Simon Tarses stood outside the door to the quarters of Ezri Dax, parcel in hand. He smiled inside…as a memory hit him once again: all those years ago, on Deep Space Nine, when he had opened his door to see the ninth host of Dax for the first time. She had stopped by, because of his neglecting the appointment she had set up for him.
He remembered…how that day, she had set him on the path which led him to this moment. He remembered marveling at the wisdom of this girl, especially for her age—eight past lives notwithstanding—how she had dug so deep into the troubles of his soul, and forced him to confront the demons within, pull himself out of the gutter…and seek the opportunities life had to offer.
“You’ve been hit pretty hard in this life…haven’t you? You’ve been smeared…spit on…slammed into the ground, over and over…and now, you’re struggling for a reason to move on.”
He closed his eyes…remembering.
suffered, Simon, because you
made a mistake. And any true, objective standard of justice out there says that you have paid for that mistake already—a thousand times over. You didn’t deserve any of that garbage—and you
have to accept that. You
How ironic…and yet, how fitting…that now, their positions would have to be reversed, for this day. Simon had always felt that he owed a debt to Ezri Dax. And while this certainly could never pay it off…still, this was the least he could do.
His sensitive, Vulcanoid hearing picked up a faint sound of music inside. It was an old song from twentieth-century Earth…about “sorry” being the hardest word….
Simon raised his hand to the panel on the wall, and pressed the chime.
He heard the music stop—and then, she called out, “Come in.”
The doors opened—and Simon had to fight a shiver at the intense cold of the room.
Ezri was leaning back in the seat at her desk, her eyes closed, her lips pursed. She wasn’t blue in the face yet
Simon shook his head, as he walked in. “Computer,” he called out as the doors closed behind him, “Restore temperature to standard levels.”
He felt the difference right away. Apparently, so did Ezri.
“I set it there on purpose, Simon,” she muttered.
“I’m sure you did. Now, would you mind explaining that?”
Ezri let out a sigh, as she opened her eyes. “I can’t tell you how much it clears the mind….”
? How many times have you done this?”
Ezri gave a small smile. “Don’t worry—this was the first time in years.”
“Well, as far as I’m concerned, that’s one too many. Skip, I’m not just speaking as your friend, but as your doctor. You’re a Trill
—how can you even experiment
with putting yourself through a temperature that…that unbearable
to you? Are you a masochist?”
She looked to him. “You know, it’s funny…I’ve actually asked myself that a lot, lately….”
Simon spread out his hands, and walked over to an armchair. Oh, sure. She’s trying to find something to distract her thoughts. Well, I am
not about to let her get away with it.
“Captain, take a seat,” he ordered, waving a hand to the nearby couch.
Ezri got up, walk over to the couch, and obeyed.
Satisfied, Simon opened his box, pulling out a bottle of Saurian Brandy, and two empty glasses.
Ezri shook her head in amusement. “I didn’t know this was a special occasion.”
“Ezri…you remember something you told me? I think it was, ‘Sometimes, a person will tell their bartender things…they’ll never tell their counselor.’”
Ezri chuckled. “Simon, you’re a doctor, not a counselor.”
He smirked. “True…but somehow, I doubt our
counselor would break out the brandy like this.”
“No…I guess not.”
Simon set the two glasses on the table in front of them, and filled them both from the bottle, which he then set down as he took his glass. Ezri did the same.
Simon looked at her, as she sipped her glass. “All right, Skip. You’re beating yourself up about something.”
Ezri raised an eyebrow at this. “Whatever gave you that idea?”
“Oh, shall I answer chronologically?”
“If you like.”
“A couple months ago, you were just ready to collapse from all the stress you were under—and I don’t blame you for that, understand.”
“Of course not.”
“I offer you a rest leave—and you turn it down. And then Ambassador Spock comes along—you have that little…errand to Achernar Prime. And,” he smiled, “I have to admit…when you two came back, I swear I hadn’t seen you face glow like that in years
She smiled at this. “I was glowing
“Oh, you have no idea. You looked as if you didn’t have a care in the world. In fact…I actually found myself thinking you didn’t need
a leave, anymore.”
