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Eella Kirel.

Of course Naral would use her against him.

Miro’s knuckles clenched white as he retreated from the stand and slipped into his seat next to Odo. Odo himself seemed infuriatingly calm, especially for having essentially surrendered the floor to the prosecution. His arms were crossed, but he was leaning back in his seat, looking almost relaxed as he watched the prosecution with interest.

Miro took a deep breath and closed his eyes as he heard the approaching footsteps. He forced them back open just as a wiry old Trill woman took the stand. She had silvery gray hair that was brushed back from her face and secured in a bun. Her blue eyes were kind and soft, too soft, and Miro clenched his jaw against the ire that rose within him. This was absolutely unfair. Why did she have to testify? She was about to dismantle his reputation before the whole court.

And before Eeris and Odo. He had never wanted them to see this side of himself.

“Kirel,” the prosecution said, “please state your occupation for the jury.”

“I’m a therapist with the Symbiosis Psychiatric Committee on Trill,” Kirel stated.

“And what is your connection to the defendant?”

Her eyes found Miro’s inevitably, and he railed against her compassion as she smiled at him. “I worked with him when he was first joined…quite extensively.”

Miro ground his teeth. There it was, stated before the entire court. Miro Dax, galactic hero, was a mental case.

“What was your impression of Miro Dax?”

“Determined,” Kirel said. “Driven. He was one of the best initiates I ever had the pleasure to work with. I want that clear, before any of his mental health records are brought before the court. I’m joined myself and I’ve known Dax for some time, though not personally. Miro here is the best choice for the symbiont there is.”

Miro blinked in surprise.

“More to the point,” the prosecution said, “how would you describe the condition in which Miro Dax came to you?”

Now, Kirel hesitated. “I really would say that Miro’s brilliance is part of the point—”

“Kirel,” the prosecution said, “please answer the question.”

Kirel sighed. “He wasn’t in a good place.”

“Explain.”

“You have to understand,” Kirel said, “joining with a symbiont, especially one as old as Dax, is no easy undertaking—”

“Your Honor,” the prosecution said, “I request that the witness be ordered to answer the question directly.”

“Kirel,” Simler said cooly, “please answer the question.”

Uncertainty flickered in Kirel’s eyes. “Miro…was troubled. The symbiont…overwhelmed him. His mind…”

Images of a hundred therapy sessions flashed across Miro’s mind, and he gripped the edge of the tabletop as he forced the memories away.

“Continue,” the prosecution said.

Kirel’s eyes met Miro’s across the room as she spoke, as if in apology. “He struggled to find his sense of self. Dax’s memories consumed him. The symbiont had been subjected to trauma that should have been treated early on—about nine hundred years ago.”

The prosecution smiled, eyes seeming to glint as he glanced over at Miro. “Kirel, are you telling me that the man who claims to be the hero this galaxy needs is actually a trauma victim? And one who doesn’t even have a clear sense of self?”

“No,” Kirel stated clearly. “I’m not saying that at all. Yes, the symbiont—Dax—has suffered trauma. And yes, that’s trauma that Miro has learned to live with in his daily life. It’s something Dax’s hosts will never be completely free from. I won’t bore you with the scientific details, but the specific nature of the trauma means the more hosts Dax has, the more difficult things will get. But I would posit that only Miro can tell you how clear his sense of self is. That’s not for me to determine.”

“Then I’d like to call Dax back to the stand,” the prosecution said. “Unless the defense would like to cross?”

Next to Miro, Odo spoke up. “I think Kirel has made her point very clear. She doesn’t believe whatever the Dax symbiont has suffered in the past has any bearing on this case. I don’t know what else I can contribute to that.”

Simler nodded. “Then you will approach the stand, Dax.”

Miro tensed as he stood and took his place before the court. He barely registered the reassuring nod Odo offered him. He hadn’t just wanted to discuss his defense before the hearing because he didn’t trust the constable. This was part of why. There was no way Odo could have come prepared for this. For one thing, it wasn’t easy to find on record—the Symbiosis Committee had made sure of that. Always too busy protecting their reputation to leave valuable data behind where it could be found. And for another thing, Miro had never wanted Odo or Eeris—let alone a whole courtroom—to know about this particular part of his past. It was entirely too humiliating.

Odo was a skilled investigator. But he had no idea what he was dealing with here.

“Dax,” the prosecution said, “why don’t you answer the question I’m sure is on all of our minds? Just how mentally fit are you to save the galaxy?”

Miro’s jaw tightened, fingers clenching around the corners of the stand. “As fit as I need to be.”

