What Works On Paper…

Kira allowed herself a moment of giddy excitement when the computer informed her she was receiving a call from Bajor. They were, that is Shakaar and her, scheduled to meet on the station tomorrow night. She was no longer pregnant and managed to lose most of the baby weight already. She was eager for her lover's touch. It had been months. She tried not to keep meticulous track of such things and told herself over and over that quality mattered, not quantity, but a long distance relationship could be very hard. It didn't help she missed the presence of her surrogate son.

"Edon!" she smiled at his grizzled but handsome face as it appeared onscreen. "Usually you don't call at this hour."

"I had to see you!"

"Why is that?"

"I have news for you both good and bad. Plus, I had to endure a meeting with Kai Winn today."

"That must have been especially hard! Oh, I don't envy you. What was she trying to convince you to let her do now?"

"I don't want to talk about it, Nerys."

"But I want to know!" Kira insisted. "Let me guess: It was a desperate attempt to gain more power poorly disguised as some sort of altruistic gesture for Bajor."

"She was trying to get me to depose certain Vedeks in the assembly that had voiced dissent toward her policies in the past. She had a list of recommended monks and nuns to take their places. I suppose she thought, as a soldier and farmer, that I don't keep track of religious matters. She was dead wrong."

"She has always misjudged you, and thankfully, you see through her just like I do!" Kira sighed with relief.

"Yes," Shakaar grinned. "Come to think of it, you'll like this: I deposed some of her pet Vedeks and appointed some monks from Bareil's monastery."

Kira laughed with delight, "Oh, I love you!"

"I love you, Nerys."

"Was that the good news?"

"Of course not. I wanted to get the bad news out of the way first."

"Go ahead."

She assumed the news couldn't possibly be that bad. She was proven wrong.

"We have to cancel our plans for tomorrow night."

"Shakaar!" Kira fumed. "You promised me that the next time we met, you would visit me here! I made us reservations! I bought a special dress for the occasion! What the hell is your excuse now? You've only ever managed to make it to DS9 a grand total of three times!"

"Foreign dignitaries, Nerys. They couldn't schedule anything remotely near tomorrow night otherwise. I will make it up to you."

"How?" Kira was getting very tired of those particular words from his mouth. "You realize you have half of our time as a couple to 'make up' for? I expected us to go through this sort of thing but not this frequently! I have never canceled on you!"

"I am stealing you away for three whole days next week. Whatever little place you made dinner reservations for will pale in comparison to the finest place on Bajor. We'll participate in the next festival and visit the main temple. I'll pamper you properly and the whole time will be devoted to us."

"You can't do that, you lunkhead! I have no more shore leave! I have used nearly all the time I've ever accumulated on you!"

"I spoke to Captain Sisko. He has agreed to grant you more."

Kira threw up her hands angrily, "Do you realize Sisko can't possibly risk refusing the prime minister of Bajor?"

"Oh please, Nerys, he's done just that many times."

"Not in matters like this! He's a family man. If any other Starfleet officer was assigned to be my boss, they would never give me so much time off duty. They'd probably fire me or tell me to terminate this relationship!"

"Are you sure that man doesn't harbor feelings for you?"

"Damn it, Shakaar Edon!" she growled.

"That was a joke," he said lamely.

"Never again!" she wasn't convinced it was meant to be a humorous comment.

"You look sexy angry."

"Don't push me!"

"I don't want to do that. Or do I? I want to see you. Are you up for a dirty call tonight?" his voice became eager.

"Give me a moment," she sighed.

The truth was she hated when he asked for her to put on these performances knowing there would be no reward for her efforts. She faked her enthusiasm for his sake and since it had been so long, she would take whatever 'sex' she could get. She was also still angry.

"Is that the dress you planned to wear tomorrow?" he asked when she picked up the call again.

"Yes."

It was a sleek and sparkly black dress with thin straps and a short skirt. It would have looked nicely with the backdrop of the wormhole behind her reflecting the shimmering fabric.

"Turn around for me."

"Please try not to make it sound like an order, Edon."

"Sorry. You can't take the soldier out of a man."

"What about the soldier out of a woman?"

"I love it when you do that with your eyes and nose!"

"Trust me, it was involuntary."

"Now take it off."

"You first!"

She was irritated that he kept making commands after she had just told him to knock it off. He stripped so that his torso was bare, looking smug. He was proud of his scars and muscles and never shy about his body. There was a reason all the women of their Resistance cell gave him a go at least once. He didn't let peace-time damage his upkeep. He maintained his tone with labor farming and had no time for her but he managed to fit work outs into his daily schedule somehow.