She shook her head, still smiling. “Really?”
“Absolutely. Of course, that’s
when you take me up on my offer. And where do you pick? Of all places…DS9. Your reasons? To check up on old friends.”
She nodded, her smile beginning to fade. “I’m with you so
“Oh, I’m just getting to the best part. You tell me…you don’t want to make that big of a deal over it…so let’s wait until our journeys take us in the vicinity of the station. So
…we wait—and then, the whole thing with the Breen, a couple weeks ago.”
She nodded again, more slowly this time. “Go on….”
“And who comes on board, to deal with the crisis? Oh, nobody but…Dr. Julian Bashir, and His Lovely Assistant, Agent Sarina Douglas of Starfleet Intelligence.”
Her smile was gone. “Actually, I think it was the other way around,” she muttered.
“And what happens? The two are sent off on their mission…and what do I see? You’re emotional high is over—and you are right back to where you were before
“What…do you mean?”
“I mean…I look at you right now, and I see you drained, exhausted, driven to near frustration—in short, you’re in need of the leave you told me you finally want. And now
…now that it’s all over, look where we are! Surprise—we’re in orbit around the exact
location you picked for your leave. And now you tell me you don’t need it anymore—when you clearly
She stiffened. “I already told you, Mister—”
“Oh, you told me the standard, clichéd response. Did you really think you were going to get away with that?”
Ezri sighed. “No…I guess not.”
Simon shook his head. “Come on, Skip—what’s the matter
with you? You look like you’re attending a funeral, for goodness sake. As your doctor—”
“Simon, I don’t want to be lectured.”
“—as your friend
…I can tell you, you are this
close—” he held his thumb and forefinger half a centimeter apart, “—to breaking down on the bridge, in front of your entire crew!”
Ezri finished her glass in one sip. “Gosh, I didn’t think it was that
you?” Simon downed his own glass, set it down, and rose to his feet. “Ezri…you remember what you said to me once, about how you would never compromise your integrity for anything—that your rule for yourself is to never lie?”
“Now, wait just a minute
Simon pointed a finger at her. “You, Captain…are lying to yourself. This isn’t about stress—not really—and you know it.”
She looked up at him, tilting her head. “Really? All right, Counselor Tarses—what is
“Ezri…I don’t have
to be a professional therapist to see that something’s eating you up inside. And I think I have a pretty good idea what it is.”
Simon lowered his hand. “Dr. Julian Bashir…is in love with Miss Douglas.”
Ezri’s lip tightened. “It looks that way.”
“And you didn’t know about it until the two of them came aboard.”
Ezri responded with a bitter chuckle. “Is that
what you think my problem is? That I’m jealous?”
“No…but I’d say we’re getting close.”
Ezri shook her head, a look of pained exhaustion on her face. “Simon…I really don’t need—”
“Captain, it’s my duty to determine whether or not you’re fit for command—and if I can’t answer that with a clear, firm ‘yes’—”
Ezri froze. “It that a threat, Doctor?”
“It’s a fact
—and what’s also a fact is that I can’t clear you unless I’m absolutely certain you’re okay. And I can’t be certain you’re okay until I find out exactly what
is bothering you! Now I have a theory on that—but I need to be sure.” He took a step forward. “Skip…can you look me in the eye—right now—and tell me it has nothing to do with Dr. Bashir?”
Ezri swallowed hard, silent for too long. Simon had his answer.
He took his seat again. “All right…now we’re getting somewhere.” He pointed to the bottle. “Want another?”
Ezri sighed, staring at the ground. “Fine.”
Simon refilled her glass, then his own, and set the bottle back down. “Look…why don’t you start at the beginning?”
Ezri looked at him. “At the beginning…?”
“Well, for starters…exactly what happened with Spock? I imagine something on that trip made you do some soul-searching…?”
She chuckled. “That’s an understatement.”
She straightened up in her seat, as if gathering her thoughts, and set her glass down. “I’m not getting rid of you, am I?”
Simon shook his head. “You’re stuck with me.”
Ezri nodded. “Yes…I am.”
Simon leaned forward. Finally, he was beginning to get some answers.
* * *