|Primary Characters:||B’Elanna Torres. Tom Paris, Harry Kim and many others|
|Warning:||References to various sexual activities, including m/m, non-con, sex with minor|
|Description:||The crew of the Delta Flier are on their way to a promising new system, when they pick up lifesigns from and escape pod. Garak gets a big surprise. Once they settled on the new planet, it seems everyone gets something they want.|
“Hold on. What’s that?”
Harry had been staring at the little dot on his scanner for almost a whole minute before being able to make up his mind about it. It looked like a ship, but the readings were – odd – to say the least.
His friend, Tom Paris, kept his eyes on the navigation.
“We’re picking up some strange readings. That thing looks like a ship, but I have no idea what kind it is. Except it’s very small. About the size of a shuttle or something like that.”
“Any life signs?”
“Yeah. It looks humanoid, but again, it’s hard to say.”
“I guess we need to investigate. Slowing down to impulse. There. Ok, we’ll hold here for a while.”
“Maybe we should let Seven and Corey have a look at it. They have more experience of other species than we do.”
“Perhaps you will let me take a look as well?”
Tom started. He hadn’t heard the Cardassian move up behind him until he began to speak. Something about him made Tom feel uneasy. He’d gathered from Tom Riker that Garak had a bit of a reputation, not apparently, as a tailor, but as a spy and assassin. In any case, something had forced him away from his home world and whatever it was, it had to be serious. He’d heard that most Cardassians preferred execution to exile.
“If you like. Could you work alongside the former Borgs?”
“It would be my pleasure. I never thought I’d get a chance to meet someone who was once part of a collective, and here I find three. Remarkable.”
“Knock yourself out.”
Tom always had a feeling that Cardassian was looking at him. Studying him. What got to him was that he had no idea what for. Was Garak sizing him up as a potential enemy? Was there something more – physical – behind his interest? In any case, he had given up the pretense that it didn’t bother him, at least in his own mind.
Garak bowed in an exaggerated way and left.
The life signs turned out to belong to a human male in his thirties. Then again, human was – subject to debate. In most ways, he was more or less identical to a Terran. In other ways –
His condition gave rise to another debate. Apparently, he was injured. Reluctantly, the crew of the Delta Flier agreed that they needed to transport the mystery man to their ship for treatment.
The second Garak laid eyes on the man, he began acting in a highly uncharacteristic way, not only for Garak, but for any Cardassian. If Tom Riker didn’t know better, he would have said Garak was jumpy. Nervous.
“My advice is that we leave at once. At warp four or five at the least. Preferably more. The further away we get, the better.”
“Why? What’s wrong? Do you recognize the man?”
Tom Paris, in his capacity as a medic, didn’t see why there should be such a rush. The man was injured, but in no way contagious. He’d scanned for all known infectious agents and found nothing. What their patient was suffering from was merely a concussion and some stab wounds. He’d lost a lot of blood and was still unconscious, but that was all.
“Yes and no. Believe me, I give you this advice only by necessity.”
“Why? Could you explain a little further?”
“Very well. You must have heard of the alternate or mirror universe? In any case the one that keeps intersecting with ours. I believe Captain Picard ran into them at least once and so did Benjamin Sisko, The Emissary. Other Terrans have run into them in the past.”
“You mean that – violent one? With all the wars and assassins?”
Tom Paris felt he had to use that word, if only so he could watch Garak’s reaction. If there was one, it wasn’t one he’d expected. If anything, Garak seemed to be amused, but it was over far too soon for Tom to really make up his mind about it.
“And you think there might be more of those – warriors – on the way?”
“I fear so. In fact, I would advice you to leave a warning beacon here, and to report this – anonymously – to the authorities. May I suggest a subspace message?”
“Yeah, yeah. You’ve made your point. Ok, we’re out of here. He’s out of danger, so I’ll just return to the Bridge -”
“I will – sit with the patient.”
Tom wondered at Garak’s sudden generosity. He had to know something about this guy, or – Tom didn’t think it was his imagination – that Cardassian was awfully partial to a good looking male. Normally, that kind of thing didn’t bother him, but after his recent experiences, Tom felt more than tired of any type of attention.
“Suit yourself. Seven? Would you – help – Garak?”
If Garak felt dismayed because of this, he gave no indication of it. In the end, the other two former Borgs and Terry Byrne remained with Garak and the patient.
It took him a few hours to wake up, and by that time, Tom Paris and Tom Riker had followed Garak’s advice to the letter. There was now a warning beacon in the vicinity of the odd ship and they’d sent a few communications to Starfleet command, by various devious routes.
The man on the bed, opened his eyes. He looked weak and slightly confused, but that only lasted for a second or so.
“Yes. You look different.”
“I believe – you are referring to my double in your universe.”
“Of course. I’m Captain Julian Bashir. Oh, what the f- Julian. Not a Captain any more. I let down my guard and – well, here I am. Would you believe me if I told you I’m here to seek refugee status in your universe?”
“If you would care to elaborate -”
“Not really, but I guess I’m in no position to refuse. I – against my better judgment I got involved with a Trill. A particular Trill. Backstabbing, treacherous slut. He found someone more – powerful – and that was it. Worf’s troops attacked me, but it was that Rat – Raz Dax – who stabbed me. You don’t think I would have let them catch me otherwise, do you?”
“I see. Worf? The -”
“Emperor. Yeah. Come to think of it, it wasn’t such a bad idea. If he’d let me in on it. Who would have guessed the Emperor would have been so partial to that little slut? Or any guy, for that matter? If I’d known, I might have had a go myself. I know your double tried it on, but Worf wouldn’t have any of it.”
For once, it seemed Garak was at a loss for words.
“So that’s my story. What’s yours? All of you? What are you doing out here? I’m guessing I ended up in roughly the same position as I was back home. My former home. There’ll be no going back now. That bloody little whore is going to end up consort to the Emperor now. If Worf is playing that game. I know he was partial to a number of women too. Raz might end up being sidelined, if he doesn’t watch out. That would be too funny.”
“I will let you rest now. The Captain of this ship and others will let you know our plans, if they see fit to do so. All I can tell you is that I – got tired of remaining in the same place and decided to go traveling.”