Now she was obligated to slip off her dress. She stared at it as it crumpled around her feet. She'd likely never wear it again. Shakaar had seen it and if it impressed him, he didn't bother to say so. Every time she gazed at it hanging in her closet, she would remember Shakaar's failure to keep a simple promise. She had liked the dress quite a bit and it cost a pretty penny. What a waste.

"Oh, I do love your body!" he declared.

"And I want yours," she responded.

"You want me how badly?"

"Bad."

She was red, but not with desire. She hated dirty talk. She was no good at it, but he insisted that he needed it. Her mind went blank. She always felt put on the spot and love-making should be less about words and more about sensual touching. Why did he require ugly and crude refrains to convince him she enjoyed him? She could only think of and repeat so many phrases. Nothing was more distracting from her ability to enjoy the moment.

"Come on, Nerys, tell me how bad you want me!" Shakaar goaded.

"So bad I can't sleep at night!" she wasn't exaggerating but she knew he thought she was. "I want you so bad that I can't even taste my coffee in the morning! I touch myself, but it's you that I want, Edon. I want all of you!"

"That's better and it's not as hard as you make it out to be, is it?" he didn't mean to sound condescending.

"I've been trying to practice."

She didn't say she cried herself to sleep some nights wondering if she just tried harder, maybe this man would keep his word to see her once in a while instead of her going to see him. Did she not have an important job too? Did he expect her to be happy with dirty talk from him?

"You still have your underclothes on," he reminded her.

"You're half-dressed. You get first honors, Prime Minister."

He removed all and gave her close ups of his proudest part. She held her tongue, but she liked how that part of him made her feel and not so much how it looked. That's how she felt with Bareil too. It was nothing personal. Try telling a man that, though. It always wounded them.

"Your turn, Nerys."

"Goodie."

She stood naked and used every trick to hide parts of her body like her stretch marks. She didn't care to give him close ups unless he demanded it. He wanted more dirty talk.

"Tell me what you want to do to me," he said.

"I want to take you to dinner on the Promenade like we planned. I want to play or watch spring ball with you. I want to spend the night with you in my bed getting no sleep at all," she said earnestly.

"Once in bed, what will you do to me?"

"Kiss you."

"And?"

"Stroke your chest."

"Then what?"

She sighed, frustrated, "Why can't we just do these things and stop describing them?"

"We will next week."

"Then why are we doing this? It's ridiculous! We're just teasing each other!"

"I love seeing you however I can. I love hearing you say these things. It can even be enough for me until I see you again in person. Does it really do nothing for you, sweetheart?"

"It does something, I guess."

"Then let's keep going."

She decided to push through the awkwardness for him. She sincerely tried to focus her mind and body on his. She raked his body with her eyes and went through a carefully rehearsed script of verbal dialogue. She didn't tell him it was rehearsed and if he could tell, he didn't seem to mind. He seemed to like it.

He began to moan and touch himself. She did the same. She even faked an orgasm for him. He had no idea that she wasn't vaguely close to being turned on. It would take so much more than visual stimulation to achieve that. She didn't like going solo if she could help it and having an audience was worse.

They were both startled when one of Shakaar's many attendants entered the frame. Nerys covered herself quickly, mortified. Shakaar blew up on the stumbling man and then apologized to her profusely.

"Let's continue, please? I was so close," he begged.

"No!" she was clasping her knees tightly beneath a blanket.

"I know for a fact that he didn't see you, Nerys. I forgot to lock the door. I'm not supposed to. You know I have no privacy in my position."

"No, Edon. I can't do these sorts of calls anymore," she clarified. "It's demeaning and not worth it. I'll see you next week. If you bullied Sisko I have no choice but to accept this excursion you planned without me."

"Don't be mad at me, Nerys! It was meant to be a good surprise."

"I'm not mad. I'm frustrated. I just miss you."

"When I finally get you to myself, I will make this up to you. I promise."

"Yeah, goodnight, Edon."

"Goodnight, Nerys. I love you."

"You too," she mumbled.

The disastrous call was over. Kira's body still ached. She tried to watch erotic films, but the plots were uninteresting and the actual sex scenes were more boring somehow. Toys were no help because she needed human touch. She needed a mental and spiritual connection like she had with Bareil Antos. She used memories of him, not Shakaar, to give herself some semblance of satisfaction that night.

"Why does it seem like Shakaar Edon and I aren't working?" she asked herself.

It made no sense. Their first few months were so promising. Shakaar took her to the hot springs near their old Resistance headquarters and made love to her in and out of the water just as he said he had always fantasized about doing. That was their first time and it was more than satisfying.

