Historian's Note: This takes place mid-7th season.
"I've been thinking about something," Ezri Dax announced. Julian Bashir lifted his gaze from across the Replimattable, a look of interest on his features.
"Oh, what's that?" Ezri hesitated, as though not sure whether she really wanted to tell Julian what had been consuming her thoughts for the last few days.
"Do you remember Jadzia's zhian'tara?" she forced out. If she had learned one thing about counseling it was that it feels better to talk things out. Julian barely had to pause before giving his answer.
"Of course. That was when we all embodied Dax's previous hosts." Then the implication of Ezri's statement sank into Julian's genetically-enhanced brain and he asked warily, "Why do you ask?" Ezri knotted her thin eyebrows, placing the words in her head before blurting them out.
"I think that I want to have my zhian'tara." Julian seemed concerned for a beat, before something else came to mind and a relieved smile spread across his face.
"I'm sure Captain Sisko will give you leave to go..."
"No," Ezri interjected. "I want to have it here, on the station." Julian was taken aback by her statement. The first of many disastrous hypothetical situations ran circles around his mind.
"Why? Don't all Trills usually go back to the Trill homeworld?" Ezri nodded to affirm Julian's facts as accurate.
"However, I want to have it here," Ezri reiterated. "Think about it. Everyone that I care about is here. All the people that used to be important aren't anymore because of my joining. You see? I have to have it here." Julian was silent a moment before letting out a resigned sigh.
"Ok, but why now?"
"Because I want to find myself. I want to understand this new me," she explained, her piercing blue eyes directed at her friend. "And the only way to do that is to have my zhian'tara. This way, I can learn about these other parts that have become the whole– Ezri Dax. To know who I am, I must know who I've been."
Julian was quiet again. To him it all made perfect sense. Ezri was obviously passionate about this idea and she was his friend. Therefore, he should back her up completely, especially in this difficult time. Why, then, did he have a nagging feeling of dread? He looked at up at Ezri with the intention of helping her find her way.
"I'd be willing to lend Torias my body again." A smile lit up Ezri's face, almost to the point of illuminating her spots. "But only on one condition," he warned jokingly with an upraised finger. "You can't serve him any food. I gained two pounds last time." Ezri chuckled lightly.
"You've got yourself a deal."
"Are you sure this is a good idea, Old Man?" Ezri looked up at Benjamin Sisko from across his desk.
"Of course it is," she answered, attempting to sound confident. Benjamin's dark eyes lit up and he focused them directly on the short Trill. He was still getting used to talking down to her.
"And I'm assuming you came here to ask me to embody Jeran again." Ezri nodded. "Well, I don't see a problem with it. Only this time, don't open the force field, no matter what I say." The two old friends shared a smile and Ben continued to pace behind his desk.
"Benjamin, something's bothering you. What is it?"
"I noticed that you've planned this to occur while Worf's away," he said. "Is that the right way to handle it?" Ezri was quiet a moment, her lips pressed together in thought.
"I think so," she admitted eventually. "I don't want to reopen any healed wounds. It would be a lot easier if he wasn't here." Her Human friend nodded slowly.
"Whatever you think is right."
Ezri entered Quark's, the noise and smell filling her with a sense of familiarity. She smiled to herself as she steered directly for the bar. She took a seat and Quark materialized before her almost instantly.
"Ezri!" the sharp-toothed proprietor began. "It's nice to see you. What can I get you?" Ezri smiled at the Ferengi and answered,
"A synthale will be fine."
"Coming right up!" Quark said, turning to replicate her order. Moments later he turned to place her drink on the bar before her. "So, how have you been? Has Starfleet kept you busy?"
"Busy enough. Actually, I'm here to ask a favor," she confided. Quark leaned in closer across the bar, his interest piqued.
"I'm listening." Ezri held back a smile, her lips tightening and her eyes growing slightly wider. The expression reminded Quark so much of Jadzia that he was nearly knocked off his feet.
"I need you to embody Audrid for my zhian'tara."
"Oh no, not again. Listen, Ezri, I like you. I really do. But nothing you do or say could make me do that again." Ezri raised her eyebrows in surprise.
"Wow. If I knew you felt that strongly about it I wouldn't have asked," Ezri said. "I guess I'll have to find someone else." Quark nodded to affirm her statement. He moved away, leaving Ezri to think.
Ezri stared into her synthale, possibilities running through her mind. She was so deep in thought that she didn't hear Leeta approach.
"Ezri, are you okay?" The Bajoran's sweet voice broke Ezri from her slight trance. She looked up at Leeta and answered,
"Yeah, I was just trying to figure something out." Then Ezri realized who she was talking to and she remembered something. She wanted Leeta to embody Emony again.
"Can I help?" Leeta asked.
"Maybe. But first I want to ask you something."
"Sure," the Bajoran woman said. "What is it?"
"I'm going to have my zhian'tara. Will you embody Emony for me?" Leeta nodded.
"Of course," she agreed. "Now, what was your problem?" Ezri sighed.
"Quark won't embody Audrid."
"Oh, well that's no surprise," Leeta pointed out. She sat there thinking for a moment, her face scrunched in a look of concentration. "You could ask Rom," she said eventually. "I'm sure he'll do it." Ezri smiled at her friend.
"Good idea. Thanks Leeta." She spotted Rom on the other side of the bar and got up to speak with him.
Ezri stepped from the busy Promenade into Julian's tidy Infirmary. She smiled to herself, thinking about how much the state of the Infirmary reflected Julian's personality. Hearing her enter, Julian turned from the screen he'd been studying.
"Hello again," he said in greeting. "How goes the body hunt?" Ezri chuckled.
"Pretty good. I only have one more person to ask."
"Wow, that was quick," Julian commented. "Who'd you ask?"
"Well," Ezri began, thinking back over the day. "I got Kasidy to embody Lela and Miles to be Tobin again. Leeta's Emony and Rom's agreed to be Audrid. I asked Quark but he refused."
"Somehow I'm not surprised."
"Me neither," Ezri agreed. "I thought I'd try anyway."
"I assume the Captain's going to be Jeran...?" Julian half-asked. Ezri nodded.
"And Jake's agreed to be Curzon," she told him. "I didn't want to involve Odo again considering what happened last time."
Julian just nodded, all joviality fading as they both thought of the last host. They stood silent, neither wishing to speak what they knew was to come next.
Ezri began slowly and softly, as though afraid to break the taboo that had unconsciously been constructed in regard to Dax's last host.
"I'm going to ask Nerys to embody Jadzia."
"That seems appropriate," Julian whispered cordially, his voice rough with hardly concealed emotion. He paused, as though deciding whether or not to say something more. He ultimately chose silence and the moment passed.
"Well, I'll see you in the morning, Julian," Ezri spoke.
"Goodnight," he answered, returning to his work. Ezri watched his back for a moment before turning on her heel and walking out into the night rush of the Promenade, leaving a heart-sick man to delve in the pool of his own thoughts.