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Thanks to: Andraste, for betareading.
Two of Us
When Quark first saw her, he thought she was beautiful, but an unlikely customer. She looked serious, and not the type to be interested in either Dabo or his more expensive holosuite programs. You could almost see the Starfleet stamp of approval on her, just like you could see it on the Commander.
Commander Sisko surprised him by using blackmail, but that was nothing compared with his astonishment when the serious beauty with the spots showed up in his bar with a twinkle in her eyes and asked whether he didn't have more challenging games than Dabo in the offering. He mentioned the poker games he had added to his repertoire once the Cardassians had left, but she wasn't interested in those, either.
"Well," Quark said, "once a week, I've got a Tongo game going. But that's just for Ferengi."
"I didn't take you for a speciesist, Quark," the Trill said to him, clicking her tongue dissapprovingly, but still with that twinkle in her blue eyes, which were, now that he had the chance to look at them up close with her leaning over the bar to him, quite lovely. "Isn't there a rule of acquisition that says prejudice is bad for business?"
That was when he started to think of her as "Dax", not just "the Trill", or "the science officer." It took him a while to progress from there to "Jadzia". On that first occasion, he still said no to her, and tried to interest her in a private session in a holosuite instead. Kira would have slapped him. Dax declined without seeming to be insulted, and showed up the next evening in his bar anyway, wanting to try out some beverages which she declared some of her previous hosts had liked, but Jadzia had never tasted. It was fun, watching her calm face change into ecstatic delight or disgusted grimaces. Not to mention profitable. He made it a point to remember which of the drinks she had liked best.
She was still nothing but a good customer to him when that other Trill arrived on the station, the one who was obsessed with her symbiont and wanted to take it for himself. Quark hadn't thought things through when agreeing to help the man. He only wanted to make some more profit; it had not really occurred to him that as a result of his actions, the pretty Lieutenant wouldn't survive the operation for longer than a day or two. When he did realize, he didn't quite understand why he should mind so much. Sure, it might cost him the bar, for Sisko was definitely angry enough to kick him off the station, but he had made good profit, and could start a new one elsewhere. But there was no comfort in that thought, not when he thought about the woman lying in the infirmary, dying without that slug inside of her. Telling himself it was only loyalty to a good customer, he did his bit to help the others overpower the other Trill and his gang.
Somehow, it didn't feel like it was enough. The next day, Quark surprised himself at standing in front of her quarters.
"I'd like to invite you to a game of Tongo, Lieutenant," he said formally after she had asked him to enter. She raised an eyebrow, but replied nothing. Her quarters were filled with flowers from Bajor, and he was only slightly distracted by being annoyed that her colleagues must have purchased the flowers through sources other than him.
"I'll sponsor your entrance fee," he finally declared, just to end the silence. He certainly wasn't going to apologize. He wasn't. His father had always done that with Moogie, and it had made his remains end up on the market far sooner than anyone had anticipated, and in a practically worthless condition to boot.
"Well then," Dax said, "how could I resist?" And she smiled at him again.
The other Ferengi on the station were stunned when Quark brought a clothed female to join them at Tongo. Since he employed each of them, they didn't dare to argue, though. Rom muttered something about being worried.
"What if she's just a spy for Sisko?"
"Don't be an idiot," Quark said scornfully. "Sisko certainly isn't. What's she going to spy on, your secret system for always losing?"
It wasn't as if he conducted serious business during Tongo games. Besides, he thought that Dax might join once or twice, but no more. Tongo was a tough game to learn, and as opposed to the Dabo games which were popular among a variety of species, there'd be only Ferengi around her. He hadn't met a Starfleet officer, and certainly not a female one, who wasn't uncomfortable when Ferengi made up the majority of the company.
Dax was different. Not just because she turned out to be good at Tongo, really good, giving Quark the first genuine challenge he'd had for ages. No, the truly amazing thing was that try as he might, he could not discover any sign that she wasn't enjoying herself just as much playing Tongo with him and his waiters as she did when hanging out with her Federation friends at the bar. It wasn't like the patronizing effort Sisko made every now and then because of his son's friendship with Nog, either. Quark didn't know what it was like. He only knew that Tongo nights had become special.