They couldn't resist entering the caves and found it a healing experience rather than traumatizing. They snuggled in their old bedding that managed to remain exactly where it had been before. They swapped memories of their fellow soldiers. They cried together, promising to push each other to keep taking their PTSD meds and to keep talking to therapists.

After that, Shakaar took her on a tour of Bajor, showing her the most wonderful natural sights as well as showcasing the social programs and clean up operations he had green lit. They climbed mountains, swam in the sea, hiked through forests, swamps, grasslands, and the deserts. They took time and care to enjoy each other along the way. He was an excellent lover when he was free to be.

However, Kira quickly discovered she had a higher libido than her man. Like humans from Earth, Bajoran women hit their sexual peak at thirty. Men experienced theirs far earlier. He didn't have enough time to satisfy her urges all the time. She could live with that as long as she still felt loved. Her surrogate pregnancy made that same libido plummet for a bit and brought out new problems. Suddenly Shakaar was the one asking for more sex and Kira unable to comply. He was less than happy about her decision to become a surrogate and he was painfully jealous of Miles O'Brien. Another man's blood was coursing through her thanks to the placenta and shared blood vessels with his baby.

She was sure things would improve once the pregnancy was over. That wasn't true. Outside of their shared past, they had less in common. He had nothing to speak of but his work, and he refused to do that unless she nagged. She spoke of nothing but her friends and many episodes on the station that he couldn't relate to. Long stretches of silence between them became routine. But the biggest obstacle was obviously the distance and their busy schedules.

"Come live with me here on Bajor," he kept insisting. "Your place is ruling Bajor with me."

"You are not a monarch or dictator and my place is helping the Emissary on DS9 guarding the wormhole and entrance to the Celestial Temple. This was literally written in the stones of our ancestors. We have been over this before."

"You are his helper but not his lover or mother. Stay here until he actually needs you or the Prophets summon you."

"Shakaar Edon," she tried to carefully explain. "Captain Sisko always needs me. I am the representative of Bajor to Starfleet. I am his first officer. The wormhole is technically stable but it is far from predictable. You know how Cardassians love to play weak and delight in plots within plots. The Dominion could send Jem'Hadar armies through to invade any day. Something could emerge through there that we have never encountered before. Every single minute up there is a new adventure or nightmare. At least down here, the threats and problems are familiar."

"I don't mean to belittle your job. I just wish we could have babies of our own! Let's make a deal, shall we? I will name the boys and you can name the girls. They could take your clan name too so both our family names will survive. Or we could combine our names. You know if our old caste system had been restored like the false Emissary wanted, you and I could never be together and I'd certainly never be allowed to serve as Prime Minister?"

"No deal," she laughed. "A combination of our clan name would be something like Sha'Kira. I'd rather just use your surname. If the boys and girls had separate names, they'd start to think they were adopted or something. Besides, what if we had nothing but boys?"

"Not likely. We'll just keep having more until you get at least one girl."

"I was the only girl of three and you had no sisters."

"It was a good thing I only had brothers."

"If some of your brothers had been born women, the Cardassians might have taken them as comfort women, but they might have survived the Occupation."

"Would they have wanted to?"

"You know plenty of former comfort women feel blessed to be alive and that includes mothers with their hybrid children!"

"Let's not change the subject. What if I name the firstborn and then you name the next and so and so forth?"

"What if I can't have children?"

"You gave birth to the O'Brien baby with no problem."

"Yes, but Bashir said he couldn't guarantee I'd be able to carry a normal Bajoran baby."

"Didn't that doctor raise a man from the dead? He can help you carry a child or maybe he can transfer it to our own surrogate."

Kira bit the inside of her cheek, "The man he brought back from the dead was Bareil. He was only able to bring him back very temporarily and that was because the Prophets made it possible."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bring him up," Shakaar said hastily.

"Should we have children?" Kira asked pointedly.

"Nerys, our curses cancel each other out. Our children will be immune."

"How about we take this relationship one day at a time and we stop discussing babies?"

It was no good. Shakaar steered many of their conversations back to family and marriage constantly seemingly unintentionally. She had to remind him that there was a war looming over them constantly. She didn't want her children to grow up on a war ravaged planet as she had. Yet it was all he talked about when she met him on Bajor and as soon as they were on the Temple steps, he chose that moment to propose.

She was in absolute shock for a moment. Shakaar Edon wanted to marry her? Now? Was he planning to resign and live in space with her as her boy toy? No, he obviously expected her to give up literally everything to be with him.

"Let's consult the Prophets," she said quickly.

"Don't you love me, Nerys?" he looked terribly hurt.

"Love isn't always enough," she whispered. "You conveniently brought us where we need to be. There is an Orb nearby."

