Summary: All lovers young, all lovers must/ consign to thee, and come to dust. Knowing Dax through the ages. Not quite a love story.
Fandom: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by Paramount. Title courtesy of William Shakespeare.
Pairing: Curzon Dax/Arandis; Curzon Dax/Jadzia Dax (unrequited), Jadzia Dax/Arandis (unrequited)
Spoilers: up to season 5 of DS9; specifically for the episodes “Playing God”, “Facets”, “Rejoined” and “Let he who is without sin…”
Title, Author and URL of original story: New friends and old lovers by caitn.
Notes: Thanks to kathyh, who came through with the beta as always!
Fear no more
The first time Arandis saw Curzon Dax, she was less than impressed. Of course, she didn’t show it; she was a sub facilitator then, with plans to make it all the way to chief facilitator for one of the major regions, possibly even the Terntibi Lagoon. You didn’t get to be in charge of more than a cleaning-up crew on Risa if you didn’t have a talent for getting along with just about anybody, be they Starfleet admirals or very pregnant Klingon women itching for someone to take their moodswings out on. And it wasn’t that Dax did anything really objectionable. But she had heard of him, long before she saw him, and the reality inevitably fell short of her expectations. Curzon Dax had been visiting Risa for years in between helping to make Federation history, and consequently, he was something of a local legend.
“Too damn vain to put a horgon on display,” Arandis’ trainer had said with a grin. “Too sure he doesn’t need it . And you know what, he was right, every single time he came here.”
“I once had a perfect nightmare on my hands,” her uncle had told her. “An Andorian break-up. All four participants got divorced, and all four ended up recovering from their divorce on Risa. Would you believe it, they even chose the same region! You’d think with the whole planet at their disposal, they’d see the wisdom of staying the hell away from each other on different continents, but no. Each insisted that the others should leave and they should stay. And of course they kept running into each other, and argued all the time. When I tell you one of them even sided with a Vulcan in a history quiz for guests I organized, you can imagine how bad it was. And their mood was spreading. That was when Curzon Dax arrived! He saved the day, the week, and probably the entire month on the entire planet. Tongue made of latinum, that man has.”
“You know that by personal experience?” Arandis had teased, but she had been suitably awed, and was admittedly curious to meet the great man herself one day. Dax, not being a stubborn Andorian with divorce issues, tended to choose a different region every time he visited Risa, so she didn’t get the chance for a good long while. Then one day she spotted him on the guest list for her subregion, and made sure to check on the bars that evening. For security and health inspections, of course. In the second bar, she finally encountered Curzon Dax, and promptly wished she hadn’t.
First of all, he was singing. Loudly and falsely. Some kind of Klingon drinking song, and the other guests in his vicinity were starting to stop looking amused and beginning to look bothered instead. Secondly, he wasn’t alone, but with a younger man, someone whose straight back screamed Starfleet, who looked as if he was cringing inwardly. And thirdly, he was old. This Arandis had known, of course; but she had imagined someone made only more attractive by an aura of experience. But the man she saw stumbling through a chorus in which he mistreated enough notes to make a musician complain about torture was long past such descriptions as “distinguished” or “mature” and well into the “fragile” or “grandfatherly” stage. His face was a collection of wrinkles, his skin was full of brown spots which made the ones marking his Trill heritage hard to recognize at first sight, his knees were bent and wobbly, and the ends of his long white hair as well as his shirt were soaked with the contents of whatever he had been drinking. Which hadn’t been synthehol. She could smell the Romulan ale from the bar entrance.
“Old Man,” she could hear his younger companion say when Curzon finally paused for breath, his tone gentle which just the slightest trace of desperation, “maybe we should call it a night.”
“Marriage has made you dull, Benjamin,” Dax replied. His own voice, when not maltreating songs, sounded crisp and clear, used to being heard by the entire room without the effort of raising it. There was a slight edge to it, though, that spoke of the cruelty drink sometimes provides. Despite the fact the other guests had used the end of the song to talk to each other in ill disguised relief, everyone in the room must have heard the remark.
A tongue made of latinum? thought Arandis. Poison, more likely. Her disappointment was growing by the second. But providing harmony and nipping arguments in the bud was what she had been trained to do, and so she put a smile on her lips and moved to intercept.
