|Primary Characters:||Ezri Dax, Doctor Julian Bashir, Garak, Captain Julian Bashir, Doctor Beverly Crusher
|Warning:||adult themes, violence
|Description:||Julian is abducted. Ezri tries to find him. She runs into a few old friends who agree to help her. Unfortunately, even though they find Julian, he’s in a bad way. Will he ever be the same?
When Julian Bashir woke up the morning after almost everyone he knew had left the station, he felt – disoriented. On the one hand, he now had Ezri, on the other – what else did he have? Everything he’d worked on for the past several years was if not over then at least completely changed. He would need to find his way again in life. Then again, he did have Ezri and he could feel her coming awake beside him.
She didn’t seem ready to get up just yet and he could easily be persuaded to stay in bed for a while longer. They didn’t say anything for close to half an hour. Then finally, Julian began to get restless and gently disentangled himself from Ezri and walked over to the replicator to make himself a cup of raktajino.
”Do you want one as well?”
”What? No. Not yet. Orange juice maybe.”
So Julian made her a glass of orange juice and brought it over to the bed. She sipped some of it, then appeared to grow more wide awake, sat up and finished the glass.
Julian reached out to take the glass and put it back in the replicator, along with his empty raktajino cup. When he turned back to face her, she was actually smiling.
”So what would you like to do today?”
She appeared to consider.
”I have no idea. Maybe it is a good idea for us to take some time off. We could go somewhere and have a vacation.”
For years, Julian had dreaded the idea of going away on a holiday. He loved his work and couldn’t even think of taking more time off than it took to throw some darts with Miles or try to date a woman or have a refreshing round of something or other in the holosuite. Being away for a week or more had always seemed so – boring. Now with Ezri, he could actually see the point.
”Yes. Where would you like to go? Back to Trill?”
Ezri made a face. No, there were far too many reasons not to want to go there. She’d go anywhere but there, in fact.
”Ok. What about somewhere closer, like Bajor?”
Ezri considered. She knew there were beautiful vistas down on Bajor and she had come to appreciate the people too, but somehow she didn’t think this was the right time to visit.
”I don’t think so.”
”Then how about Earth?”
”Maybe. Did you have anywhere in particular in mind?”
”No, not really. It was just a thought. If not Earth, then maybe Risa?”
He almost bit his tongue, when he caught sight of the look of distaste on Ezri’s face. No, not Risa. Unlike Jadzia, this Dax did not enjoy the delights of Risa and he’d do well to remember that in the future. Not that he was really missing anything about Risa. It was as if when he finally realized how he felt about Ezri, he’d lost all his taste for other – distractions.
”No, no. I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe we should try to go to Earth.”
Ezri realized that she didn’t really care where they went as long as they were somewhere private – although seeing some interesting sights would not be a problem. In fact, maybe they should book in some sightseeing, so they didn’t end up quarrelling, difficult though it was to imagine that she’d have a falling out with Julian.
”Yes. Let’s go to Earth and see the sights.”
”Excellent. I’ll see about the booking, shall I?”
”Yes, you do that. Thanks.”
Ezri yawned and stretched and with a sigh got out of bed to get a shower and change. She was wondering how long it would take to finish with all the formalities and be able to leave. Suddenly, she was filled with a longing for a new life. Most of all, she wanted to be the old Ezri, and though she felt guilty about this thought, she knew she’d never stopped regretting being joined, even though what was done was done and she knew there was no turning back. Failing that, she just wanted to leave everything behind, except Julian and start over. Maybe they shouldn’t just go on vacation, they should find a completely new place to settle, maybe even leave Star Fleet. Or, she amended, maybe she should. She didn’t see Julian leaving his beloved career behind. There was a trace of bitterness there, even though she knew she had nothing to complain about. Julian really loved her and was prepared to make a commitment, at last.
To her surprise and relief, Julian told her he’d managed to get reservations on a shuttle the next morning. They would travel to Deep Space 6 and from there they would board a ship heading back to Earth. As simple as that?
”Great. I’m really eager to get going.”
Julian watched her, smiling at her enthusiasm. Suddenly, he too realized he was eager to go. Maybe he had spent too many years out here. Time for something new.
They spent a good deal of the day packing, because Ezri had a strong feeling she would never see Deep Space Nine again. She couldn’t help smiling when she saw Julian carefully packing his teddy bear.
Before she had time to control her expression or turn away, Julian looked up and caught the smile.
”I just love you and that teddy bear.”
For an instant, Julian looked sheepish, then he too smiled.
”That’s good, because we love you too.”
And for a while, they abandoned packing in favor of a bit more cuddling.
When morning came, they had managed to pack everything they would bring on the shuttle and later the ship and had sent off the rest on a freighter that would reach Earth several weeks later.
Ezri stood silent and grumpy, leaning on Julian in the queue to board the shuttle. It was a small one, but there were still six other passengers. The journey would take ten days, so Ezri settled in to get some more sleep, her head leaning on Julian’s shoulder.
Two days later, by the time she’d grown a little used to the shuttle, suddenly, they were hailed by a strange ship with no signs of identification. Visually, it didn’t look immediately familiar, but Ezri had a bad feeling about it. Could it really be a – pirate ship – for want of a better word? She didn’t have long to wonder. The shuttle was hit by some sort of shockwave, then another. She could tell that the crew were trying to respond, by raising shields – too late – and by taking evasive maneuvers – also too late – she guessed. In her and Dax’s experience, it usually was. Then an extremely bright light dazzled her and everything went dark. She had a vague impression she stayed in the dark for quite a long time.
When she finally did come to, and stayed conscious, she became aware of the shuttle’s engines being off. After a few moments’ thought, she came to the conclusion that they were drifting dead in space. Looking around, she could tell that a few members of the crew were taking some kind of action, most likely trying to make repairs. Hopefully, they had already sent out a distress signal or were doing it right now.
She sat up and looked around, and was horrified to see that Julian was gone. The main room in the shuttle seemed to contain the rest of the passengers and a few members of the crew, but Julian was nowhere to be seen.
She got up and walked over to one of the crew members, one that looked the least busy.
”Excuse me, my companion is missing.”
The crew member turned to face her, looking harassed and concerned.
”Oh. Let me inform the captain. We just came to and are trying to assess the damage. I haven’t had time to look at the passengers.”
He pressed his communicator and informed the captain in as few words as possible. A minute or two later, an older woman walked in, looking grim, but unflustered.
”Are you the one who reported a passenger missing?”
”Yes. My companion, Lieutenant Julian Bashir. When I came to, I realized he was gone. You’re sure he’s not somewhere on this shuttle?”
A look of pity spread across the captain’s strong features.
”There’s no one but my crew and you passengers here. If he’s not in here, then – I’ll check the computer records.”
