Eeris was surprised when she ran into Naral not far from the doors to security. At the sight of her, the Trill started powering down the broad hallway, eating up the floor with long, angry strides. Eeris ran up to her and tried to fall into step beside her, but Naral’s pace made it nearly impossible.
“Hi,” Eeris said breathlessly. “Naral, right?”
“What do you want?” Naral asked.
“Well, I was just talking to Miro about you…” Eeris said.
“Who the hell are you, anyway?”
“I didn’t mean your name,” Naral said. “Who are you to him?”
“I…I don’t know.” Against her will, her eyes burned. “Nothing, I guess.”
“You don’t know?” Naral scoffed.
“Well, it’s not like we’ve defined it!” Eeris snapped. “Why do you care, anyway?”
“So you’re not together?” Naral asked.
“What?” Eeris exclaimed. “No! I mean…we’re hardly even friends! He doesn’t even talk to me—he literally just told me to get out! Said he regrets taking me along at all!”
Naral snorted. “Glad it’s not just me, then.”
“What’s not just you?”
“Why should I tell you?” Naral asked.
Eeris huffed. And she’d thought Miro was difficult. “Because Miro’s my only means of transportation across the galaxy, Naral. I just met him a couple months ago, and he offered to let me travel with him, just out of the blue. And I said yes, because I didn’t really have anywhere else to go. But now, I’m basically stranded without him. So what are you saying? Has he done this before? What exactly did I just get myself into?”
Naral sighed, finally slowing down enough that Eeris could match her stride. “You really want to know?”
“Obviously,” Eeris said.
Naral hesitated, looking her over, but finally relented. “Alright. Yes, he’s done this before. Miro and I…we were supposed to travel together. The Challenger’s mine, too, you know—we split the cost half and half. We were going to leave home and explore the galaxy. Well, that’s what he wanted. I never quite had his wanderlust, but I would have done anything for him.”
“He doesn’t seem to feel the same way about you,” Eeris said.
Naral nodded. “I’ve always known that.”
“That’s some…one-sided devotion.”
“Well,” Naral said, “he’s worth it.”
Eeris shook her head in amazement. Miro and Naral clearly had a past, and Eeris wasn’t going to get Miro’s side of it from talking to Naral. But from what she’d heard just in this conversation, Naral’s intentions were hardly nefarious. Miro had said her love didn’t feel like love, but what was love, if not the devotion to do anything for someone who didn’t feel the same way in return?
“You really do love him,” Eeris whispered.
“Of course I do.”
“So what changed?” Eeris asked. “I take it you two didn’t actually get around to exploring the galaxy.”
Naral snorted. “Hardly. He left me.”
“The Klingons attacked our home.” Naral blinked back tears. “There was nothing left. I saved his life, we managed to escape. He’s always hated me for it.”
Eeris shook her head, brows furrowed. “But…I don’t understand. Why would he hate you for that? Shouldn’t he be grateful?”
“I’ve always thought so,” Naral said. “He couldn’t even stand to look at me, by the end. We stopped planetside on Earth, he ran away from me in the Challenger. I swore then that I’d fight my way back to him, no matter what it took. I suppose I should be glad he’s done okay in the interim.”
“Okay?” Eeris repeated. “I can’t imagine him being not okay. I mean, there was that one moment when that alien on Nebez threatened him, but the most vulnerable I’ve ever seen him is when he saw you.”
Naral blinked. “When he saw me? That was his most vulnerable?”
Eeris nodded. “Well, yeah.”
Naral blinked again, and a tear actually trailed down her cheek. “I can’t believe it. All I’ve ever wanted is to keep him safe! And he looks at me like…like…”
“Like he’s seen a ghost?” Eeris supplied.
Naral’s eyes widened. “Exactly!”
“What did you even do to him?” Eeris asked. “I mean it, I have never seen him like that.”
“Nothing!” Naral cried. “I don’t know! I saved his life!”
Eeris frowned. “Well that’s not very fair of him. Making you out to be the bad guy, when he’s the one who left you.”
“Yeah, but…” Naral shook her head. “I can’t believe he’d do that to me. Not after everything we’ve been through. We were the closest of friends. We were partners in crime! It was us against the world. It didn’t even matter that he didn’t love me, I wouldn’t have traded our friendship for anything. I thought he felt the same way.” She paused. “Why would he blame this on me?”
