The doors before her shushed open, and Molly stepped into her dorm room, navy satchel clasped to her chest and a smile beaming from her face. Roksana looked up from her seat at the computer console, relief working its way across her fair features when she saw her roommate.
"You weren't back in time for dinner; I got worried."
Molly paused. "Oh! Dinner. Sorry—I…lost track of the time. Ran into an old friend." She offered an apologetic smile and walked to her bed.
A quizzical expression replaced Roksana's grin. "You okay?"
"Yeah!" Molly replied. She set her satchel on the bed and turned. "Why?"
"You just seem…really happy. And earlier you looked like your best friend had died."
A stab of pain flashed through Molly, but she shunted it away. "I…I am happy. In a way."
Roksana's eyes narrowed.
Molly turned to rummage through her bag, pulling out several homework padds and finally the box. "I worked through some things on the beach. A lot of things."
Molly's hands dropped to the bed, still clutching the padds and box. She sighed. "It's a long story. The important thing is, I'm okay."
Roksana, though clearly still curious, gave a small nod. "Okay." She angled her head. "What's in the box? Or should I not ask?"
Molly glanced down, just then realizing she hadn't put the box away as she'd intended. She tilted her head, staring hard at the smooth grain. Somehow, in light of her afternoon on the beach and her time with Worf afterwards, the thought of putting it away seemed hypocritical.
"It's…my treasure box," she answered. "I've had it since I was little."
"It have something to do with your going to the beach for five hours?" Roksana asked with a smile.
"Yes, actually." Molly brushed her thumb across the wooden lid. Then, too quickly to allow second thoughts, Molly flipped the lid and withdrew the holo-image. With a firm nod, she placed it on her nightstand, next to her chronometer, so she'd have no choice but to look at it and remember.
"Who's that?" Roksana rose and came to stand beside Molly. "The woman with you?"
Happy assurance danced in Molly's chest. She inhaled deeply, ready to tell the story. The whole story.
"That," she began with a smile, "is Zia."
One Week Later
As she keyed the computer controls before her, Molly's heart thundered in her chest, like horses' hooves against the sun-baked turf.
Press, press. Blip, hum. Blink.
Almost there. Don't stop now, you can do it. One more key and you're done.
Molly swallowed hard, willing her heart to settle into its normal rhythm, breathing deeply to soothe her jittery nerves. You can do this.
A blank screen. Then, Keiko O'Brien's delighted face.
"Hey, Mom." Molly's knees felt weak, and she was grateful for the chair beneath her. "Uhm, I need to ask you something."
"Sure. Anything for you."
"I wanted to know if you were free for the next two weeks. I booked a transport, and wanted someone to come with me."
Keiko's brow furrowed. "Well, of course I'm free, honey. But why do you want me? I mean, I'd be happy to go with you, but I thought you'd want to take one of your friends instead. Maybe Roksana."
Molly drew a deep breath and held it, trying to force the words from her tongue. "It's to Trill," she said finally, with a noisy exhale.
The wrinkles in Keiko's brow smoothed into compassion. "Oh, honey. Of course I'll come."
Relief flooded Molly's veins. "Thanks."
"You're sure about this?"
Molly nodded. "It's been ten years, Mom. It's time to move on. Besides, I…have something to give her."
Confusion clouded her mother's eyes, but she asked no questions. For that, Molly was grateful.
"My last class is Monday. I've already talked with the administrator—I can leave my stuff here until we get back. The transport leaves Tuesday morning. I'll send you the details."
"I love you, Mom. See you Tuesday."
"Molly—wait. I'm proud of you for doing this. It can't be easy."
Molly laugh-sighed, her eyes closing. "It's not. But it's something I have to do." Something I want to do.
They said their goodbyes, and Molly cut the channel.
Alone then, she couldn't help but second-guess her decision. She glanced across the room, at her nightstand, and saw the picture sitting there. Jadzia and little-girl Molly smiled back at her.
It's time, Molly thought, and squeezed the padd in her hand.
Ten Days Later
All was quiet in the dew-draped cemetery, lending it a serenity that Molly loved. None of her friends' superstitious claptrap regarding haunted tombstones and angry ghosts fogged her mind as she worked her way down the peaceful rows, her eyes roaming the names traced upon the markers. She knew where she was going—one of the gardeners had directed her to the place she'd inquired after, his hushed syllables only contributing to the emerald memorial surrounding them. Still, Molly found the tranquility comforting, and she lingered accordingly.
At length, she reached her destination and stood before it, letting her eyes run across the name, date, and inscription.
Beloved daughter, sister, wife, and friend.
And so much more, Molly thought, tears pricking her eyes. I'll miss you forever, Commander Hairdresser. Forever and always.
Molly stooped and placed her gift upon Jadzia's grave, then straightened and stepped back. "Goodbye, Zia. I'll always remember you."
A few hours later, Jaleyn Krem, the caretaker of the cemetery for Joined Trill, found a small, Starfleet-issue padd, not unlike the ones students at the Academy used to record and turn in papers to their professors, resting upon Jadzia Idaris' grave. At the top was the name Cadet Molly O'Brien, and, under that, ran the words, Personal Essay: First-Year Cadet, 2384. The title read, simply, Legacy.
And below, Jaleyn read the opening words to an essay that would soon become famous across the Trill homeworld, hailed by both the Joined and the unjoined as a tribute to the life of a single woman, whose life had been tragically cut short, and the legacy she'd left behind.
" 'Who inspired you to enter the Academy, and why?' You asked me a very personal question, so I will give you a very personal answer. I could give you the pat reply and tell you that it was my father, Chief Miles Edward O'Brien, who instilled the desire for a Starfleet career in me. A week ago, in fact, I would have given you that very answer. But it would have been a lie.
"I love my father very much. His being a transporter operator on the USS Enterprise-D and later the chief of operations aboard Deep Space 9 certainly had something to do with my decision to pursue an education in Starfleet; I do not deny that. But it wasn't my primary inspiration.
"Because you see, I decided I was going to be a Starfleet officer when I was just four years old, playing with my favorite babysitter in her quarters. That babysitter was Deep Space 9's senior science officer, a Trill, and her name was Jadzia Dax. Lieutenant Jadzia Dax at the time, though she later went on to become a lieutenant commander before her untimely death in 2374.
"I called her Zia.…"
*~ Finis ~*