Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by Paramount.
Spoiler: for all seven seasons of DS9 as well as for Worf's TNG-related background.
Thanks to: Kathy, for beta-reading.
Author's note: Originally written for Yuletide 2010.
Let It Be
Few of the stories Worf told Jadzia captivated her as much as his encounter with a quantum fissure, resulting in a shift through various realities. The scientist in her loved all the possibilities. Still, it didn't take her long to figure out that Worf was deeply uncomfortable talking about it. They had been friends for years and lovers for six months before he found himself trying to explain why the notion of many realities continued to disturb him.
"A man makes a choice", he said, "and bears the consequences. This is how it should be. But if all the other choices are still there somewhere, how do I know which one is real? Which one was right? How do I know this life is real and the one where I was married to Counsellor Troi and had two children with her is not?"
"Worf", Jadzia asked, sounding deeply amused, "if this is your way to ask for an open relationship, well, then all I have to say is that I need to meet the woman first. Mind you, if she looks anything like her mother I already know she's hot, so… "
This time, it took him only a minute of spluttering and proclaiming his fidelity before noticing she was teasing him. She got serious then, and said softly: "I wonder sometimes, too, you know. I haven't forgotten those 8000 people who where whisked out of existence so you and I could be here today. They were real, Worf. Our descendants. And me. That Dax was as much me as Jadzia is, as Curzon was, and yet he will never exist."
He had not forgotten the colony, either. So she did understand, and yet she could see it as a scientific puzzle, rather than as something that challenged the foundation of her convictions. When he asked her how she did that, she shook her head. "There you go, thinking in either/or again. Worf, I'm a both/and person. It is a scientific puzzle, multiple realities. But it also affirms something for me. Choice. There is no such thing as one single path, and anything else being less valid and wrong. We have a choice. We always do. And some of these other choices still being out there – that doesn't mean the ones we made are wrong, not to me. Or that one reality is less valid than the other. It means", she smiled again, her eyes as mischievous as they could be, "the universe is really lucky. So many Daxes out there, in all the realities. Working together to keep all those realities going."
"All those Jadzias, running into debt with Ferengi bartenders," he said, because sometimes he understood that it was easier to joke than to insist on pondering what was unsolvable. He did not speak of the reality where he himself was dead, that reality from which a version of his son Alexander had come to save him, an Alexander who now would not exist, either, for his son had taken the path of the warrior after all. He did not say: in no reality, in no future I ever visited did I find you, Jadzia. What does that mean?
A man made his choice, and bore the consequences.
Occasionally, very occasionally, a single sentence had the power to cut you to the heart, not with a clean knife but with a blunt spoon. Julian Bashir didn't hear many such sentences, but he had heard them. Starting with "Jules, we'll see the doctor now, and you'll be so much better afterwards, it will be so great".
"If Worf hadn't come, it would have been you," Ezri Dax said, all youth and vulnerability, so very different from Jadzia, and he sat there and knew he'd never be able to get that simple statement out of his head.
For all the grumblings he shared with Quark, he didn't think he truly regretted what had, or rather, what hadn't happened between him and Jadzia, not until that moment when Ezri, that almost stranger with her too familiar blue eyes, sat in front of him, asked him not to flirt with her and made her observation. Oh, he'd been smitten with Jadzia Dax from the moment he saw her, but he had not really expected her to return the sentiment. Not Jadzia with her amused superiority and the wisdom of the ages lurking in her deceptively attractive frame. She wasn't unlike Garak that way; they both seemed to know so much more when he met them, they both embodied mystery and treated the universe as a joke they were somehow in on, they both regarded flirtation as one of the better responses to the absurdity of life, and he somehow expected them both to disappear, sooner or later, into that splendid story they had surely just escaped from to grace his more mundane existence. They both even became real to him in the same way. With Garak, it was when Garak broke down due to the device in his head, telling him stories that were mutually exclusive and yet somehow connected, in pain, not a mystery, a man who needed a doctor. With Jadzia, it was when her symbiont was stolen from her. When she stopped being Dax for a few hours and was Jadzia, her life running out. She had needed him then, and a few months later, again, when those memories her symbiont had supressed resurfaced. She was a woman, not a mystery, she needed a friend, and she needed a doctor.
He'd known then that this was how things would continue. They would joke, and flirt, and spar, and he'd try to figure them out now and then, even risk exposing his own secrets to those too sharp gazes. They would not leave; they would stay in his life, because they were real enough to need him. There were, however, things that would never happen, boundaries that would not be crossed, and there was safety in that. Frankly, the idea of the opposite scared him.