She did that, then turned to face Ezri again.
”There was a breach of our shields at 03.43 hours. Two intruders teleported in and three humanoids, including those two intruders, teleported out again, thirty seconds later. We have sent out a distress signal and we’ll be assisted by the USS Indefatigable in about eighteen hours. Until then we have repairs to do.”
”Have you scanned surrounding space and tried to trace the intruders’ ship?”
”We don’t have that many – facilities aboard this ship. There are no traces of the abductors, detectable by our sensors. I’m sorry. Until the USS Indefatigable gets here, there isn’t much else we can do. Please go and take your seat again or return to your quarters.”
Ezri wanted to protest, but knew that it wouldn’t make any difference. Besides, she, as Ezri, wasn’t used to drawing attention to herself, at least not privately. She had to be patient, even though she was terrified of what had happened to Julian.
She lay down on her bed, knowing it would be impossible to sleep when she didn’t know anything about where Julian was or what was going on. Was he even still alive? She closed her eyes and tried to calm herself down, using some of the techniques she’d learned as a counselor. Not surprisingly, they didn’t help much.
Eventually, the eighteen hours passed and they were hailed by the Federation ship and the passengers began to be evacuated. Soon Ezri found herself facing the commander of the larger ship.
”We will do what we can, Lieutenant. I have called it in to headquarters and contacted the nearest warship. Our scans have picked up a faint trail and we’re following up on it. If we find anything, you’ll be the first to know.”
If? Clearly they didn’t have much hope of finding Julian. Wasn’t he a high enough priority? With the war over, was everyone too intent on returning home and forgetting about all hostilities? Even if the war was over, there would still be minor clashes and attacks like these. Mercenaries, criminals – even terrorists.
Ezri decided to cancel her reservations. She wasn’t going to Earth as long as she didn’t know where Julian was or what his condition was. Until she found him or had definite proof he was dead, she wasn’t going anywhere, or at least not away from wherever he was.
It took four days until there was more news for her and when it came, it wasn’t encouraging.
The Cardassian group had left a message, claiming that they did not accept the end of the conflict and that they would continue fighting against the Federation in their own ways. It was clearly a splinter group or even just a terrorist group. Ezri didn’t waste any time trying to assess their potential standing with the authorities, all she was concerned with was finding those who had taken Julian and getting him back.
Within a few more hours, she had a set of coordinates, where the abductors’ ship had last been detected. She realized that as a counselor, she wasn’t in a position to demand a shuttlecraft or any other ship and though she could and would resign from her position if she had to, that didn’t get her much further.
The commander didn’t seem to understand or respect her wish to be a part of the search. He seemed to expect her to sit here waiting for reports like – some civilian. That was completely unacceptable. She would have to find a way to get out there and do something. Then she slumped down in her seat, remembering that no matter how many Klingon battle techniques Dax knew, her own body was no more capable of fighting even one Cardassian than she was, attacking their headquarters, guns blazing. Her strengths were not in warfare, at least not by herself.
In the past, she’d always had others around her, or at least Dax had. Ezri didn’t have anyone except Julian. Sure, she’d been friends with some of the others, including Alexander Rozhenko and possibly – his father. While they were working together, Commander Kira. But everyone was gone from Deep Space Nine and Ezri wasn’t sure where most of those people were, let alone had any faith in their willingness to come to her aid. No, she would have to do whatever it was she needed to do to get Julian back, on her own. There had to be something – with all her lifetimes of experiences – forgetting for the moment how little she liked to dwell on those memories.
Since she was on leave of absence, she didn’t need to do anything about her job. Time enough later. No one was expecting her anywhere. She could easily book a passage back to Deep Space Nine or to any Federation base or associated planet and so on, close to the abductors’ ship’s last known location.
Acting quickly, so no one would have time to think of anything to stop her, she managed to get a reservation on a ship leaving in the right direction the same day. She knew she could catch another ship, a freighter this time, to get even closer. What bothered her, was that even at the relatively high speeds the Federation ships were capable of, it would be several days until she was in the right area. Nothing to be done about that, but she missed the days when they could just get on more or less any ship she liked, leaving DS9 because of the war effort or science expeditions or – Now, most people were more interested in rebuilding their society than discovering anything new.
A few hours later, she boarded the ship and felt relief, when it took off without anyone calling her back. Strictly speaking they would have no real reason to hold her back, but since she was a lieutenant, junior grade, they could easily order her to stay, if for some reason they wanted to. Again, she considered leaving Star Fleet, but decided to wait. Maybe some time, during her search, she would need her status, although, in theory, Star Fleet should also help Federation civilians in need.
The journey was not nearly as comfortable as usual, but Ezri hardly noticed. She just couldn’t wait to get there, even if the enemy ship would be long gone. There had to be something she could do. She couldn’t leave that thought alone. To do more, it was necessary to get access to a ship. As a lieutenant, junior grade, and a counselor, she didn’t have access to any alternative source of income. There were no droves of bars of latinum in her pockets, figuratively speaking.
She racked her brains for someone from her Dax past who might owe her a favor and who was in the vicinity, but could think of no one. There was no getting away from the fact that Jadzia had ‘networked’ far more than she had. And everyone she knew was either gone or so far away they might as well have been. No, it would have to be her on her own. She made a face. Poor Julian. It occurred to her that she might contact Miles O’Brien, but immediately abandoned the idea. O’Brien might be Julian’s friend, but he had a family and besides, he was now far away too, just like everyone else she could think of.
Eventually, she found herself on the station closest to where the ship had last been detected and learned a little more. She might be able to tell in which direction it had gone, but to follow, she would need a ship. Fortunately, even on a station such as this – far smaller and more insignificant – there were those you could contact if you wanted something a bit out of the ordinary.
Not being Jadzia or Kira, it took her a lot longer to find her contact and even longer to come to an agreement. She knew he was making her pay more than one of the others would have too, but she couldn’t waste time on that. The important thing was that she now had the ship. It was old but had been kept in good repair and was actually quite good quality, as far as she could tell. It was frustrating to be held back by her own inadequacies. As she left, following the faint trail, she was terrified. What could she do to help Julian?
Then she got angry with herself. She had to find a way. And even if she wasn’t Dax, not completely, she knew she was no fool either. There had to be something she could think of and if she just stopped wasting time doubting herself.
She decided to just take one step at a time. The first part of her journey would take her as far as she could follow the other ship’s trail. Hopefully, she’d be able to think of something different, once she got to her destination.
Unfortunately, the trail went cold really soon. She checked the database and found that she was closest to a distant star system, called the Ixos system. It was, to be honest, a place she’d never heard of. Since she wasn’t getting anything more from the scans, she decided to enter the system. In any case, she would need to take on some supplies. She’d left in such a hurry she didn’t have all she would need for a lengthy trip.