“Were you on Terok Nor? Like ‘our’ Garak?”
“Here it’s called Deep Space Nine, but yes. I was.”
“Oh. Same old story, huh? There’s another Julian there too, right?”
“A doctor. I see. My mom would have liked that. Doctors can make a fortune and the beauty of it all is that all sides need you. If she’d lived until I was grown up, I might have been too. Yeah. I’m sure she would have liked that. So, were you two an item or what?”
Again, it seemed Garak was struck dumb by this Julian’s words.
“Well? Oh, I get it. You wanted to, but he didn’t. Interesting. I thought so. ‘Our’ Garak was a bit partial to me too, but – for various reason it never happened. For one, I was too much into women. Hey, don’t look like that. I’ve had a change of heart, as they say. After Raz, of course, I should be open for anything. Like you, blondie.”
Seven froze and turned icy blue eyes on to the patient.
“Are you referring to me?”
“Yeah, you or that hot guy with you. Or both. We should get together later. I’d like to – buy you a drink – or what’s your fun? A game of – or maybe some other – No, don’t tell me. It will come to me.”
“I have no interest in any games and I do not ingest alcohol. Since you now seem to be recovering, I will return to my other duties. Corey. Icheb. Let’s go.”
“Oh. I see. Pardon me. I had no idea. Well, there’s always you and me, Garak. Or – what’s your name?”
Bashir stared at Terry Byrne, rather rudely. Terry felt his cheeks heat up uncomfortably. There was no reason to suspect this guy had any idea of his – in any case, he’d tried the same routine with Seven and Corey.
“Terry Byrne. Chief of Security. I think we will see a lot of each other until we’ve figured out what it is you want.”
“Oh, I’m up to anything. It’s just a matter of fixing a time and a place.”
For once overcome with emotion, Garak excused himself and got up to leave. Meeting Julian like this – or rather another Julian, but still – he’d never have expected such an emotional reaction. He had to be getting old.
When B’Elanna heard of the man’s idenity, she and Harry began to work on a level 4 containment field, just in case the violent and unpredictable visitor should have any plans that would collide with theirs. She even began to take turns with Terry Byrne, watching over Julian Bashir, though security work bored her and in any case, it was such a cliche. The strong Klingons made Security Officers, while others, less physically strong, would be more suited for Science work – or Engineering. Bullshit. She was as good an engineer as any Terran.
To her embarrassment, Julian came on to her too, and dropped hints that while he usually liked to rough up his lovers, he’d make an exception in her case. He claimed he’d love to learn to enjoy being on the receiving end, just for her sake.
Forcing down her reaction, she spat out a reply she hoped didn’t sound too nervous.
“Don’t be too sure. Others have found that they’ve taken on too much.”
“Oh, I’m sure I’ll be fine. You wouldn’t want to permanently injure me, now, would you?”
“Don’t tempt me.”
Her growling finally put a stop to his crude attempts, but B’Elanna could tell he was still staring at her, as if he found her irresistible.
Garak was sure Julian was doing it to get to him. To make him admit he was interested. The truth was, he was rapidly falling in love with ‘his’ Julian’s double. Something about his flagrant sexiness was beginning to drive him crazy. What was worse, Tom Riker, Terrry Byrne and most of the other members of the Delta Flier’s crew had to be aware of what was going on.
Riker had even encouraged him to go out and date more. As if he would stoop so low. Dating? Like a Terran teenager? Not him. Passing attractions aside, Garak had only loved once and though he didn’t believe in Fate, he almost felt as if this – running into Julian again – was meant to be.
Tom Paris handed over the Bridge – such as it was on the Delta Flier – to Tom Riker and Corey Tainton, then went to his quarters – the men’s quarters really. The other cabins were occupied by the couples or families. Sunee Khun Depigny and her daughter shared the first. Samantha Wildman, Gerron and Naomi the second, B’Elanna, Harry and the children shared the third, and the last one was shared by Seven, Corey and Icheb.
He found the quarters largely empty. Garak and the mysterious Julian Bashir were nowhere to be seen, something which caused Tom a twinge of concern. Were those two plotting something or was it simply a date? Ryan wasn’t there either, but Terry Byrne was playing some kind of 3D game. It was one Tom hadn’t seen, and it looked far more advanced the ones he’d seen before leaving the Alpha Quadrant. Of course, prisons didn’t get the latest gadgets for their inmates.
Terry looked up and smiled. His joining the Delta Flier’s crew, hadn’t bothered Tom at all. Just like Tom Riker, Terry seemed like a fun guy.
“Hi. I thought I’d get some rest. That looks like fun. I haven’t seen anything like it before. Is it new?”
“Yeah. I managed to pick it up on DS9 before we had to leave again. In fact, Quark sold it to me. Actually, if you’re interested, he might have something else about the same. You wouldn’t believe the stuff he carries around somehow.”
“Can I take a look?”
Terry turned the game off, and handed the little pin over to Tom. He turned it over in his hand, wondering how to start it up.
Grinning amiably, Terry took it back, showed Tom how to turn it on, then sat back eagerly to watch Tom get started. For about half an hour, Terry kept up a running commentary about how to play the game, including advice on strategy and techniques which would guarantee that he’d get to the highest level. Eventually, Tom got tired of it. Was he getting old? Or was it simply that the last couple of months had been draining?
“Hey. You look beat. Maybe you’d better get some rest. You’re not sick or something?”
“It’s nothing contagious, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
Tom hadn’t meant to snap at Terry. It was obvious that the young man had only spoken out of concern for his new friend. In any case, Terry didn’t look offended. He merely shrugged and seemed prepared to return to his game or go to sleep.
Taking a few deep breaths, Tom forced himself to apologize.
“I’m sorry. It’s just that in the past couple of months, things have been a bit rough.”
“Oh. You could say we’ve had a run of bad luck as well.”
“You and Ryan and ms Khun Depigny?”
“Yeah. I guess it’s been even rougher on her. With the kid and everything. She hasn’t talked about it, but I think she ended up in trouble with her mother, over what happened.”