But now there was Ezri, Ezri with eight lives dumped into her and no preparation at all, Ezri without the guile to lie. If she said it, it must have been the truth. And now he wondered about that life, that other way, that timeline where Worf never came to the station and Jadzia somehow took that step of turning their flirtatious friendship into more. He tried not to think about it, threw himself into the next relationship which came along, who happened to be Sarina, which was one of the more idiotic things he'd ever done, considering that he was her doctor, too. But Sarina left, heart and mind intact, and he was still pondering might have beens. He couldn't talk to Miles about this, because Miles would have said something eminently sensible like "what's done is done", which would have been beside the point. So he talked to Quark instead, because he'd seen enough to know that Quark had been entirely serious when stating: "I loved Jadzia as much as anyone in this room" when he entered that Klingon freighter.
"Do you sometimes wonder," he said, "if you'd tried harder, actually said something before he did…"
Quark gave him a shrewd look. "How do you know I didn't?"
"You don't want to talk about me," Quark said, "you want to talk about you, and that's fine with me, because it's your time in my holosuite you're currently paying for. The way I see it, Doctor, is that you weren't ready to make that bargain, and she wasn't, either."
"I'm talking about love, Quark, not trade."
"That's where you humans make your mistake, because they're one and the same, especially the way you conduct your affairs. You trade away all the other fun for an exclusive. That's your contract. And frankly, Doctor, I don't think Jadzia would have done that for you. You're not good enough in the sack, for starters."
"Anyone who gets dumped for my brother Rom has to be seriously lacking in skills," Quark said, "but never mind that. What you really want to know is whether she'd still be dead. And she would be. And it would hurt just as much. Only it would be you running away from Ezri now instead of The Walking Frown, so the way I see it, we're the lucky ones. Free to make our bid again. Well, I am. Feel free to brood in my bar instead, just make sure you keep ordering while you're at it."
Julian wasn't sure whether getting insulted by Quark counted as therapy, but it proved surprisingly effective in helping him focus.
"Ezri isn't Jadzia," he said, getting to the core of the problem.
"She's Dax," Quark said. "Guess that makes the question which of them you want to make your bid for."
"You're like a son to me, Worf", Martok was prone to declare on more than one occasion, and in truth, he was the man Worf always imagined Mogh to have been. But his father was Sergey Rozhenko. Among so many other things to mourn, the fact Jadzia never met his parents was but one, and yet it still burned.
For a long time, he could not bring himself to tell them she was dead, but after a few months, his time of pretending ran out. One of his mother's chatty messages arrived, which previously he had replied to with Jadzia at his side, and there were no excuses left. His parents' reaction was as he had expected; they were human, their concern and grief for him practically bled from the screen. What he had not expected was what they did next. Which was to come to Deep Space Nine. A small thing such as the regulation of civilian traffic in war time into a crisis zone did not deter them. They simply contacted the Enterprise and asked Captain Picard himself to transport them.
Worf did not know whether he wished for the station's power converters to swallow him or whether he wanted to throw himself into his mother's arms in a fashion not befitting a warrior.
"I do not have the specs and diagrams of the E yet," his father said, "but your friend Mr. LaForge has promised to send them to me as soon as this war is over and there is no danger of them getting intercepted by Dominion spies, or what not."
"I brought rockeg blood pie," his mother said, and he knew they both meant the same thing. They had learned not to tell him they loved him in as many words all the time, but they had found a lot of alternative methods.
He presented them to Captain Sisko, who, as Worf had feared, insisted on inviting everyone to dinner. "Everyone" included Ezri Dax, with whom he was at least on a conversational level these days but still felt tense around. It did not include anyone from the Enterprise, which had left almost immediately after dropping off Worf's parents; Worf suspected this was less due to the war and the need for the flagship of the Federation to be elsewhere and more due to the fact Captain Picard, ever the diplomat, did not want to add his own presence and the memories he was prone to evoke in Captain Sisko to what was supposed to be a relief, not an enhancement of tension. There had been time for a very brief conversation, though.
"My parents…" Worf had started, and Picard had looked at him in that way he had.
"You should give them the chance to comfort you," he had said quietly. "It would be the honourable thing to do."
Ezri sought him out before the dinner took place, when his parents were busy catching up with Chief O'Brien. "You can refer to me as Ezri Tigan," she said, a little breathless, as seemed to be her habit, at least around him. "No question from your parents that way, right? Benjamin won't say anything, don't worry. You won't have to explain the Trill thing. I don't think your parents really understood that anyway, so…"
"My parents," Worf said sharper than he had intended, "will understand. They are not stupid. Neither am I."
"That's not what I meant," Ezri said, her eyes wide, and then, as if a sponge moved over her face and erased that youthful naivete, her expression changed, and her voice shifted into something harder and older. "I simply wanted to make their visit easier, for you and them. But then, you never take the easy way if the other possibility is more painful, do you."
