- Text Size +

III. (and the time of death is every moment)

There was blood in her eyes.

Nerys coughed, rolled to her knees, and swiped at her face with one sleeve. It came away wet, darker red under the Defiant's flickering emergency lights. Her head was swimming.

"Major!" Odo was picking his way toward her, stepping over debris, subtly altering the shapes of his legs when the way became more impassable. "Kira, communications are down. I can't get through to the bridge."

Stumbling to her feet, Nerys had to steady herself against a bulkhead as the ship pitched again – for a terrible moment, she wasn't sure whether she was the only one lurching and wobbling, but Odo seemed to be having similar difficulty remaining upright. "Who's firing on us?"

Odo reached her in time to swat at a detached power conduit that was evidently still live, judging by the sparks that flared up, briefly illuminating the area around them. "I'm not sure, but I could venture a guess."

Nerys grimaced. "You'd think the Jem'Hadar would have something better to do with their time."

Odo snorted, but then his expression softened, and he made an abortive gesture toward her, as if he wasn't entirely sure what to do with his hands. "Are you-"

"I'm fine," Nerys said, but as she brushed her fingers carefully against the bloody gash on her forehead, everything seemed to focus again to that moment several months earlier, to another time she'd been standing on the Defiant, fighting at Odo's side as the Jem'Hadar kept coming and coming, and the shot that could have killed her-

She must have shivered, because Odo moved closer, his frown deepening as he got a better look at the injury. "We'd better get you to sickbay."

Nerys gripped his arm, had the strange sensation of reaching through it before he remembered to make it solid through and through. He was distracted. So was she. "Sickbay," she said. "Odo, they must be after Terran. He'll be there."

His eyes widened, and without a word, the two of them set out across the field of debris. It was easy enough for Nerys to cross even the most impassable parts of the deck; Odo forged ahead, clearing spaces and supporting even the most precarious piles of rubble until she'd passed by. And walking made it easier to think.

Her head was pounding now. Concussion, maybe. Bashir would know for sure. Failing that, maybe Terran still remembered bits of the painful, brutal lessons that had been his training as a field medic in the Resistance. Provided he could figure out how to use all the Federation's wonderful gadgets and gismos, of course – he'd been so fascinated with them on coming aboard that he'd immediately started asking questions, which had been all the encouragement Bashir had needed to start talking his ear off-

Another hit, and this time, it took longer for the gravity to stabilize, as though the inertial dampeners were beginning to fail, and even when the emergency lighting flickered back into place, there was still a distinct slant to the deck. She stumbled, and Odo kept hold of her with the same effortless efficiency that had allowed him to clear them a path. The new slope of the ground was playing havoc with the dizziness that was beginning to beat out her headache as the most major annoyance of the day. She met his eyes before he could comment, and he kept his mouth shut, waiting for her to regain her balance in her own time.

"Nearly there," she said, and was relieved when he nodded agreement; for a moment, she'd been worried she was getting turned around, set off-balance by the maze-like interior of the ship. Trust Starfleet to come up with a supposedly simplistic war vessel that still managed to complicate matters by having each corridor be identically bland and forgettable. Maybe it was just her. Maybe her head injury was worse than she'd expected-

Terran. Prophets, she'd forgotten again, she had to keep thinking about him, couldn't let herself get distracted, couldn't waver if he needed her. A memory: Terran, laughing at her seriousness in a camp where children were expected to grow up quickly. Another: Terran, slapping her on the shoulder in hearty congratulation the first time he'd seen her in uniform, nearly the only one who hadn't given her a snide comment or a sidelong glance once she'd joined the Militia. He'd always trusted her to make her own decisions. He'd respected her.

He'd also been the only survivor of the Jem'Hadar attack on a doomed Bajoran colony in the Gamma Quadrant, and in the four months since the attack, he'd managed to jerry-rig a subspace transmitter that had tapped into the Federation's communications net. By sheer force of will, he'd survived, he'd stayed alive, he'd signaled them for help, and he'd been rescued. He was a hero, and Bajor needed heroes, now more than ever.

He had to be all right.

They'd reached the Defiant's sickbay, and Nerys just barely remembered that the doors wouldn't be operational in time to stop from walking straight into them. Odo wormed his fingers into the minute slit between the door and the bulkhead, and, once he'd made enough clearance, she joined him in pushing the door open.

The smell of a plasma fire made her gag, but she pushed through the door as soon as she could fit, coughing, one arm held up to shield her face from the smoke. "Terran! Dr. Bashir!"