Tom felt a tiny spark of his old self kick in. He was curious about what had made those three go on the run together. Terry looked like a good enough Starfleet officer and young Ryan – well, he might calm down eventually. But Sunee looked totally out of place on a spaceship. DS9 might have been more her thing, except for one thing. If Tom remembered correctly, it was a little too close to Bajor and the Wormhole for comfort, especially during the war they’d heard about, while still on Voyager.
“What did happen?”
Terry looked surprised.
“No one told you? I thought Tom – Riker – had filled you in. Oh. Maybe he thought we’d better tell you ourselves. I guess you could say we ended up in a conflict of interest. The Prime Directive. To just sit and watch while innocent people get blasted out of existence isn’t really my thing. Stupid of me. I guess I should have seen the writing on the wall and left, when I was first suspended from the Academy. Oh, well. I wanted to serve on a deep space mission.”
“Ok. So you had to leave Starfleet because you didn’t obey orders? I can relate to that. It’s happened to me a couple of times.”
“You were a Starfleet officer?”
“Yeah. At least I almost was. Long story. What about the others?”
“Ryan – well, the whole thing was too much like his home planet. He was in the resistance and apparently – he’s never told me much about it – too traumatic – he lost his family, both parents and the girlfriend. I think he watched her die. He would have died too, but – I don’t know. Like I said, he doesn’t like to talk about it. So he lost it completely and as usual, I had to tag along and try to pick up the pieces.”
“Right. You’re sort of his unofficial protector?”
“Something like that. We’re friends, but – you’ve seen the kid – he can hardly look after himself. Someone has to watch out for him.”
“Ok. I get that. What about Sunee?”
“Yeah, that was really tough luck. She’s not even a Starfleet officer. Just some kind of consultant. Used to work for a university, but she’s a linguist and we needed her out there on the Pretoria to communicate with an alien race. She became emotionally attached. There were some young mothers just like herself and anyway, when it all went down, she got caught in it. The kid was living with her grandmother – Sunee’s mother, but she was recruited by Starfleet Command, and it wouldn’t look good if she was seen to condone her daughter’s behavior. You know their view on stuff like that. Bloody bureaucrats.”
“I know what you mean. Lanna – B’Elanna Torres feels exactly the same. She was in the Maquis and -”
“She was? Good for her. That Bajoran kid too, right?”
“I thought so. The way he was looking at Garak, you’d think he was scared the guy would eat him alive or something.”
“Well, you might say he has reason, but I can’t tell you about his past. If he wants to talk about it, he will.”
“Oh. That bad, huh? Just like Ryan. They’re a lot alike. Almost like they’re brothers or something.”
“That occurred to me too. Ok, thanks.”
“What about you? You guys were on Voyager, right? In the Delta Quadrant? That must have been really something.”
“It was. We’ve had some ups and downs. Towards the end, I think it was more downs than ups, but never a dull moment.”
“I can imagine. You have to tell me more about that later and I know Tom Riker would like to hear all about it too.”
“Yeah. Sure. I’ll tell you more.”
“Great. So what’s the deal with you and B’Elanna?”
Tom tensed up. He wasn’t ready to talk about that yet. Terry seemed to sense his reaction, and was about to back off, when Tom again made an effort to be social.
“We used to be – together. It’s just that – some really weird things happened and I couldn’t deal with it and – I ended up treating her very badly. At least I got my punishment for that, and then some.”
“Oh. So she ended up with Harry Kim instead?”
“Sort of. He was my best friend.”
“Man, that must have hurt.”
“Not like you think. We – you’ll hear about it sooner or later, so I might as well tell you that she was involved with Harry before we split up. I told you, we were best friends.”
Tom felt his face heat up. Not again.
“Yes, you know, buddies. Pals.”
“Right. That sounds like fun.”
“You think so?”
“Between you and me – I know I don’t stand a chance, but Sunee’s quite hot. Isn’t she?”
Tom thought Sunee looked a little – pale – not her complexion, but her whole personality. Cool. Vague. Distant. On the other hand, Terry knew her better.
“I see what you mean. Why do you think you won’t stand a chance?”
“You mean you haven’t noticed? It’s obvious, if you know those two. Ryan and Sunee – You know what I’m talking about.”
“Are they -”
“No, but it’s only a matter of time. Besides, it’s for the best. I’d never be able to take it for long. Just being with one woman. I tend to – play the field.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I was like that too, for a long time. In the end, that was pretty much all people saw in me. The guy who slept around. And then one day, the whole thing comes back and bites you in the tail.”
“Don’t be. It was all my own fault, but – I’ve had enough now. I love Lanna, but I don’t think I’ll ever be in a relationship again.”
“Is the little girl your daughter?”
“Don’t give up. Who knows? Some day, I might even settle down with someone. Anything’s possible.”
“Maybe. Thanks. Well, I think I’d better get some sleep. I’d like to get back to work soon.”
“Oh, yeah, your ship. That’s really something too. You have to be proud.”
“Well, I guess so. Thanks.”
“I’d love to know more about her, whenever you have time or feel up to it.”
Tom stretched out on his bunk and tried to make himself comfortable. It had felt good talking to Terry like this. Almost like the old days, with Harry.
Gerron bent over the console, trying to figure out how to change the circuitry inside. Why couldn’t B’Elanna or Harry do it? It was supposed to be routine work, the kind that any cadet could do, but he hadn’t been a cadet, and had no idea if he’d even have wanted to, if he’d had the sort of life other kids had.
He didn’t think so. Something more free would have suited him better. Nowhere he’d have to obey orders day in and day out. Just an ordinary job, so he could make some money and have an ordinary life.
He tried the tricorder again. Nothing. Was there something wrong with this thing? Or with the console? He was about to return to B’Elanna and ask her to give him another assignment, when he heard footsteps behind him.
Hoping it was B’Elanna or Harry, he looked up, eagerly, but his face fell when he realized who it was. He stumbled to his knees and tried to move back. Even though he tried hard, he couldn’t quite get the shaking in his knees to stop. He dropped the tricorder and hardly even noticed it.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Garak bent down to pick up the tricorder and, noticing how agitated the young Bajoran looked, placed it on the panel beside him. He hesitated. Knowing far too well that Bajorans had reason to distrust a man like himself, Garak considered simply walking away. On the other hand, despite his reputation as a sly, unreliable double agent, he sympathized with this young man and wanted to reassure him that he meant him no harm.