Then his favourite waiter, Pel, helped him negotiating an important deal, kissed him, turned out to be female, and left, in that order. It was a confusing series of events."I know you better than that," said Dax when Quark pretended not to care, which only added to the confusion. He had liked Pel. Maybe more than liked, but he certainly wasn't about to make the mistake his father had made and end up scorned and ridiculed by all his fellow Ferengi, with his homelife consisting of endless strife. No, he should be glad that Pel was gone, taking temptation with her, but he wasn't, and that was just as irritating as Dax claiming to know him. How could she know him? She was a Trill. And a female. And she belonged to some organization with really stupid and perverse ideas about profit, or lack of it. Just because they talked at the bar every now and then and because they played Tongo together didn't mean she knew him.
He didn't tell her she was wrong, though. That would have been bad for business. She was a valued customer, after all, and he still needed to win the latinum back from her which she had won from him.
The confusion deepened after Natima had come and gone, and Dax had made some kind of trip with her loud, old, and bothersome Klingon friends. She showed up late on a non-Tongo night and suggested getting drunk together.
Quark rarely got drunk. It was unprofessional and afforded far too many opportunities for potential thieves or shapeshifting security officers. But finding and losing Natima again, so shortly after the strange business with Pel, left him in the mood for some rule-breaking, even if they were just his personal rules. Besides, Dax looked like she needed something of the sort, and he could see why she didn't want to do so in the company of the Doctor, who worshipped her, or of Sisko, who glowered in her general direction these days because the trip was against some Starfleet rule. As for Kira, Kira would never let herself go that much.
"You know what?" Dax said, starting with the spring wine. "Jadzia would have tried to talk them out of it. Jadzia-that-was. Curzon wouldn't, but he wouldn't feel responsible now, either. He'd say they found the death they wanted to have. So who am I?"
He couldn't resist. Every now and then, he had to try.
"You're a woman," he said at his most sincere and poured her some more wine, getting that much closer. She gave him a crooked smile.
"I thought you were in mourning over losing your one true love?"
"So?" he hedged. The whole purpose of the evening was to get him stop thinking about Natima, after all.
"Forget it," she said matter-of-factly. "Tell you what, though, I'm curious. For a Cardassian woman to fall in love with a non-Cardassian must have been extraordinary. How did she cope with that back in the day?"
Before he knew it, he actually did tell her about it, about those intense and scary weeks when he had half expected one of the Cardassian soldiers to beat him up for conducting an affair with a Cardassian lady and Natima had looked more angry and guilty every day. In return, she told him about the bloody, messy business with the Albino, and what it had meant for her to watch two of her friends die.
"No matter how many lives," she ended, staring gloomily at the bottle which was now empty while he fetched another one, "it never gets easier."
They finally fell asleep in his bar. In the morning, he woke up first, with a stiff neck and aware that this was not how he had ever imagined spending the night with the beautiful Jadzia Dax. He prepared some raktajino for the two of them and found that he still didn't feel dissapointed. Dax turned out to be not a morning person; she drank the Klingon coffee he handed over gratefully, but in silence. Then she kissed him on the cheek and vanished, presumably to get a sonic shower before her duty schedule started.
He didn't have a name for what he felt until she asked him to participate in the Trill ritual that would allow each of her dearest friends to incorporate one of her past hosts. So that was what they were; friends. So strange. Quark had never been friends with a woman before, if one excepted Pel during the time she had been disguised as a man. And even then, she had been his employee, which made a difference. Natima he had loved and adored, but it would never have occurred to him to call her his friend. He certainly wasn't friends with any of the women of various species he managed to talk into giving him oomox. And it would never have occurred to him to do for them what he ended up doing for Dax.
He was shocked when he discovered the host she wanted him to become had been female. And it wasn't as if she was unaware of what that meant.
"Come on," she told him, when he complained that if it ever was revealed, he would be disgraced in the eyes of all Ferengi, "just think of the possibilities."
"Which are?" he retorted.
"Well," she said with her teasing smile, "you'll get for free what it took me years of Initiate training to finally achieve. The memories of what it feels to be a member of the other sex. Trust me, you'll never make love the same way again, and every single partner you have will be grateful and praise you as a present from the gods."
She did have a point, he decided, and became Audrid for her after all. What she hadn't mentioned was what he worked out after all the embarrassment and curiosity had settled down a bit; he now knew a bit of what it felt like to be Dax. It was the most intimate thing anyone had ever shared with him. That was when he started to think of her as Jadzia.
