Disclaimer:I don't own any of these characters and I make nothing but pleasure from this fic.

Author's Note: Set within season 5's "Children of Time," with references to characters established in the short story "Reflections" from "The Lives of Dax" anthology.

Fear Not the Flames
by Dax's10thHost

You were the grace that placed itself
Where lives were torn apart

"You're sure about this?"

Jadzia Dax stood calf-deep in the sun-streaked grass, arms crossed, studying her friend. From where Kira stood, the setting sun illuminated half her face, allowing Jadzia to see her features.

Utter, unearthly calm graced them.

The Bajoran eased into the grass, crossing her legs as if in meditation. Her brown eyes, though they seemed to focus on the grave marker before her, stared into someplace light years away. For a long moment, she was silent. But then she broke away from the past—or the future—and met Jadzia's gaze.

"I'm sure."

Jadzia sighed and dropped to the ground. "Good, because I'm not." Kira cut her a sharp look.

"Jadzia, we can't just let those people die!"

"But Nerys, you'll die if we don't get you back to the station!"

Kira fell silent once more, and Jadzia could see the hardened features of an ex-resistance fighter emerging. But even the lengthening shadows couldn't hide the haunted look in Nerys's eyes. "I know," she said grimly, clenching her jaw. "But I can't ask 8,000 people to sacrifice their lives for me."

"Kira, you don't even know those people," Jadzia argued, trying to catch her friend's eyes. "How can they expect you to sacrifice your life for them? How is it any different?"

"It's different by 7,999 people, and you know that, Dax!" Kira bit out, her eyes finally meeting Jadzia's.

The Trill dropped her gaze. She wanted to plead with Kira to reconsider, to think of herself just this once, but the words tasted bitter on her tongue. After all, it was Jadzia's fault they were stuck on Gaia. Me and my visions of grandeur she thought.

Jadzia glanced at the Bajoran woman—probably her closest friend on the station, other than Benjamin—wondering at her calm. How could Kira make a decision like this? A decision that meant forfeiting her life?

An evening breeze rippled through her hair, and Jadzia's mind flashed back to the day when Verad and his accomplices had stolen aboard the station, waving phasers and demanding to have Dax. She'd gone with them willingly, knowing that she, Jadzia, would die. But the lives of her friends had also been at stake, and Dax's strength had helped her face death with wisdom far beyond Jadzia's twenty-nine years. Her heart faltered, remembering the stark terror she'd felt when she'd awakened. The emptiness that had permeated her without Dax.

Did Kira feel that way now? Was her mind screaming red alert, begging her to reconsider, to turn back? Was her heart slamming into her ribs like an Altorian tryddabeest? And what about Kira? What about her pagh, her life-energy? Was it terrified, or was it at peace, just as Kira's features were?

The memory of those awful hours penetrated Jadzia's heart once more, and she shuddered. If it hadn't been for Julian and his strength—the quiet, reassuring way he tended to her in her darkest hours—Jadzia knew she would have died. If he hadn't been so gentle and calm, yet so set on keeping her alive, her fear would have overwhelmed her. She would have died alone, in her blackest nightmare.

Jadzia looked at Kira again, remorse sweeping through her. She should be to Kira what Julian had been to her three years ago. A confidante and quiet strength, not a lecturer and cold shoulder. Silently, she reached across the grave—Nerys's future—and grasped Kira's hands in her own, embracing her new role.

Back on the Defiant, Jadzia crossed the cramped crew quarters in half a stride and reached for the room's only chair. Sliding it out far enough to accommodate her long legs, the Trill eased into a sitting position and deposited a programmed isolinear rod onto the table. She produced an identical, but empty, rod, and pulled up the recording operation on her computer console, slipping the amber-tinged tube into the appropriate slot.

Then she stopped.

Jadzia's slim fingers hovered over the command key, suspended there by some hope that the experience was unreal. All a dream, never to have happened but in the labyrinthine corridors that formed her mind.

And then reality struck, and the Starfleet officer in her stepped forward.

Her finger descended, and the computer's screen went from tasks to record, and Jadzia opened her mouth to do what she hated most.

"Ziranne…" she stopped, her throat already convulsing in an attempt to stop the tears. "By the time you get this, I'll be two hundred years in the past, marooned on a planet that I can't tell you the name of for fear of disrupting the timeline. I won't go into all the temporal mechanics, because…because I know you hate them—"

Here Jadzia allowed a smile to brighten her teary eyes, remembering her sister's dramatic complaints of headaches when it came to temporal matters.

"—but it's safe to say that I won't be seeing you…anytime soon. I've explained as much as I can in Mom's message—she'll share it with you, I have no doubt—but I wanted to give you a separate farewell.

"Because that's what this is, Ranne," Jadzia lamented, using the endearment softly. "A goodbye. And you know how much I hate goodbyes. But I want you to promise me something. No, promise it to yourself. Because you deserve it. Promise that you won't mourn my disappearance as you would my death. You and Mom are the only ones still alive that I'll truly miss, other than a few of my station friends, and…Nerys.

"Don't be sad for me. I've got Ben here—Curzon was his mentor—and he's the closest friend Jadzia's ever had, excepting you. I've got Julian, and the Chief, and Nerys for at least a couple more weeks. And Worf."

Jadzia's smile was one of warm love, full of fierce strength, but tenderness, too. "I've met my descendants—Jadzia lives on in Dax—and one of them told me that Worf and I marry. And we were—we will be—happy. If it weren't for leaving you and Mom behind, my life here would be perfect."

The Trill was crying now, tears sliding down her strained, pale cheeks. She hated herself for showing this weakness, for not being strong for Ziranne in the hour she needed her the most. But she couldn't help it, and she knew, deep down in her heart, woven into eight lifetimes, that her sister would understand. That's what sisters were for, after all. Understanding.

Jadzia drew a shaky breath and then continued, drawing her farewell to a close.

"So don't mourn for me, Ranne. Don't put your life on hold and waste your talents. You have one of the fullest, brightest lives ahead of you—so do I—and I'd hate to think that you'd throw it all away for a sister living safely on a forgotten planet. Promise me that, Ziranne. That you'll live every day of your life, and you won't regret a nanosecond of it."

She paused long enough to smear tears into her spots, biting her lip before the last goodbye.

"I love you, Ziranne. I always have, and I always will. You're the best sister a girl could ever have, and we've had some of the craziest adventures together. I'll miss you, but you'll always be in my heart. And Dax's descendants—my descendants—will carry your memory with them always. Always."

Tapping the "save" button, Jadzia sniffed and rubbed her palms along her thighs. No more stalling, no more tears, no more regrets. It was time.

Collecting the message rods, Jadzia rose and exited her quarters, one thought echoing through her mind.

Fear not the flames.