Eeris shrugged. “I dunno, Naral. I’ve only known him for two months.”
“It must have been something else,” Naral whispered, almost to herself. “He couldn’t have been that upset to see me. We knew each other all our lives, all I’ve ever done is help him. Something else must have upset him, it’s the only explanation.”
Eeris sighed. “I’m pretty sure he was reacting to you, Naral.”
“But he couldn’t have been!” Naral cried. “I should talk to him. Find out what’s wrong.”
“More like give him a piece of your mind,” Eeris muttered. “Sure you don’t want me to do that? I wouldn’t mind a shouting match with him right about now.”
Naral shook her head. “No, I should do this. Thanks, though, Eeris.” She actually smiled, for the first time since Eeris had met her. “I’m glad I’ve got someone who can help him see sense. He’s entirely too much of a daredevil for his own good.”
Eeris nodded. “Yeah. I’ll just…wait outside.”
Naral shot her a relieved glance and darted back down the hall. Eeris sighed and plowed ahead. Who knew how long they’d be talking? In the meantime, there was no sense hanging around in Federation Headquarters. She decided to head back outside and join Odo on the Challenger. Now that they were stuck on Earth, it wasn’t as if she had anything better to do.
As she pushed through the building’s front doors and powered across the dirt expanse to Miro’s ship, her mind reeled back to the last words she’d exchanged with Miro. Her angry retort. His clenched fists as he dismissed her. Her hurt confusion…and his unrelenting stare as he pointed to the exit.
He had dismissed her.
Tears welled in Eeris’s eyes, unbidden, and she swiped at them with her shoulder stumps. Prophets, she should have known. He didn’t care for her at all. And why should he? She was just a Bajoran, just a member of that backwards, backwater society he refused to give the time of day, and as he kept driving home, she was just a kid to him. A burden. Someone he regretted taking along. She had been so desperate to trust the orb vision the Emissary had sent her that she hadn’t even thought to question Miro’s eagerness to take her on board.
The gangplank clunked beneath her feet as she stumbled up it and into the cockpit before slumping into her seat. The seat that wasn’t actually hers. Prophets, she’d gotten too comfortable with this life.
It suddenly occurred to Eeris how stupid she had really been. She had thought leaving her planet would solve all her problems. But she was still stuck in life. She was still at someone else’s mercy. The difference was that now, she had no idea how to get out. On Bajor, she’d had leverage—a father who cared for her, terrain and politics she’d known practically since birth. But her Steward training was useless out here in the galaxy. She didn’t have a ship of her own or latinum to support herself. She didn’t even have arms.
But the truth was, it was even worse than that. At least when she’d been stuck on Bajor, she hadn’t been surrounded by strangers. She knew that world, and she knew its people. And she knew they were bigoted idiots with no respect for the past, but at least she knew them. Miro, though…she didn’t really know him at all. She knew he was Dax, that he had the memories of twelve hundred years, that he’d known Odo and Kira Nerys, and that he considered himself the galaxy’s hero…but that was about it. He was a stranger to her. And she couldn’t keep going on like this, putting her life in the hands of a pilot she didn’t even know.
Maybe it was just as well that he didn’t seem to want her company anymore. But where could she go?
It was true, what she’d said to Miro right before he’d demanded that she leave. He was all she had. He couldn’t do this to her—it wasn’t fair. She swiped at her eyes again, annoyed at the tears that welled up.
“Eeris? Are you alright?”
Eeris jumped in her seat as Odo leaned out of the corridor.
“What?” she asked, trying to catch her breath. “Yeah, I’m fine…”
“You’re crying,” he noted.
“Me? No. Never!” She forced a grin. “Why would I cry? I’ve got everything I want, I’ve escaped my home, Miro’s gonna ferry us around the galaxy—”
Her voice broke on the last word, and she choked out a sob.
“Eeris?” Odo asked, quickly closing the distance between them. “Eeris, what’s wrong?”
She sighed. “It’s nothing.”
“It doesn’t seem like nothing.”