When she landed on the landing field just outside the capital, she ordered more supplies, then took a transport into the city. Not that it was a very big city, yet. It seemed this was a rather new settlement and still not very densely populated.
To her amazement, she found a bar called Quark’s. That was a little too much of a coincidence, surely? Or was Quark a very common Ferengi name? Since she didn’t want to spend time searching for a good restaurant, she decided to go to Quark’s even if the Quark’s she knew wasn’t really her thing.
As soon as she walked in, she recognized Quark, and knew that it really was the bar owner she remembered from DS9. He recognized her too and walked over, an ingratiating smile on his face.
”Well, well. Liuetenant Dax. Small galaxy isn’t it?”
”Yes, so it seems.”
”Can I get you a table? A meal? A dabo boy?”
”A table, a meal, hold the dabo boy.”
She thought she recognized the look on Quark’s face as amusement. He’d known she wouldn’t want the dabo boy.
”And what can I get you? Gagh?”
There it was again, that Ferengi humor. Unlike Jadzia, she’d never enjoyed it much and now it was just a little too much, under the circumstances.
”Just something simple. Soup. Mineral water. A little bread.”
He seemed to read something into her tone and held back any further jokes and just bowed ingratiatingly and left.
A while later, another server came with the soup, bread and water. Quark had probably hoped she would order something more expensive, but she couldn’t take responsibility for his hopes. All she needed was a little nutrition and – not something she would be likely to find here – some help.
To her enormous surprise, a seemingly familiar figure just walked in, caught sight of her and approached her table.
She still didn’t like hearing that name, but knew she couldn’t renounce it, even though she would do almost anything to hear the name Tigan mentioned again, and that all this – her joining and Julian’s abduction – had never happened.
”Yes. Garak? What a coincidence.”
”You could say that. What brings you all the way out here, lieutenant Dax?”
”Please, call me Ezri.”
That took care of that little problem anyway, if nothing else.
She hesitated. Garak was the last person she wanted to confide in, but she also knew that they shared something – a love for Julian. No one had told her about it, least of all Julian, but it was plain to see that Garak had loved Julian for a long time, and just maybe that meant he would be willing to advise her.
”Would you like to join me?”
Garak glanced around the room, hesitated for a moment, then nodded and sat down.
”Thank you. I’m meeting someone later on, but I’d love to join you first.”
Another waiter approached the table and Garak ordered a glass of some Cardassian beverage.
When they were alone again, Ezri took a deep breath and began.
”The reason I have come here is that Julian has been abducted.”
Garak’s eyes widened.
”Abducted? By whom?”
”A group of Cardassians.”
She mentioned their name and she could tell Garak wasn’t surprised, but his face took on a grave expression. That had to mean this was worse than she’d even imagined.
”I see. Can you tell me anything more?”
”I followed their trail and lost it not far from here.”
”Oh. I see.”
”And now I don’t really know what to do. Everyone has left DS9 and I don’t know anyone to ask for help. I got this ship and – that’s really all I’ve been able to do. You know I’m just a counselor, though of course I do have my memories from Dax. I just need to find these people and at the moment I’m out of ideas.”
”Ah. Well, as it happens, I might be able to offer some humble advice and a bit of assistance.”
”As you know, I won’t be able to pay you -”
”Please. Not another word about payment. Not between friends. Besides, this may be indelicate, but you must know how I felt about Julian, for many years.”
”Yes, I did notice.”
”You must realize my dear, that you have nothing to fear on that account. Julian – never returned my feelings – not like that.”
”I know. Well, I really appreciate your offer. If there’s anything you can do.”
”We shall see. The ship is a good asset. I take it it’s large enough to take a few more people?”
”Yes, of course. It’s old, but as far as I know, it’s quite good.”
”Excellent. Now, I think my – companion – is going to be here really soon. My dear, you must brace yourself. This friend of mine is – very much like your Julian, but believe me, he isn’t and when you get to know him better, you’ll see that it’s mostly a matter of physical resemblance, no more. The personality is – quite different.”
Ezri had no idea who Garak might be talking about, but she had a feeling he might have wanted to get involved with someone who reminded him of Julian. It was obvious that it was his type.
”Ah. There you are.”
Ezri’s face lost all trace of color. What was this? A clone? Surely this wasn’t a cruel joke dreamed up by Julian and Garak together?
”My dear, let me introduce Captain Julian Bashir from the – uh – mirror universe.”
It took Ezri a while to correctly interpret the introduction. Another Julian. From another universe?
”Julian – this is Ezri Dax, formerly of Deep Space Nine, or as you and I once knew it, Terok Nor.”
”Dax? Ah. Then we’re almost – friends. I was involved with my universe’s Jadzia and when she tragically died, Razlore Dax. Treacherous little rat. Stabbed me in the back. Figuratively speaking of course.”
Ezri couldn’t think of anything to say. How odd that the other Daxs had ended up with a version of Julian too. She heard Garak explaining to Julian about what had happened to her Julian.
”I’m so sorry, Ezri. But don’t worry, Garak and I will do our best to help you get him back. It will be good to see my double again.”
She had no idea what this Julian might be capable of, but she suspected that Garak was capable of far more than she could imagine. Hopefully, that would be enough.
”There are many other former Star Fleet officers here on Ixos, but I think we should keep this operation to a minimum. If we need more help we can always come back and ask.”
”Perhaps we should meet later at the landing field? Ezri has a ship there. We could bring a little – uh – equipment and I will see if I can find out a bit more about this group. Shall we say around 11 tonight, my dear?”
”Ok, thanks. I’ll get back to the ship and wait for you.”
A few hours later, Garak and the other Julian joined her. They had brought some equipment, but she couldn’t see what it was and at the moment, that suited her fine. As long as they had some idea of where to go and what to do, she was grateful, but she didn’t need to know all the details.
The other Julian looked around and seemed to approve.
”Better than I expected. This will do nicely.”
”My dear, I think I know where to go first.”
Without asking her permission the other Julian took the controls and she let him. Something about his demeanor told her that he knew his way around a ship. Garak had referred to him as ‘Captain’. At the moment, she was going to trust them, even if she knew that Garak normally was anything but reliable, she had a hunch that maybe this time she really could trust him.
”Let’s see what this old thing can do.”
The other Julian sounded quite cheerful. He looked as if he was enjoying himself.
Ezri walked over to a seat by the wall and sat down. Garak stood over the other Julian following his operations with what almost looked like professional interest. He probably sensed that she wasn’t going to want to chat while she was still so worried about Julian.
To her surprise, they only traveled for a few hours, before the other Julian turned off the engines and moved away from his position by the control panel.
Garak turned to face Ezri.