"What do you want, Nerys, in your heart?"

"Clarity."

"I want your answer now and if you reject me, I want you to say it's because you don't love me and not because the Prophets told you not to be with me."

"Shakaar Edon, the will of the Prophets' is my will and my duty and my heart's desire. A fellow Bajoran should understand that."

He couldn't argue with that. The monks inside recognized her face and didn't try to stop her. She entered the shrine privately and faced the Orb without fear like she had with her last encounter…

This encounter with the Orb was different. The first time, the Prophets has taken the familiar form of her friends on the station. This time, they chose the form of those she had lost. She saw her family pass by. Childhood friends brushed her fingers she had seen dead in the concentration camp of Gallitep. She wasn't sure if these were really the souls of the dead or if the Prophets were only feeding off her memories of them. It was hard not to treat them like the real people.

The first to confront her was a masked woman.

"Sisica!"

"Furel and Lupaza say hi."

"I've missed you!"

"Oh?" her green eyes were cruel. "How is Shakaar?"

"He asked me to marry him."

"I always knew that you two wanted each other!" she pointed an accusing finger at Kira. "You kept denying it! You were such liars! You just didn't have the confidence at the time to compete with me!"

"I would never want to compete with you, Sisica. I thought you were good for him. He was my leader and idol. He was my brother and my father. I swear I didn't entertain thoughts of a romance with him until a year ago."

"How does it feel to take my place? Is he everything you hoped for? I knew they were right when they say that if you put two people alone in a room long enough, they'll eventually fuck!"

Kira's eyes flashed, "That was true of you, Sisica, and not me. I would never do such a thing. Edon told me that you cheated on him after accusing us of sleeping together and it was before your self-mutilation!"

Sisica looked back at her doubtfully.

"I'm not rising to your bait," Kira's eyes were firm. "I won't feel guilty for surviving anymore or seeking happiness and healing. What happened to you was awful. I loved you like a sister. However, I was never obligated to die with you or to mutilate myself when you offered me the acid. I found your family ages ago and learned your true name, but you will always be Sisica to me."

"I am a ghost of your past, Nerys," the woman smiled, "But no more."

Her brother Kira Reon came to collect Sisica. Nerys wanted to confront him desperately. She still didn't know if he had been a Collaborator or not but that was not the question she had asked to have answered. He removed Sisica's mask and her face was whole and healed.

Her father, not her brother, was the next to speak.

"Nerys, you were too cowardly to comfort me as I died," he declared. "You are a daughter that fled from your own father."

"I did," she confessed. "You were the last member of my family. I couldn't stand to watch you die. But I have had to watch two men that I loved die since. They will probably not be the last. I saw countless men and women die in battle or horrible circumstances. I won't blame myself for that either."

"I never wanted my little girl to be a soldier, but that is better than dead," Kira Taban walked away.

Alled Galex the Cardassian soldier appeared next.

"Luma, are you a terrorist?" he asked as he had asked that night he had tried to buy from her.

"Alled, I am a freedom fighter," she corrected. "Everything I did was to liberate my people, but I can acknowledge now that not all Cardassians are my enemy."

"May I have a kiss before I die in battle?"

"You may, and my name is Nerys."

As she kissed him, his scales turned to smooth skin and she found herself kissing her beloved Vedek Bareil. She burst into tears of joy. She could smell the familiar temple spices he always used.

"My beautiful Nerys," he held her in his arms.

"I missed your gentle voice and your touch, Antos!" it took everything in her not to wail like a little girl. "I missed everything about you!"

"You've never stopped mourning for me, have you? You stopped lighting the brazier of mourning, but your heart won't stop bleeding."

"It probably never will."

"I'm flattered, but you must let me go as easily as you have let your guilt and anger go. I am part of your past and not your future."

"What about Shakaar? I thought you were my soul mate, Bareil Antos! The Prophets led you to me and then they took you away! Do they want me with him instead?"

"What makes you think we have one mate for all eternity, Nerys?" Bareil was always her spiritual counselor first and that was the role he was adopting now. "What a tragic thought for widows and widowers! Anyone in your life is a potential soul mate. We all come from the same source that is the Celestial Temple. Every soul has its own beauty and can teach you lessons to help you grown and change for the better."

"That doesn't answer my question!" Kira stomped her foot. "I believe you are either meant to be with someone or you are not!"

"Is Shakaar your past like the rest of us, or is he your future, Nerys?" he smiled sadly as he put that to her.

"Can't he be both?" she replied with confusion. "Shakaar Edon and I have known each other for decades! We saved each other. We fought together. We would die for one another. Ideally, we should be perfect!"