“Gerron – that’s your name, isn’t it?”
“There’s no need to be nervous. I realize you have no reason to trust a Cardassian, but I would like to assure you that you have nothing to fear from me. In fact – I don’t know if this will reassure you or not – but I’m wanted by the authorities on the home world.”
“Have you heard of me?”
Gerron nodded. He had to admit that while the Bajorans never trusted any Cardassians, he’d also never heard that Garak was known to abuse prisoners.
“Demar used to mention you to his colleagues.”
“Demar? I’m sorry. At least it wasn’t Gul Dukat.”
Gerron looked startled. He’d never considered the possibility that Gul Dukat might have picked him out. Not that he thought the difference would have been great. One Cardassian was much like any other, except possibly this one, and that didn’t necessarily reassure him.
“Well, I just wanted to take this opportunity to – clear this up. You have nothing to fear from me.”
Gerron didn’t know what to say, so he merely waited and this time, Garak really left. As the tension slowly left him, Gerron slid to the floor and remained sitting like that for a while, the console and the tricorder forgotten.
He heard footsteps again and looked up. This time it was the new guy. Ryan Connor. Gerron hadn’t really talked to him before, but they were about the same age, so he thought he might like to talk to the guy.
“Hi. Anything wrong?”
“No. I was just -”
“Is that the console that was faulty?”
“Would you like me to take a look? I’m not an engineer or anything, but I remember reading about stuff like this at the Academy.”
“There. At least it was something easy. Even I could fix it. I’m sure you would have too. Was that it? Or did you have anything else to do?”
“No, I think that was it. B’Elanna was busy so she asked me to -”
“Ok. Is it true that the two of you were in the Maquis?”
“Yeah, sort of. She was, anyway. Well, me too, but – I didn’t really do anything.”
“Oh. I was in the Resistance back home. You’ve probably never heard of it, but there were these other colonists who wanted our territories and – I guess to everyone else, it was such a minor thing, it’s not even mentioned in the textbooks. To us it was – for some of us, it was – I lost my family. My girlfriend.”
“Me too. I ended up living in a refugee camp and -”
“Yeah, I read about that at the Academy. I’m sorry. Hey, if you’re done here, we could go and work out or play some game.”
“So, you’re involved with Samantha Wildman, right?”
“But her kid isn’t yours?”
“No. She had Naomi when I met her. We’ve talked about having one of our own, but – I guess we haven’t really gotten round to it yet.”
“You like older women?”
“Yes. I mean, younger too. No, older, I guess. I hadn’t really thought about it, until I met her. My first girlfriend was my age. After she died, I didn’t think I’d be able to love anyone else. Then I met Samantha and -”
“Yeah. You know, Sunee -”
“Yes. She was on the Pretoria, with you and Terry Byrne, right?”
“She wasn’t a Starfleet officer, just a consultant, but yes. We all arrived at DS9 together. Remind me never to trust a Ferengi again. It was that Quark guy’s schemes that ended us up in even more trouble than we were.”
“Oh. What happened?”
“I’m not really sure, but I think he tried to scam someone and that someone turned out to be someone high up. You know with connections everywhere. But that wasn’t all there was to it. I think – well, this sounds hard to believe – but I think he actually tried to help some refugees. Or they offered him something he couldn’t refuse. So he had to go and since he’d promised he’d get us away from DS9 we ended up coming along. The authorities there were going after anyone who’d been involved with him.”
“I didn’t mean to criticize the Bajoran authorities -”
“Of course not. Besides, I don’t really trust the authorites. They made too many deals with the Cardies and – anyway, where were they when we were working in the fields eighteen, twenty hours a day? In that sun? They didn’t care about how many of us they -”
“I hear you. That sounds only too familiar. After all we’d been through, our authorities came to an agreement with our enemies and – the ones that killed my parents and my girlfriend just got away with it. An amnesty for most of them. Can you believe it?”
“Yeah. Unfortunately, I can. So why did you join Starfleet?”
“I had to do something and, well, all I knew was fighting. We were attacked when I was thirteen. After my parents were killed I joined the Resistance. I was fifteen. Then when that amnesty came, I shipped out to Earth as soon as I could. It might as well be Starfleet. What else could I do?”
Gerron thought that at least Ryan had had a choice. In his case, it was just Chakotay’s kindness and B’Elanna’s navigation talents – despite her claims of being too clumsy to pilot anything – that had saved him from the life of a typical Bajoran refugee. A glitter.
While they were talking, they’d ended up back in the men’s quarters. Tom Riker was asleep in his bunk, but there was no one else around.
“Terry lent me this game. If you’re interested – Or we could – just climb the wall. That’s quite a lot of fun. Have you tried it? Harry set it up a couple of days ago.”
“No, I haven’t tried it yet. Why don’t we do that? I’ll just let Samantha know. She’s doing something for Tom Paris, but just in case – Or if I have to take Naomi -”
“Ask Naomi to come along. I think she’ll love that. She’s tall enough to climb like an adult, I think. We’ll have to see if we can’t put up something lower. So Marielle can have a go too. If Sunee is ok with that.”
Gerron had sudden flash of inspiration. He’d sensed just how attracted Ryan was to Sunee, and since the guy seemed to be nice, Gerron was hoping he’d be in luck. Why didn’t he try to help his new friend get together with Sunee – if she was interested too?
“Ask Sunee to come along. It might be fun for her to have something to do, other than all that research.”
“Yes. Ok. She’s not very – social. I don’t know if -”
“What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
“Ok. You talk to Samantha and I’ll talk to Sunee.”
In the end, both women came along and even little Marielle joined them, though she sat on the floor and watched her mother climb. After a while, a few of the others came along and had a go at climbing the wall.
Since Ryan was the only one Sunee knew, they ended up talking, and the others drifted off, one by one or two and two together. Gerron was hoping that would be enough. He’d had a hunch Terry was interested in Sunee as well, though, confusingly, he sensed that Terry was quite fond of Ryan too, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything.
“Are you sure?”
