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Rush Limborg September 8 2009 03:18 AM

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
And...good evening, fellow Trekkers, Trekkies, Treck-Necks, and Conversationalists all across the Final Frontier! :techman:

Here, true to the spirit of DS9, is my attempt at a "pure" character-oriented story. It is set a little while after "What You Leave Behind", but some time before Avatar and Rising Son. Jake is still on the station, Ezri is still a counselor, and (most importantly), certain "new" characters have just come onboard the station.

The Julian-Ezri relationship is a central element to the plot. I hope you all will enjoy how I chose to develop it.

So, without further ado....

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Cleanest Food To Find
Scene 1


Julian Bashir turned from the replicator, and grinned. “Do you trust me?”

Ezri Dax rested her chin on the backs of her hands, elbows on the table, and smiled. “Completely.”

Julian turned back to the replicator, and ordered, “Computer…two martinis. Now listen carefully—mix both drinks like this: Three measures of Gordon’s Gin, one of vodka, half a measure of Lillet Blanc—shaken over ice, with a thin slice of lemon peel.”

The computer chirped…and the drinks appeared. Bashir picked them up—very carefully, Ezri noted—and brought them to the table, setting them down as he took a seat.

The two were in Julian’s quarters. They both had finished their shifts, and they were just now ready to relax…together.

Julian raised his glass. “To…tomorrow: may it never die.”

Ezri raised her own glass, clicking it with Julian’s…and took a sip. She let it rest on her tongue for a few moments, to savor the taste, and swallowed.

Julian leaned forward slightly. “What do you think?”

Ezri smiled. “You know…that’s not bad! Where’d you get the recipe?”

Julian returned the smile. “I read it in a book once.”

Ezri narrowed her eyes in amusement. “A book.”

“An old Earth spy novel. Actually, the recipe has Kina Lillet, but…after the book was published….”

She nodded. “They changed the name?”

“Something like that.”

Ezri looked down at the drink. “Didn’t I…serve something like this when Vic’s place was…?”

“Ah, that wasn’t quite the same thing. That was stirred. This one’s shaken.”

Ezri looked up, her smile growing. “There’s a difference?”

Bashir glanced off to the side, and grinned. “It…would take too long to explain.”

Ezri chuckled, and set the drink down. “So…how was your day?”

Bashir sighed, and leaned back. “Well, let’s see…most of it was spent lecturing those new transfers on the intricacies of the Infirmary—and, oh, yes…one of my new nurses has the most interesting crush on me.”

Ezri’s eyes widened. “No kidding!”

“No…” Bashir sighed. “Now, under normal circumstances, I would humor her, at the very least, but—she…”

“Let me guess: she kept it up, and couldn’t take a hint.”

Exactly. And I mean, I tried to tell her I’m already taken, however….”

Ezri held up a hand. “Julian…it’ll pass. She’ll catch on sooner or later.”

“I hope so….” Julian paused for a moment, and then asked, “So how did your day go?”

Ezri frowned. “Jake stopped by my office. He’s still recovering from Benjamin’s…‘disappearance’. We talked a bit…and I told him a few stories of Curzon’s….”

Julian leaned forward again, smirking. “What stories?”

Ezri smiled mischievously. “It…would take too long to explain.”

Bashir shook his head, chuckling. “Of course….”

“Anyway…he’s all right, now—at least until the next time he stops by.” Ezri shrugged. “Other than that…nothing to report.”

Julian nodded. “You know, Ezri…I was wondering—one of my new MD’s…well, you might want to look at him. He seems a little…reclusive.”

Ezri gave him a blank stare. “Reclusive….”

“He…well, he’s friendly enough, but he seems, somehow…isolated from everyone.”

“You mean there’s a wall?”

“I mean there’s a wall.”

Ezri shrugged. “Maybe that’s just his personality—I mean…”

“I thought so, too—but then…I took the liberty of striking up a…conversation with him. He seemed friendly enough, I think—but…then I looked into his eyes.” Julian paused, and Ezri could see the intensity in his gaze as he locked eyes with her. “He’s hurting, Ezri. It’s…as if something took all the joy out of his life…and nothing’s in its place.”

Ezri frowned. “Any idea what caused that?”