Odo pushed past her with a sense of urgency, and she followed. After a moment, she could make out what he was seeing; a body, slumped against a bulkhead, half-buried under rubble.

The dizziness swung back full force – not now, not now – and Nerys reached for a steadying arm that wasn't there. The deck bucked again at that moment, and she managed to cover her stumble, coming up hard against a shelf containing medical supplies. Odo was already crouched beside the figure, and Nerys steeled herself, leaning closer.

Not him. Not Terran. One of Bashir's medtechs, very young and very dead.

Nerys met Odo's eyes for a moment, then turned away, fingers automatically grasping at the handle of the dead man's medkit. Priorities, Nerys. Priorities. You can't do much good if you keep losing blood. "Odo, see if you can find something for fire suppression. We need to get that blaze out before anything else."

He nodded and moved away, and she glanced back in time to see him melting his way around a fallen panel.

Nerys opened the medkit, trying to ignore the way her hands were shaking, and grabbed for a dermal regenerator. The angle was going to be tricky; she'd have to hold it still over a wound she couldn't exactly see, and there was blood in her eyes again-

"Why don't you let me take care of that, Nerys?"

She nearly jumped out of her skin, wondered for a dizzying moment if auditory hallucinations were to be expected with such an apparently minor head injury, and finally, with a wild surge of hope, she turned. Terran was smiling at her, though the lines crinkling at the edges of his eyes and the way he was cradling one hand in the other suggested he hadn't emerged unscathed, either.

"You have no idea how good it is to see you, Terran."

He crouched down beside her and took the dermal regenerator from her, gently. "Good thing I'm here to keep you from attaching your nose to your earlobe. Let your friendly neighborhood medic handle this."

She sat as still as she could, only relaxing once she heard the tell-tale hiss of one of the manual fire-suppression systems from somewhere behind her; obviously, Odo had been successful in his mission.

"So," he said, and paused in his work to catch her gaze. Once she was looking him straight in the eye, he grinned broadly, and she found herself cracking a smile in return. "That's more like it. Tell me, little Nerys, is this what life is always like on a starship?"

Nerys made a face as the dermal regenerator started humming again, but at least the dizziness was beginning to fade. "Well, we generally either face mortal peril or listen to Chief O'Brien tell stories about his daughter. There's really not a whole lot in between."

"You've never been one to settle for a happy medium," he murmured, and then beamed, pulling back the dermal regenerator with a flourish. "There! I'm still not sure about this gadget – for all I know, you have some horrible, brain-eating damage that can't be repaired – but at least it looks a lot less messy, now. The Federation's good at that sort of thing."

Nerys was silent for a moment, reliving a dozen other times Terran had patched her up over the years, always a smile on his face, and then she grasped at his hand, finally clasping it in hers. "Terran, you really have no idea how relieved I am to see you here."

His smile's intensity wavered for a moment, but only a moment. "I appreciate the rescue, Nerys. It's good to be here."

"Good," Nerys said, and then stared down at the hand between hers. "You know, I noticed you'd hurt your hand, and here I just grabbed it, didn't I?"

There was a strain in his voice, but he still managed a wink. "I wasn't going to say anything, but now that you mention it-"

Nerys pulled away. "Ah. Sorry. Do you need to fix that?"

Terran shrugged. "Nerys, I was just trapped on a planet for four months with nothing but corpses for company. Believe me when I say that feeling anything – even pain – is a gift from the Prophets."

Before Nerys could respond to that, Odo's voice, strangely tense, carried over to them. "Major, I think we need help over here."

Nerys stood, offering Terran a hand up, and, with a wry smile, he took it, hoisting himself to his feet. But even his smile faded as they picked their way over the rubble and reached Odo, who was crouched beside a horribly familiar form.

Bashir was crumpled on the deck, sprawled under what looked like half a bulkhead. He seemed preternaturally still, unreal under the dim emergency lights. Nerys couldn't tell at a glance whether he was breathing, but in a moment she saw why Odo hadn't attempted to lift the debris away.

There was blood pooling beneath him.

With the way the deck was slanting, she couldn't tell where the blood was coming from; when she reached for a pulse, she found one thrumming too-fast against her fingers. She turned in time to see Terran blanch and take a step back, was shocked to see in him the fear and doubt that made so many new soldiers freeze up. "Terran, we need your help, here."

