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Title: Learning, Relearning
Fandom: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Genre: Gen
Rating & Warnings: G (emetophobia, death mention)
Words: 1567
Disclaimer: I don't own Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Summary: Why Kira had invited the newly joined Ezri Dax to lunch so soon after Jadzia's death is beyond her.
Author's Notes: Here it is--my entry for Star Trek Friendshipfest 2015! I was assigned persiflet, who likes explorations of cultural differences. I tried to oblige, but this thing kind of wanted to go in its own direction. Whoops.

Kira isn't someone who has a lot of time for regret. Regret only slows a person down, makes them a liability instead of an asset, causes the sort of hesitations that get a whole cell wiped out. She'd learned long ago to crush any part of her that was sorry for what she had done.

Today, though, regret has found her—though it's a different type of regret than the one she's used to forcing away. It isn't over the number of lives she's taken or her once strong support of Kai Winn. Instead, she very much regrets having invited Ezri Dax to lunch in the replimat, the way she and Jadzia always . . . used to.

She still doesn't know what she was thinking. In spite of sharing the same symbiont, Jadzia and Ezri are nothing alike. Jadzia had been a being of strange contrasts: wise and mischievous, calm and outgoing to the point of making Lupaza look shy by comparison. She had made Kira feel safe, something very few people living and—and with the Prophets have ever achieved.

(Is Jadzia with the Prophets? What happens to Trill hosts when they die? She had been praying when she'd been murdered—surely the Prophets could make room for her in the Celestial Temple.)

But Ezri . . . all Ezri is, is nervous. She talks too fast and jumps at loud noises. She's a picture puzzle, the pieces dropped and scattered, only just starting to be fitted together once more.

Kira scrapes her chair back.

"Hi!"

She looks up. Ezri stands across the table from her, her small fingers twisting around and around each other.

"Hi." The next greeting from Ezri is quieter, but no less nervous. "Sorry I'm late—I wasn't sure i-if . . . well, I'm here now!"

She pulls her hands apart to grip the back of the chair in front of her. She doesn't pull it out.

". . . Have a seat," Kira says.

Ezri sighs and smiles, then flutters into her chair. Once she's perched, she asks, "So! What are the lines looking like at the replicators?"

"I haven't checked yet."

Kira stretches up to see past the crowds. It used to be Jadzia who would watch for a break in the lineup, but Ezri—

"Sorry I'm too short," Ezri apologises; Kira jerks her attention back to her companion. "That's what you were thinking, right?"

"I was thinking about how strange it is to be the taller one now," Kira admits. "It's probably stranger for you, though."

"You're telling me. I haven't been this short since I was Emony, and at least Tobin wasn't very tall, either. It was less of a—a comedown, I suppose."

She laughs, the sound high and awkward, not low and rich.

"Do you . . . like it?" Kira asks, not sure what else to say.

"Being short? I'm not sure yet. Ezri didn't before she was joined. She always needed help getting things down from shelves—I mean, I needed help. Need help. But it does give me a change in perspective. Besides . . . the obvious one."

There's a pause.

"The line's shortened up," Kira says.

"Oh, r-right."

They leave the table and take their place behind a pair of Caitians in gold Starfleet uniforms. Almost before they stop moving, Ezri turns to Kira.

"Don't let me order a raktajino under any circumstances," she pleads. "Not even if somebody comes in and put a phaser to my head."

Kira actually cracks a smile. "If my choices were drink a raktajino or be shot, I think I'd take my chances with the raktajino."

"Yeah, well, you haven't been starting every morning by trying not to throw up," Ezri retorts—then stops, as if afraid she's gone too far.

But Kira only says, "I still think I'd take my chances with the nausea."

It's almost like talking with Jadzia again, and Kira feels herself falling into the familiar pattern—until Ezri cocks her head and answers, "That's what I would have said when I was Torias. I actually knew I was talking about, then—a-about phasers, and things." A bit of a smile drags at Ezri's lips. "Now I don't know what I'm talking about with anything."

As conflicted as Kira is, watching this is hard. "Ezri. . . ."

"Oh! It's our turn now!" Ezri exclaims as the Caitians leave with a tray apiece. She hurries up to the replicator, leaving Kira to follow.