Samantha nodded, a puzzled look on her face. This news had taken her by surprise. Her husband – Greskrendtrek had seemed just like the typical, traditional Ktarean. Obedient, demure. Never in a million years would she have suspected that he’d rebel against his family – again – and run off with another woman, once he’d had their permission to marry a Terran.
“He says he’s tired of being the good son and he’s waited long enough for me. This doesn’t sound like him at all. I hope he doesn’t end up in trouble because of this.”
“You hope he’s not going to get in trouble? What about this – betraying you?”
“Oh. Well, you know, it’s been so many years since we last met, I can understand how he feels. It’s just that – in their culture – in historic times – sometimes a disobedient son was put to death by his family. Sometimes, even today -”
“That used to happen on Bajor in the old days. Sons and daughters. They don’t make much difference between the two. A child owes its mother and father respect and – well, in the old days -”
“My grandparents might have wanted to kill me or sell me as a slave for -”
“For being involved with your girlfriend?”
Samantha felt slightly puzzled. She’d never heard of this aspect of Bajoran culture. It must have been a very long time ago. Except Gerron had just said his grandparents –
“Yeah, well, maybe, but mostly because of what Demar -”
“I don’t believe it. That wasn’t your fault and anyway -”
“I know. Besides, I’ve heard that it’s just the same in Cardassia, even today. They can do pretty much anything they want to their kids. In fact – even have sex with them if they want. Or kill them. Or make them kill others.”
“I didn’t know that either. It wasn’t in my history classes at the Academy.”
“No. I guess it’s just something we picked up, in the camps. So maybe -”
“Garak – he was talking to me the other day and – he said -”
“Did he frighten you?”
“Yes, but that was just because – you know – he’s a Cardie. He said that he wanted to reassure me I had nothing to fear from him.”
“Oh. That was nice of him.”
“Yes. It just occurred to me, what if he’d been abused by his parents? His father, anyway. I think they’re a patriarchal culture. I guess I shouldn’t be too quick to judge him. He’s never done me any harm.”
“That’s very generous of you. I’m not sure I could be that tolerant.”
“I don’t know. You’re a very generous and loving person.”
Samantha smiled and placed a light kiss on Gerron’s lips.
“So you’re not upset about Greskrendtrek?”
“No. I just hope he’ll be happy. Like you and I.”
Gerron pulled Samantha into his arms and kissed her again, not quite as lightly as before. If Naomi hadn’t come running into the room, holding little Marielle’s hand, they might have ended up even more delayed for dinner.
The Ixos system turned out to be a good place to be, especially at this time. Before the war, the terraforming team hadn’t even finished their work, and during the war, communications had been down. It was really only in the past year or two that colonization had begun in earnest.
When the Delta Flier entered orbit around Ixos Prime, its crew didn’t attract as much attention as they’d expected. There were even rumored to be a few Shapeshifters here, though that might have been just talk.
The former members of Voyager’s crew, as well as the three from Pretoria and the two from DS9 looked into buying some land. Quark’s eyes were lit up by a greenish light and after he met a few other Ferengis, he left his former crewmates.
Most of them moved on to another continent where the land sale was booming. Tom was considering not buying land and instead focus on transportation. With a ship like the Delta Flier he could ship all kinds of commodities – or – he might build a commercial prototype and go into ship construction.
B’Elanna, who remembered the fantastic technology on R’asc’iye, was thinking more in terms of invention. If she could find a workshop and try out a thing or two that had occurred to her while she was enjoying the entertainment R’asc’iye had to offer, she might be able to work full time with engineering.
The others had their own plans but what they all had in common, was a general satisfaction with their new home.
Even the former Borgs were pleasantly surprised by their new surroundings. It wouldn’t take much for them to abandon their plans for continued space travel.
Then one day, Icheb dropped a bomb, figuratively speaking. He’d met a young woman who had been left behind by a group of people travelling with a passenger liner. She was a hybrid and it was clear that her mother had never fully accepted her offspring.
The girl was now in her mid-twenties, but had been on her own for nearly ten years. Apparently, the crew of the passenger liner had allowed her to stay for some years, after her mother had left without her. She had taken a liking to the new planet and decided to stay.
One day, she’d met Icheb, going into a shop on the main street of the largest city on the second continent. Seven and Corey hadn’t even noticed how Icheb had withdrawn from them and taken to spending less and less time with them.
“I’m sorry, Seven – Annika – I – never meant for this to happen, but – Merideh and I – we -”
Seven felt a stab of pain at the thought of Icheb leaving their small collective, but in a way, she could understand him. His next words confirmed her suspicion.
“Merideh – she’s like me – she doesn’t have a home. I’ve spoken to a medical officer and he thinks we’re physically compatible. I want to live with Merideh.”
“I see. Well, I guess – there’s nothing else to be said. I hope you two will be very happy. You won’t – move far, will you?”
“No. I talked to Merideh and she agrees with me. If you – if it’s ok with you and Corey, we could live nearby. I explained to Merideh about the collective and – she says it sounds nice. She’s always been alone. So – if you think you could learn to like her, maybe we could all be friends?”
Icheb looked into Seven’s eyes, pleadingly. He didn’t want to hurt Seven – Annika – she’d been his first love and he’d never forget her, but – what he felt for Merideh was different. If he let her go, he knew he’d regret it for the rest of his life.
“We will see. It’s ok, Icheb. I understand.”
Corey held out his hand and shook Icheb’s solemnly. In a way, he would miss being a part of a small collective, but in other ways – he was already human enough to appreciate being Seven’s – Annika’s – only lover. Besides, they had a child together. Icheb’s talk about being physically compatible, led him to believe the younger Borg wanted to have a child of his own. He wished him all the best.
Julian Bashir liked the new planet. In a way, it was refreshing not to have to keep looking over his shoulder all the time. These people were such innocents they’d be dead in a few hours’ time, if someone from his universe had attacked, but somehow, he couldn’t help being touched by their trusting ways.
He certainly wouldn’t betray that trust. This was exactly the sort of home he’d liked to imagine, whenever he was at liberty to sit around thinking. He still missed Raz – and even more Jadzia – but this was a chance too good to turn down. Besides, Raz had betrayed him. Even if the slut came after him, grovelling and begging for him to take him back, he wouldn’t. He’d rather spit in his face. Saliva. Not anything more intimate.