"I didn't-" Terran said, then took a deep breath. "I mean, Prophets. I was just standing beside him, and I didn't even see-"

As though to punctuate his words, the Defiant rocked again, and Nerys took hold of Bashir's shoulders, trying to steady him, to keep from aggravating his wounds. "Terran, get that medical tricorder. We need to know how badly-"

"Yes, yes, I know," Terran said, and in an instant he was hovering beside her, squinting at the readings on the tricorder. "I don't- no breach of the pleural cavity, at least, that's something, because we'd be sunk, and that's never a pretty sight, a sucking chest wound. We're in the clear. Nothing up there but a few bumps and bruises, a couple cracked ribs. Blood pressure's not good, but that's fairly obvious. I think- yes, that blood's from his leg, probably a nick of the femoral artery, because if it were anything more than a nick, we'd know about it, artery rolling back into the muscle when you try to stitch it together, not pretty, not pretty. That has to be it. Just a nick."

Nerys winced; she'd never heard Terran babble like this, had never heard him so obviously afraid, unsure of himself. The change was alarming; the technology seemed to be rattling him. "Can we move him?" she asked, trying to keep her voice as calm and even as possible. He'd used the same trick on her before, when she'd been young and scared and hurting. "Is it safe, or are we going to make things worse?"

Terran sucked in a deep breath, expelled it in a sigh. "Is it safe? We're on a ship that seems determined to fall apart at the seams at any given minute. Apart from that, we're all safe as can be."

Nerys glanced at Odo, who was waiting for her signal; she nodded, and he started slowly lifting the debris away from Bashir. She noticed that he was oozing into place to replace the pressure of each piece of the bulkhead, just in case, and was relieved at the precaution; much as it pained her to doubt a friend, she wasn't willing to place great faith in Terran's abilities just at the moment.

The ship shook again; this time, when Nerys reached down to hold Bashir in place, she felt him pushing back.

His eyes snapped open, and he clutched at her arms, gasping for breath, his voice weak and shaky. "Major, what's happening? I don't-"

"Just hold still, Doctor," she said, and felt his nervous motion subside as training took over.

Terran leaned over her shoulder, and his voice was calm again, soothing; whatever inner demon had prompted him to panic seemed to have abated for the moment. "Doctor, can you tell me where you are?"

Bashir winced as the ship rocked again. "On the floor."

Terran smiled, leaning forward to administer a pain-relief hypo. "Close enough."

"We're under attack by the Jem'Hadar," Nerys said, watching as Odo spread beneath the rest of the debris to hold Bashir more firmly in place. "Communications are down across the ship."

Bashir's eyelids were drooping, and Terran turned to Odo. "Can you get the last of this off him? He's starting to look shocky. We need to stop that bleeding."

In lieu of replying, Odo resumed his careful removal of the debris still blocking their access to Bashir. When he reached the doctor's legs, he moved still more carefully, and Nerys repositioned herself to keep a tighter grip on Bashir's shoulders. But Bashir barely twitched as Odo pulled the final scrap of metal off his right leg, oozing in to replace it immediately with a similar amount of pressure. Nerys met Odo's eyes, and was unsurprised to see a combination of anxiety and determination on his face – she suspected he was still amazed, sometimes, by their fragility.

"Okay," Terran said, and leaned closer, staring at the tricorder. "Okay. Can you move out of the way a little, there, Odo? I need to take a closer look at that cut."

Obligingly, Odo moved away from the site of the wound, and at that moment, there was an audible explosion, and the ship's deck seemed to drop away for a few moments, then reversed direction, sending them all crashing back to the ground. Nerys tried to anticipate the landing, tried to cushion Bashir's fall, but all she succeeded in doing was banging her arm against the deck, and then Bashir was shaking, spasming, and even as she tried to hold him still, she could see Odo trying to stem a new gout of blood from his leg.

"Oh, Prophets, it's worse than I thought," Terran said, nearly in a whisper, eyes wide. He fumbled for a protoplaser, mumbling something over and over under his breath. For a moment, Nerys thought it must have been a mantra of some sort, some relaxation technique, but when Terran leaned closer again, she realized that what he was really repeating was, "I'm sorry."

Bashir's convulsive movements had stilled, but Nerys kept one arm across his shoulders in case the ship jolted again, and reached to feel for a pulse in his throat with the other hand. It was still racing, and for a moment she was in the aftermath of a raid on a Cardassian ground supplier that had gone terribly wrong, watching the life bleed out of a young woman not much older than she'd been. Bashir had the same pale cast to his skin, the same limp, lifeless appearance, and his heart seemed determined to pump the rest of his blood from his body in the same inevitable way.