“Just leave it, okay?” she snapped. She couldn’t handle his gentle, calm voice. It grated against everything she was feeling inside. It seemed almost false to her ears. And how could he possibly care for her? No one did that. Not even Miro. Well, maybe except for her father, once upon a time. But she didn’t even deserve his love.
Another sob tore itself from her throat, and she hung her head, embarrassed.
“Eeris, please,” Odo said, sounding lost. “Is there anything I…”
“No,” she said. “No, there’s nothing you or anyone can do! Now leave me alone, will you?”
“I…if you’re sure,” he said.
“Damn sure,” she said. “This isn’t even your job! Damn it, it’s for my father to do!”
Odo went still for a millisecond. Then, “I suppose that’s…natural. But…he isn’t here, is he?”
“No,” Eeris choked, hunching in her seat. “He’s not.”
Odo crept closer and settled stiffly into the pilot’s seat across from her. He leaned forward, and Eeris’s eyes flicked up to meet his.
“Eeris…” He paused, sighed, and plowed ahead. “Listen to me. Your father may not be here right now, but I promise you, you are notalone. You may be far from home, but Miro will take care of you as soon as we get this legal mess cleared up, and I’m here. You have us, Eeris.”
She shuddered. “But that’s just the point, isn’t it.”
He tilted his head. “What is?”
“Miro’s not going to take care of me. He regrets even taking me on board!”
Odo straightened in surprise. “What makes you think that?”
“Because that’s what he said!” Eeris blurted. “He told me he should never have asked me along! And when I tried to protest, he yelled at me, told me to get out! Prophets, the way he glared at me. I’ve never seen him that angry. Not even with you.”
Odo frowned. “Eeris, what did you say to him?”
“What?” Eeris blinked. “You think this is my fault? He’s the one who won’t talk to me!”
“And with good reason, I’m sure,” Odo said. “I hope you didn’t treat him the way you treated me, when the Cardassians first captured us.”
Eeris’s brows furrowed in utter bafflement. “What’s that got to do with anything?”
“His privacy,” Odo said. “Which, from what I can see, not even mine can equal.”
“Privacy?” Eeris repeated. “Prophets, you’re as bad as him! You do realize I’m stuck on Earth with you two, right? It’s worse than Bajor—at least when I was stuck at home, I had a way out. But you two—I’ve put my life in your hands, and you won’t tell me anything!”
“First of all,” Odo said, “this confrontation with Naral is hardly a life and death situation.” He tilted his head, his cool blue stare turning icy. “And second…are you telling me that your only reason for wanting transparency from Miro is to give yourself a way out?”
“Well,” Eeris said, “I have that right, don’t I?”
Eeris was certain, what with the way Miro had treated Odo from the moment they met, that Odo would agree with her. He himself seemed to share her desire to find out more about Kira Nerys, and her frustration with Miro for keeping that particular secret. So she was surprised when his icy stare became incendiary, burning like the hot blue flames at the heart of a fire.
“Kira Eeris, I’ve had just about enough of that attitude of yours,” Odo said. “I’ll tolerate a certain degree of prejudice from Miro, and even from you, but there is no excuse for such a blatant lack of consideration for others.”
“What?” Eeris squeaked.
“You know what I mean,” Odo said. “We both saw Miro’s reaction to Naral. We also both know he’s gone through a lot in the past. The difference is, I’m content to allow him his privacy, even on the matters I’m most curious about—in the end, it’s up to him what he wants to tell us.”
“What?” Eeris cried. “Odo, we’re rooming with a stranger! I have the right to press him for information—I barely even know him!”
Odo considered. “I suppose, given your lack of prior experience as Dax’s friend and colleague…”
“Exactly!” Eeris pounced.
“But it’s still no excuse,” Odo said. “Yes, you have the right to some information. The promise that he won’t leave you somewhere that leaves you with no means of escape, no means of living your life, for one. But any right you might have to pry into his past is considerably diminished by the fact that I’m here. I may not be Dax, but I think I’ve lived at least long enough to learn my way around the galaxy.”
Eeris set her jaw. As if that helped. She didn’t trust Odo much, either.
“Eeris,” Odo said, “I’m your insurance. But the fact is, secretive or not, Miro is still Dax. And I can promise you, whatever happens, however long we stay on the Challenger, he will treat you with respect.” He frowned. “Of course, I’m a different matter. But never mind that. My point is, you can trust him.”