“Could I interest either of you gentlemen in a midnight swim?” she said, advancing towards them, carrying something of a challenge in her voice. “It’s such a lovely night, and the sea is quite warm still, I assure you. Of course, I’d understand it if you’d be uncomfortable. The fear of the dark and of the water at the same time is too basic for most bipedals to overcome.”
Dax looked at her. He had blue eyes, bloodshot, but still; in the dim agreeable light of the bar the blue was vivid enough to be startling. “Young woman,” he said, “I’ve been using dares as negotiation and distraction ploys since before your grandmother was introduced to the pleasure of her first jamaharon, so forgive me if I find this particular effort of yours painfully obvious.”
She kept her winning smile. This was hardly the worst insult she had ever heard, Arandis told herself, while his companion began, “Curzon…”
Arching an eyebrow at Dax while inwardly resolving to pity him as an old man in his decline, Arandis replied quickly: “I take it yours were obvious as well. As you have so much experience in them.”
The corners of his mouth twitched. “Maybe,” he said. “It didn’t really matter though. They worked.”
“Did mine?” Arandis asked, all innocence. This time, the twitch grew into a full smile. His teeth were yellow and uneven, but the smile was genuine and reached his eyes, which made him appear a bit less obnoxious.
“You know what,” he declared grandly, arms opening as if he was to make a speech, “I think it did. Let’s go swimming!”
He took a step towards her, which increased the smell of Romulan ale and old man’s sweat. And then he passed out. Arandis spotted the tell-tale slackening of the facial muscles just in time to catch him before he could hit the floor. He wasn’t much taller than she was, and she was in perfect shape, exercising every day; holding him was not a problem.
“I’m sorry,” his friend Benjamin said, coming to her aid anyway. “He’s really not like that, usually. Something must have happened on his home planet, and…” He fell silent, evidently realizing he was talking to a perfect stranger. Or maybe he had come to the conclusion Curzon was like that, usually, just employing a more charming veneer.
“Everyone who comes to Risa leaves happier than they arrived,” Arandis returned. “The same will happen to your friend. Don’t worry about it.”
“Oh, I’ve been here with him before, I know he loves Risa” Benjamin said, but still looked a bit troubled. Then he sighed, and helped her haul Curzon to his bungalow.
The next day, she returned from overseeing a velocity game to be called to her supervisor’s office, where she was told the guest Curzon Dax had praised her skills and had expressed a wish for her to be his aide during his time on Risa.
“A great honour, Arandis,” her supervisor said approvingly. Which meant it was impossible to say no unless she wanted to give up her hopes of a promotion for a long time. When she showed up at Dax’s Bungalow, she found him sober, very awake, and apparently in a good mood. He beamed at her.
“Some men would have sent flowers,” she said, which was partly a jest and partly a test. She was genuinely curious whether he had requested her as a thank you or a payback, and nothing brought out the truth as quickly as banter.
“I would have,” he replied unperturbed, “if I hadn’t been able to tell there were things you’d like far better than flowers. Besides, I’d be very disappointed in today’s youth if you didn’t get flowers on a regular basis. I do hope at least some of them are from off planet. A Betazoid starflower would look wonderful in your hair.”
So his reputation for being a smooth talker wasn’t entirely unearned. He must also be good at bluffing, as she doubted he could tell anything about her based on a few drunken minutes, let alone something about her preferences.
“And what do I like better then flowers?” Arandis asked.
“Advancement,” Dax said. “Which is why I’m going to give you a crash course in diplomacy during the next few days.”
Her moment of being charmed speedily disappeared again. She was too polite to express her disbelief at his presumption, but something must have been flashing in her eyes, for he continued:
“Yes, my dear, diplomacy. I’ve always thought diplomats and hosts at pleasure resorts have a great deal in common, you know. Now I realize I was a drunken oaf last night, and you must be dedicated and quite good at your job, given how quickly you intervened, but I could tell what you thought of me the entire time. I still can, for that matter. If you really want to make it to the top, you have to be able to hide all your tells. And while obvious dares have their uses, next time a little more subtlety could make all the difference.”
A woman not raised on Risa might have slapped him, Arandis thought. On the other hand, he was one of the most famous diplomats in the Federation and had been for a truly long time. He genuinely did have the experience he was boasting of. And it would be stupid of her not to use such an opportunity.
“But what about your companion?” she asked. “Won’t he get bored while you spend your vacation teaching lessons?”
