Author's note: Written for KnittingGoddess for the holiday ficathon; she requested W/D on Gaia ("Children of Time"). Many thanks to beta babe Rocky for looking this one over.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns these characters etc.
The pebbles skidded down the path in front of me as I started down the incline. The settlement was an hour behind me, while to my left, the sun was low in the sky, ribbons of vivid reds, oranges, and golds radiating out from it. The white dunes rose in the distance, and below me, the dome of the Defiant rose, catching the last glints of sunlight against its hulls. The sunset was beautiful this evening, and surely not one to be experienced alone. Next time, I thought.
I quickened my step, my feet slipping on the loose gravel, as I headed down. Over the past year, I had made this trip at least once a day, and even though I'd reconciled myself to the truth, it didn't hurt any less that tonight would mark my last visit to the Defiant. I stopped for a moment, caught my breath, as I stared across the horizon; the sun was now a half-circle behind the hills. On Gaia, sunset took a full two hours and from this moment, I knew I had at least another hour or so before full darkness overtook the twilight. I turned back and covered the last several hundred meters to the bottom of the hill, my arms flailing ungracefully as I tried to control my speed.
Low, scraggly brush surrounded the Defiant, except for the path we had bushwhacked to the hatch. From a distance, the Defiant still appeared proud and whole, but up close, the trauma of the last year could be seen, clearly etched across what was left of the hull plating. I ran my fingers lightly over the scars -- the rust spots that had appeared where the protective coating had worn away, the places where we'd peeled off sections of plating for other purposes -- and then of course, the hatch, which now opened on creaky hinges; the electronic panels had been long stripped away, and even if they hadn't been, we simply didn't have the energy resources to power both the ship and the settlement.
We had thought about building near the Defiant's landing spot, but were stymied by the lack of water in the valley (in my defense, I wasn't quite thinking about water or other survival resources when looking for what essentially ended up being a crash site). O'Brien had come up with an elaborate plan to build a series of irrigation canals and wells, complete with pipelines leading over the hills, but Sisko has nixed that plan, calling it "costly, in both human and capital resources."
None of us had wanted particularly to leave the safety of the valley; the hills on either side, the dunes in the distance and the lack of water and limited vegetation meant there were next to no predators -- a real issue when phasers and other weapons were in limited supply. Eventually, as our supplies had run out and it became increasingly clear we would not be leaving Gaia in the near future, we -- O'Brien, Sisko, and I -- had started drawing up plans for a settlement in the foothills -- a hike of about an hour to the south. Worf had objected strenuously to our plans to leave the valley, but when I accused him of sentimentality, he responded -- illogically -- that staying with the broken ship was purely a practical matter; returning to the Defiant for supplies and maintenance on a daily basis would be time-consuming and tedious. He had a point, but then I've never been quite convinced of Worf's sincerity when it comes to the Defiant.
I punched in the key code on the console next to the hatch. After being exposed to the elements for the past year, the panel was starting to deteriorate, and it offered me a half-hearted response. I tried a couple more times, and just as I was about to give up, the hatch swung open. It was eerily quiet and dark inside the once proud battleship, and I flipped on my light cell.
As I shone the light around the corridors, I could see the wires hanging down from the ceiling, the skeletal framework of the ship, and the holes in the walls where we'd ripped out equipment. Even the carpets had been ripped off and used for insulation in the village buildings. In the morning, we would start dismantling the remnants of the ship. I walked stealthily, measuring out my footsteps, because every sound echoed in the empty ship.
I crossed the Bridge, ignoring the absence of chairs, the missing computers and viewscreen. I didn't give Sickbay even a glance, because it was nothing more than a room; all of its contents had been transferred to Julian's makeshift infirmary back in the settlement. The mess hall too, small as it was, was now empty of everything except for the memories of fellowship and camaraderie.
As I entered the corridor leading to the crew's quarters, my breath caught in my throat. I put my hand against what was left of the wall, the sharp metal beam pressing sharply against my skin, and I inhaled sharply. And then I made my way to the second door on the right. It was open, a faint glow providing the only other illumination. I turned off my light cell and stood in the doorway.
"Worf," I said quietly. My voice echoed down the empty halls. "It's nearly nightfall."
"I know." He sat in his chair, staring at his bunk.
"Can I help you?" I indicated the two small sacks -- containing a combination of Worf's belongings and the last remaining salvageable components -- stacked in the corner of the room.
