Special thanks to GatorDASH, for this month's contest theme. Okay, folks...let me begin on an odd note: You know...sometimes, I can't help but wonder if the TrekLit novelists enjoy wierding me out. In this case, I'm referring to the revelation in the latest Typhon Pact novel, Raise The Dawn, that-- Spoiler: the novels--but TBH...my story assumes you know this already.... Sarina has revealed to Julian Bashir that she's an agent for Section 31--but with the caveat that she is, she claims, actually working as a double agent, and wants Julian to help her bring the Bureau down. Oy, my head is spinning.... Fortunately, the book also gave the impression that said caveat is not to be accepted without question--to say the least. Anyway--other than the question of, "Well...why didn't we see this 'revelation' play out, instead of DRGIII just giving it a passing mention?"...well, I find it just--wierd. But...what is especially eerie, to be honest...is how well it fits into my own tales! Namely--my latest Ezri "epic", "Our Sacred Honor", which you can read here. (Of course...this is based on the assumption that Sarina is leading Julian on a merry chase, with this 'revelation'....) Anyhow...this story is, in part, my working the revelation into my universe--along with my general arc of our beloved Ezri's struggle to bring about a reconcilation with Julian Bashir--despite all the obstacles TrekLit seems to insist on throwing in the poor girl's direction.... (Frankly, I won't be the least bit suprised if the upcoming novel Brinkmanship has Ezri note that she hasn't seen Julian since ZSG. *sigh*) NOW--the fourth major character in this tale, one Cynthia Mirabelle Holland, is the heroine of my "From Risa With Love." You can read the story here--and, um...if you haven't read it already, and don't want to be spoiled (and you WILL be, if you read this one, first)--I strongly recommend you stop here, and read "From Risa" first. (I must also warn that there are some spoilers for "Our Sacred Honor"--but they're decidedly less severe, I suppose....) Okay! Now, with that out of the way...this story is set shortly after Raise The Dawn, probably some months after my "Our Sacred Honor". The title is, of course, a reference to Elvis Presley's hit. The song itself is very appropriate--the lyrics appealing quite well to Ezri's conflict in this tale. (I felt I could get away with Ezri playing the tune, due to Alexander Siddig's cute description of her as a "rock chick". ) Word count: 10,000 words. (Woo! Talk about cutting it close! ) Enjoy! Star Trek Aventine "Suspicious Minds" Ezri Dax stepped into her quarters…at the end of a trying day. Trying…she felt as though her mind had been pulled in ten different directions, today. Ezri rubbed her closed eyes. At least it was over. At least she could focus on one thing—one! A book, maybe with music in the background— Ezri froze, lowering her hand. She knew, without any proof…she was not alone. “Computer—lights,” she said. They came on, nighttime level…and Ezri saw another woman, standing against the wall, an arm folded across her chest, her other hand closed and pressed against her mouth, in patience and in thought. When the room brightened, she straightened up, smiling, nodding respectfully at Ezri. “Captain Ezri Dax, I presume?” she asked, her soft, light voice having the air of a French accent. Ezri blinked, taking everything in. The other woman was clad in a black leather one-piece suit and boots. It was pretty obvious what she was. Ezri kept her voice even, as she said, “Well, I didn’t think I’d ever get a visit from you people.” The young woman—well, actually, she seemed about Ezri’s own age, if not a little older—shrugged, and her smile turned amused. “Underestimating your importance, Captain?” Ezri shrugged. “Well, it’s just…I didn’t think I was on the radar of Section 31.” The woman chuckled. “After your trial before the Council? No…truly, Captain, you have impressed a great many persons—if it’s not too disquieting for you to hear.” Ezri gave her a smile of her own. “Well…that’s one way of putting it.” “Mm-hmm!” The other girl beamed, as she stepped forward, extending a hand. “My name is Cynthia Mirabelle Holland. It is a pleasure, Captain, to meet you in person.” Ezri slowly took the hand, shaking it. “Well, um…thank you?” Holland