He laughed. “Benjamin? No. He’s very grateful he can leave me here without fearing I’d be busy moping on my own the entire time. It was rather selfish of me , asking him to join me this time to begin with. He’s a young father now, and should be with his family. But I was… distressed, you might say, and I wanted someone to keep me from committing any more stupidities. So I asked.”
And now I’ve inherited the privilege of taking care of you, Arandis thought, and guessed Benjamin had already booked the next passage home. Out loud, she said, keeping any trace of irony out of her voice: “I am, of course, honored. But surely a man such as yourself must have had genuine aides, not to mention students eager to learn from you. Usually people in your position come to Risa to get away from such duties for a while.”
Something of the edge of last night returned to his voice, and his mouth curved downwards. “I have students,” Dax said. “I’m famous for breaking them. And just four days ago, I did something so bloody awful to one of them that I might as well have eviscerated her with a Klingon batleth.”
Her. A young woman, then. Suddenly things were starting to make sense.
“Yes,” Curzon said, apparently still able to read her thoughts from her face. Which meant he was right; she really needed to work on this. “An ambitious young woman, working so hard to get what she wants. Just like you.”
People did come for all kind of reasons to Risa; to relax, to recover, to escape, even to work, as not all the staff here had been born on the planet. Arandis hadn’t met anyone seeking penance yet, but then, she obviously still had a lot to learn.
Curzon didn’t tell her about the young woman immediately. He mostly went with her on her day to day duties, which included a lot of sitting or lying around on his part while she organized games, gave massages and scheduled transfers between quarters because some people hadn’t liked the ones they were originally given. He engaged some of the other guests in conversation, but somehow managed to keep an eye on what she was doing the entire time, because his witty, sometimes barbed comments afterwards on her own interactions were always to the point. On one occasion she was deeply grateful for his presence. Two Ferengi came to her to complain about the fact that nobody had offered them jamaharon today, despite the fact they had displayed their horgons the entire time.
“And we paid for them,” one of the Ferengi said meaningfully. “A contract is a contract is a contract.”
“Acquiring a horgon does not guarantee jamaharon,” Arandis explained patiently. “It simply means that you are seeking it, so anyone passing by who is also interested knows you won’t be offended if she or he offers. Be patient, and I’m sure someone who seeks jamaharon with a Ferengi will…”
“I told you not to trust the Federation and their we-are-above-money babble,” the other Ferengi interrupted her. “It just means they never deliver the goods, and you can’t even sue them for it. Blessed Exchequer!”
This was when Curzon, pretending to only just arrive at the scene, intervened, ostensibly addressing her and complaining he hadn’t found anyone willing to play Tongo with, and what kind of pleasure planet was this anyway when one couldn’t play Tongo?
“Tongo?” both Ferengi exclaimed, and one of them added, sounding half distrustful, half hopeful: “You play Tongo, Trill?”
“Not very well, I’m afraid. I have been cleaned out by the best,” Curzon said ruefully. “But it’s a habit I just can’t kick.”
“We have a Tongo wheel with us,” said the other Ferengi. What made the whole thing truly amazing was that Curzon didn’t simply set the game up but actually gave every appearance of gleefully enjoying it. At first she was afraid that he’d conned the two Ferengi and would turn out to be a masterful player, beating them at their own game, which would have resulted in two Ferengi even more disgruntled than they had been at their lack of jamaharon. But despite two or three occasional wins, he kept losing otherwise, and didn’t seem to mind. Either he hadn’t lied about his lack of tongo skills, or he was that good. In both cases, he was willing to make sacrifices to make her life easier, and Arandis found this was indeed far better than flowers would have been. At the end of the day, she offered not just a massage but jamaharon, despite the fact he had yet to display a horgon.
“Yes to the massage, no to jamaharon,” Curzon said.
“But you want me,” Arandis said, not insulted but somewhat surprised because she had seen the way he looked at her.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I’ll probably spend some considerable time fantasizing about you after that massage, which reminds me – could you give me a sleeping pill compatible with Trill physiology? I’m really too old to stay up all night wanking like a teenager.”
“Arandis,” he said wryly, “you don’t want me. You want to be nice because you’re grateful and you’ve come to like me despite yourself. But looking at me, touching me, being touched by me, that’s not anything that gets you hot. Yet. Which means I’ll have to wait for jamaharon a bit longer, my dear, because I really want more from you than the equivalent of a handshake.”