”We’re not really there yet, but I need to – consult my sources now – while Julian is checking the data. Don’t worry, my dear. We’re perfectly safe here.”
The other Julian faced her too.
”Hey, did you know this old thing even has quite good shields? While I keep an eye on the data, could you keep a lookout in case we get company?”
Ezri nodded. She didn’t like this Julian’s way of undressing her with his eyes. It was something she wasn’t expecting, since he was so much like her Julian, to look at. On the other hand, she sensed no real malice behind his reaction, quite the opposite in fact. He seemed to have a glint of humor in his eyes, as if he knew she resented his reaction and was mostly faking it to tease her.
Whatever they did, it didn’t take them long and in that time, nothing out of the ordinary occurred. The other Julian took up his position at the controls and she returned to her seat by the wall. Garak followed her.
”I think we have the coordinates now.”
Why didn’t he look more hopeful? Where had these people taken Julian?
”Yes? So what are we going to do?”
”We – Julian and I – were discussing our next move and – though it might be a good idea to return for reinforcements – I think we should focus on stealth rather than strength. So we’ll try to get as close to their hiding place as possible – it’s mostly just a system without inhabitable planets that’s – a bit of a junkyard at the moment. Most of the ships drifting there are just wrecks and scrap, but some – We should be able to get there with a bit of – trickery. Fortunately, that’s something my dear Julian is very good at.”
You too, Ezri thought. You’re probably the expert, no matter what this Julian is capable of.
”And since these people are Cardassians – I know a thing or two about their access codes.”
Garak’s face softened a bit and he even put his hand on one of hers, squeezing it, as if reassuringly.
”I think he’s here and I’m also quite sure we’ll be able to find him and – with a bit of luck – get him out of there. But you must prepare yourself for – I believe they wanted him because of his knowledge. They may have – Still, we must hope for the best.”
”Are you saying he might be dead?”
”Now, let’s not fear the absolute worst. I was more concerned with – their methods of coercion.”
Ezri didn’t dare to ask him if he was referring to torture. She knew there were truth serums and other methods of extracting information. Unfortunately, she also knew that far from all of them were safe. Julian might be physically fine and his mind in shreds, by the time they found him. But like Garak had said, they mustn’t fear the worst. They were getting close now, she should focus on that.
Again, they didn’t have too far to go. Less than twelve hours. Ezri even dozed off for a short while, but woke up not feeling the least bit refreshed. When she began to show signs of life again, Garak returned to her.
”My dear, I think you should try to eat something. Have a drink. How long has it been since the last time? It was at Quark’s, wasn’t it? Go on. You won’t help Julian if you don’t take care of yourself.”
She got up, not feeling up to arguing and anyway, knowing that Garak was right. By the time she had finished, Julian called their attention again.
”We’re getting close now. I’m going to try to get even closer, but – I’m going to need to use a more – roundabout – way now. Nothing to worry about even if – it may look a bit unorthodox. Hold on now.”
Garak immediately grabbed on to a railing on the wall, and Ezri hastily did the same. It wasn’t a moment too soon. Julian put the ship through a series of maneuvers that had them more or less rolling around. At one time, they were almost lying on their sides. The ship rocked from side to side, in what Ezri thought might be gravitational waves from something in the system, that clearly wasn’t an ordinary planet. A vortex of some kind? In any case, some special conditions, unique to this part of space? It seemed to go on for almost as long as their entire journey, but Ezri knew she was just imagining that. In reality it was probably less than an hour.
Finally, Julian turned off the engines, leaving the ship concealed behind a natural planetary object too small to be a planet – an asteroid? The remains of a bigger planet that had been destroyed at some point? In any case, there were also pieces of ships and perhaps space stations. Had someone brought all this junk here to dump it? That had to be against Federation law, surely? Though Ezri had an idea that Federation ships rarely came here, judging by the look of her surroundings outside the viewscreen.
”All done. I suggest you stay here on the ship, Ezri and Garak and I -”
”No. I’m coming with you.”
Julian looked at Garak, who then turned back to face Ezri, then shook his head.
”I think we should all go. Ezri won’t want to stay here on her own. Remember, my dear, be strong. We’ll get him back. His life signs are strong, so don’t worry. Whatever else -”
He didn’t finish the sentence, but Ezri could easily imagine what he was hinting at. Did he know these people? She knew there would be no point asking.
”Ok. Let’s go.”
They teleported over, using some kind of method she’d never heard about. Normally, she’d have been terrified of not arriving at all, or rather arriving in a million little pieces. This time, she couldn’t focus on that. All she could think about was Julian and what shape he would be in.
The other Julian spoke close to Garak’s ear, then did the same with Ezri.
”We can’t teleport anywhere near the inner parts of this place. The engines and – other equipment – make that possible, so we’re on foot from here. Also, we need to get back here or – somewhere equally close to the hull.”
”So what is this? A ship?”
”A ship, a space station – whatever it is, it’s man-made, built from parts from all these wrecks. Rather clever, actually. I wonder if the Cardassians built it all themselves or if someone else was here first.”
Garak merely smiled and ignored the unspoken question. Clearly the other Julian thought Garak might know something and Ezri didn’t think it was too unlikely, but he would never tell them, so it was no use asking.
They began walking. There didn’t appear to be too many life signs around. Suddenly, Ezri needed to know. What if they were walking into an ambush?
”How many are there?”
”Right now – I make it – ten Cardassians.”
Ten? How where they going to manage if they were attacked? Both Garak and the other Julian were probably formidable opponents in a fight, but she knew she wasn’t, even if she wasn’t quite as helpless as she looked. Her Dax memories had taught her a thing or two about hand to hand combat. Not that she was looking forward to using those memories. It would be a lot better if she didn’t.
Garak kept his eyes on his tricorder – Ezri had never seen anything quite like it. It didn’t look Cardassian, but neither was it like the Federations builds. The other Julian kept his eyes on just about anything and even had time to study her body once in a while. She glared back at him, but he only smiled, not looking the least contrite.
”Don’t worry, you’re far too cute for me. I like – more of a challenge.”
Ezri opened her mouth for a scathing comeback, but closed it again, because she couldn’t think of one that didn’t fall completely flat or sounded like she was encouraging his flirting. If he was involved with Garak, which seemed more than likely, then why was he so eager to look at everyone else? Then again, she knew she was far too – conventional. At least Ezri was. She knew some of her earlier hosts were more likely to be understanding.
Garak put out a hand and stopped her in her tracks, then put a finger to his lips. He glanced down at the tricorder, then nodded, gesturing for her to enter the room before him. After a moment’s hesitation, she did. Garak followed her inside, but she sensed that the other Julian was staying outside, no doubt to keep watch.
Over by the wall there was a bundle of fabrics, a sort of makeshift bed and on that bed – was her Julian. He didn’t seem to recognize her and he was making low sounds of distress, cowering back against the wall, looking terrified.