chuckled, as they released hands. “May we sit down?” Ezri scoffed, shaking her head. “You’re asking my permission? After basically just—breaking in?” “Oh—!” Holland actually seemed to blush a little. “Well…you’ll forgive me, Captain, but—as a rule, we prefer to be noticed by as few as possible.” Ezri nodded, still smiling. “I’m sure you do.” “As it is…consider my asking to be a—making of amends, if you will.” Ezri shrugged. “Fair enough, I guess….” She walked over to her desk, taking her seat. “I don’t suppose you locked down this thing?” she asked, pointing to her computer console. Holland shrugged, as she pulled up a chair of her own, sitting down. “Standard precaution, Captain. You can try—however…no one will hear. And…your combadge won’t work, either—not until I leave this room.” Ezri nodded, let out a sigh, and leaned back in her seat. Just to make sure, she tapped her combadge. No chirp—no signal. She looked at the slender girl for a moment, taking in her existence. She couldn’t help but notice that Curzon would have found her a high-priority target: wildly beautiful and bewitchingly mysterious—with the flowing golden hair, soft face, rich lips, dark green eyes, and all the “proportions”. The sweet, vulnerable air, Ezri imagined, would only enhance her appeal to most men—if her own experience was any indication. Still, it was painfully obvious that this woman’s personality channeled it differently: a bit more…proactively. Talk about a “femme fatale”! I guess it’s not hard to guess what some of her methods of “intelligence gathering” might be…. Holland looked off. “I did not lock down the replicators. Would…you care for some tea, Captain?” “Well, I guess that depends,” Ezri said, an eyebrow rising, “You’re not going to drug it, are you?” Holland blinked—and laughed. “Well…of course not, Captain! We’ve barely talked, have we?” Ezri nodded. “Point taken. I’m partial to Fanalian tea, personally.” Cynthia nodded, rose, and walked over to the replicator. “Two Fanalian teas, with…” she turned to Ezri, “Sugar?” Ezri smiled. “Guess you haven’t had that tea in a while.” “Oh?” “Fanalian tea leaves are naturally sweet. If you add any more, you’ll probably get a sugar rush, or something.” “Oh—I see!” Holland chuckled again, in slight embarrassment. To the computer, she said, “That’s all—just the teas.” Two empty cups on saucers, with a teapot, materialized. Cynthia Holland took them all like a professional, and brought it to the desk, setting the saucers and cups down—one before Ezri, the other where she would sit. She then poured the tea for both, and set the pot aside. She sat down, taking her cup, and sipped. Ezri beamed. “See what I mean?” Holland returned the smile, and nodded. “Indeed!” Ezri took a sip of her own, and asked, “Well, Miss Holland—what can I do for you?” Holland shrugged. “Well, first…may I be perhaps the first of my organization to offer a belated ‘congratulations,’ Captain?” “Well…for what?” “Oh, for the outcome of your hearing, some months ago. Understand, there was a…significant concern that you would be condemned by the Council for—how shall I put it?—doing what was necessary.” Ezri frowned. It had been quite a while since she’d allowed herself to look back on those memories—being brought before the Council, on charges brought up by the Breen—trumped up charges, eventually exposed to be all part of a frame-up…. It feels so long ago—and yet… Ezri shrugged. “So you people were on my side, I take it?” Holland returned the shrug, “Many of us were. As I recall…your address was quite impressive. And very true. Quite a relief, amidst all the—forgive me…moralist platitudes we are used to hearing.” “Well…thank you—I guess,” Ezri replied, making sure to keep from reacting. The truth was…she was more than a little disturbed at the idea of an agency like Section 31 interpreting her words as a sanction…. “Truly,” Cynthia continued, “I feel I must compliment you, Captain—on many things. For one—I understand you are the…youngest—” “—Captain in Starfleet history,” Ezri muttered, with a tired sigh. “Yeah, I…hear that a lot.” “Nonetheless, it is very impressive—as is your record as Captain. I would imagine the pressures must be quite extensive!” Ezri shrugged. “Well, it depends, I guess. I mean…I’d imagine you’ve faced a lot of pressures, as