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.