"There's an appropriate adage for this: What works on paper does not necessarily work in real life."

With that, her Orb experience ended. Kira mediated on what she had seen and heard for a while and then she rejoined Shakaar. She was calm and collected when she took his hands and placed the wedding bracelet back into his palm.

"I can't marry you, Edon."

"I had a feeling you would turn me down!" he scowled.

"I love you, but-"

"How can you possibly say that? You are rejecting me, Nerys! Don't use the Prophets as an excuse!"

"I will always love you but let's face the truth that was there with or without the Prophets. That truth is that we won't work."

"We can!"

"At what cost? One of us will be forced to sacrifice, not just compromise! We shouldn't have to do either of those things! I gave this a chance and I won't regret it. We have beautiful moments. I will treasure you and you'll have a place in my life always," she promised.

"Go back to your precious space station that matters so much more to you than me, Nerys, or should I simply call you Major?"

She tried to suck up the pain of his words better than he was taking her rejection. Maybe she should have never allowed this relationship to go beyond friendship, but he would have secretly resented her for that too. She was a terrible person no matter what she did in this situation. There was nothing she could say to make it better but plenty she could say to make it worse. This wasn't fair to either of them.

"I didn't want to hurt you," she told him. "You deserve a wife and many children. I won't be the one to do it for you. You deserve better than me."

"You don't get it. No other woman will ever understand me like you. I always loved and wanted you and no other."

She wasn't supposed to discuss her Orb experience, but she felt like she had to and said, "I saw Sisica."

"You saw whom?"

"She was with my brother Reon. She was herself again. She said Lupaza and Furel said hi."

He was distracted with grief for a moment, then he snapped, "Those visions are just nonsense sometimes!"

She couldn't believe those words had poured forth from him mouth. She'd expect that sort of thing from Odo and not Shakaar. She was starting to doubt that he was ever a man of sincere faith. At least Odo never declared himself a believer. Odo would never ask her to compromise her freedom or her faith. She was starting to feel better about her decision already.

"I will never block your frequencies, Minister. I think I should leave."

"Won't Captain Sisko and Miles O'Brien be so thrilled to see you!"

That comment was quite petty! She almost told him his strange moments of passive aggressive jealousy had been a constant annoyance. How dare he? She had only had two partners her entire lifetime including Shakaar! He was the one that slept with every female soldier recruited into their cell. Even as a child, she heard him rutting with them through the cave walls and realized what was going on and ignored it. Which one of them had all the reason to be jealous?

She had also never made and broken promises to Shakaar Edon. She always kept her word. The same couldn't be said of him. Yep, she was confident in her decision.

That didn't mean she wasn't still heartbroken. She wept on the four hour flight back to DS9. She had been gone only a single day of her three day shore leave so no one was there to greet her at the terminal. They had no idea she was coming. That gave her some time to gain her bearing.

Eventually Benjamin Sisko summoned her to his office. She entered and was unable to make direct eye contact with her superior. Captain Sisko's expression was very serious, but he didn't look angry or offended by her conduct.

"You are back early," he broke the silence.

"I shouldn't have been absent in the first place," Kira responded, her eyes glued to the floor. "I have taken too much time away from my post. I will resume my duties tomorrow morning, Captain."

"I am enormously relieved and happy to hear that," Benjamin smiled. "I was worried that I might never see you again, Major, and that I might have to replace my first officer."

Her eyes darted to his, "Did you know what Shakaar had planned?"

He laughed, "How do you think he convinced me to let you leave the station in the first place?"

"You could have warned me!"

"And get myself involved in a lover's quarrel? You needed to make this decision on your own and without my influence, Major Kira. Obviously, you have decided to remain here. If you had not returned after the three days, I would have been happy for you. You are not obligated to stay here just as you are not obligated to marry someone. Don't let a prophesy or my Emissary title fool you."

"My place is here, Sisko," she insisted. "I won't let you down."

"Are you sure you wouldn't like to take a personal day tomorrow?"

"Not necessary, but thanks."

"You are dismissed, Major."

She saluted and smirked because she couldn't help but remember Shakaar's comment. He was probably imagining her kissing Sisko rather than saluting him. He had no idea she respected him the way she had once respected Shakaar. He was her leader and not her lover.

"It's good to see you back, Nerys," she heard Odo's voice when she was walking through the Promenade on her way back to her quarters. "Did you get to see the spring ball tournament live while you were on Bajor?"

"No, Odo. I missed it."

"Well, would you like to watch a recording of it this evening in my quarters? He asked casually. "It was a dramatic event!"

She smiled despite all that had happened and answered, "I would like that."

She could think of nothing better to distract herself from her feelings than the company of her best friend.