"They will understand," Worf said, and the mixture of familiarity and strangeness with which she looked at him was almost as bad as seeing her, Ezri, for the first time, just after he had finally managed to let Jadzia go to Sto-vo-kor. "You are Dax."
Ezri was starting to see the point of reassociation taboos. She had never wasted much thought on the subject before, when she had still been Ezri Tigan. For starters, she hadn't intended to ever apply for a symbiont, and secondly, she had wanted to go to Starfleet and away from both her family and all things Trill for most of her adolescence. So even as a counsellor, the chance of her having to treat someone suffering from reassociation problems were remote. Well, now she was a walking, talking reassociation problem.
Jadzia had looked forward to meeting Helena and Sergey Rozhenko in the flesh, but then Jadzia had gotten along just fine with her own parents, had hit it off with Alexander and had felt secure enough about herself to want her own child. Ezri sometimes still woke up wondering whether she would feel the baby kick before sorting herself out, though she supposed this remote echo of a phantom pregnancy was better than being plagued with Curzon's prostate problems. Or not. Ezri didn't want children, at least not for a very long time. And yet sometimes she looked at Worf and wondered what his and Jadzia's child would have been like, whether it existed somewhere in the multiverse, in one of those myriads of timelines he had shifted through and told Jadzia about.
"I'm sorry," Helena Rozhenko said to her when Benjamin was distracting everyone else by demonstrating how to serve a flaming desert without alerting the station's fire extinguishers, "I'm sorry. I know it is not your fault. You are a lovely young woman, I can see that. But can't you feel what this is doing to Worf? It must be like meeting his wife's corpse every day. Can't you ask for another posting?"
She said this without malice, huge Russian eyes pleading, and the voice soft but determined. Ezri murmured something about war and necessities and fled to Quark's as soon as she could. She wasn't surprised to find Julian joining her. His cheerfulness had been so forced throughout dinner that she suspected he must have longed to escape from it almost as much as she did.
"Families," he said, and she nodded, aware that he got at least part of what was driving her. Jadzia had thought he'd grow out of his issues with his parents, but Jadzia hadn't known what it was to genuinely dislike the people who gave you life. It wasn't something that went away after one decided to move on from the past. Sometimes, a tearful reconciliatory hug just wasn't on offer, not if you valued your sanity. Which also meant that you were ill equipped to handle other people's parents, no matter what memories you shared.
"I'm glad they're here for Worf, though," she said. "He's so fixated on being more Klingon than Klingon that he represses being raised human along with everything else, and he can't around them. It'll be cathartic for him, having them here. Or not. It's a big multiverse full of choices, isn't it? I wish I still liked blood wine."
"You'll get drunk faster on Cardassian kanar," Julian said matter-of-factly. "If that's your objective."
"Really?" she asked doubtfully.
"Trust me, I'm a physician. Trill physiology and your personal body weight plus Quark not stretching the kanar the way he does the blood wine because with only Garak around, there is no profit in it", Julian replied, dead-pan, and Quark, who of course was listening, delivered a token protest before admitting that with all the Klingons coming through the station stretching the blood wine was simply good business and an insurance against too much broken furniture.
She discovered she liked kanar, which was a relief.
"You know why I stayed here?" she said, talking to Julian and Quark both, which was somehow better than talking to Julian alone. Talking to Julian made her feel like Ezri Tigan, just like talking to Worf alone made her feel like Jadzia, but talking to Julian and Quark at the same time made her feel like Dax, Ezri, Jadzia and the whole damned lot. "Not just because Benjamin asked me, or because I was worried about all of you. That would be nice. That would be selfless. It's because I wasn't finished. I don't mean just Jadzia. I mean Dax wasn't finished with the station. And I was just so curious, I mean, Ezri was. I don't want Torias' space shuttles back, and don't care how much Curzon loved Risa, I'm not going back there again, but the station, the wormhole – I wanted that. I knew it would be difficult for all of you, especially for Worf, of course I knew, and I did it anyway. That's who I am. Not this wise person you said all your eulogies for. I'm selfish."
"You don't want to give up your life, you want to live," Julian said, and Quark snorted.
"Well, who doesn't?"
A memory returned to her then, and she gave him a rueful smile. "Someone who signed a stupid contract with another Ferengi on his own body parts?"
Quark coughed. Having been tricked by Brunt into almost committing suicide by Garak wasn't one of his favourite recollections. "Never mind," Ezri said. "You're both right. I wanted to live, this particular life, here, in this place. Even if it rips Worf's heart out. Damn, am I really that much like Mom? No wonder we can't stand each other."
"Well, I don't know your mother," Julian said. "Ezri's mother, that is. But I actually have some of your memories from that ceremony we did some years ago. So does Quark. So trust me, Dax, you always wanted to live whatever life you chose, in any body."