Obnoxious as he was when he got to talking, she'd much rather be annoyed by that Bashir right now than have to face this silent, still stranger. She fought to remember an appropriate prayer, but all that kept coming to mind, again and again, were words for the dead.

They all looked up as the sound of phaser fire echoed eerily, somewhere in the maze of corridors outside the sickbay. Odo glanced over, met her gaze from where he'd been assisting Terran by slipping in where the physician's other, wounded hand would generally be putting pressure here, staunching bleeding there. "The shields must be down," he said.

Cautiously, Nerys released her grip on Bashir; if there were boarding parties on the Defiant, the attack on the ship itself would abate, at least for the moment. She reached down to her side, was relieved to find her phaser still in its holster. "I'll try to barricade the door. If they want us, they'll have to beam straight in to get us."

"Be careful," Odo said. Terran didn't look up from his work, and she could see that his hands were shaking.

Bracing herself for the effects of the off-kilter gravity, and the headache that was still pounding at her temples, Nerys stood and picked her way to the front of the room. Her senses felt like they were buzzing, trying to pick up any hint of a shrouded Jem'Hadar in the room, and every flicker of the lights had her catching her breath, tightening her grip on her phaser. She knew, logically, that they weren't exactly a prime target, that four life-signs in a sickbay would hardly be of interest to their attackers, not while the shields could be re-established at any moment, not when the Defiant was likely on the edge of victory.

All the same, she only relaxed marginally once she had dragged a heavy storage compartment in front of the door and positioned herself with her back to the bulkhead, watching the entrance.

The echoes of phaser fire had died off, and Nerys had no doubt that the Defiant's crew were succeeding in repelling the attackers – the ones they could see, anyway. For all she knew, the shields were back online, though the lack of jolts to the ship suggested that the Jem'Hadar still had boarding parties in place, or that they were unwilling to risk damaging a prize that could be stolen. Possibly both.

She found herself grinning in anticipation. Let them try.

The vehemence of the thought startled her. Despite the gossip she'd heard between some of the off-duty Starfleet officers at Quark's, Nerys didn't consider herself a proponent of blind faith – after all, her religion was based firmly on recorded phenomena, and how many other races in the galaxy could prove direct contact with their gods? As a kid, sure, she'd been loyal, especially once she'd joined Shakaar's cell and had a framework in which to place all her fears and desires, but she'd never quite been able to share the optimism some of the others maintained. She'd never known with that bone-deep certainty that they'd win, that they'd force their way from such an impossible darkness into the sun again. It had been voices like Kai Opaka's that had sustained her, the confidence of others more than her own. Borrowed faith.

Now, though, she could see for herself that everything was slipping into place, as though the Prophets themselves were guiding her mind's eye. The engineers would restore shields – assuming the breach in the shields hadn't been a calculated strategy on Sisko's part – and the Defiant's crew would repel the boarding parties, and the Defiant would limp back to DS9, bruised and battered, with a few new scars and stories to tell. Terran would patch Bashir up, and the doctor would be an absolutely insufferable patient until he was released from the infirmary. There'd be some sort of ceremony, some recognition of Terran's status as a true hero of Bajor-

Her head was spinning again, and she squared her shoulders, forcing herself to focus, to concentrate. No sense thinking ahead when she had a task at hand. She tapped her comm badge and called for the bridge, then engineering, but there was still no reply.

"Kira."

She turned in time to watch Odo finish picking his way across the rubble toward her – she noticed that he wasn't shifting form as casually. Conserving his strength, probably. She wondered how long it was until he'd have to regenerate.

"How is he?"

Odo stared disconcertedly at a smear of blood on his arm, shifted something in the limb's molecular structure that made the blood slip off to the deck, tacky and strange. "Terran seems to think he'll be all right. The bleeding's stopped, in any case, and we're certainly in a good location to treat an injury, regardless of our medic's experience, or lack thereof."

Nerys turned back to the door; the lack of phaser fire was starting to feel good, comfortable. "Terran's a good medic, Odo. He's just been through a lot."

"I know," Odo said, but there was something in his voice that made her turn around to meet his eyes again. "I don't-" he said, and paused, clearly weighing his words carefully, which was unusual, to say the least. "Something seems strange. I've seen a lot of people crack under pressure, in my line of work, but Terran didn't seem the type."

Nerys tightened her grip on the phaser. "He's been through a lot," she said again.