A whimper came from somewhere else, much closer to her, and she realized she was the one making it. She pressed her lips closed. Now was not the time to fall apart.
She took a deep breath and moved a bit closer. Julian still didn’t seem to know her.
”Julian. It’s me. Ezri. It’s alright. We’ve come to get you away from here. Don’t -”
It was no use. He seemed to be too badly shocked or – drugged? – to really go into hysterics, but he was clearly terrified and the look in his eyes pained her. What had these Cardassians done to him?
Now Garak moved forward so silently, that Ezri at first didn’t even notice, and bent over the bed.
”Julian. It’s Garak. Ezri is right. We’re just here to take you away. No one’s going to hurt you.”
Something in Garak’s voice seemed to make Julian fall silent and Ezri caught herself feeling jealous. He recognizes Garak because he’s known him for far longer than he’s known me, then realized that Julian didn’t seem to recognize the Cardassian at all, he was just even more terrified. The low whimpers and shallow breathing made that clear. Something twisted inside her. Would he ever be alright again? Was he going to be like this forever? She ought to know this, it was her profession, after all – being a counselor. But at the moment she felt far from professional. At this moment, she was just the lover of the victim of – whatever it was that had happened to Julian in the few days since his abduction.
Garak took a few steps closer, then bent down and picked up the unresisting Julian and lifted him off the floor.
Ezri reacted instinctively to Julian’s terror.
”My dear, it will have to be me or Julian.”
She wanted to contradict him, but she knew she was being stupid. Of course she wasn’t going to be able to carry Julian. So she forced herself to look away from Julian’s pitiful state and walk back out into the corridor.
The other Julian was looking nervous and impatient, but didn’t say anything, just moved ahead of them back towards the spot where they’d teleported in. There was a slight noise coming from somewhere behind them. Ezri glanced back. It wasn’t Garak or her Julian, it had to come from further back.
The other Julian gestured for them to move ahead of him and get back to their original arrival point.
He kept his gaze fixed on something behind them. Ezri couldn’t resist looking in the same direction but so far she couldn’t see anything. Then a flash of black showed up from behind the nearest bulkhead and she knew they were running out of time.
The other Julian’s words didn’t come as a surprise. He could probably handle himself in a fight, but leaving someone behind went against everything she stood for. On the other hand, if they wanted to get her Julian out, they had to move fast, so she didn’t protest, just initiated the transport. They arrived on the ship safely, but she knew they would have to raise shields now, and that meant they couldn’t teleport the other Julian out.
Garak put her Julian down on the floor and she rushed over to him to check on any potential injuries, but couldn’t see any. She wished she’d had a medical tricorder, but as a counselor, she didn’t use them and wouldn’t have been issued one. Besides, at the moment, she should probably join Garak at the controls. He seemed to be handling them every bit as skillfully as the other Julian, and for that matter, her own Julian. Come to think of it, she wasn’t too bad herself, for a counselor, but not in any kind of battle.
”What are we going to do?”
”At the moment, I think all we can do is take evasive action, but -”
Before he finished the sentence, the ship was shaken by some sort of impact. The shields held, and Garak moved them back a bit, and into better shelter behind the asteroid. At the moment, the others couldn’t hit them, so Garak raised the shields and seconds later, the other Julian was there. He was bleeding from a few cuts and bruises but didn’t look too badly injured, and in fact, he looked more upbeat than anything else.
”You should see the other guys. Come on, let’s get out of here before -”
Garak moved aside and let his Julian take over.
”And if you have anything up your sleeve, now’s the time to use it.”
Garak didn’t comment, but he bent over the controls and was pulling up some data that Ezri couldn’t see. A moment later, she realized it was all in Cardassian. So clearly he did have something up his sleeve, maybe he always did.
They were buffeted by some kind of weapons fire, but the shields still held, even though they were down to sixty percent by now. Then they were out of there and leaving at warp two. That seemed to be enough, so these people clearly didn’t have access to equipment that was too superior to the Federation’s.
When he seemed satisfied they were safely on their way, the other Julian bent over her Julian and took a look, then shook his head slightly.
”Tough luck, buddy.”
Then he looked up and faced Ezri.
”I – have something that might help him a little. Temporarily.”
Garak’s gaze passed over him, as if considering, then seemed to relax.
”It’s not exactly Federation medication, but he’ll feel better for a time. Should I give it to him?”
Ezri was wondering what it was, but not for long. The way her Julian was suffering – she just couldn’t bear it. She knew what the other Julian was offering must be some sort of illegal drug, but at this time, she didn’t have anything better to offer, so she nodded, reluctantly. As a counselor, she really disliked all those illegal drugs floating around. So many of her patients had suffered irreparable damage from using them.
”Don’t worry, it won’t harm him.”
He placed a small patch on Julian’s skin, on the side of the neck, then hastily withdrew. It only took a moment, then Julian’s eyes fell shut and his body stopped shaking. He looked as if he was deeply asleep.
Even worried about the effects of the drugs, Ezri was relieved to see him at peace, though she knew it wouldn’t last.
Despite herself, she made eye contact with the other Julian and nodded.
”Don’t mention it. Happy to be of help.”
”Julian, my dear Ezri, I suggest we return to Ixos.”
Ezri didn’t have any other suggestions and it seemed the other Julian concurred. So they settled in to wait.
”How long will it take for Julian to regain consciousness?”
”A few hours. I have more so we can probably keep him out until we get back to Dr Crusher.”
Julian’s eyes underwent another of those lecherous transformations and Ezri was beginning to regret asking.
”Ah, the lovely Beverly Crusher. She joined us a few months back. Lucky Tom Riker. No offense, Garak.”
Garak cast him a dry glance.
”Not bad looking either, if you ask me, or Garak. I’m sure you’d like him too. He has an interesting background. Just like me he has a double, but he was created right here in your universe. His double worked on the Enterprise under Captain Picard for years. Dr Crusher too. Literally under Captain Picard, in her case, or so I’ve heard.”
Ezri rolled her eyes. She wasn’t interested in the gossip from Ixos. Apparently Dr Crusher was a medical doctor and that was a relief. Between them, hopefully, they might be able to help Julian.
”And she’s a medical doctor?”
”Exactly. A highly qualified one too, apparently.”
”Dr Crusher will do her best for Julian, my dear.”
A few times the other Julian bent over her Julian and applied another patch to his skin. He didn’t fully come to at any single time until they arrived. This time the other Julian picked him up and carried him outside. Garak didn’t object.
”A little more workout there wouldn’t go amiss, buddy.”
By now, Ezri knew enough about the other Julian not to let herself get riled by him. Also, she sensed he might be trying to relieve some of the tension, which was good of him. He looked harder than her Julian, but that might just be her imagination.