When the Ferengi Commerce Authority revoked Quark's licence, Tongo became a game of two, since Rom never did have a head for it, and after starting to work for the Federation didn't even bother to try anymore. As his business opportunities dwindled, nightly Tongo with Jadzia became one of the few things Quark was still looking forward to. Life was getting truly depressing. He had told Rom the truth; Rom and Nog and Moogie might pride themselves on being rebels, but Quark didn't enjoy being an outcast among his own people, not one single bit. It was just that having his fate dictated by that bastard Brunt was the worse alternative.
Still, meeting Jadzia, swapping jokes with her and assessing new Dabo girls – which she truly was good at, not that the Klingon she was hanging out more and more would ever appreciate what a great judgment she had for these things – and even occasionally sharing depressing statements on how frustrating life could be was a lifeline.
That was when the idea first occurred to him.
It wasn't as absurd as it sounded when he first said it out loud, to himself, of course. Considering that he was less than enthusiastic about Rom's pursuit of Leeta, he couldn't very well tell Rom, and Odo would never let him hear the end of it. But he could see it, truly he could. One day, one glorious day when business was prospering again and he had his own moon, he would ask Jadzia to share it with him. She knew all his faults, so she wouldn't be dissapointed like Natima had been, and she wasn't a Ferengi, so he wouldn't expect her to behave like one, which had made the relationship with Pel impossible. She liked Ferengi, so she wouldn't find it distasteful that he behaved like one, as Grilka did.
Of course, Quark knew he would have to wait for the right moment. Right now, she was amusing herself with Commander Boring, Son of Dull. But that wouldn't last. None of her lovers had lasted, which was fine with Quark. None of them knew what it was to be Dax, but he did. None of them was her friend.
Given that the Great Material River had a way of giving and taking at the same time, Quark shouldn't have been surprised that shortly after he finally managed to get his licence back, the Federation and the Dominion managed to start a war. When he found out that the Federation would leave the station, he went through a panicked moment or two before reminding himself that this was surely only temporary. Still, it couldn't hurt to make his position clear. So he went to help Jadzia pack.
"Won't you take the Tongo wheel with you?" he asked, referring to the one he had given to her when he had believed he was going to die.
"There won't be much chance to use it in the war, Quark," she replied, sounding sad and weary. "Besides, I know you'll keep it safe until I return. But remember, it's still mine, and I'm not giving it back."
"Jadzia..." he started, and something in his tone made her stop folding one of her sleeping gowns. He could smell a whiff of her perfume when she put it down and turned towards him.
"I'm going to ask Worf to marry me, Quark," she said very seriously.
"Oh," he said, managing no more than that. He looked everywhere in the room except for at her. One thing he had never wanted to see in Jadzia's eyes was pity.
"It's strange how the prospect of impending death makes us appreciate the important things," she continued, voice deceptively calm. "Like love. Or very good friends."
He felt her cool hand touch him under the chin and looked up. There was no pity in her face, only affection. "Friends to come back to," she went on, and somehow, that made it better. "Always," she ended, and he smiled at her.
"Is that a contract?" he asked.
"I'm Dax," Jadzia said. "Count on it."
He did. Watching her marry Worf wasn't easy, but she came back for Tongo and laughs and confidences, because she was his friend, and she was Dax. He and Bashir were eveb the first to hear that she wanted to have a child. Bitter though that was in regards to the permanence of her marriage, Quark was still glad she had told him, and not Kira. Besides, given Worf's less than stellar parental record, it was clear the kid would need an uncle with some common sense.
Odo was the one who told him she was dead. They wouldn't let him into the infirmary because Worf and Sisko were there, and then there was only the coffin. That had been the last time, Quark realized, when she told him about the child, the last time he would ever see Jadzia, and he did not know how this could be. She had promised. She had sworn she would come back.
Going on that harebrained mission with Worf and Bashir to fight for her going to Sto-Vo-Kor was absolutely idiotic; Quark expected Bashir to diagnose him with a brain tumour half of the time that particular foolishness lasted. The other half he felt the hollow numbness inside being filled a bit more. She would have liked that he went, he thought. She would have teased him about having a secret inner Klingon after all the hard times he had given her about her Klingon fetish, but she would have liked it, and made up a new Rule of Acquisition just for him.
Coming back to the station alive felt good. And that was when the miracle happened. There wasn't any real resemblence, save for the eyes, but somehow, Quark knew from the moment he saw her, so unlike Jadzia with her small figure and short hair.
She had kept her promise after all. She had come back.