“I…think I have something…. I checked his record. As it turns out, he was part of an investigation into a possible act of sabotage aboard the Enterprise, nine years ago. You may have heard of it—it was the incident that forced Admiral Satie to resign her commission.”

Ezri nodded. “The ‘witch-hunt’?”

Bashir nodded.

“Yeah, I remember something about that—didn’t she start asking suspects about things that had nothing to do with the investigation, or…something?”

“That’s right.”

“There was a…” Ezri stopped short, as she finally understood. “There was…a medical technician involved….”

Julian nodded again. “That was him.”

“Oh…” Ezri whispered, as she glanced down at the table, waiting for him to continue.

“His name is Simon Tarses. Satie’s probing nearly destroyed his career…when she pressured him into inadvertently revealing that his grandfather was a Romulan.”

She looked up. “There’s no crime in that.”

“Not unless you lie about it, and falsify your entrance exam so that it says the grandfather was a Vulcan. Still,” Bashir sighed, “I can’t help but feel for him….”

Ezri nodded. “Because of what happened to you.”

“Yes….”

Ezri sighed, and looked down again, for a moment. When she looked up, she asked, “So, what happened to him?”

“He was suspended for six months. After that, he returned to the Enterprise. Now, his file claims that he’s come to terms with his heritage, but….”

Ezri nodded. “…But, that experience must still have been painful for him…to say the least.”

Julian leaned back, and shook his head. “He nearly lost his career. The only reason he was allowed back into Starfleet was because Captain Picard put in a good word for him. As it is…he’s irreparably tarnished by what happened. I guess…it’s possible that after the Enterprise was destroyed…he didn’t really have anywhere else to go…and feel like he was wanted.”

Ezri looked at him for a while. Julian was, she always knew, a wonderful doctor—and now, she was reminded why. He was a man who truly cared…truly wanted to make a difference.

It was…why she loved him.

She smiled. “A pity you wasted your career in medicine, Julian—you would’ve made a fair counselor.”

Julian blinked. “Fair…?”

And then…he returned the smile. They shared a chuckle, albeit a brief one, so as not to ruin the seriousness of the issue at hand.

Ezri nodded. “I’ll look into it.”

“Thank you, Ezri.”

Ezri shrugged. “Well…that’s what I’m here, for—I guess.”

Julian smiled, and raised his glass in salute.


* * *



(note: Bond fans will be pleased to know that, yes--it is the iconic drink that you're thinking of. Call it a little homage to Bashir's spy program, which I feel confident Ezri's partaken in on a rather regular basis....:cool:)

Nerys Ghemor September 8 2009 05:59 AM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
I always wondered that about Simon Tarses--and I'm glad you're addressing it!

And personally, I think Ezri and Bashir seem like a very natural couple. Their mutual respect is quite refreshing.

Oh...and the "Tomorrow Never Dies" toast--very appropriate for Bashir! ;)

Just one minor nit--I think you're overusing italics a bit; it kinda reminds me of a comic book in that just about EVERY phrase has something in italics.

Rush Limborg September 8 2009 08:13 PM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
^Okay...I'll try to watch that, then....:)

--Fixed!

Rush Limborg September 8 2009 08:26 PM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
Here's the next two scenes (two--because they're pretty short):

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Cleanest Food To Find
Scenes 2 & 3

The next morning, Ezri sat at her desk in her office. After checking her schedule, she hit the com panel. “Dax to Lieutenant Tarses.”

A young, unsteady voice answered. “Tarses here.”

“Lieutenant, this is Counselor Ezri Dax. Are you alone?”

“I am....

“I should like to set up an appointment to see you, as soon as possible.”

“Uh—is there a problem, Counselor?”

“Not really. It’s just a counseling session—standard procedure for any new additions to the senior staff of essential departments. You understand.”

“I…guess so....

“All right. What time today would be best for you?”

“I…I don’t know....

“Do you have any plans?”

“No—no, I don’t.

“What time are you off duty?”

“1700, ma’am.”

“The moment you come off duty, head straight to my office. You know where it is?”

“Uh, yes—yes I do.”

“Good. 1705—don’t be late.”

“Yes, Counselor.”

“Dax out.” Ezri leaned back, smiling. I wish all my patients were that convenient—

Wait a minute. Come to think of it, none of her patients had ever been that convenient.