"I can manage." His tone clearly indicated he'd taken offense at my offer. I sighed. For being such macho warriors, Klingons sure had easily hurt feelings.
"I know you can take care of moving what's left yourself," I said softly, "but I'd like to help." I thought about how difficult it had been in those first days when we were first setting up our new living quarters. O'Brien had fashioned a wagon of sorts to help shuttle supplies from the ship to the settlement and we'd taken turns dragging it over the hills. Worf had been in charge of organizing the removal of components, equipment and other supplies for use in the settlement, and he'd used this responsibility as his main argument as to why he needed to stay behind on the ship. Over the last couple of months, as we came to the end of the project, Worf had been spending more time in the settlement, helping with the planting and irrigation efforts, but every now and then, I would spy him glancing towards the valley and I knew what he was thinking. Now, I put my hand gently on his shoulder. "I'm here, Worf," I said. "You might as well use my help."
Worf's expression softened slightly. He sighed heavily. "I did not believe this day would come."
"That makes two of us." I took a seat on the bunk. His was the only one left on the entire ship; the rest of us had moved into the settlement long ago. I'd begged Worf to reconsider, told him I didn't like the idea of him staying alone on the Defiant, but he -- as usual -- was obstinate and would not move. Every now and then, he'd spend the night with me, but more often than not, I'd have to hike over to the Defiant and then somehow, the two of us would fit on the narrow single bunk. While I would miss the Defiant, I would *not* miss the trek out to it, and my bunk put together with Worf's would double our sleeping space. Three hundred years of living had taught me to look on the bright side.
"The Captain is certain?"
"We need the metal
alloys to build the pipeline from the river to the settlement so we can have
indoor plumbing in the winter and the hull plating to roof additional structures,
both very worthy causes. You have *no* idea how tempers rise in a communal living
arrangement when there is no running water and that's when the weather is still
nice enough to spend most of the day outside. Can you imagine what it'll be
like in the winter?" I shuddered. It was only in the last month or so that
huts had been put up -- including the one I moved into -- which had eased some
of the living conditions in the main community barracks. If all went to plan,
everyone would be out of the barracks and into their huts (admittedly, two or
three to a hut) before the first snowfall. With some irritation, I added, "You
know this move is what's best for the community."
"Yes, but it does not mean I like it. Dismantling the Defiant removes any hope we may have of leaving this place."
"I've done the calculations a million times, Worf." I bit my lip. "The quantum duplicate theory I came up with a couple of months ago was the best alternative, and even that had too many flaws to try. I'm sorry."
"You are convinced there are no further options?"
"Absolutely. Would I lie to you?"
"About *this*, Worf," I said, letting a note of indignation color my voice. "You know I want to get us home as much as anyone else, maybe even more. Every day, I think about how it's *my* fault we're stuck here on Gaia, that because of me, Kira died, and O'Brien won't see his children grow up and Benjamin may never read Jake's first novel. If there was a way to get us home without the barrier killing us or sending us even further back in time, I would *not* have agreed to dismantle the ship." My cheeks were warm. I'd had this mental dialogue with myself more times than I could count over the last year, and I knew guilt would always be a distant echo, that it would be carried from me to my next lifetime (if, indeed, there will be another host). "And I'm sorry about Alexander." I let the last sentence hang between us.
Worf didn't react, his expression remaining frustratingly impassive. "My son is on the path to become a true warrior. My absence will be of no consequence to him."
"Please," I said. Sometimes Worf's passive-aggressive stoicism really got to me. Everyone else during the past year had lashed out at me in some fashion or another. Worf, however, seemed to reserve his strongest feelings for the damn ship. "You don't have to pretend. I don't blame you if you're angry with me." I bit my lip and waited.
"What is done is done." Worf put his hand gently on my knee. His touch was warm, caring, and if I let myself get carried away, forgiving. "We must move on."
I glanced at him uncertainly. Given the fact he had just asked about alternative methods to leave Gaia, that he'd been resistant to my responses, I couldn't figure out how sincere he was truly being. "Even you?" I gestured around the quarters. "Do you think you can?"
"I must," he said with all the fierceness of a Klingon warrior; when Worf put his obdurate mind to something, he stuck to it. If he said he was going to try, then I had to believe him. Worf rose and surveyed his little domain. "However, it will not be easy to adjust to life in the village."