They had called ahead to ask Dr Crusher out to the landing field to meet them. She had brought a bag of medical supplies so Garak must have had time to update her.
”Hello. I’m Beverly Crusher. I’m sorry we’re meeting under these circumstances.”
”Thank you. I’m Ezri – Dax.”
Dr Crusher nodded amiably then turned her focus onto her patient.
”At first glance I can’t see any physical injuries. I will have to take samples and analyse them when I get back. No obvious injections or puncture wounds. You say he was traumatised?”
Dr Crusher’s pleasant features hardened but she didn’t comment.
”I can’t do anything more out here. We’ll have to get him back to the city. My place would be easier. I’m working on a medical research project so I don’t have an actual surgery, but I can examine him my place.”
They traveled back to the city, mostly in silence. Ezri was filled with gloomy thoughts. She almost but not quite asked Dr Crusher what Julian’s chances of recovery were, but realized she wasn’t ready yet. What if this was the way he would always be?
At Dr Crusher’s place, they met who Ezri took to be Tom Riker. His first words confirmed her guess.
”Hello. I’m Tom Riker.”
”Ezri – Dax. Please, call me Ezri.”
”Nice to meet you, Ezri. You must call me Tom.”
”There seems to be many former Star Fleet officers out here.”
”Yes. Quite a few. I’m not sure why the others left, but I’ve always been a bit of a rolling stone – well, since the split. I suppose someone told you about -”
”Yes, you have a double, but no one went into any details.”
While she was talking, her eyes never left Julian’s prone form and Dr Crusher’s – Beverly’s – hands working on him. She was too far away to be able to read the display on the medical tricorder.
”Suffice it to say it was a transporter accident. We split fifty-fifty, I’m told, and the transporter filled in the rest somehow. I was left alone for years in a rather lonely location. Never thought I’d see anyone again. And the whole time I thought I was the original – Will Riker. He was Captain Picard’s First Officer, by the way. So naturally I thought I was too. Then it turns out they got their version and left, thinking there was no one else down there. But they came back and – there I was. So I took my double’s second name and – well, you can guess the rest.”
”That’s very interesting. I didn’t realize that sort of thing could happen.”
”Yes, it makes you wonder, doesn’t it? How many doubles of yourself you leave behind every time you transport. Of course, if you don’t leave and never come back, you’ll find out sooner or later.”
Ezri made a face. She might not mind having a twin, but – being left behind like that definitely wasn’t pleasant to contemplate.
In the meantime, Garak and Julian stayed in the background and while Beverly continued working on Ezri’s Julian, Ezri did the same. She sat down and waited. The three men would occasionally try to make conversation and she would reply politely, her mind still mostly on Julian.
Eventually, Beverly backed away from her patient, then turned to face Ezri.
”I have given him a strong sedative. He’ll be out for a long time and when he begins to come to, I can give him more. From what I can tell, they must have – tortured him somehow. You’re a counselor?”
Ezri felt as if she was just a student again, her relatively few years of experience – meaningless. Besides –
”I realize that you as his – partner – shouldn’t be the one to treat him – in fact I strongly advice you against it, however, that should mean that you know who to contact.”
Ezri let out the breath she had held inside for so long. Of course. Why hadn’t she thought of that? Someone else. Someone she trusted. Her thoughts turned to her professor at the Academy, but knew that someone who had been teaching for twenty or thirty years probably lacked practice. She knew of several different colleagues who were far more experienced than she was, but from personal experience, she only knew one or two people that she would trust in this case.
”My double’s wife, Deanna Troi, is a counselor. Do you think she might -”
Beverly seemed to consider.
”Yes, of course. Deanna is a close friend of mine and an excellent counselor, but would it be fair to call her and Will out here? They’ve only been married for a few months.”
”It’s alright. I know some people. If your friend doesn’t have time, I’m sure I could ask one of them.”
”In any case, I think it’s too soon to start any therapy or treatment just yet. Most of all, he needs rest. He was a bit dehydrated and they probably hadn’t fed him in the time they’d been holding him, so I injected him with a bit of nutrition. By the time he’s – more stable – he should be alright from that point of view. There’s nothing more to be done for now. Do you have anywhere to stay, Ezri?”
”On the ship -”
”Oh, no. You’re welcome to stay here with me. Tom doesn’t live here – it just seems that way, because he’s here so much and in any case he doesn’t stay in the guest room.”
”You’d be more than welcome at our place.”
That was the other Julian. She recognized his tone.
”Thank you, but -”
”We have plenty of room, but I think Ezri might prefer to -”
”Thank you for the offer, Garak. I appreciate it.”
”I’ll go and make up my guest room, if you’re -”
”Yes, thank you. It would be nice not to have to go too far.”
”We’re a few blocks away. I hope we’ll be able to invite you and your Julian to dinner some time.”
”Thank you. If Julian -”
Now her voice began to break, so she bit her lip and broke off. Furiously, she rubbed at her eyes, not wanting any of her new friends to see her falling apart like this. It was just – seeing Julian like that and – What a fool she was. A counselor with several years of experience – or at least a few. And then there were all her Dax memories –
Suddenly, she realized she was exhausted. If Julian really wouldn’t be coming round for hours, she might as well try to get a little rest. She followed Beverly into the guest room that seemed to be in order already.
”Can I get you anything? Something to eat or drink?”
”No, thank you. I’ll just try to -”
”If you have any trouble, I have something I can give you.”
Prescription Federation drugs didn’t scare her even if some shred of professional pride made her feel ashamed of herself for resorting to drugs, when she knew so many meditation techniques and other methods for – But she knew she wasn’t just a counselor right now. Her feelings for Julian made that irrelevant. So she just stretched out on the bed and closed her eyes. Strangely enough, she did manage to fall asleep for a while, she wasn’t sure for how long.
When she woke up, she went to check on Julian. Nothing appeared to have changed. He still looked as if he was deeply asleep, but someone – she was hoping it was Beverly, had changed his clothes and made him more comfortable, even washed his hair. With his eyes closed like that and his body relaxed it was almost as if nothing – She blinked to clear her sight.
”There you are. Can I get you something for breakfast?”
”I suppose so.”
Ezri didn’t feel enthusiastic about eating anything, but accepted a glass of orange juice, which she sipped under the watchful gaze of Beverly. She looked so nice, but Ezri suspected she could also be quite strict with her patients. Better not become one of them.
”I have the results of the tests I ran on Julian last night. There’s nothing conclusive. Only very faint traces of a drug they might have used to get him away. How did they get him, by the way?”
”We were on a shuttle – bigger than ordinary shuttlecraft – and suddenly we were dazzled by a bright light, blacked out and – when we all came to, Julian was gone.”