Her smile vanished. Ezri turned to the companel…and sighed in mild frustration, shaking her head.

“He’s not coming.”

* * *

“He didn’t show up?”

Sitting at the table she always shared with Julian in Quark’s Bar, Ezri shook her head. “I waited for an hour, in case he’d just lost his way. No Lieutenant Tarses.”

Bashir sighed, and leaned back in his seat.

“Julian, he has that right. I’m not his superior officer, and—”

“Well…I am.” Julian leaned forward, a small, reassuring smile on his face. “And for you, Ezri…tomorrow, I’ll order him to attend your session.”

Ezri’s eyes widened. “Absolutely not. Any pressure on him like that will just make things harder for me.”

Bashir hesitated, and finally nodded. “Well…what do you propose we do?”

Ezri glanced down at her mug. “Don’t worry…tomorrow, when I go off duty, I’ll head straight for his quarters…and talk to him.”

“I thought you said that we shouldn’t pressure him.”

“I won’t. I’ll try to approach him as a friend—not just a counselor.”

Bashir gave a little snort. “Good luck.”

Ezri chuckled. “Thanks…I’m probably going to need it.”

* * *

Deranged Nasat September 8 2009 08:28 PM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
Nice start, Rush. I think you're doing fine with a character-oriented story! :) I agree with Nerys that you present Bashir and Ezri as a convincing couple; the trust and general comfort they show around one another is indeed evident. I find the conversation convincing, too.

The link between Bashir and Tarses-- their respective career-threatening cover-ups --is also certainly worthy of exploration.

DavidFalkayn September 8 2009 08:40 PM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
Now that things are settling down and I can finally get to read and comment on all these fine stories, I'm glad that I read this. You do an excellent job here conveying the relationship of these canon characters. I could very easily imagine their dialogue sounding like this in the series. I also like how you've brought Tarses in--a haunted individual--as are both Bashir and Dax. Between the two of them, I have a feeling that they'll get Tarses back on his feet again.

Very nicely done.

Rush Limborg September 8 2009 08:45 PM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
^Thanks a bunch, Nasat and DavidFalkayn! :)

Yep--I truly enjoy writing scenes between Ezri and Julian--they're a lot of fun to write for, and they have such cameraderie....

And for Simon...well...we'll see how the tale turns out.;)

Nerys Ghemor September 8 2009 08:50 PM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
Hmm...Ezri's pressuring him, even if she shows up as a "friend," still has potential to backfire, kind of like when she pressured Garak. We'll see what happens...

Rush Limborg September 8 2009 09:11 PM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
All righty--I know I'm dishin' out scenes at a rapid pace--but it's to compensate for the long periods of the day when I'll be gone....:lol:

Okay--the plot thickens as Ezri's forced to go to Simon. This is a long one, so I'll wait a bit before I post the next scene....

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Cleanest Food To Find
Scene 4

She stood outside the quarters of Lieutenant Simon Tarses, staring at the door. Finally, after a minute or so, Ezri said, “Computer…confirm location of Simon Tarses.”

“Lieutenant Tarses is in his quarters.”—which was the same answer she got fifteen minutes ago.

Well…it didn’t hurt. After all…it would’ve been just too bad if he’d left just before I came in….

Fortunately, it looked like that wasn’t going to be the case. So she pressed the door chime—and waited.

“I’m coming….”

The voice sounded…tired…in a sad kind of way. Ezri wasn’t surprised, but still….

The door opened. A young-looking man stood there, with a roundish face, short dark hair, ears with a slight point—and the most expressive eyes that Ezri had seen in her life.

At the moment, he was clearly stunned at the sight of her. “Can…can I help you…Lieutenant?”

“Simon Tarses?”

He nodded quickly. “Uh-huh.”

Ezri smiled, hoping it would calm him down. “I’m Ezri Dax.”

She extended her hand, which Tarses shook, after hesitating a moment.

“Well, uh…what can I do for you…Counselor?”

Good. He remembers me. “May I come in?”

“Oh, uh…” He cleared his throat in what looked like embarrassment. “What for? Uh, that is, I mean….”

Ezri held up her hand. “It’s all right. If you want to talk here, that’s fine, too.”

I wonder…would he be acting so awkward if I were a man?

“Well, uh…okay. What do you want to…talk about?”