While Worf hunted and gathered with the rest of us or performed other necessary survival chores during the day, most of the time -- and usually over my protests -- he chose to return to the ship to sleep. Living on the Defiant, separated from the other 47 of us, gave Worf the opportunity to hold on to his unique status as a loner, as a warrior. What he didn't understand was just how annoying he could be about his 'apartness'.
"If you think it'll be too comfortable in our hut, I can have O'Brien pour you a slab of concrete for a bed," I said. I flashed him a quick smile, but when he didn't react, I felt a sudden coldness run down my back. "You *are* moving in with me, aren't you?"
Damn him, I thought with some fury. Seven lifetimes of emotional entanglements and I still never see disappointment coming. I rose, placed my finger against his lips, effectively stopping him from saying anything further.
"It's okay," I said. I cleared my throat and then reached into my pocket. "Uh, anyway, I just came to give you these." I held out the small package, wrapped in the remnant of one of my old turtlenecks. "I was saving it for a special occasion and--" I shrugged "-- I guess this is as good of a time as any. The last night of the Defiant." I gave a shaky laugh. Worf's fingers brushed against mine as he took the package and then carefully, opened it. He stared at the contents for a moment and then glanced at me.
"Barak-kadan, his most famous performances," Worf said with some reverence. "I thought this opera was lost in the crash."
"So did I, but I found it among my things when I, uh, moved out of the barracks the other day and into the hut. I guess I must have borrowed it from you, though why I'd ask to listen to such a one-note performer, I couldn't tell you."
"You should have returned this immediately," Worf said, caressing the tube with such feeling I thought my heart would burst into a million tiny pieces. "Borrowed possessions should be returned in a timely manner."
I glared at him. "If our possessions were in the same place to begin with, you understand we wouldn't have this problem, right?" I cleared my throat, resolving to try being mature about the situation as my 300-plus years would dictate. "Anyway--" I indicated the small black box I'd included along with the recording "-- this fuel cell has enough power for about 10 minutes, enough to get you through the overture." I took a step towards the door. "I will leave you to your two loves, the ship and Barak."
I was halfway down the corridor, when the sonorous tones of the opera filled the ship. Even broken, the Defiant still managed to have marvelous acoustics. I stopped to listen. I was never a member of the Barak-kadan fan club, but there was a wrenching, passionate quality to the music I'd never noticed before, and Barak-kadan's guttural voice lent an understated counter note of longing. I pressed my hand against the wall, letting my head droop slightly, my eyes closing, and let the opera sweep over me.
I was still standing there when Worf came up behind me, his footsteps echoing loudly but in rhythm with the music. He wrapped his arms around me, and despite my very best intentions to remain aloof, I let myself ease into his embrace. He pressed his lips to my cheek, and then along my jaw line. His hair was rough against my skin, but everything else about him was soft, warm, and gentle.
"You did not let me finish earlier," he said in a voice so low I had to strain to hear him over the music. "You are quick to draw conclusions, Jadzia."
I sighed impatiently, the warmth of the moment rapidly evaporating. "Yes, yes," I said. "We've had this conversation many, many times. I'm impulsive, emotional, illogical -- oh, wait, T'Sen said that to Curzon -- among the other things that are wrong with me. I honestly don't know *how* you manage to stay with me." I wrenched away from his arms. "Well, at least you don't have to worry about that *now* since you've pretty much decided we're *done*."
"Jadzia." Worf shook his head. "I did not say that."
"How else am I supposed to take this bombshell of yours that you're not moving in with me?" At this point, my voice was overwhelming Barak-kadan's award-winning performance, but I didn't care.
"I did not say that either."
"You didn't have to," I said. "I can read between the lines. I don't know why I put up with *you*. You're argumentative, stubborn, absolutely unfeeling, and you have more affection for inanimate objects and boring opera singers than you do for me." This would have been a good time to turn on my heel and head for the hatch, but for some reason, I was absolutely rooted in place. I put my hands on my hips and offered Worf my very best glare. "And come to think of it, being stuck on this planet for the rest of my life with *you* doesn't sound that exciting anymore."