an agent.” Cynthia chuckled, smiling so that white showed. “Touché, Captain! And you’re right, of course.” Ezri nodded, as she finished her cup. Holland noticed. “Oh—another?” Ezri smiled. “It’s all right, I can get it,” she said, as she reached for the pot, and poured herself another cup. “Still,” Holland added, “It has many rewards.” Ezri chuckled. “I’d think it’d be kind of risky.” “Oh, it is! But…there is an appeal to it. Have you ever been an actress, Captain?” Ezri shrugged. “There was a drama team at the Academy I was a part of.” Holland smiled, again showing perfect-looking white. “As was I, Captain!” Ezri returned the smile. “No kidding!” Holland shook her head, and went on in a slightly dreamy tone, “Anyway…I’m sure you can understand, then? The…sense of glamor it brings—using the imagination, taking it to such heights…” Ezri chuckled, nodding. “So—that’s how you see your job, I take it?” “In part—when I’m in the ‘field,’ as it were.” Ezri nodded again…and found herself looking at the other girl again—in mild amazement, this time. “You know,” she said, “You’re…not at all like I expected—from you people.” Cynthia Holland smiled. “Too…?” Ezri found herself smiling a little. “Too—well, innocent, I guess.” Holland’s eyes widened, and she chuckled. “Familiar choice of words, Captain?” Ezri blushed a little. “Point taken. Still…” she stared at the other girl for a moment, studying her. “Miss Holland, you…you kind of strike me as—well, kind of a romantic.” Cynthia chuckled again. “Another familiar word?” Ezri shrugged. “Maybe. But—if you are, then…what in I’nora’s name are you doing…?” “…with the Bureau?” Holland gave a shrug of her own. “Well…I suppose calling it a ‘long story’ could sound a little…trite?” Ezri sighed. “All right…point taken.” “Suffice it to say, Captain,” Holland added, “There are times, I feel, when…fate chooses a path for us—to take, accept, and embrace.” “I…suppose that’s true. But—Miss Holland—” “Oh,” Holland shrugged, “Please—‘Cynthia’.” Ezri chuckled. “You must be used to making friends pretty fast!” The other girl smiled. Ezri shrugged. “All right, Cynthia…you still haven’t answered my question.” “Oh? Which one?” Ezri returned the smile. “What brought you here. You’re not expecting me to think you just showed up to…send me your best wishes, or something—are you?” Cynthia chuckled, and shook her head. “No…I wouldn’t insult your mind like that.” “Thanks. So, what is it?” Cynthia Holland paused for a moment, and rose to her feet, taking the teapot. As she refilled her cup—and Ezri’s—she said, “You’re correct, Captain. We do require your services, for something.” Ezri shook her head, amused. “Well, I—guess I’d be lying, if I said I’d be glad to help….” “And you’re wise not to do so,” Cynthia replied. “I’d be aware of it.” Ezri tilted her head. “Not surprising?” “No…we’re aware of your sympathies—or…lack of sympathy, really—as far as the Bureau is concerned. You are an…idealist, Captain—if you don’t mind my saying this.” Ezri frowned. “Well, you don’t strike me as pretty cynical, Miss Holland.” “Perhaps not. However…that’s only a part of it.” “Okay…?” Ezri took her cup, and sipped her tea, as she looked up at Cynthia, still awaiting her answer. It looked as though it was the other girl’s turn to study, standing before the desk…looking down at Ezri, seated across it from her. “Tell me, Captain,” she said, “Do you still…” Ezri frowned. “Pardon?” Holland actually blushed again. “I—I mean…” she sighed, “I am…sorry, Captain. It…it was probably too personal—” “Hold on a minute,” Ezri smiled, amused despite herself, “I’m going out on a limb, here, and guessing it’s something important.” “It…well—it is, but…” Ezri chuckled. “Well! An agent of Section 31, afraid of asking too personal a question? Come on, Cynthia—you’re not afraid of me, are you?” Cynthia, stiffened, as she met Ezri’s gaze. “All right…if you wish.” Ezri’s smile faded…as she braced herself. Holland swallowed—and said, “It involves…Dr. Julian Bashir.” Ezri’s heart skipped a beat at the name…and slowly, she rose to her feet. “Excuse me?” she asked, her voice low and quiet. Holland sighed. “Specifically—I…understand you once were…deeply—well, were very close, and—” Ezri blinked…and she felt cold inside, with fear. “What happened? Is…” she swallowed, and managed to make herself go on, “…Did something happen to him?