Ezri kept smiling. “Well, for starters…why didn’t you make the appointment yesterday?”

“Oh…well,” he sighed, “Look, I…I’m sorry about not making it, but….”

Ezri shook her head, as her smile faded. “I hope you’re not going to tell me that something came up—because if it did…you could have called me to reschedule….”

“I know. It’s just that…”

And…” Ezri continued, “If it’s because you didn’t think I was worthy of your presence….”

The man froze.

Ezri’s smile reappeared.

Oh…” Tarses sighed with relief. “Well, I…yeah. I…guess I’d better let you in.”

Ezri nodded. “That’s probably a good idea.”

He moved to the side, to let her enter. The cabin had a Spartan quality about it—nothing fancy, no decorations, few personal effects, just…basic necessities. There were a few padds on a table, but…that was it. Aside from the furniture—bed, couch, the table with two chairs, that sort of thing—one could almost say it wasn’t being used at all.

Ezri stopped at one of the chairs. “May I sit down?”

“Oh—sure!”

She sat, crossing her legs, putting her hands in her lap. Tarses stood before her, as if he couldn’t bring himself to adopt any casual posture whatsoever.

Ezri smiled again. “Why don’t you take a seat?”

“Ah…” he cleared his throat. “Don’t take this wrong, Counselor—”

“Call me Ezri.”

“Oh…well…I don’t think I should….”

“Oh, it’s perfectly fine. I mean…” as she gave a light shrug, “Why wouldn’t it be?”

“O-okay, well…Ezri…aren’t you doing this all wrong?”

Ezri frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Well…it’s just…” Tarses swallowed, and the words that followed came out rushed. “You see, most of the other counselors I’ve seen…first they speak with the commanding officer of…wherever I am…in order to set up an appointment. Then, they have the CO call me, and tell me of the need for me to see a counselor. Then, the CO tells me that we have the most excellent counselor here, so they recommend that I go see her…or him. Usually it’s a girl. I wonder why?”

Ezri shrugged.

“Anyway…I’m ordered to go there, and the counselor starts off telling me how nice of me it is to come, and am I still okay about my Romulan Heritage. And then…” as his tone became less nervous, and began to sound a little frustrated—and bitter, “The grilling begins, and they ask me whether I regret my lying to the Academy Commandant, and why I did it, and whether I would do it again, and why on Earth I stayed in Starfleet after that suspension. Then—as I’m stumbling over that last one, they dare to ask me—to my face—how I honestly expect to move on with my career…with a black mark like that. That’s the way it’s done!”

But he stopped, his features softened again, and he looked Ezri in the eye. She held his gaze, waiting for him to continue.

Tarses sighed. “…only not this time.”

Ezri shook her head. “Not this time,” she replied, in a quiet, gentle tone, letting him know she was serious.

Tarses just looked at her, clearly fighting not to show his relief.

Ezri cleared her throat. “Uh, listen, kid…I think—”

Simon blinked. “‘Kid’?”

Ezri smiled at his reaction. Actually, she had done it on purpose—to provoke this kind of effect. The more he loosened up to her, the better.

Simon broke into a nervous chuckle. “Ah…no offense, Counselor, but…you don’t look older than me….”

Try ten years younger…. Ezri briefly looked down, and then returned the laugh as she directed her gaze back to him. “Well, I guess that depends on which ‘me’ you’re talking about.” She pointed to the couch. “Now, sit…down.”

Tarses slowly walked to the couch, and sat down—stiff as a Vulcan.

Ezri sighed in amusement. “At ease, Simon. This is not a dressing-down of any kind—no matter what your past experiences taught you to expect.”

Simon frowned, but he did relax…a little. Enough to ask another question.

“So…you’re Ezri…Dax?”

Ezri nodded. “That’s right.”

“You know…I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Which?”

“Pardon?”

Which ‘me’? Ezri or Dax?”

“Oh, well, uh…both, actually. When I was a cadet…I read about all the famous negotiations and talks conducted by Curzon Dax. I…how did you get the—?”

“Maybe we can talk about that another time. Now…exactly what did you hear about me? As in…Ezri.”

Simon frowned. “Oh--well…”

“Don’t worry. If I’m offended, it won’t be your fault.”

“Okay. Well…I heard you braved the Badlands to rescue Commander Worf.”