Occasionally, there were visitors who fell in love with Riseans; letting down people gently, pointing out as tactfully as possible that shared pleasure was not romance, was something anyone who wanted to work with guests learned very early. She just hadn’t expected ever needing to do this for a regular visitor. As kindly as she could, she hinted that waiting for her to fall in love with him would be a waste of time. He shook his head.
“I’m not after love,” he said. “Now less then ever. I was talking about want.”
He was regarding her with a faint smile and, as the beach clothes he wore clearly revealed, a hard-on. The evening sun darkened his eyes from their usual cobalt to azure, and they danced with a challenge. He evidently believed he could make her truly desire him. It was the kind of confidence she usually got from very young men, except that young men did not have the patience for waiting, despite their boasts. Most women of all ages knew better.
“Curzon Dax,” Arandis said slowly, “could this possibly be your idea of a subtle dare?”
“Maybe,” he said.
If Curzon was courting her, his idea of courtship involved some critique of her counselling technique as well as introducing her to Ferengi drinks and sulking over her lack of enthusiasm about his Klingon aria renditions, disguising this as training of her diplomatic skills. One day, after giving her tips on how to soothe an Andorian widow who was the only survivor of her marriage, trying to distract herself from grief for her fellow husband and wives, Curzon said to her: “That’s why I never got married after Torias.”
She rarely thought of him as two lifeforms instead of one, but remarks such as these reminded her again.
“Was he your last host?” Arandis asked, and wondered whether she was truly talking to the symbiont now, and what Curzon had been like before joining. A shadow passed over his face, but he nodded.
“Got himself killed in a crash,” he said. “Too damn young. When I woke up as Curzon, it took all my initiate training not to track down Nilani immediately. Torias’ wife. Sometimes I woke up crying for her, and I hadn’t even met the woman. Still haven’t. He loved her beyond reason. If she had died instead of him, I think he would have committed suicide, never mind that would have meant a century in the pool for Dax before getting another host. So I thought, no, not for me. Not in this life, not again. Friendship and sex, and that’s it. One single person just shouldn’t be your life.”
Arandis had similar plans for herself, though she wasn’t willing to exclude the possibility of falling in love at some indefinite later point. Not just now, though. There was still so much time left.
“And were you able to keep your resolution?” she asked, genuinely wanting to know.
“I think my shoulder aches a bit,” Curzon said, and she didn’t push. Instead, her fingers went after non-existant knots. She could feel his bone structure and the frail, aged flesh under her fingertips. From behind, his head turned to the side, his profile reminded her of the holoprograms recreating ruins of ancient worlds. On Risa, everything was new; the planet had been completely terraformed by human settlers, not having had an indigenous sentient population and a less than hospitable climate. Its weather control net was the most sophisticated in the Federation and a marvel of engineering, which meant nothing on Risa could ever be allowed to age. But people loved looking at old monuments occasionally, and monuments from several cultures and species were recreated as holograms on several spots on Risa, changing every second year so no species would feel permanently left out. Thus, Arandis had had the opportunity to walk in the shadow of the ruins of Tagus III, look up to the columns of Karnak, and stand in the midst of the T’Karath Sanctuary on Vulcan. Truly, there was something beautiful in ancient relics in their state of decay which could never be found in the smooth, identical surfaces of every dwelling. But decay was decay nonetheless, and she found a deep sadness in herself that this was so.
“That girl,” he said at last, “my student.”
“The one you broke,” Arandis said, and he shook his head. He looked proud and regretful at the same time.
“I broke a lot of other students, but not her,” he said. “Never her. You have to understand, with the others, there was nothing personal in it. It’s not easy, being a host. If you’re not ready, not sure of yourself and your own personality, you can get overwhelmed by the intensity of the symbiont. And that’s not good for either host or symbiont. It learns nothing new, and you, you don’t exist anymore in any meaningful way. So when I get assigned initiates for field training, I am tough with them. A lot don’ t make it. But they remain themselves for the rest of their lives, and the symbionts get hosts who remain themselves as well. I know they curse me as a mean old son of a bitch, and they’re not wrong, but I don’t think anyone can claim I was unfair. Except for Jadzia.”
Arandis was silent. Sometimes you didn’t have to say anything, just to listen.