The largest city on the second continent hadn’t held any attraction for him, so he’d returned to the first continent, content to rent a place on the main street of the capital, overlooking the harbor. This was a lovely place and the club life made it worth it, even if nothing else did.
For the first couple of months, he gambled, danced and flirted and ended up bringing a number of people to his new place, or joining them at parties or other activitites at their homes. The women here were really something, in their unsophisticated, lightly madeup ways. It was great to go to bed with someone you didn’t have to discreetly frisk to make sure they weren’t carrying some concealed weapon.
Even so, he was missing a more challenging companion. He’d eyed the crew of the Delta Flier and found several physically attractive people, but not that many filled his other criteria. Physically, B’Elanna Torres would interest him. Despite his earlier preference for being the dominant one in a relationship, Julian could see the attractions in being roughed up by a formidable half-Klingon. He could almost feel her nails digging into his flesh. But B’Elanna wasn’t interested. Too happy with her boy Harry and pining for her other guy, Tom Paris.
That was another hottie. But Tom was subconsciously pining for B’Elanna. Too dull for words. Besides, the guy was clearly emotionally fragile. There had to be a story behind that, but Julian wasn’t interested. He wasn’t looking for someone to hold hands with and he certainly wasn’t going to pick up the pieces for someone else to enjoy afterwards. B’Elanna, of course.
Then there was a number of young men. Gerron – a nervous wreck – likely to jump out of his skin if a guy hit on him. Ryan – ditto. Terry Byrne – a closet case, too uptight to admit to himself that he was attracted to men, as well as women.
As for the slightly older men – Tom Riker was intriguing. He would be up to a bit of horseplay, Julian was willing to bet, except the odds weren’t high enough. In fact, he’d considered hitting on the guy, just to see what happened, but in the end, he hadn’t. He wasn’t sure why.
The women – Sunee was beautiful but cold – no fun to be had there, Annika – ah – if only – but she was too uptight as well. No wonder, since her last experience as a human being was at the age of six. Not his thing. Samantha Wildman – pretty enough, but too dull.
Of course, he hadn’t even mentioned boring Harry Kim, but that really wasn’t his scene. Quark – ugh. Ferengis were really where he drew the line. And then there was – Garak. Garak was clearly head over heels with his double in this universe.
Even ‘his’ Garak had been tempted, but the timing hadn’t been right. How about that?
That was why, one evening, about six months after their arrival on Ixos Prime, Julian was on his way to meet Garak, in a special type of bar. Julian had been instantly attracted to it when he’d first stumbled across it soon after his arrival. The decor was suggestive enough, but the waiters and waitresses even more so. And the private rooms in the back – well, if everything went according to plan, they might have occasion to get better acquainted with them.
Julian ordered a drink – a special mixture of the planet’s own production. Very heady. He had a feeling Garak might like it. If memory served, the Cardassian bloodstream absorbed alcohol at roughly the same rate as a Terran’s did.
He was sipping his drink when Garak walked in. His posture told Julian all he wanted to know. It would have been dull, except for some reason, he only felt expectation. In the past, he hadn’t spent much time with Cardassians, for obvious reasons, but he’d always wondered about Garak – ‘his’ Garak. It might be – stimulating – like other versions of his old flirting-with-death games.
“There you are. I hope you don’t mind, but I started on my own.”
“Not in the least. Hello. This was a pleasant surprise.”
“I thought you might think so. Sit.”
Garak slid into the bar stool next to Julian, glancing discreetly at the provocative ensemble, Julian was wearing. He couldn’t have designed it better himself. Mm. Mentally, he almost licked his lips. When he’d received Julian’s invitation, he had found it hard to believe. It was almost as if the young man had read his mind. On the other hand, he couldn’t underestimate this man. Garak knew a little about the alternate universe and he knew better than to assume that this Julian would be anything like this universe’s version.
*His’ Julian might be up to someone like Kira, but Garak had long since stopped hoping he, himself, would have any luck. They were simply too incompatible. This Julian – who knew? In the end, he, himself, might be the one who succumbed, not the other way around. The thought of this caused a touch of arousal to build inside Garak. He’d never met anyone he wanted to submit to. Maybe that day had now come.
“I can recommend this one. Very nice stuff.”
“Then I’ll take your word for it. Barkeeper – another, like the one my friend is having.”
Garak sipped the drink, letting it slide across his tongue. Mm. Not bad.
Julian studied Garak, not missing the slight increase in breathing and heartrate. In fact, he even detected the subtle change in Garak’s body chemistry and smiled inwardly. This was progressing according to plan. Only a little longer now and they’d need to seek out one of those private rooms.
“I told you, you’d like it.”
“How perceptive of you.”
“Yeah, well, perceptive is one of my many talents. What are yours?”
Garak looked taken aback by the blunt question. He wasn’t used to such direct approaches.
Again, Julian grinned inwardly. He always found that it was a good idea to shake up the object of his pursuit. Always take the battle to his part of the arena. If you waited around until the other guy attacked, you’d never stand a chance.
“Ah. I think that’s for others to say.”
Sly bastard. He’d better follow up with another thrust, or this might end up rather differently than he’d intended it.
“Let’s hope I’ll be in a position to do so, before long. How about it? I don’t believe in pussyfooting around and I’m not the least bit modest either. If I have to, I’ll stick my hand between your thighs, but that won’t be necessary, will it? Subtlety is – at least more suave.”
Again, Garak was at a loss for words, then couldn’t help smiling. Why keep up the pretense any longer? He was far away from home, wherever that was, and it was a long time since he’d accepted his last assignment. Here, he was just a tailor who hadn’t yet set himself up in business. Having a drink, letting himself be picked up by a very handsome young man, who just happened to be the identical twin of the love of his life. Julian was right. There was no point in procrastinating.
“No. No need for that. Where did you have in mind? Your place or -”
“Neither. And – just a suggestion – shouldn’t you brush up a little on your pickup lines? Your place or mine? That one was out of fashion in my ancestors’ time. There are some pretty cool private rooms in the back, with all kinds of fun gadgets, if what we have isn’t enough. Come on.”