”I see. Well that wouldn’t have lasted long, I’m guessing, so that’s probably why they drugged him on the way to wherever they were holding him. They don’t seem to have used any mind-altering drugs, which of course is good. Unfortunately, it also means they must have used – other means of – persuasion. Garak mentioned that he thinks they took Julian to get access to his knowledge.”
And that had to mean that they’d been physically torturing him, if the doctor’s guess was any good. In her short time as a counselor she had had patients who had suffered that kind of abuse and knew how poor their prognosis was. Before she broke down and began to cry, she hastily thought of who she would contact to come and work with Julian.
Out of the three people she had in mind, she primarily had hopes for one of them. The other two were most likely too busy to come all this way, but if her first choice would be unavailable, she’d do her best to persuade one of the others.
A few days later, Beverly warned her that she was going to wake Julian up and see if they would be able to talk to him. In the meantime, Ezri had contacted one of her colleagues and he had promised to come as soon as possible. It would still be several days, even more than a week, before he would get here, but it was the best she could hope for.
Ezri noticed that she and Beverly were the only ones present, except for Julian. The others had left some time while she was asleep. At the moment, she didn’t have any energy left to focus on them. All that counted was Julian.
”Ok. I’m ready.”
Julian was moving restlessly on his bed, but his eyes were still closed.
”He’ll be coming out of it any time, but I’ll give him this just in case. Don’t worry, though. If – I have to – I can put him under again right away.”
Ezri tensely watched as Beverly gave Julian whatever it was with a hypospray. For a while, nothing happened, then Julian’s eyes shot open and he cowered back on the bed, as if trying to get away from Beverly.
”Julian? I’m Doctor Beverly Crusher. There’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re perfectly safe here.”
Her calming words didn’t seem to have much effect on him, and he still looked just as terrified as before, though Ezri thought she could detect a glint of consciousness in his eyes now.
”Julian – it’s me. Ezri. Beverly’s right. You’re safe here. Please. You remember me, don’t you?”
Again, she thought she saw a glint of recognition in his eyes, but he was just too traumatized to allow anyone near him. She felt her eyes sting with hot tears, that she fought not to shed. What had they done to him?
”Julian. Please -”
She rubbed the back of her hand against her cheeks, blinking to clear her sight. Normally, she could act more professionally than this.
Now Beverly was speaking to Julian again, her voice level and serious, like one colleague to another.
”Julian – Doctor Julian Bashir. Try to focus. Do you remember what happened? What did they do to you? It’s important that you tell me, because I might be able to help you.”
It was as if the mention of his profession had triggered something inside Julian, because he grew completely still, staring at Beverly, then, if that wasn’t Ezri’s imagination, his eyes moved towards her, Ezri, and he seemed to know her. Still, he didn’t say anything, just watched them.
”Julian, please. You’re scaring me. Whatever they did, Beverly will help you. We’re here to help you. Try to focus.”
”I – don’t – remember – anything.”
”Ok. It’s ok. You don’t have to. Just rest. You’re safe here. We’re far away from – Are you in pain?”
She didn’t mean emotional pain, because she could see that in his eyes. Those lovely brown eyes that – No. She clenched her fists to stop herself from falling apart again. That wouldn’t help Julian.
Julian looked down on his body, staring at his hands, because there was very little else visible under the sheet that was covering him. It was as if he was trying to assess whatever damage there was. Was that a good sign? He was beginning to function again as a doctor?
”Which is it?”
Beverly sounded admirably calm, but then it wasn’t her lover who was hurting. Though Ezri suspected Beverly would be far more capable of putting her own feelings aside.
”Good. Would you like some more -”
Beverly mentioned a drug, but the name escaped Ezri’s notice, as she was staring at Julian to try to determine how he was, if there was a chance of recovery.
He was staring at Beverly as if he couldn’t understand her. Ezri moved closer, very slowly and cautiously, not to spook him. Julian didn’t cower back, but he remained tense, watching her so closely, Ezri lost her momentum and stopped.
”Julian – I was so worried about you. Are you sure you’re not in pain?”
”No. I mean – yes, I’m sure.”
She tried moving a little closer and when he didn’t shy away from her, she kneeled on the floor beside the bed, extremely slowly, making sure she didn’t make any sudden moves. Not wanting to provoke any more panic attacks or cause him any more pain, she remained there, frozen.
His eyes were filled with such pain, Ezri was choking. Why did they have to take him from her? They’d only had a few weeks. A few short weeks of happiness. It wasn’t fair. He’d done so much for so many people, before and during the war and – now – he was the one suffering. Suddenly, she hated those Cardassians in a very un-Ezri-like way.
”Yes. I’m here. Shouldn’t you let Beverly give you some of that stuff again? To make you feel better?”
”It’s not – won’t make me feel better. Just – black out. It will all be the same when I wake up.”
”Are you sure you don’t remember anything?”
He didn’t reply, just looked down, hiding his gaze from her. She knew he was lying, didn’t even need her experience from her time as a counselor. Glancing up at Beverly, she sought her permission to go ahead or a warning to back off. Beverly didn’t react, so Ezri tried again.
”Please. Tell us what you know. What they did. It’s important.”
Julian stared down at his hands, as if struggling with himself, then he looked up, a fierce look in his eyes.
”Ok. You want to know what I remember? I remember me telling them everything I know. Do you understand what that means?”
”I understand that the war is over. Whatever you knew, how valid is that information anymore? And anyway, what did you know that was so important? Where the Defiant was stationed? It’s not even there anymore.”
”I – told them what I know. Me – with my supposedly superior intellect. Cracked like an egg and told them whatever they wanted to know, over and over again. Begged them to stop.”
”Yes, Julian. It was their doing, not yours.”
She glanced up at Beverly, who was now kneeling too.
”Julian – Doctor Bashir. Tell me what they did. What equipment they used. If I know that, I’ll be able to device a treatment for you. You know what I need to know. Did you recognize any of their – equipment? Was there any drug involved? Did they have a telepath?”
”Telepath? No. Where would the Cardassians get one? I saw something that looked a little like a medical tricorder except – not like ours. Not like the Cardassian version either. Something else. Then – a rod of some kind. It felt like – electric shocks, except they couldn’t have been, because look -”
He pulled his arms out from under the covers and held them up for her inspection. No marks anywhere. He struggled to sit up and Ezri didn’t know if she was allowed to touch him or not, so she just sat there, watching. Pulling the shirt he was wearing over his head, he pointed to his chest and abdomen.
”I know. A medical tricorder? That’s used to caused pain, not heal. And the rod – it’s a neuro-stimulator. Except it’s not stimulating re-growth of damaged nerves, it’s simulating pain instead. Why am I not surprised? Julian, you know as well as I do, that the Cardassians invented this kind of thing. The Romulans know a thing or two about torture as well, but I’d say the Cardassians are the real masters.”