Odo was silent for a long moment, and Nerys didn't trust herself to look back at him. Finally, she felt a hand on her shoulder, and while he pulled it away almost immediately, she recognized the gesture of support for what it was. "Why don't I take over here? I can slip through to the corridors outside and let you know if anything's happening. You should talk to Terran."

Nerys paused, then sighed, lowering her weapon. "All right," she said. "I'll talk to him. But if anything comes this way-"

At that moment, the flickering lights brightened as the load on reserve power was reduced. She met Odo's eyes as she tapped her badge again. "Kira to bridge."

"Good to hear from you, Major." Sisko seemed tired, but the sound of his voice was enough to buoy her spirits even further. "Is everything all right down there?"

She caught the edge of caution in his tone, realized that the internal sensors were likely still down, that he still hadn't ruled out the presence of more Jem'Hadar aboard the ship. No locations, then; stick to the facts. "Ensign Latta's dead and Bashir's wounded. We haven't seen any other casualties."

Sisko was silent for a moment, and his voice, when he spoke again, sounded heavier. "All right, Major. Can you move Bashir?"

"I wouldn't recommend it," Terran called out. His voice was no longer shaky, and the high edge of panic seemed to have subsided again.

"No," Nerys said.

"Can you hold your position if need be?"

"Yes, sir."

"Understood. Is our guest there with you?"

Nerys blinked, cast a questioning glance at Odo, who seemed as perplexed as she did. "Uh, yes, sir."

"Good. We'll mop things up. All of you stay where you are for now and keep an eye out, Major. We'll let you know when the ship is clear." And with that, his voice was gone, and Nerys was breathing a little easier.

"I'll stay here," Odo said, casting a painfully obvious glance back toward Terran and Bashir.

"All right, all right," Nerys muttered, and moved back over the rubble to the other end of sickbay.

Terran was kneeling beside Bashir, squinting at a medical tricorder. His hands were covered in blood, and there were streaks of it splashed on his clothing; the sight was oddly familiar, reminiscent of all the times she'd seen him work on their people during the Occupation. Even the way he worried at his lower lip was familiar.

Bashir himself looked horrible, with blood the only splash of color on his face, though he seemed to be breathing easier, and there was a clean pressure bandage on his leg. Terran looked up as she approached, and she managed a small smile, feeling oddly self-conscious about checking up on someone she'd always thought was stronger than her. "How is he?"

Terran's face broke into a tired smile. "I think he'll make it. Blood pressure's on the rise now that he's got some fresh plasma in him. Doesn't seem to be leaking out anywhere, either."

Nerys crouched down next to him. "That's good," she said, and her smile widened. "That's fantastic. I knew you'd be able to help."

"Well, that's good, because for a while I wasn't so sure."

The tone was light, teasing, but there was an edge to it that made Nerys look more closely at Terran. He looked older, she realized, with far more white than brown in his hair, and wrinkles she could have sworn hadn't been there the last time she'd seen him. "You're a hero, Terran. You've been through a lot and lived to tell about it." When he didn't respond, she touched his arm, and felt a chill when he pulled away. "You know that. We live through the worst of it and come back stronger."

He laughed, but it wasn't the warm, affectionate sound she knew so well. "Right," he said. "Trust me, Nerys, when I say that Bajor doesn't want heroes like me."

"It takes time, Terran," she said, but he still wouldn't meet her eyes.

They remained like that for some time, silence broken only by the tricorder and the hiss of a hypospray as Terran administered another unit of plasma. She noticed, then, that he was still cradling one hand, and she realized that most of the blood on it wasn't Bashir's.

"Do you want me to take a look at that?"

He blinked at her, uncomprehending, and finally looked down at his hand. "Oh, don't worry about it, Nerys. I'm sure someone will be able to take care of it sooner or later."

"Here, let me," she said, and reached for his hand.

Again, he pulled away, irritably. "What does it matter?"

Nerys narrowed her eyes, and, in a flash of motion, managed to catch hold of his wrist without touching the hand itself. There was a long, shallow gash along the palm. "It looks like it hurts."

Terran sighed. "It does."

"Then hold still," Nerys said, and reached for the dermal regenerator. "Believe it or not, I am trained to use one of these."

A faint smile flickered at the corner of Terran's mouth, but he smoothed it away almost immediately. "Do you hear that?"

Nerys froze; she could hear footsteps, the murmur of voices, and she reached for her phaser – and then another voice, a lower, raspy voice that couldn't belong to anyone but Odo. She relaxed and holstered her weapon, grinning. "Sounds like they've found us," she said. "We're taking you back to Bajor, Terran. You're going home."

