The Edge of Glory
The steaming mug of raktajino materialized in a welcome shimmer of light. Jadzia cupped her hands around the warm stone mug gratefully as she turned to find her usual spot at the replimat. Normally she preferred to indulge the first cup of the+
morning in her quarters, but her replicator seemed to be malfunctioning, producing Cavarian scones no matter what she ordered. A terse conversation with Kira over the comm system revealed that replicators all over the Habitat Ring were apparently suffering from a glitch relating to a software upgrade that had taken place while Jadzia had been off-station with Worf and Kor searching for the Sword of Kahless. As much as she appreciated the sudden bounty of scones, what Jadzia really needed was raktajino and after careful consideration of her options, she chose the replimat over the cacophony of color and noise that was Quark’s.
Jadzia settled at her favorite table in the back corner, partially obscured by a pillar. She appreciated the view because it allowed her to people watch with impunity but also granted her a modicum of privacy to relish her first sip of the spicy sweet Klingon coffee. She stretched slightly in her chair, feeling an ache in her lower back as well as lingering tightness in her hamstrings – a reminder of her trek through the Hur’q caves in search of the Sword of Kahless. She wrinkled her nose, remembering the cave’s stench – a miasma of stale air, bat droppings and standing water. Not for the first time, she wondered what had possessed her to chase after the legendary sword with two Klingons with diametrically opposite personalities. Admittedly Kor’s sense of adventure matched her own and as such, was hard to resist. Worf, on the other hand, seemed to thrive on eliminating as much fun as he could from any situation.
“May I join you?”
Jadzia blinked out of her reverie to see Worf standing awkwardly in front of her. The gruff Klingon seemed unusually off-balance, even slightly timid. He was holding a stone mug full of a steaming liquid.
“Sure.” Jadzia pointed to the empty chair directly opposite her. “I guess your replicator isn’t working either?”
“It is not. It seems to only produce hasperaat.” Worf settled into the chair with an irritated huff. “The malfunction is likely the work of the Ferengi bartender.”
Jadzia bit back her smile. “As much as he’d like to take credit, I don’t think this is Quark’s doing.” She quickly explained the conversation she’d had with Kira earlier. “Chief O’Brien is working on it. Hopefully it’s resolved by lunch or there’ll be a lot of unhappy people.” She eyed Worf and decided, regardless of the replicator situation, he’d probably stay stubbornly on the ‘unhappy’ list. “Are you fully recovered from our adventure?”
Worf’s eyebrows twitched. “If you are referring to the quest to recover the Sword of Kahless, then yes, I am fully recovered.”
“Well, that makes one of us,” Jadzia said. The slight rumble in her stomach made her regret leaving the pile of scones behind in her quarters. “I’m getting too old for these kinds of adventures.” Her eyes twinkled with mischief as she looked at Worf. “Next time, I’m going to let you and Kor have all the fun.”
Worf cleared his throat. “I am grateful you accompanied us.” His gaze was even and unflinching. “Your presence prevented a great harm from being done and for that, I am in your debt.”
“For what, the phaser blasts?” Jadzia remembered the intense frustration she’d felt overhearing Kor and Worf bickering back and forth about the sword. Shooting them seemed to be the only way to get their attention and realize how ridiculously they were behaving. “You’re welcome.”
“No. Not that.” Worf looked distinctly uncomfortable. Jadzia arched her eyebrow.
“What is it?” she asked.
“It was a great honor to accompany Kor, to become part of a legend, to be truly Klingon and I—” Worf focused his gaze somewhere past Jadzia’s shoulder “—was not up to the challenge.”
“We recovered the sword, didn’t we?”
Jadzia shrugged. “So? What else is there?”
“My behavior was unacceptable.”
“You’re being too hard on yourself.” Jadzia glanced at the growing line of officers and civilians waiting for the replicator; clearly the issues in the Habitat Ring hadn’t been resolved yet. She took a sip of her drink and then turned her attention back to Worf. “You and Kor have made amends,” she said evenly. “There’s no reason to keep beating yourself up about what happened between the two of you in that cave.”
“I would have let a man fall to his death,” Worf said.
Jadzia sucked in her breath. This was undeniable, but when she met Worf’s gaze, she could see the deep regret in his dark eyes. The Klingon didn’t show a lot of emotion, but he obviously still felt guilt about trying to convince Kor to release his grip on the precipice and land on a sliver of a ledge below; there was no doubt if Kor had followed Worf’s instructions, he wouldn’t have survived the fall.
“You’re still thinking about that then,” she said softly and somewhat surprised. Klingons, in general, didn’t tend towards introspection but then, Worf wasn’t like most Klingons and if she was being honest with herself, she found that aspect of Worf fascinating. His confession in the Hur’q cave about feeling out of place with his foster parents and then realizing he didn’t really fit in on Qo’noS either had made an impression on Jadzia. She had never found it difficult to reconcile wearing a Starfleet uniform with her identity as a joined Trill, but it was clear this was a conflict Worf had never managed to resolve. “Why?”