“Great legs, a face to break your heart and a quicksilver mind,” he said, not looking at her. “Even a sense of humor, though she usually was too polite to use it in my company. Still, there were other Initiates like that, and I never fell for them. You just don’t, on Trill. It’s a sacred trust. Not the Initiates, not when their entire future life depends on your judgment. I don’t know why it happened this time. But it did. I even walked around with recordings of songs that reminded me of her and wrote out the lyrics, and even Torias hadn’t behaved that idiotically. You’d have to go back to Emony for that one. At first I thought that this was it, I clearly was finally going senile. But then I figured out it was even worse, that I had fallen in love with her.”
Her hands left his shoulder and moved down on his back, and Curzon sighed. It was an odd, questioning sound, and so Arandis broke her silence.
“Did you tell her?” she asked.
“No,” he exclaimed horrified, pulled away from her, rolled on his back and sat up. He clearly meant to do it as one fast series of movements, but his body failed him, and he grimaced even before he got to the sitting up part.
“Afterwards, I meant,” Arandis clarified. “I do understand why you couldn’t tell her while she was your student.”
“I made sure she’d never talk to me again,” Curzon declared grimly. “Recommending she’d get dropped out of the Initiate program after my field training with her would do the trick, you know.”
This shocked Arandis as his confession of having fallen in love with his student had not done. She knew what it was to hope and work for something so hard, to make plans for your life and then to have them all depend on some supervisor who could crush them in a heartbeat.
“And she did nothing to deserve this but have the misfortune of being attractive to you?” she said, forgetting to keep her voice even and non-judgmental. Curzon finally looked at her again. His gaze was steadfast.
“No. In fact, I’m pretty sure Jadzia would be a splendid host. But I had to get her away from me as quickly and thoroughly as possible. It was a completely shitty thing to do, and I did it anyway, and then I got drunk and called Benjamin and started to ramble about wanting to go to Risa one more time. I didn’t get sober again until the morning I requested you.”
“Turn around,” Arandis said after a while. “I didn’t finish the massage.”
Silently, he complied. This time, she worked on his legs, perhaps a bit harder than necessary. He didn’t utter a sound.
“You can’t make it up to her by being nice to me and helping me advance,” she murmured. “And stop playing the martyr. These massages are designed to make you groan, so groan!”
“My dear, you only had to ask,” he said with his old glibness. She didn’t call him on it. It would probably be safer to go back to banter and stay away from intimate confessions for a while.
They ended up not sharing jamaharon at all during this particular visit of Dax to Risa, and parted with the uneasiness of people who had unfinished business between them, not quite friends, not quite lovers. But shortly after Dax had left Risa, she received a communication from him which consisted of nothing but a copy of Trill Initiate records. Jadzia, it seemed, had reapplied for the program even while Curzon was still on Risa, and he had accepted her reapplication. When Arandis got offered a promotion from sub facilitator to facilitator, she sent Curzon a copy of her records as well, and got back a note saying he would return to Risa to celebrate with her, unless she was “otherwise engaged”. She thought about this and decided to stay with the truth. “Not that I know of,” she wrote back, finding the old-fashioned, written form of communication oddly soothing.
Curzon arrived in late afternoon, and the warm Risean sun made his skin look almost translucent, like old paper drawn over a network of silver veins. He handed her a recording crystal which he swore contained Klingon opera she would like, as it was not sung by him but by the foremost singers of the age.
“And still no flowers?” Arandis asked teasingly.
“No,” he said softly. “But I brought something else.”
Out of the bag containing the little luggage he had brought to Risa, he pulled a horgon. Arandis stared at it, feeling a lump in her throat, as she knew what it meant. He had given up on his pride in never needing to ask, and given up on the idea of swaying her off her feet by charm alone so she would be the one to ask him.
“What became of Jadzia?” she said. Going by his uncertain expression, he could not read her signals anymore, and did not know what she thought of his gesture; she had truly mastered the art. “Did you talk to her again?” she pressed.
“In a way,” Curzon replied. “She passed all her tests and is now a candidate for joining. When she heard that I am, shall we say, not in the best state of health, she presented her application for the Dax symbiont to the committee. I told you she has a sense of humor. They asked me for my opinion, which is the polite thing to do if the current host is still alive, and I gave my blessings.”
Personally, Arandis thought the sense of humor was Curzon’s, and a somewhat twisted one at that, but it was at his own expense. Hearing the omissions as well as the words told, she gathered he had not talked to Jadzia directly, and probably now never would. But he had righted the injury he had done her, and that was all that mattered.