As Ezri opens her mouth to order, Kira interrupts with, "Not a raktajino."

It's a good thing she does, because Ezri's eyes go wide. "Oh no, I nearly forgot! Thanks, Nerys!"

"You're welcome," she says. Her amusement carries her over the bump of hearing her personal name in an unexpected voice.

"What do you think would be safe?" Ezri asks, glancing over for a moment before returning her attention to the replicator. "I've already tried bacon, and that's definitely off the menu, as well as just about every dish the Klingons have ever invented. Maybe I need to try something Jadzia didn't like?"

"Maybe. At the rate you're going, you'll probably love it."

"Probably—but then again, I might hate it even more." Ezri turns to her. "What's something really safe, do you think?"

". . . Kava rolls?" she suggests. It's hard to think of something more inoffensive than that.

"Right." Ezri nods, then faces the replicator. "Kava rolls and, um, water. And hasperat."

Kira's eyebrows lift. "Hasperat? That's not safe."

"It just felt right," Ezri explains as her order materialises on a tray. She takes the tray and steps to one side so Kira can order her ramufta and slice of larish pie.

Once they're back in their seats, Kira can't help but watch as Ezri tears off a piece of a roll and gingerly pokes it in her mouth. There's something she could almost call suspense in the air as Ezri chews for a moment. Then a smile spreads across her face.

"All right?" Kira asks despite the obvious evidence.

"At last." Ezri sighs. "No nausea, no churning stomach, and, so far, no belching."

"Belching?" Kira asks as her eyebrows rise to new heights.

Ezri blushes. "Yeah. Benjamin made me his curried broccoli couscous a few days ago, and I don't know what it was, but I'm pretty sure people could hear me halfway around the habitat ring."

"It sounds to me as though your stomach is out to get you."

"No kidding," Ezri agrees. "I guess I'm not as settled in there as I thought."

Without meaning to, Kira's eyes flick to where Ezri's abdomen is hidden by the table. She's known—knew Jadzia for six years, and even after all this time, she has to remind herself that most of her friend isn't hidden behind her eyes.

Her thoughts are interrupted by Ezri taking in and letting out a loud breath. "Okay. . . ."

"The hasperat?" Kira asks.

"Yup." Ezri straightens in her seat. "Here goes."

But, in spite of her announcement, all Ezri does is stare at the hasperat lying on her plate. As Kira watches, a line forms between her brows. With each passing moment, it deepens until Ezri cries out, "I don't believe it—I forget how to eat hasperat!"

Kira stares. "What are you talking about? It's hasperat. You pick it up and eat it."

"Pick it up how? Eat it how?" Ezri jerks her head up and her hands fly into the air. "Do you have any idea how many different kinds of food I've eaten over my lifetimes? I know I ate hasperat last month, but I can't remember how I did it! My memory is just . . . gone! Or misplaced. Or messed up." Ezri's shoulders drop; her hands fall into her lap. "'Messed up.' Those words have been getting way too familiar lately."

For a few beats of her heart, Kira stays where she is. Comforting people . . . it isn't her strong suit. It never has been. She's always been the one to go out and take on whatever it is that hurt her friends, as long as the pain has a tangible cause. When it doesn't, she's useless. And that was where she always let Jadzia step in.

But Jadzia isn't here and Ezri needs her. She can't wait for someone better to come along, someone who knows how to wheedle and joke people into a better mood. It's time for her to use what she had learned from Jadzia to be there for Ezri—in her own way.

She stands and takes the chair to Ezri's left. Ezri watches her, asks, "Kira?"

"Here." Kira picks up the hasperat from Ezri's plate. "It's like this. Hold out your hands."

Ezri's dawning smile is like light reaching into a valley, bringing warmth to them both. It turns brilliant when Kira mimes biting into the hasperat, and is dimmed only slightly when Ezri's eyes go wide at the burn of spices. But Ezri assures her through a hurried mouthful of kava roll that the pain from the spices is good, not bad. She'll just take it slow.

Kira finds herself grinning as she watches as Ezri takes an exceedingly cautious nibble—maybe a deliberately overacted nibble. The rest of their lunch isn't perfect, but she feels better, surer of her footing. And, once again, she's returned to feeling no regret for what she's chosen.

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