“That’s right.”

Alone—in a runabout….”

“Pretty much.”

“And that you…braved a great maelstrom filled with…lightning and fire…for four days and nights…and that, just when your power reserves were all but gone, a final explosion unleashed a great shockwave that threw your vessel to the far side of the region—where you saw the derelict escape pod adrift before you….”

Ezri stared at him, completely blank. “…‘Four days and nights’….”

Simon frowned. “I’m…pretty sure it was four—but some people say it was eleven. Was it eleven?”

Ezri felt her eyes widen. “You’re…kidding!”

“You…didn’t…?”

Ezri sighed, shaking her head. “Simon…first, it was a few hours, at most, before I found Worf’s pod. Second, it wasn’t a ‘maelstrom’—it was a series of solar flares, like you usually find in there.”

“Well…that doesn’t exactly sound like a smooth ride.”

“Oh, it wasn’t—not at all. But…I certainly wasn’t thrown across the Badlands. I may have felt like I was—but I wasn’t.”

“Oh…well…” Simon gave a sheepish chuckle. “It was a good embellishment, anyway.”

“And I’ll bet it came from Worf, too….” Ezri leaned back. “His idea of a joke, I guess….”

“But…after you rescued him…you were shot down by the Jem’Hadar....”

“Yeah, that part is true.”

“And were captured by the Breen…just as their new alliance with the Dominion was forming….”

“Correct.”

“And you were taken to Cardassia and—”

“All, right, Mister, I get the point. You think I’m a…heroine, or something.”

Simon looked down and chuckled. “You…kind of are.”

“Really?” Ezri asked, keeping her tone dry.

The man sighed. “Uh…well, you could say, Counselor, that…It wasn’t that I didn’t think you were worthy of my presence. It’s that…uh…” He blushed, and chucked again, “…I didn’t think I was worthy of yours.”

Ezri had to fight the impulse to roll her eyes. Great. He actually means it. Thanks a lot, Worf—I save your neck and the next thing you know….

But then…another thought occurred to her.

“You know, Simon…I think I just realized something.”

“Uh…what?”

“You’re scared of me.”

He blinked. “What?”

Ezri sighed, and leaned forward. “First, you refuse to ease up in front of me until I insist. Second, you go on a rant about how badly other counselors treat you. And finally…you try to flatter me with hero-worship. At any rate…you’re trying your best to keep me from doing what you’re afraid I’ll do—whatever that is….”

“I don’t…know what you’re talking about.”

“What’s the matter, kid? Why should you be so afraid of my trying to be friends?”

Because—” Simon briefly showed fire in his eyes…but just as quickly, it vanished. He leaned back into his seat and shook his head. “…Because I’ve had my share of ‘friends’…who keep telling me they only want to help…and then…they start…trying to get into my head, and….”

He broke off, and looked at her again.

Ezri shook her head. “Look…maybe those other counselors were like that…but I’m not.”

“You’re…not?”

“Well…” she amended with a smile, “…not unless I have to be. And I don’t think I have to be, not here…not now.”

Simon stared at her for a long time, and for a moment, Ezri saw a glimmer of hope in his eyes. But then he shook his head, and let his shoulders fall. “All right…all right…I’ll go through it all again…one more time. But I just…I don’t want to get my hopes up. Otherwise, I’ll open up and…and then—”

“I won’t pry into you, Simon. When you want to open up to me, you’ll open up—but I won’t rush you. I promise.”

Simon gave a slow, silent gasp. “You…you mean it…don’t you?”

Ezri nodded solemnly. “Yes….”

She saw him lean back, take a deep breath, and slowly let it out. As he did so, Ezri could have sworn that his lip was quivering. He…looked like he was struggling to keep his emotions in check.

She brought her chair closer to the couch. “Now…let’s hear about you.”

“What…what do you want to know?”

Ezri smiled. “I don’t care. Just…” as she gently put a hand on his shoulder, “Say what you want to say—not what you think I want to hear.”

Simon stared at her. His eyes began to widen. Then…he broke his gaze, and stared at the ground as he wrung his hands.

Ezri could see the conflict going on—she could see that…he was struggling…struggling not to let his feelings be known. He was desperate not to open up to her—and she knew…that it was more than just fear. A lot more.

Finally, Simon let out a sigh. “There’s…nothing to say, Counselor.”