“Curzon Dax,” Arandis said, and let her hand run down his face, feeling the treasures and ruins of time unfold under her young skin, “will you share jamaharon with me?”
“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate myself,” he said with a rogueish grin, but he blinked, and she knew there had been tears in the corner of his eyes.
All in all, Curzon remained ten days with her. She’d be lying if she had claimed it was the best sex she had ever had, or that she had magically fallen in love with him. But what was said about joined Trills turned out to be true; having been both male and female, Dax was a good lover who made up for his occasional lack of energy by knowledge and art. Jamaharon was never just an act of pity on her part, as she had secretly feared it might be, but something that gave her joy as well. Sometimes, when he fell asleep, exhausted, she put her hands on his stomach and felt the symbiont moving, lethargically, lazily, content as well. It was a strange thought that it would survive, and remember all this, for years and maybe centuries to come. She thought about what Curzon had told her about his last host, Torias, and waking up with Torias’ grief and longing for his wife in his head. What legacy of Curzon’s would Jadzia wake up with?
“Somehow I don’t think it’s my manly prowess you’re dwelling upon,” Curzon whispered, and she realized he had woken up again. “Does it disturb you, sharing jamaharon with the symbiont?”
“I think of it as the art of interstellar diplomacy,” Arandis whispered back, and he laughed and wouldn’t stop. She let her fingers wander down his stomach, teasingly drawing ever tighter circles, and there was a sigh, but the laughter continued as well.
This was how she’d remember him, laughing, in her arms, just a tiny bit irritating in his self assurance and with unspoken, barely settled regrets, but in this moment, right now, happy. This was how he was, and then his face contorted, grew purple, and she knew that passion or exhaustion had nothing to do with it. She hit an intercom and called a medic. Curzon wasn’t dead yet when they brought him back to Trill, doctors on the ready to operate and save the symbiont if necessary, but he was in and out of a coma, and she could not speak with him anymore. There was some nasty gossip in the weeks afterwards, with some people pointing at her and hiding their horgons, evidently trying to avoid jamaharon with the woman whose last partner had died because of it. After a while, those guests were gone, and the staff knew better. The gossip disappeared like waves that straighten into a quiet mirrorlike surface, and it might as well not have happened.
But it had happened. And she remembered Curzon with fondness and a sense of having lost something she had never quite possessed. Quite what that was, Arandis could not say until a few years later, when Dax came back into her life.
By then, Arandis was chief facilitator, and of the Terntibi Lagoon, no less. It was what she had dreamt of, and she enjoyed her life, even if it meant having to deal with the Essentialists, a new movement within the Federation which had arrived at Risa solely, it seemed, to terrorize the other guests with endless speeches about the need to toughen up and abandon their decadence. Still, they were hardly the first trouble makers, nor would they be the last. By and large, Arandis was happy. When she spotted Jadzia Dax’ name on the guest list, she felt a pang and some curiosity. Whether the curiosity was about seeing Dax again, who would not be Curzon but would have his memories, or finally meeting the young woman Curzon had been in love with, she could not have said. She had seen Jadzia’s photograph on the copy of her reapplication to the program that Curzon had sent, so Arandis had no trouble discovering after her arrival. What neither the photograph, which showed an earnest young woman staring determinedly at the viewer, nor her memories of Curzon had prepared her for was the stab of desire that ran through her when Arandis spotted Jadzia Dax. Jadzia had lost the aura of serious eagerness from the photo that made you feel amused and protective at best, or maybe the photo had been misleading to begin with. Instead, she moved and laughed with a vibrancy that caught you up and carried you along, like a strong current in the ocean. When Arandis greeted her, she saw Jadzia had the same blue eyes Curzon had, and a mischievous smile all her own. She couldn’t resist saying: “Your new host is very attractive.”
“Thank you, I’ve always thought so,” Dax replied, and they both knew it was true in more than one sense. For a moment, Arandis didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
Jadzia Dax wasn’t alone, though. She had come with some friends and her current lover, a Klingon who radiated possessiveness and disapproval through every pore. If there was one thing you were trained to notice immediately on Risa, it was tension between a couple, and if there was one thing you really did not do in such a situation, it was come between them. Arandis made herself scarce and sought out Dax only when the Klingon wasn’t present. Adjusting to Jadzia was easy and difficult at the same time. Jadzia treated her like an old friend, and Arandis could hear Dax in her speech patterns, but at the same time, there were moments where she was utterly unlike Curzon. And the whole time, she was in that gorgeous body. The irony wasn’t lost on Arandis: with Curzon, there had been tenderness and joy at the end, but not the kind of desire that made you want to tear a person’s clothes off, the kind he had originally wanted from her. It was there with Jadzia, but Jadzia had no use for it right now. The combination of Curzon’s crash course and her own training still held, though; Arandis did not betray herself and remained entirely an easy-going friend and hostess. Until the day Jadzia started to confide in her.