"What he's trying to say is that if Worf has trouble with this particular body, that's his loss," Quark interjected and leered at her. "We sure don't have that problem."
Julian glared at him. "This isn't about…"
"Sure it is. Or do you think that if our Ezri here looked like Morn, Worf would still give her the how-dare-you-be-around-me treatment? Would he yell at us for putting the moves on her and tell us we're dishonouring Jadzia? Nah. He'd have moved on and be all buddies and wouldn't care if we had a three ways orgy in the holosuite."
"Quark," Ezri pointed out, the kanar making her light-headed and giving her that clarity which drunkenness just before the passing out stage provides, "iyou/i wouldn't put the moves on me if I looked like Morn. Neither would Julian. Not that he is, of course," she added hastily, and he muttered that no, of course he wasn't.
"That's all you know," Quark said.
"Oh really?" she shot back, discovering that she enjoyed teasing him as much in this body as in the last one. "You and Morn?"
"Rule of Acquisition No.57," he said. "Good customers are as rare as latinum. Treasure them. Hypothetically speaking. If you're both very depressed during the second occupation because your stupid brother almost gets himself heroically executed if you don't save him. My point was, though, that if you looked like Morn I would still…"
"Hold on," Julian interjected. "I want to clarify that, just in the interest of medical curiosity. Did you really…?"
"You're just jealous because I've had sex with more species than you have," Quark said, and Ezri realised that at some point she must have traded in her self-loathing and guilt on Worf's behalf for frivolous banter without noticing where she had crossed the line. Undoubtedly, the guilt would be back in the morning, together with a hangover.
But for now, she lived the life she had chosen. In all the multiverses. This one.
When he had served on the Enterprise, the relationship between Deanna Troi and Will Riker had always confused Worf, long before his own relationship with Deanna had started to become more intense. Troi and Riker had been lovers in the past, they evidently still had strong feelings for one another, and yet the fact that they were now friends and watched each other become involved in a lot of casual relationships did not seem to bother them. For Worf, who had barely been able to be in the same room with K'Ehleyr without feeling torn apart when she returned to his life, this was incomprehensible.
"There are many ways to love another", Deanna once told him, and he started to understand what she meant when their own friendship briefly became romantic and lost its passion again without leaving any of the anger and desire he had felt during the years apart from K'Ehleyr, though admittedly the fact he got transferred to DS9 soon after helped. He did not fully understand it until Ezri came to save him and they went through imprisonment by the Breen and the Cardassians together.
He thought he had let Jadzia go when he fought for her entrance to Sto-vo-kor. He hadn't, and his mother had told him as much when she visited. Letting Jadzia go happened in the odd shape of kissing Ezri. Of feeling that skin and smell, both as strange to him as their Breen captors, mixed with the gestures and noises that every now and then were as achingly familiar as the back of his hand. Feeling tenderness but not passion. He said goodbye to Jadzia when facing his death with Ezri on Cardassia Prime, because he understood then that while he could wish for no better comrade to die besides, he had no wish to live with Ezri as his wife, any more than she wished to live with him as her husband. Being reprieved from death by Damar did not change this realisation. Maybe he would never love again, or maybe there was a woman somewhere who would be to him what K'Ehleyr had been, what Jadzia had been. But she would not be called Dax. On the other hand, he had gained a friend. And friends had their advisory duties.
"You do realise," he said to Ezri while they were on their way back to Deep Space Nine, "that the Doctor is a child?"
"Mmmm," she said. "Most people are, compared to me. On the other hand, Ezri is younger than Julian. And it's not like I want to marry him, you know."
She looked at him, and her blue eyes were free of teasing. "I don't think I'll marry again for a good long while, Worf. It's not something I do easily."
"I know," he said softly, and he did.
"I do love him, though," she said, and blushed a little, an Ezri-blush that came with a crinkling of her nose entirely her own.
"I knew when I first saw you play tongo with the Ferengi that your taste could never be entirely trusted", he returned, and her eyes widened.
"Worf! Was that a joke?"
It hadn't been, but for some reason, it pleased him that she should think so.
"I itold/i you that on the Enterprise, I was considered a humorous person," he said, and the sceptical, amused look she shot him was as familiar as the star constellation that came into sight when their ship dropped out of warp.
"You know what? Just for today, I think I'll believe you."
In a few minutes, they would arrive on the station, deliver their reports on the new alliance between the Breen and the Dominion and resume their old lives. Their new lives, with all that was lost and gained. Worf found himself driven to ask, before he could stop himself:
"Did Jadzia ever regret the choice she made?"
Ezri came towards him, stood on her toes and without any awkwardness put her hands on his face, cradling it. It wasn't something she would have done before this trip. "No," she said. "She was a happy woman when she died. And I will never forget that happiness."
"Nor I," he said, and for the last time, kissed Dax goodbye.