Julian laughed hollowly.
”Yes. Not that I’ve had the honor of trying the Romulan kind – yet, but maybe there’s time enough for that. You’re right. I used to know what they’re called – those rods. Even the Cardassian name. But my head – They used it up here too. Made me feel as if my teeth were falling out. Except they’re not, are they?”
”No, they’re all there as far as I could tell when I examined you.”
”You’ve examined me? What did you find?”
What was he so worried about now? A new note of terror had crept into his voice.
”Nothing. Elevated levels of cortisol, stress hormone.”
Julian was staring past Ezri at Beverly or maybe at something beyond her too, something only she could see.
”Are you sure? They didn’t -”
Ezri had the impression Beverly winced and almost cowered back herself. What? What weren’t they telling her?
”What? What are you talking about?”
”Julian – they didn’t. If you think about it, you know they didn’t.”
”They said – they were going to – Told me how much they liked Terrans – and our smooth skin.”
”Julian, listen to me: no. Whatever they said, they never did it. You know they didn’t. I didn’t find any signs of that.”
”What if they – used a medical tricorder afterwards?”
Beverly didn’t reply. Ezri felt she was going insane. She was missing something, something important. If only she wasn’t feeling this slow and stupid.
At the moment, the two others ignored her and went on with their conversation.
”Julian, I have found no signs of any sexual assault. And you know you would have been dead by the time Ezri and Garak and the other Julian found you if there had been. They didn’t use a medical tricorder to heal you either. It always leaves traces on the cellular level.”
Julian fell back down onto the bed, exhausted.
”Yes, and so are you, if you just calm down. I promise. There’s nothing. Except the cortisol and I gave you something for that.”
Ezri’s sluggish mind tried to piece together the information. Julian had been afraid of being sexual assaulted and Beverly had said – he hadn’t been but if he had he would have been dead. Suddenly, something she’d heard at the Academy filtered through to her and she almost threw up. No, not Julian. Not that. Though clearly it hadn’t happened. He was safe, as safe as he could be after that torture.
Ezri forgot herself and reached out and touched Julian’s hands lightly. She wanted to pull him into her arms and hold him, but she knew she couldn’t do that. To her relief, he merely looked up, then took her hand between his two and held it.
”Thank you. For coming for me. Did you say – Garak was with you?”
”Yes. And – your double from the mirror universe too. Your exact copy. Except – he’s nothing like you really. Just looks like you.”
”Oh. Garak is here? I didn’t know.”
”I think that’s enough for now, Julian, Ezri. If you don’t want any more drugs, Julian, just lie down and try to rest. You’re safe here.”
”Where – is here?”
”Ixos? Oh. I think I’ve heard of that.”
”Try to rest now. Ezri and I will be in the next room. Call us if you need us. For anything. Do you understand?”
Beverly got up so easily Ezri stared enviously at the older woman. She’d better manage just as well, or she’d have to start working out more. Fortunately, she did get up quite easily, even though she felt a little stiff after kneeling for so long.
”I love you, Julian.”
”I – love you too.”
Once outside in the other room, Beverly faced Ezri.
”He will be fine, eventually. Being able to talk about it like this – means -”
”I know what it means.”
”Of course. More your area of expertise than mine. Of course I think your colleague will be needed anyway. You heard him. He feels guilty.”
”Yes, but I don’t think he needs to. Sure, we were both slightly involved in the war effort, but it was all ‘need to know’. I don’t think Julian knows all that much, especially not after – you know – it’s all over. Of course, I can’t be sure and I suppose we shall have to inform Star Fleet command. Oh, I’d better do it. You’ve left Star Fleet, haven’t you? Just like everyone else.”
”Yes. Good. You contact them and inform them.”
”Ok. Just – you are completely sure they didn’t – what he was afraid of?”
”Yes, positive. What do they teach you at the Academy these days? Like I said earlier, he would have been dead, or – if they had healed him afterwards, I would have been able to tell. It must have been part of their routine. Emotional torture. Like fake executions. Mind games. I have no doubt they find us humans attractive, but – nothing happened this time. Put that right out of your mind.”
”Thanks. Uh – Beverly?”
”I think I’ll resign too after all this is over. Maybe I’ll even want to stay here. It depends on what Julian thinks. We were on our way to Earth for a vacation. Maybe he’s homesick. But – if not – maybe we’ll settle here. It seems like a good place.”
”It is. The best I’ve seen for a very long time. It’s a great place to start over. You’ll see. Even if you do want to leave, you and Julian will probably have to stay here for months, just to be on the safe side. His mind – you’ll need to tread very carefully. But I know I don’t have to tell you that. Stay and look after him and yourself too. I may not be a counselor, but if you need to talk – I’m here. It’s not just the victims who need counseling, as you should know -”
”Yes, I know. Ok, I’ll take it easy for a while. If I need to talk, I will. And speaking of talking – I suppose I should tell Garak and the other Julian about what we found out.”
”Garak might even be able to help put a stop to those bastards.”
”Yes. He just might.”
”They live just a few blocks from here, but I’m sure they’ll be in touch soon. Garak, I’m not sure if you’ve heard -”
”Yes, I know about that. At least he found another Julian.”
”Yes, and the funny thing is, I found another Will Riker. I was secretly attracted to him for years and then – one day I ran into Tom, who in a way is Will.”
”Yes, funny how things turn out.”
Later that evening, Ezri told Garak about what they’d found out. She wasn’t sure she could read the Cardassian face, but she sensed that Garak was reacting in some way, and her best guess was anger. Hopefully, he’d know how to deal with that terrorist group, or whatever they were.
”My dear, I’m so sorry. And it was some countrymen of mine too. I’m -”
”It’s not your fault. You helped save Julian. You and that other Julian.”
”Did Dr Crusher say he was going to be alright?”
”Yes, she thinks so, but now it’s up to my colleague – and of course I’ll do whatever I can too.”
”You do that, my dear. Look after him well. And – does this mean you and Julian will be staying here?”
”Yes, at least until he’s feeling better, maybe longer. It depends. If Julian wants to return to Earth, then we’ll do that. If not – maybe we’ll stay here. I already like it here. Maybe he will too.”
”I think he might.”
Ezri nodded. She was hoping Julian would, but if he preferred Earth, that was where she would go. After this, she never wanted to be away from Julian. She would watch over him and make sure that nothing ever happened to him again. All this had made something change inside her. She felt harder somehow, colder. If someone wanted to hurt Julian, they’d have to deal with her first. Of course, as a counselor, she also knew that something had most likely changed inside Julian too. For good. After something like this, there was no turning back. They were both changed for ever, but they would get through this somehow. She would make sure of that.