“I love him, of course I do, but he’s different here,” Jadzia said, throwing up her hands and plopping in a beanbag type chair.
“Different how?” Arandis asked.
“This is our vacation. We're supposed to be doing nothing more than relaxing and enjoying time away from the station, from our jobs. Instead he's walking around like he's got a painstick up his ass!"
It was the type of rant she had heard many times from many people, the type she was supposed to defuse and mellow. So she offered a massage, which Jadzia gratefully accepted. The body had its own type of memory, Arandis knew, but there was nothing familiar in the firm flesh her fingers were exploring now, and learning anew. It was surprisingly hard to remain professional. She remembered Curzon swallowing his pride and displaying that horgon; and she remembered looking into the mirror just this morning and discovering some more laughing crinkles around her own eyes. Arandis no longer felt like she had all the time in the world. Maybe she had stopped on the day a man died in her arms.
What the hell, Arandis thought, and, swallowing her own pride, she started to initialize jamaharon.
Jadzia responded for just a moment. Then she yelled “stop!” and got up in a heartbeat, with the fluidity and energy Curzon had no longer possessed. For the first time in years, Arandis felt faint traces of embarrassment.
“I’m not Curzon,” Jadzia said.
“I know. I’m sorry.”
She wanted to add that it had been just for old time’s sake, nostalgia, giving Dax something Dax had once wanted from her, but that would have been a lie. Then she wanted to confess it was about Jadzia, not Curzon, but that wouldn’t have been the complete truth, either. The truth was a knot of different motives so tangled that Arandis did not care to examine it right now.
Jadzia walked towards the window. With her back turned towards Arandis, her posture very straight instead of relaxed, she looked very young. Suddenly, Arandis wondered whether Curzon had seen her like this; his student, whom he punished for his own feelings.
“It’s just not what I want,” Jadzia said. She didn’t sound angry, though; instead, she sounded confused, as if searching for her own half-glimpsed truth.
“What do you want?” Arandis asked, because it was easier to ask Jadzia than to ask herself.
“More than what Curzon settled for,” Jadzia said in a voice so low that it was hard to understand her. But Arandis heard every word, and it stung, unexpectedly painful. No wonder Curzon had never told Jadzia the truth. And yet Dax had to remember this, too; being the old man who had spent a lifetime running from commitment to just one person until in the end life presented him with what he had run from, and now could never have. Being the young girl unaware of it all and raging at a different sort of rejection instead, at the injustice of old age judging and dismissing her. Dax had been both.
Maybe you did not have to be a Trill to share both experiences, come to think of it.
"You know what I want? What I really want?” Jadzia asked. “As corny as it sounds, I want warm feet and mussed hair and crumbs in my bed and prune juice splashed on my sheets so that I end up sleeping in the sticky spot. I want to fight for the covers and do quick, playful battles over the vid-remote. I want to wake up to someone else's alarm, and force them to listen to me read just one more fascinating passage in the book I'm devouring. I want someone to reach over and scratch that one tiny area of my back that I can't reach, yet always seems to itch." There were dried tears on her face as she turned around to Arandis, and Arandis realized all of this had not been easy for Jadzia, either. “And I want Worf to be that someone.”
No, she wasn’t Curzon. But she was Dax, and Dax had finally stopped running. For this lifetime, at least. When Jadzia pulled her into a tight embrace, Arandis fancied she could sense the symbiont in Jadzia’s body, lazily moving, content, as it had been on the day Curzon died.
“I might not be taking new lovers, but I can always use a good friend,” Jadzia said, and kissed her on the cheek. “Especially an old one.”
If it was a dare, it was a remarkably subtle one. Maybe it was something else, though: a promise. After all, friends returned to each other. Even if one of them, Arandis thought ruefully, had just proven she could make a fool out of herself just as much as the other. Something settled in her, and she let go of Jadzia.
After all, she would see Dax again.