“It would have been murder if you had not stopped me.” He wove his fingers together, pressing the tips tightly against his knuckles so much that his skin paled slightly from the contact. “At the time, I did not think twice about what I was suggesting. I wanted him to let go so that I could have the sword. It did not matter to me then how I how achieved that goal. I believed I had a higher purpose and it did not matter what I did to fulfil it.” He sighed heavily. “When I held the sword in my hands, it seemed clear to me that I was meant to unite our people,” Worf said pensively. “The vision was so clear, so compelling that I was willing to kill to fulfill it.”
Jadzia considered. “But you didn’t.”
“Because you were there to stop me.”
“Is that what bothers you?” Jadzia asked. Worf was uncommonly disciplined for a Klingon, bound by both by honor and duty in a way that most Klingons didn’t have patience for. That kind of stringent morality could be grating, dull even, but Jadzia recognized that the rigid and humorless way Worf conducted himself was nothing but a façade for a deeply ingrained pain. That self-imposed isolation made it hard for Worf to accept help from others. “There’s nothing wrong with having someone else pull you back from the edge. We all need reminders from time to time when we’ve gone too far. There’s no shame in that.”
Worf shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I do not expect you to understand.”
“I do. Better than you know.” Jadzia took a deep breath. “A year ago, I experienced hallucinations, hearing a strange tune that I couldn’t get out of my head. It followed me everywhere.” She held up her hand, noticing a look of impatience flashing across Worf’s normally stoic face. “In the course of the investigation, I learned I’d had another host, a man named Joran Belar. A man who had killed the doctor who had declared him unsuitable for joining.” She fixed her gaze firmly on Worf, daring him to look away. “Every now and then, I remember what Joran felt in the moment before he took another man’s life. It wasn’t a sudden rage, Worf, but rather a slow burning, omnipresent anger. Joran could never escape it and he fixated that emotion on the man he felt wronged him. He felt such triumph when he saw the doctor gasping for breath.”
She paused for a moment. It was never easy to talk about Joran, and there were unnerving moments when memory of the doctor, lying in a pool of blood, would slip into her mind and it would take all her self-control and discipline to push away the images, the feelings away. That was both the joy and consequence of joining: the inability to ever separate Jadzia from those who had come before. In more quiet and philosophical moments, she wondered about the host who would come after her, how he or she would experience Jadzia. Pulling herself back into the present, she took a sip of her raktajino, and then continued. “You are nothing like Joran, Worf. You let a fantasy take over your better judgement but that is not the same as being a murderer.” She covered his hand with hers. “You saw a chance to redeem your honor, to unite your people. It was not an inconsequential sentiment—” she offered him a small smile “—and an honorable one too.”
“I wish I believed you.” Disappointment, and perhaps even a little bit of sadness, clouded Worf’s tone. His gaze dropped, and he looked down at Jadzia’s hand resting lightly on top of his.
“Give it time. Sometimes you need distance to see, to feel things properly in context.” Thinking about the bat’leth cartwheeling through space, Jadzia leaned forward, closing the space between them. She knew she was taking liberties but Worf didn’t pull away. Worf would never admit to wanting company, but she now suspected he’d sought her purposely this morning, the broken replicators providing a convenient. Solitude and guilt were unforgiving companions and she knew there was no anchoring connection stronger than the touch of another person. She observed the slumping line of his shoulders and bit back the instinctive need to comfort him. Remembering the story he’d related to her about the vision of Kahless he’d had a as a boy, she said, “Maybe Kahless meant something else when he said you’d do something no other Klingon had ever done.”
Worf tipped his head to look at her thoughtfully. “Kahless does not make mistakes.”
“Is that why you want to emulate him?”
Worf bristled at the comment. “I do not think of it that way.”
“That’s a tough standard to live up to, Worf.” The pieces were starting to fall into place for Jadzia. “You’re setting yourself up for failure. Kahless might be perfection personified, but you, you’re Worf. Why not just accept that?”
“I am a man without a house,” Worf said quietly. “My behavior must be impeccable if I’m to regain my place and that of my brother.”
Jadzia swallowed hard. Of course. It was more than just a sword, more than just fulfilling the prophecy Kahless had made to a young boy lost among his own people. The path for redemption was always long, always hard, but she knew Worf was equal to the task. The question was whether Worf realized it.
“This is an unsettled time,” Jadzia said. She glanced at the lengthening line at the replicator. “In coming days, months, maybe even years, we’re all going to have plenty to feel guilty about.” She took a deep breath. When she’d accepted the assignment on Deep Space Nine four years ago, she’d never imagined her tenure here would be anything but peaceful, maybe even dull. The hostilities between the Klingons and the Cardassians as well as the complicated element the Dominion brought meant she could never take stability for granted. As a joined Trill, Jadzia had no choice but to embrace change, but she wasn’t quite sure how she felt about the increasingly dangerous neighborhood she currently lived in. “We’ve got to work together.” Her expression softened. “You and Kor, you came to an agreement about the sword that you believed was best for the Empire and I happen to agree with you. Whatever happened in the cave belongs to the past now.”