“Define ‘as fit as you need to be.’”

“What do you expect me to say?” Miro demanded. “It’s not like there’s an aptitude test for it!”

“No…but I assume you have some idea of your competence as the galaxy’s hero, don’t you?”

Miro gritted his teeth. “Well, yes.”

“Then why don’t you tell us?” The prosecution wandered closer, eyes glinting with a devilish light. “Or are you too afraid of the answer?”

Miro glared at him. “I’m not afraid of anything.”

“Aren’t you?” The prosecution smiled and wandered about to face the audience. “I think you doubt your own competence. I think you don’t believe you should ever have been discharged from Eella Kirel’s tender care. I think you won’t tell that to the court because it’s an embarrassment to Dax. But you know what else I think?” He walked over to the stand and leaned into Miro’s space. “I think that deep down, you know Dax’s shoes are too big for you to fill.”

Miro swallowed, knuckles clenched white over the stand.

“Objection!” Odo called out. “He’s leading the defendant.”

“Sustained,” Simler announced.

Miro forced air through his lungs and blew it out in a controlled breath. He had the best law enforcement officer in the quadrant on his side. He could get through this.

The prosecution had taken a step back to give Miro space, but he rallied quickly. “Dax, I haven’t heard an answer from you. Do you doubt your own competence?”

Miro clenched his jaw.

“Dax?” the prosecution said. “I asked you a question.”

Miro swallowed. He opened his mouth, but no sound came out. Grimacing, he shifted in place, working his jaw as he tried to get his tongue to work.

“I’m waiting,” the prosecution said.

Miro cleared his throat. “Yes.

“I didn’t catch that. Do you doubt your own competence, Dax?”

“Yes, damn it!” Miro yelled. “Fate, who wouldn’t? Just try stepping inside my shoes for once and you tell me how easy it is to fix an imploding galaxy! But you’re too busy trying to stop me! Well what’s the point? I don’t see you trying to get out there and make a difference!”

“I think we’re missing the point here,” the prosecution said. “Do you doubt your own competence because of your symbiont’s trauma?”

Miro’s jaw fell open. “I—”

Dax.

Miro sighed. “Yes.”

The word felt odd in his mouth, like it had left a bad taste behind. Miro grimaced as he looked around the audience, surveying the damage. His eyes landed on Eeris, sitting in the front row and leaning forward with earnest attention. Her eyes were wide and concerned, and he flinched away, unable to look at her any longer. He had never wanted her to know this. He had never wanted anyone to know this.

Also in the front row, Kirel’s eyes caught his. She looked…disappointed.

Miro tore his gaze away from the audience. Damn her. Damn them all. This wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair. He risked life and limb to save a galaxy that was probably far beyond saving, and for what? Humiliation? He was little more than a public spectacle now. Not someone the people he tried to protect every day would respect.

“Pray tell,” the prosecution said, smirking, “if you doubt your own competence for such a valid reason, why are we here? Why are we even bothering? It seems to me, Your Honor, that this case should be open and shut. Dax is incompetent, and we should not be wasting our time with the notion that he might save us.”

His prosecution had probably just won this case, slam dunk. But the part that hurt the most was that he was right.

Miro wasn’t going to save the day. He wasn’t going to win. He wasn’t going to stop Viresa no matter how determined he was to risk his life. He’d never live up to Dax’s example—that had been set in stone from day one, the day he’d been joined and the memories of nine hundred years of hardship had rolled over him like a tidal surge, nothing like the revelatory experience his training had prepared him for. He was the first Dax host to suffer from the trauma nine hundred years back. He’d never be the same, never be enough. And he’d been a fool to think he could convince himself—or the galaxy—otherwise.

“If you have no more questions,” Odo said, “I’d like to cross.”

Miro sighed and sagged against the stand. Let Odo do what he could, but nothing could save him now.

“I have no further questions,” the prosecution said and retreated to his seat.

Nodding, Odo stood and approached the stand.

“Miro Dax,” Odo said, sounding far too confident for his own good, “I confess I’m a little bit shocked. I’ve known you for the better part of two months. And no, we haven’t always gotten along, but I’ve always respected you. Now you tell me that all these dreams of grandeur you have…are just fantasies?”

Miro glared at him. What the hell was Odo on about—was he trying to make sure Miro’s reputation was well and truly dismantled?

A slight smile lifting the corner of his mouth, Odo turned to face the audience for an instant. “Now, I like to think of myself as a fairly good judge of humanoid behavior. Wouldn’t you agree, Dax?”