They got up, without even finishing their drinks. Julian tried to recall how you kissed a Cardassian or did you – at all? Hm. Yeah. In any case, unless Garak had had many humans, he suspected he might find the Terran way of doing things a novelty.
Julian realized he was willing to give and take, unlike in the past. Maybe it had something to do with the feelings he was picking up from Garak. Not just physical attraction. This fascinating man was actually in love with him. Julian couldn’t remember the last time he’d run into someone who seemed to be solely motivated by love, not gain. It was actually quite touching.
The second he’d shut the door behind them, he satisfied his curiosity by placing his hand exactly where he’d told Garak he might. Ah. Impressive. So he didn’t need to doubt the physical aspect of the attachment.
He pressed closer and began to rub himself against Garak while his lips sought out the Cardassian’s. The tongue took some getting used to, but at this point, Julian was too aroused not to find everything remotely sexual even more stimulating.
Garak’s hands found their way into Julian’s shirt, and began to fondle his chest in a way that led Julian to believe that either Cardassians did this almost the same way they did, or – Garak had had humans before.
Experimentally, he ran a finger along the ridge on Garak’s back.. and encouraged by the result, he went on. Within minutes they had both shed their clothes and were taking advantage of an extremely comfortable and innovative bed.
When Julian felt Garak’s facial ridges tickle the inside of his thighs, he told himself that it really had been worth it. In fact, he didn’t see any reason not to go the whole nine yards. Living together and everything. Sensational. That tongue did have its uses.
Tom was happy with the ship construction business. He was even happier that B’Elanna and Harry had wanted to partner with him. If they’d settled down in some backwater on the second continent, he might have ended up losing touch with the children. Besides, he missed Lanna and Harry terribly. At that point, he was willing to admit that to himself.
He knew he’d miss all his friends, even the newcomers, Tom Riker, Terry Byrne and the others. Except possibly Quark.
Besides, no one saw much of the Ferengi now. He’d rebuilt his old business, had a successful bar in the city, employing dozens of dabo girls and boys – telling some story about a young writer who had suggested the latter. In fact, he’d tell it to every guest entering the bar.
B’Elanna and Harry and the children had bought a nice little house close to a park, and every night when they went home together, Tom felt a stab of pain. He could have been a part of that. If he hadn’t been such a stupid, jealous fool, he might have been walking on B’Elanna’s other side, holding her hand, in that silly, sweet way Harry had been the first to take up.
Hell, he’d even hold Harry’s hand, for the most platonic reasons. He really missed being friends with Harry, despite the differences between them and the slight jealousy over the relationship with Lanna, but he’d gotten over that jealousy a long time ago. If anything, it was Harry who had reason to be jealous, not him.
Then one night, Harry and Lanna asked him if he wanted to come over for dinner. He was startled enough to look up from the government forms he was trying to fill out. They’d never tried to include him since the breakup.
“You can do that tomorrow. There’s no rush. You know the officials. They’re really cool and laid-back. I love this world. No one’s as uptight about rules and regulations as back on Earth.”
“Are you sure?”
“Aren’t you? There’s no comparison really.”
“No, I meant, about – inviting me to dinner?”
“You have to eat.”
B’Elanna was smiling in a way that told him that she wasn’t just offering food. Tom felt his heart skip a beat. Was it really true that Lanna had forgiven him? He had thought so, especially when she’d talked him into coming along, when they left on the Delta Flier, but since he hadn’t tried to hit on her he’d never really dared to wonder.
“Well – I do have a replicator right here.”
“Replicator? Harry cooks real food. The vegetables you get at the market are really something. How about it?”
“Uh – I’d love to. If you’re sure.”
This time B’Elanna just let her fingers trail down his cheek, lingering over the scar Janeway had given him the day she’d lost her temper with him and thrown her coffee cup – porcelaine – not plastic, at him, with scalding coffee in it. He’d seen a look in her eyes that hinted that she got off on his pain. The hot fluid had only just missed his eye, but he didn’t think that even if it had hit it, she would have flinched.
For a second, he almost changed his mind. If things ended up the way he thought they would, B’Elanna would make the acquaintance of his new set of scars, received from Janeway, but also the R’asc’iyan’s claws. If she asked about them – or worse – if he could see Harry wondering and pitying him –
But this was a chance too good to back down from. If he turned her down now, he’d spend the rest of his life alone. It was time he got back into a healthy relationship. He was hoping Lanna would help him forget just how much he’d first enjoyed the punishment and the degradation. If he thought about it, he knew he was just as sick as Janeway. One of them getting off on causing real pain and possibly permanent damage – and the other – enjoying receiving it. No. Never again.
“Ok. I’ll put the children to bed, if you’ll let me.”
“I thought you’d never ask. Little Lanna doesn’t want to sleep at all, it seems. And Harry Junior – oh, you’ll see. How is your singing voice, these days?”
“Harry spoils that boy rotten. You’ll have to sing to him. Not a jazz song or rock music. Some – what did you call it, Harry?”
“Whatever. I’m not doing it, but if Harry’s going to cook, you could make yourself useful.”
“Ok. No problem, though I don’t know if Junior’s going to like my singing.”
“You can always carry him around the room a gazillion times and rock him.”
“Or pretend he’s piloting a ship.”
“Right. I’m glad you’re so full of ideas. If we don’t get them to bed, we’ll never get any peace either.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“Great. Come on.”
To Tom’s surprise, Lanna really did take his hand and began to drag him out of the room. He picked up his pace to keep up. Walking hand in hand was one thing, but being dragged behind his lover was quite another. Of course, in a way, it was kind of hot – like she’d found him and knocked him out and was now dragging him back to her cave to have her way with him. He knew from experience that it was never any good, trying to put up a fight, but in this case, he didn’t even want to.
Harry saw what was going on and couldn’t hide a smile.
“Hey, take it easy. There’s not that much of a rush. Slow down. Are you going to drag him all the way home?”
“Oh. Sorry. Did I hurt you?”
“No. Not at all. Lanna?”
“Yeah, love you too. It’s great to have you back. Right, Harry?”
“You know it is. Welcome back, man.”
He even held out his hand, like Tom had just imagined, but he merely shook his friend’s hand, solemnly, then let go. Tom was so overcome with emotion, he felt his eyes sting hotly.