Worf extended his arm towards me, and I thought, no, no, no, but instead I reached for him. My face was hot with fury, my heart pounding madly, but despite all of the things that were so incredibly wrong with Worf, with our relationship, I longed for him with a passion that, quite frankly, bordered on madness. My eyes filled with hot tears as he drew me closer. Why in the caves of Mak'ala had I picked the one man in the galaxy who would never quite commit to me? Better to have gone with the safe and reliable choice of Julian Bashir, I thought with some bitterness.
"Jadzia." Worf placed his finger against my lips. "I did not say I did not want to live with you." His gentle pressure against my mouth made it impossible for me to speak. "I merely wanted to propose we get married first."
I blinked in surprise. In the background, Barak-kadan's performance was winding down on a long, drawn-out note. The steady, monotonous beat of drums didn't do much to add texture to the vocal. "What?"
"Communication is very difficult with you, Jadzia." He sighed.
Now there was the understatement of the year.
I stared at him, trying to process what he'd said. "You want to get married? When?"
"Seriously? Tomorrow? Are you trying to be funny?"
"Do you not want to get married?"
"Yes, I mean, yes, of course, but--" I glanced about helplessly. "On such short notice? I mean, shouldn't we *talk* about this?"
Worf regarded me gravely. "We are not very good at 'talking', Jadzia."
"Most people would say that would be a key reason to *not* get married," I scoffed. "I should know, I've been married six times already." And then taking a look at Worf's expression, I gulped. "I mean, not that I look at marriage lightly, and not that I *don't* want to get married, or that this is just another thing I've already done--"
"Jadzia. You talk
too much." He silenced me with a kiss and I laid my head against his shoulder.
In the background, the highlight of the piece -- a bone-shaking drum solo --
echoed loudly through the corridors before abruptly ending.
"And you are mistaken, Jadzia. We have discussed marriage before--"
"That was a long time ago, Worf," I said, feeling the heat rise in my cheeks as I remembered the very first time Worf had proposed to me: after our first, feverish and rather violent tryst in the holodeck. "You haven't mentioned anything since we crashed."
"I did not want anything to distract me from our objectives--"
"Returning to our timeline and the station."
I shook my head. "I can't believe this. Are you proposing because you've given up hope and there's nothing like sealing defeat with marriage?"
Worf drew away from me, pulling himself up to his full height. I hate to admit it, but I stopped to admire him.
"You do not wish to get married?"
"I never said that." I clenched my fists and then gently, uncurled my fingers. "You are an infuriating man, you know that?"
He offered me a faint smile.
"Is that a yes or a no?"
"You know--" I tipped my head to the side "-- I'd like a formal proposal. Something out of a fairytale, you know, roses, crystal, diamonds, candles, champagne, the whole nine yards. And ideally, you should be down on one knee."
In the dim light, I could see Worf bristle at the very notion. "Warriors do not kneel. Not even to their par'machai," he said stiffly.
"So, what do warriors do then?" I asked, leaning closer to him.
Worf cleared his throat and took my hand in between his; his skin was calloused from days hunting with rudimentary weapons, but his touch was warm and gentled. "Given the circumstances, I believe this is the appropriate time to formalize our relationship," Worf said. "Do you not agree?"
"Wow, now, that's romantic."
He glared at me, but without the heat of real anger. And then slowly, the corners of his lips tugged upward into a rare smile. He knew he had me, and there was no reason to pretend otherwise. Damn Klingon smugness, I thought with some irritation.
"Tomorrow, huh?" I said finally. I lifted my head to look at him.
"If that is acceptable to you."
Acceptable? He was asking *me* about acceptable? After I'd spent over an hour hiking a small mountain to bring him his precious Barak-kadan so he could spend his last night aboard the Defiant doing what he loved? 'Acceptable' was not a word *I* would use to describe that, but Worf is Worf, and the heart is what it is.
I cleared my throat. "Well, it probably make the most sense to get married tomorrow, since you'd need somewhere to put all your possessions once we clear them out of the Defiant, and you know how awful I am about misplacing things, and you'll always be after me to find one thing or another for you," I said shakily.
"It is agreed then." He interlaced his fingers with mine and gently pulled me back towards his quarters. "It must be well after sunset and the trail is too hazardous to attempt in the dark."
I couldn't resist teasing him one more time. "But what about the ship? Don't you want to be alone with her?"
Worf smiled. "Stay," he said. It was more than a one-syllabic answer, it was everything. I closed my eyes and let him sweep me off my feet.
~ the end
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