Miro shrugged.

“Dax?” Odo asked, looking him in the eye. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

Miro sighed. “Best there is.”

“I don’t think the audience heard you.”

Miro rolled his eyes, but projected his voice this time. “Best there is.”

Odo smiled. “The fact is, I’ve spent my life observing humanoids. I’ve never quite fit in with all of you—a consequence of the face.” He gestured vaguely at his features, the same unfinished ones Miro had known for so many years. “Every aspect of humanoid behavior, I’ve had to carefully observe and learn to emulate. None of it came naturally. And so when I tell you that I have never once observed indications of trauma from this man, I hope you’ll accept that as a valid and accurate judgement.”

“Can I just say,” the prosecution interjected, “it’s already been established—by the defendant’s therapist herself—that the symbiont Dax has suffered trauma. That isn’t in dispute.”

“No, of course not,” Odo said. “But I would dispute the fact that said trauma has any bearing on this case. This case only concerns the matter of how the Federation and Starfleet in particular should react to Miro Dax, and I’ve seen no evidence that this ‘trauma’ we speak of impedes his ability to defend us all.”

Miro blinked. That was…unexpected.

“And if I may,” Odo added, “I’d like to call to the stand someone else who’s had very close dealings with the defendant in the last couple months, and who will surely be able to comment on his competence.”

Simler inclined her head, respect dawning over her features for the first time since Odo had entered the room. “And who would that be?”

“A young friend of Miro’s,” Odo said, turning to face the audience. “Is Kira Eeris here?”

Miro frowned. Odo was calling on Eeris?

How the hell was she supposed to testify in his defense?

Granted, she’d shown a bit more sensitivity earlier, when she’d come back to inform him that the Challenger was gone. But Eeris didn’t understand him. Any respect she had for his privacy was just because of that chastisement she’d mentioned Odo had given her. And what was to say she’d even agree to testify?

The silence in the courtroom spoke volumes.

“Kira Eeris?” Simler asked. “You have been called to the stand.”

Miro waited, holding his breath. His eyes reluctantly found Eeris in the front row. She looked like a deer caught in headlights. Her gaze darted between Odo and Miro and back again, before she finally swung up to her feet and headed toward the front of the room.

Odo smiled at her encouragingly as she passed, and Miro surrendered the stand, returning to his table. By the time he was seated, Eeris had taken her place and was glancing about the room uncertainly, eyes wide and jaw set in defiance. She looked tense, afraid. And that was when Miro realized the true danger of the situation. She didn’t have control over this situation. In fact, by calling her out, Odo had truly cast her adrift and left her to flounder for balance. And Miro knew all too well how Eeris would react to such a loss of control. He’d seen it firsthand, and the results would not be good.

Miro noticed as Odo approached the stand to address Eeris that his entire demeanor changed. Gone was the impassive, gruff, stiff constable, and in its place was someone much more tender. He was trying to ease this situation for her. He knew the risk he had taken, and was doing his best to make Eeris more comfortable. Miro just hoped that it would work.

“Kira Eeris,” Odo said, “would you tell the jury a little bit about who you are?”

Eeris swallowed, and Miro could see her tension in the trembling of her shoulders and the set of her jaw. “I was Bajor’s successor to the Steward.”

“For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bajoran internal affairs,” Odo said, “the role of the Steward is to provide counsel to the Bajoran people.” He turned back to face Eeris. “But you’re not the Steward now, are you? Would you explain what happened for the court?”

Eeris bit her lip. “I refused the throne. I didn’t want power. I wanted to escape.”

“Well, clearly you succeeded,” Odo said. “But…if you’ll pardon me, that sounds rather impossible. Bajor is isolated. There’s rarely any transportation to and from other regions of the sector and the Bajoran system. How did you manage to escape?”

Now, Eeris looked at Miro. “Miro helped me.”

Miro couldn’t help it—he swelled a little with pride. Angry as he’d been with her, he knew taking her on board hadn’t been a mistake. He’d been lonely before, betrayed, isolated. He hadn’t realized how much that had affected him until Eeris came on board. He’d once believed she was a liability. Maybe that was still true, but there was no way he was listening to his better judgement and letting her go now.

“Miro helped you?” Odo repeated, raising his eyebrows—or, rather, doing a pretty good impression of it for someone who didn’t have facial hair whatsoever—and glancing at Miro. “How?”

“He took me on board his ship,” Eeris said. “Didn’t even try to get to know me first. He just took me on board, no questions asked. I was so sure it was too good to be true.”