“And can I trust you?” Eeris asked.
Odo’s expression hardened. “I think I’ve reached my limit for tolerating your prejudice.”
He held up a hand. “No, don’t. Clearly, you’ve been able to get away with a lot in your life—living as the future successor to the Steward must have afforded you certain luxuries. That of being completely isolated within the elite, I imagine. I can also guess that you were never very close to anyone—that’s obvious enough, from that you’ve told me about the prejudice you faced for your metamorphic abilities. And as a result, I’ve been willing to forgive a certain level of prejudice—”
“You said you weren’t angry with me,” Eeris said.
“I wasn’t, before,” Odo said. “But it’s clear you need firmer guidance. Eeris, you’re living in a galaxy full of aliens. My people are hardly the least humanoid of them all. Tholians look like insects. Gorns look like dragons. And many of these races are intelligent, sentient, and have grown to enjoy their place in a galaxy of diverse cultures. It’s alright for a 32nd-century Bajoran to be a bit xenophobic—your people always were, and for good reason. But you, Eeris? You chose to leave home, and you purposely sought me out. So until you learn not to question my motives simply because I’m a shape-shifter, I’ll be under no obligation to help you grow back your arms.”
Eeris stared at him, stunned, for what surely edged on a full minute. Her mouth opened and closed a few times, but no words came out. When she finally found her voice, it was an embarrassing croak.
“But you promised,” she said.
“I did,” Odo said. “And I’ll just have to trust that I’ll have time to teach you respect and consideration before Miro inevitably evicts me from his ship. Because I have no intention of breaking that promise.”
Eeris’s heart pounded as his words hit home. All that talk of her being undeserving of his help, and he still reached out to her, still promised to help her? Still trusted that she would change, just so he could keep that promise?
And it wasn’t just that, she realized. She’d done this before. When she was trying to escape home, she’d pushed and pushed, not even caring who she hurt. At one point, when she’d barged into Vedek Yaije’s straw retreat and demanded to see the orb, she’d actually had a moment of regret—she’d wondered if it was wrong of her to be so forceful. But she’d cast that aside in favor of keeping her goals in sight. She’d done the same with her father, and had seen how much she’d hurt him, had even apologized when she was back at home just recently, but still she left him and broke his heart. And now she did it with Miro. Refused to accept his privacy for fear that it would impede upon her own freedom.
Wanting to know him was a lousy excuse. A convincing one, at least to her, but this wasn’t about knowing him at all. It was about the fear that she was losing control over her life again, and demanding information to counteract that sense of aimlessness.
“Oh, Prophets,” she whispered.
Odo tilted his head. Most of the fire had gone from his eyes, leaving them icy blue again. “What is it?”
Eeris shook her head forcefully. It was one thing to admit her transgressions to herself; it would be quite another to admit them to Odo.
Odo sighed. “Eeris…”
“I can’t believe I’m pulling a Miro on this one,” Eeris said, “but I don’t want to talk about it.”
Odo eyed her. “As much as I understand a desire for privacy, I don’t know if I can allow that. That’s my friend in there, in that holding cell. If you go back to him, start demanding answers again…”
“I promise I won’t,” Eeris said. “I won’t even go back to him.”
“I really won’t,” she said, shaking her head again. Prophets, she didn’t even deserve to look him in the eye. She just wanted to be alone right now, so she couldn’t hurt anyone else. “I’ll…I don’t know, maybe I’ll wander the premises a bit.”
“Alright,” Odo said carefully. “But if I ever hear that you started hounding him again…”
“I won’t,” Eeris said. And, at a loss for another way to convince him without flaying herself open, she added, “I don’t want to ruin my chances at getting my arms back, do I?”
“I suppose not,” Odo said, sighing and shaking his head. “But I wish that weren’t your only reason.”
It’s not, Eeris thought. Prophets, it’s not. But I don’t know how to be any different. I don’t even know how to be around Miro right now without pressing him.
Outwardly, she just shrugged and stood. She headed down the gangplank, oblivious to the light drizzle that had started up and slowly began to seep through her clothes. She shivered against the cold as she started walking forward, no destination in mind, but at a loss for what else to do. If she couldn’t move forward with Miro, then at least she could walk.