—is—” Holland shook her head. “No…not really. But—I understand the two of you, are…well, at the very least, attempting to reconcile, of a sort…despite his—current relationship with…” “What—what’s your point?” Holland looked as though it were a struggle to meet Ezri’s gaze—but meet it she did. “Captain…I—it must be…I would imagine, quite difficult. Assuming, of course, that you still…still feel for him….” Ezri sighed, as she sat back down, her gaze lowered. “What do you care?” she muttered. Holland gave a sigh of her own—not a tired one…but sad, sympathetic…almost—compassionate? “I—I know, Captain. What it feels…” Ezri looked up. “Do you?” Holland nodded. “Yes….” Ezri shook her head. “That must’ve been hard for you—your job, and all that.” “It was. You see—” Holland cut herself off…and her lip tightened. She broke her gaze. Ezri frowned, concerned despite herself. “Miss Holland, is something wrong?” The other girl straightened up, and said, “I…well, the doctor—and I…” Well, now! Ezri raised an eyebrow in bitter amusement. “Really? When was that?” Holland looked off for a moment…and swallowed. “On Risa. Some—some months after you—and he had…” Ezri nodded, looking off, pursing her lips. “For…for what it’s worth, Captain, I…suspect he partly fell for me out of a desire to…recover.” Ezri sighed, and smiled sadly at the other girl. “No, it’s…it’s all right. That’s—understandable. It’s just…” she chuckled, “A—bit of a shock, I guess.” “Well…” Cynthia smiled a little, “I suppose that’s understandable, as well.” Ezri nodded. “So! You two were…close?” Holland shrugged. “Well—in a way, I suppose. We…cared about one another.” Ezri smiled. “Despite 31?” Holland nodded. “Did he…find out?” Holland snorted. “Quite soon, to be honest! I was posing simply as an SI operative, and recruited him on a mission…” “On Risa?” Ezri’s smile grew. “On Risa. And, well…” Holland blushed, “He—he’s quite clever.” Ezri nodded, still smiling. “He certainly is. But—” she frowned, looking at Holland questioningly, “The relationship—was it before or…after he found out?” Holland’s eyes glinted. “Both.” Ezri’s eyes widened in astonishment. “So—when he did…” “Oh, he was…understandably angered.” “Understandably.” “But, he…” Holland smiled warmly, at the memory, “He saved my life, soon after.” “He…forgave you?” “In a way. It wasn’t that long after we’d met. And…” her smile grew, “That was not our only assignment, together.” Ezri shook her head, chuckling internally at the idea. She found herself starting at the other girl…looking her up and down. “It must’ve been good….” Ezri Dax wasn’t, as a rule, in the habit of making barbs like that—it had been more up Jadzia’s alley—but under the circumstances… Holland blushed at it. “Well—it wasn’t just that. He…well, I felt—still feel…as though he understood me—saw me as me…if that…” Ezri nodded. “Yes…” she said quietly. “It does make sense.” “Despite who—what I am…” Cynthia shook her head in what looked almost like bewilderment, smiling at what had been. Ezri recognized that look—of wonder, of romantic nostalgia. She saw it so often in the mirror, whenever she caught herself thinking of…of simpler times. And someone like her—all right, like me—with Section 31? My goodness…there, but for the grace of I’nora… “Maybe,” Ezri said quietly, “He found himself looking beyond that. Maybe he knew you reached him in a way he needed—and…maybe you helped him, because of that.” Cynthia looked at her. “You…you do understand!” Ezri sighed. “Cynthia…I’ve known for quite a while, how much it hurt him—and me.” Cynthia’s gaze fell. “I…I’m sorry.” Ezri stiffened, suddenly remembering. “I don’t suppose you’re going to use that for something.” Cynthia blinked, meeting her gaze. “What—use it?” Ezri shrugged. “Well, I don’t know—he’s got someone right now, didn’t you know that? Sarina Doug—” Ezri cut herself off…and she froze. Something Miss Holland had said a few minutes ago—something that hadn’t registered, then… She slowly rose to her feet, her eyes lowered…as the connections became clear. Of course…I should have guessed. “You were posing as an SI operative,” she muttered, “…and recruited him.” Holland frowned. “Captain…?” Ezri chuckled, shaking her head. And I thought it was just jealousy! But—but, somehow, I knew it, didn’t I?