“Well, that sounds rather…generous…of him,” Odo said. He turned to Eeris. “Now, Eeris, you’ve known Dax for how long?”

“Just a couple months,” she said. “Intermittently. We, uh, we were separated for a few weeks in the middle.”

Odo nodded. “I see. Why don’t you describe Miro Dax for the court?”

Eeris looked up at Odo uncertainly, but he only nodded his encouragement. She took a deep breath and drew herself up taller, and Miro watched with pride as her fear morphed into courage.

“He’s fantastic,” Eeris said. “He’s amazing. He’s…such a good friend, I don’t deserve him. He’s private, and he’s been through a lot, but who wouldn’t after over a thousand years? That used to upset me. It used to scare me, that he wouldn’t talk, that he kept so many secrets. Well, actually, it still does.” She straightened and swept her gaze across the audience, her jaw set in determination, the fire in her eyes brooking no argument. “But the thing is, that’s not what matters. Miro is the man who’s going to save the galaxy. He saved me, and he can save us all. He’s our hero. He risks everything to confront the most dangerous empress there is, and for what? What’s in it for him? Glory? Apparently not, if this court is anything to go by. You’d all rather drag him through the dirt for helping you. He’s just doing it because he believes it’s the right thing to do. And I think that’s noble.” She paused and cleared her throat. “But if you want to punish him for it, that’s up to you. You’ll realize you made a mistake when peace comes crumbling down around you.”

Miro stared at her, jaw scraping the floor, in the silence that followed Eeris’s speech. Had she just…had she said that? Was he hearing things?

She believed in him?

Why should she? He had never once shown her he could do this. She’d gotten captured by Cardassians, and it took him three weeks to get back to her, and why? Because he was too fixated on staying away from Bajor, and he’d prioritized confronting Viresa over saving her. If that wasn’t an indication that his past did interfere with his judgement, that he wasn’t fit to be a hero, he didn’t know what was. But she believed he could make a difference?

Miro felt a smile spread across his face, despite his best efforts to contain it. Eeris believed. She’d said so before an entire court. She thought it was a mistake for anyone to stop him.

She believed in him.

“Thank you, Eeris,” Odo said. “Now, there’s something else I’m hoping you can clarify for me. You’ve known Dax almost as long as I have…and have you ever once felt that he was mentally unfit to do what he wants to do for the galaxy?”

“Never,” Eeris said. “He’s private, yeah. But whatever nightmares he’s got to contend with, I trust him to work through them on his own. He doesn’t need anyone to coddle him. And he sure doesn’t need a court to rule against him.” She lifted her chin. “I’ll say it if no one else will. This is discrimination. And I know a thing or two about that. I…my arms.”

A low din of chatter rippled through the audience. Miro blinked slowly, struggling to comprehend this turn of events. He’d been willing to believe that Odo could get him out of this. He’d been skeptical, he’d been hesitant to trust the Changeling, but when it came right down to it, he’d known Odo was his only chance—and he’d never doubted that Odo could sway a courtroom. But Eeris? He’d never expected his most vehement defense to come from her. He’d been willing to forgive her, but he’d slammed the door on trust.

Now…he wasn’t so sure.

“I couldn’t have said it better,” Odo announced. “Your Honor, the prosecution’s concern is reasonable but completely unfounded. The question of Dax’s mental competence was not even raised until the mere fact that he once had a therapist was brought to light. We are not questioning his competency on the basis of any mistakes he has made to date, but on the basis that we fear he may make mistakes in the future. Well, I think that’s both ludicrous and foolhardy, when he’s offering the help the galaxy desperately needs.”

“Have you any further questions for this witness?” Simler asked.

Odo shook his head. “I think I’ve covered everything that needs to be said.”

Simler nodded. “Prosecution, any questions?”

The prosecution remained at his table. “No, Your Honor.”

Miro didn’t miss Odo’s smile.

“Then you may leave the stand, Kira Eeris,” Simler said. “Thank you for your candidness.”

Eeris wasted no time in dashing past Miro’s table and down the aisle. He watched her go over his shoulder, disappearing into some audience seat in one of the middle rows. He didn’t blame her. She’d been thrust into the spotlight with no warning whatsoever, and he couldn’t imagine that being at the center of attention was comfortable for someone who’d been discriminated against for her obvious lack of arms.

“Prosecution,” Simler said, “any more witnesses?”

“No, Your Honor.”

Simler looked to Odo. “Defense?”

Odo shook his head. “No, Your Honor.”

Simler nodded. “Then the jury will convene.” And she slammed the gavel down.



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