn't sure if I would find Worf.
I sat on the biobed as Bashir pushed my pant leg up.
"That's impressive," he said. "Any deeper and you would have suffered nerve damage." I looked around the infirmary, noting that most of the beds were occupied by the Klingons we had rescued from the Rotarran.
"How are they?" I asked.
"I've lost one," Bashir said. He pointed to the one whose face I had been unable to recognize when I rescued him. "I think the transport killed him; his body could not handle the stress of it. He was dead when he arrived."
I bit my lip, immediately cursing myself for the anger I had felt towards this particular group of Klingons. Maybe if I had been more patient, more caring, more… damn! Self-recrimination, annoying as it was, seemed to be my particular masochistic habit of late. I closed my eyes briefly, trying to rid myself of the guilt which weighed so heavily on me.
"Jadzia," Bashir was eyeing me strangely. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, fine. How is Worf?"
"Fine. Stubborn. Refuses to die."
"He will live?"
"Not to worry, Jadzia. You will get married."
I looked at Julian, almost in dismay at the flippancy of his words. He immediately recognized that he had made a mistake.
"I'm sorry, Jadzia."
"It's all right. Maybe I deserved that."
"No, you didn't. I'm sorry."
"Where is he?" I asked.
Over there," Bashir said. "There, your knee is almost as good as new. Try to keep off of it for a while and please, stay away from sharp objects."
"Aye, Doctor," I said with a grin. "Worf?"
Just for a few minutes," Bashir replied. "And I wouldn't advise telling him too much right now. He's far too weak. Just let him know you're here."
"Understood," I slipped off the biobed. I made my way to Worf's side. He was awake, his eyes half open. I leaned over and kissed his forehead and then my fingers lightly caressed his brow ridges.
"Hi," I whispered. "How do you feel?"
"I have felt better."
"I know. Worf, I was so afraid I would not find you."
"You did though."
I smiled at him. Worf's eyes opened a little wider and he reached up to touch my lips.
"I dreamed often of your smile," he said hoarsely. "I would think of you every night before I went to sleep and every morning when I woke. And I knew you would come for me."
"How could I ignore my own heart?" I whispered back. "You are my life, Worf, and without you, I don't know how I would go on. I could not leave until I had found you."
His eyes fluttered close for a moment and then opened again.
"You are tired," I said. "I should let you rest."
"No," he held my hand tightly. "Stay with me while I sleep."
"What happened?" I asked when Worf was well enough to speak. He explained how the Cardassians had come out of nowhere with more enforcements.
"We greatly underestimated their strength," Worf sighed. I touched his forehead gently, smoothing his hair away from his brow. He looked so tired and so weak, and I knew how he hated to be confined to the infirmary.
"We lost sensors and tactical first," he said. "And then navigation and weapons. After that, it was easy for the Cardassians. They pummeled us endlessly with their weapons. I remember the walls falling in, the consoles exploding and that endless distress call. Towards the end, I was not sure whether the Federation had heard us or not."
"We heard you," I told him. "When we got to Garida, the Cardassians were gone."
"They have claimed a great victory, I suppose."
"I imagine, I don't know."
Worf's eyes closed. Bashir approached me.
"He's tired, Jadzia," Julian said quietly. "Let him sleep."
I left Worf reluctantly.
"Let me know if he asks for me," I instructed Julian. "I will come immediately."
Go to Part V
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