Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by Paramount. Title stolen from Shakespeare.
Spoilers: up to season 5 of DS9; specifically for the episodes "Playing God", "Facets", "Rejoined" and "Let he who is without sin…"
Thanks to: Kathy, who came through with the beta as always!
Author's notes: written for the Remix Redux 2009 ficathon as a remix of the story "New friends and old lovers" by Caitn.
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.