And there were, absurdly, tears in Terran's eyes as he finally met her gaze. "I wish I could go home, Nerys. I really wish I could. I wish I could explain what I did."

And with that, he pulled her into a fierce hug that nearly took her breath away, and before she could say anything in reply, several things happened all at once.

The voices grew louder, and she looked over Terran's shoulder to see what seemed like half the crew, led by Sisko, all moving in with phaser rifles at the ready, and Terran shifted his embrace slightly, and from the corner of her eye she could see that Bashir was awake, coughing, desperately trying to move, shouting, "Major!", and she could see Odo moving closer-

A familiar lightness at her side, and Terran had her phaser in his hand, and he was pulling back just slightly, and she could see whole worlds in his eyes, the lives he'd saved, the lives he hadn't, the lives he'd always wanted to live.

"Oh, Nerys," he said. And then, quite suddenly, there was nothing in his eyes at all.

She almost didn't hear the phaser go off, and for an instant she wondered if she was dead, if this was just her brain trying to take in as much as it possibly could before consciousness finally faded, but then Odo reached her, pulled her away, and she was shaking, and her ears were ringing, but nothing hurt, nothing hurt at all-

Terran slumped back, smoke rising from the point-blank phaser shot he'd taken to the chest.

She jerked in shock, tried to get closer to him, but Odo was holding her, keeping her from moving, shouting something. She watched as Bashir struggled to crouch next to Terran's body, watched as he fumbled for the medical tricorder, swaying badly, and she watched as someone tried to pull him away, tried to get him to lie back down, and then she watched as Bashir crumpled, like all the life had gone out of him at once, and then there was a new flurry of activity, and two still bodies at the heart of it-

"Nerys!"

She realized Odo must have been calling her name for some time, and when she looked up, she was surprised to see real fear in his eyes, however quickly he hid it. "Nerys, are you-"

"He killed himself," she said, and hated how small her voice had become.

"The Jem'Hadar found him, on the colony." Odo's voice was gentle but firm, inexorable, relentless. "They kept one survivor for a reason. He had some sort of transmitter on him that would give our position even under cloak. We only managed to survive the attack because Chief O'Brien noticed an anomaly in the sensor readings and recommended we come out of warp to investigate – so that rather than being flanked by two groups of Jem'Hadar, we fought them one at a time."

Nerys stopped listening. The medical team was swarming around Bashir, leaving Terran still and silent and forgotten, staring up at the gray ceiling with unseeing eyes. She shrugged off Odo's grasp, reached for Terran's hand, clasped it between her own.

"I'm sorry," Odo said. He was beside her, and she realized he'd put a hand on her shoulder again, not to restrain her, but to comfort her. "I know he was a good friend."

Nerys couldn't bring herself to close Terran's eyes, caught herself looking for something in them – an explanation, an apology. Peace. His hand was still warm. "We needed him," she said. "We're so close, Odo. We defeated the Cardassians, we rebuilt, we survived. He could have been a symbol of that."

"I know."

Nerys sighed, let Terran's hand drop on his chest, leaned back on her haunches. There was a terrible smell in the air, sweet like burning flesh, coppery like blood, and she glanced over to watch the medical teams work on Bashir. Some of their frenetic movements had slowed; it looked like they'd stabilized him. "What kind of Prophets would dangle hope in front of us like this?"

"You're survivors, Nerys," Odo said, so softly she had to watch his lips to catch the words over the chaos in the room, over the echo of the phaser blast still ringing in her ears. "You've made it through all this because of your faith. You're all survivors."

"Everyone keeps saying that." Nerys glanced back at Terran, at his open eyes and all the mysteries they held. "For such amazing survivors, it seems to me we hardly ever survive."

Odo glanced away. "All I mean is that you don't have to face it alone. Not anymore."

"I know," she said, and managed a smile when he finally met her gaze again. She reached out, closed Terran's eyes, and murmured a prayer over him – not an elegy, but a celebration, drawing on the rare words in the Bajoran repertoire that weren't praise or mourning or anger, but sheer joy.

Peace.

When she next looked up, she realized that she'd been whispering for some time, and that the room was nearly deserted. Bashir had evidently been evacuated to a less damaged area of the ship, and only Odo was still standing next to her, head bowed. Across the room, Sisko sat on the remains of a fallen bulkhead, watching them with an unreadable expression.

"Major," Odo said, softly, and offered her his hand.

She took it, pulled herself to her feet with his help, and dredged up a smile. "Come on, Constable. We have work to do."


You must login (register) to review.