Harry noticed Tom’s reaction and couldn’t help feeling just a little emotional too. He reached out and pulled his friend into his arms and hugged him briefly, patting his shoulder.
It really was nice to have Tom back, and working together like this, it was better than working on Voyager. Much better. No orders to obey, no chain of command. Just the three of them together, like it was supposed to be.
Tom Riker turned off his communicator, a half smile on his lips. Apparently, it was now completely impossible to get a couple of his friends together to go out for drinks. Everyone was so annoyingly attached to a partner or two. Next they’d all be having kids as well, except possibly Garak and Julian, and not even that would be impossible. Reproductive science could do some amazing things and besides, there were plenty of orphans to adopt after the war. Stranger things had happened.
Not that Tom Riker was ready to settle down just yet. At least he could count on Terry. His new buddy, Terry Byrne was still as cheerfully single and as eager to go out and have a couple of drinks and maybe end up in a fight or two. A not too serious fight was always refreshing, if the opponents could take it in the spirit it was intended.
They met up at Quark’s, just for old times sake – for Quark’s sake, really, and sat down at a table to have a couple of drinks. The table was at the back of the room, and though you could have a full view of the dabo table, you could also keep the curtains closed.
Terry left it partially open and from time to time, they glanced at the dabo girls and – wonderingly – at the novelty – boys. All were as scantily clad and Tom Riker laughed, recalling how much old Picard would hate that.
“I guess it’s just you and me then, buddy.”
“What? Oh, right. The others are just too dull. Settling down. Getting a house together. Or an apartment.”
“Suite, you mean. That place – how in the galaxy did Garak and Julian end up getting their greedy hands on something like that? Amazing.”
Quark had walked up to the table, without either one of his guests noticing.
“Ah, I’m glad you asked. As it happens, I had some small part in their lucky – transaction.”
“You got it for them? You sly old Ferengi.”
“Only doing my job. If there’s anything you two would like to acquire, I’ll be only too glad to be of assistance. A house? An apartment? A luxury suite? Just let me know. Or if you’re interested in a country estate – the sky’s the limit. My associates and I are in a position to offer you -”
“Hey, cut the sales pitch. If I want to buy something, I’ll let you know. For now, I just want a drink.”
“Very well. I have this exquisite local wine. A very good vintage -”
“That’s wasted on me. Bring me some beer. Terry?”
“Yeah. Beer for me too. Keep them coming. We want at least six each, right, Tom?”
“Excellent. And – how about companionship? Would you like a couple of my girls to come over? Or perhaps a girl and – a boy?”
Terry felt his cheeks heat up. Was Quark just covering all bases, or did he suspect? To his surprise, Tom Riker grinned widely.
“Not at the moment. We’ll let you know. In the meantime we just want those beers.”
Tom Riker chuckled. That sly old devil. It was almost as if he knew. Terry was looking a little glum, though. Was it that dig about a boy? Those weren’t boys. Young men was how Tom Riker would refer to them. No one was a day younger than 21 or 22, he was willing to bet and at least one was in his late twenties, but very good looking.
“Oh. Yeah. Sure.”
“How like Quark to keep trying. He never stops that gab. I wouldn’t be surprised if he keeps rehearsing those lines in bed at night. Still, you never know, maybe later. Those girls are really – airheads. Not really my type of woman. You should see my – brother’s fiancee. Deanna Troi. As you can imagine, I – was just as partial to her, but you know how it is. First come, first served. Though Deanna would have my head for even using that word in connection with her. And there was Enterprise’s Chief Medical Officer, Beverly Crusher. A very hot woman. What about you? Any girls worth mentioning?”
“Not really. I’m not the type to stick with one.”
“The one-night stand type of guy? Good for you. Settling down – I just couldn’t do it. It takes more stamina and commitment than is in me, I’m afraid. Right. Any guys?”
Terry stared, feeling as if someone had just tripped him.
“Well? That’s not so hard to answer, surely? You’re not into guys at all? Ok, suit yourself. It’s not really my scene, but there’s been one or two. Since the ‘big split’.”
“Since my brother and I went our separate ways. I figured, after all that, I might as well get as much out of life as I can. Who knows how long any of us has? So, I got a little more adventurous. There’s one thing to be said about guys. They never nag you about settling down. You should try it sometimes.”
“I – have. I had a big crush on one of my tutors at the Academy, but – he wasn’t into guys and anyway, I don’t think he dated cadets.”
“Oh, one of those crushes. Everyone gets them. Is that all?”
“Well – you know, a couple of times. Sometimes, there’s just not any suitable woman around.”
“That’s the spirit.”
Their beers arrived and they abandoned talking in favor of drinking. Much later, they felt a little less urgency in their eagerness to finish every last one of the delicious beers. Tom Riker leaned back in his seat and made himself comfortable. It was getting awfully late, though. If he wanted to be at work on time in the morning, he might as well get some sleep.
So he pushed himself up and tried to wriggle out from behind the table. Terry had chosen that particular moment to get up too, and they ended up colliding.
Tom cast a speculative gaze on Terry. Their eyes met and after a second’s consideration, Tom Riker let his lips brush Terry’s. After only another second or two, Terry returned the kiss, pressing his body up against Riker’s.
Ah. So his gamble had paid off. Ever since he’d noticed Terry’s reluctance to open up about his past, he’d been wondering, and tonight – when Terry had confided in him, the wondering had turned to a wish to find out for sure. Well, the guy was attractive enough, even if Tom Riker wasn’t really into someone so much like himself. Still, there was always a first time.
He pushed down the thought that this might actually be some subconscious incestuous longing he’d never noticed until now. Still, having a double, a twin, was tantalizing in a kinky sort of way. Oh, well, it wasn’t likely he’d ever run into his brother again, so he didn’t need to worry about that.
He didn’t think he’d end up in a relationship with Terry, but until he met someone he wanted to get involved with, Terry was as good as anyone else. It would be interesting and possibly, more rewarding than he had imagined earlier.
In any case, this was a great place to live. He might even stick around. The timing was perfect. With the research station on the lunar colony, the Starfleet base in the next system and the colonizers pouring in, this place really had potential. Maybe he’d finally found a place to call home.