“And what about the future? What will happen to my people?” Worf shook his head. “We taste victory now, but that is not enough to hold the Empire together.”
“Symbols aren’t enough to hold an empire together.”
“The Sword of Kahless would have provided hope.”
Jadzia bit back an exasperated sigh. Worf’s inability to let go was both his best and worst trait. “Some might even say finding the sword of Kahless is taking the easy way out. What’s the glory in just finding a sword? It’s what you do with it in the end that determines whether you have honor or not.” She tapped her fingers lightly on the tabletop. “The sword isn’t what made Kahless Kahless; his actions are what Klingons revere.”
Worf’s expression turned contemplative. “Perhaps you are correct.”
Dax raised her eyebrow. “Perhaps?”
Worf ignored her. “Now more than ever, we need someone who can lead the Empire on a path of honor. I was foolish to think it could be me.”
“No, not foolish, but misguided maybe,” Jadzia said firmly. She understood Worf’s need to mull over what had happened, what it had all meant, but as much as she empathized with him, she damn well wasn’t going to allow him to wallow in self-pity. Few things were more disconcerting than a Klingon lost in melancholy and the current geopolitical situation didn’t allow for much indulgence. She pulled her hand back from Worf’s and sat squarely back in her chair, silently daring him to challenge her. He seemed willing to leave the fantasy behind when he and Kor had beamed the famous bat’leth into space, but the longing in his voice told her the sting of his humiliation when Gowron stripped the honor from the House of Mogh was still raw. “The task of uniting the Klingon Empire belongs to someone else.”
“Yes.” Worf sighed and Jadzia knew the admission must have been difficult for him to make.
“I’m sorry,” Jadzia said with sincerity. “Stepping away from the edge of glory is never easy but perhaps that’s what heroism is actually about. Making the right decision when it’s so difficult.”
“It is impossible to stop thinking about how close we were to legend.”
“Because it was amazing, magical even, heavy with history and myth. You held it in your hands. There are not many who can say that they had the same experience.” Jadzia shrugged. “I think it’d be more unusual if you hadn’t succumbed to the sword’s power.” She quirked a mischievous smile. “You’re pretty serious for a Klingon, Worf, but I know there’s a bit of sentimentality in you.” She drew back and took a long sip off her raktajino. “You’re just as weak as the rest of us.”
Worf stiffened his posture, his dark eyes squinting beneath his thick eyebrows. “I am not weak.”
“There.” Jadzia lifted her cup towards him before downing the last of the raktajino. “I bet for that one moment you weren’t thinking about the sword, but rather how you were going to defend yourself from being defined as weak.” She put her empty cup down with a slight clunk. “Worf, you’ve lost a lot in recent months by choosing to side with the Federation against your own people, but you don’t have to figure how to navigate all of that now. For what it’s worth, I think you have plenty of honor, and I’m not the only one on this station who thinks that.”
“I wish that was enough for me,” he said softly.
There wasn’t anyway to sugarcoat the truth, Jadzia knew. “For now, it’s going to have to be," she told him softly. She pushed her chair back and stood up, cup in hand. She had a few minutes before she had to report to duty and another jolt of the strong Klingon coffee would be necessary to power her through her nine-hour shift. She gave her friend a thoughtful look. “You’re a Starfleet officer, Worf. You have to start thinking and acting like one.”
“What about Kor?”
The question surprised Jadzia. Kor had departed for Qo’noS shortly after they had arrived back on Deep Space Nine, lingering only long enough for Dr. Bashir to assure him Jadzia’s phaser blast had done the famed warrior little to no harm. The two Klingons had exchanged a few words on the runabout, but Jadzia hadn’t sensed any lingering animosity from Kor towards Worf. Kor was quick to anger and action, but also knew when to cut his losses and move on.
“He’s probably singing songs about your discovery over multiple barrels of bloodwine,” Jadzia said. That was the beauty of experience, Jadzia knew. Kor knew better than most how to subjugate his disappointment in bravado. In time, Kor would find another quest and the brief triumph of finding and handling the Sword of Kahless would fade into nothing more than a tavern story, fact and fiction becoming increasingly and intricately intertwined. “He’s letting it go. You should too. For now.” She squeezed his shoulder as she passed behind him. “One day your statute will be in the Hall of Heroes, your house restored to honor. Of that, I have no doubt because I know what you’re made of. You don’t need the sword of Kahless to prove who you are or what you’re capable of.” She tapped her empty cup with a bit of impatience. “But for now, coffee and duty calls. Are you coming?”
Worf cleared his throat. “You go ahead,” he said in a voice heavy with emotion. “I will see you in Ops.”
She gazed at him with concern and then nodded. “Sounds good.”
Jadzia joined the line of people waiting for the replicator. She exchanged a few pleasantries with some of the officers but took a moment to sneak a glance back at Worf. His gaze seemed distant, but his posture was still proud and there was a tension in his muscles implying he was ready to spring into action if the moment called for it. She smiled to herself. Maybe she wasn’t done adventuring with Klingons just yet.
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