Ezri nodded. “I understand.” She rose from her seat, and headed for the door. But just before she left, she turned to him. “When there is…let me know.”

Tarses swallowed, and looked up to meet her gaze. “I will,” he said, his voice revealing a strength that had not been there before. And Ezri knew…that this time…he meant it.

She gave him a nod of thanks, and left.


* * *

The Badger September 8 2009 11:02 PM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
As a depiction of counselling in action, that's a damn site more convincing than anything we saw in TNG.:hugegrin:

I was half convinced when Julian ordered the vodka Martinis that he would name it an 'Ezri', in her honour. But if he is as familiar with Bond as he seems, he'll probably realize why this isn't a good idea!

Rush Limborg September 8 2009 11:33 PM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
^He is. But probably the only real similarity between Ezri and Vesper is her fun cameraderie with Bashir/Bond, so...I wouldn't think Julian would have anything to worry about. Unfortunately, the martini already has a name...courtesy of his predecessor....:cool:

And, yes--Ezri's no Betazoid, she doesn't have the shortcut of "sensing" all she needs to know--so she uses her own methods, which would therefore be less surreal, and more believable....

RobertScorpio September 9 2009 05:01 AM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
Quote:

Deranged Nasat wrote: (Post 3378689)
Nice start, Rush. I think you're doing fine with a character-oriented story! :) I agree with Nerys that you present Bashir and Ezri as a convincing couple; the trust and general comfort they show around one another is indeed evident. I find the conversation convincing, too.

The link between Bashir and Tarses-- their respective career-threatening cover-ups --is also certainly worthy of exploration.

I just read this today, and I agree. I can't wait to see where you take this...keep going..or is it..ditto!

Rob

Rush Limborg September 9 2009 10:03 PM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
^Thanks a bunch, RobertScorpio!

Okay...everyone enjoying the tale so far?

Good....:)

Everyone caught up?

...Close enough....;)

Okay. This next section will be pretty long, as well. Two scenes, but they go together. In the second scene, I have a few nice moments where Ezri and Julian communicate non-verbally. I hope you'll enjoy the touch....



Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Cleanest Food To Find
Scenes 5 & 6

The first thing Julian Bashir noticed about Simon Tarses as his new assistant MD reported for duty the next morning…was that the man was actually holding his shoulders a little higher than he had seen him last. He looked as if the foundations of his confidence were finally starting to repair.

Bashir smiled. “So…you feeling up to specs, Mr. Tarses?”

Tarses turned to him, and gave a small smile. “I…suppose so, Doctor. Why wouldn’t I be, sir?”

Bashir shrugged. “Well, it wouldn’t do if I needed to examine your head, now would it?”

Tarses stopped short. And then he smiled sheepishly, and shook his head. “I guess…word gets around quickly here.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that quickly….”

“Then…?”

“Oh, let’s just say…I have a good working relationship with Counselor Dax.”

“Well—um…”

“Don’t worry—if you prefer to keep it private, she said she wouldn’t tell anyone else. She merely made an exception in my case.”

Tarses nodded slowly. “…Because of your good working relationship.”

Still smiling, Bashir looked off to the side. “Oh…I’d like to think so….”

He turned back to the other doctor. “Suffice it to say, Lieutenant…that you’re in good hands. You can count on that.”

Tarses stared at him for a moment. “Did…did you both plan that…that session?”

Bashir frowned. “Beg pardon?”

“It just...seems a little convenient that my...routine counseling session would be...the first of the series....”

“Well, one…could say that.”

The man’s lip tightened.

Bashir froze. Did he just make a terrible mistake?

Tarses fell onto one of the Infirmary cots, gave a big sigh, and shook his head. And then…he actually laughed.

“… ‘Standard procedure for any new additions to the senior staff of essential departments’…”

As he got his laughter under control, he looked up at Bashir. “You know…so help me…I actually believed her….”

Bashir gave a relieved smile. “She…wasn’t exactly kidding, you know. I really am scheduling counseling sessions for my staff—you were simply the first.”

Tarses paused, and looked deep in thought for a while. Finally, he got up. “Well…I guess I’d better get to work.”

“Of course….”

Julian watched him work. The man had obviously made a bit of progress—he wasn’t nearly as reclusive as he’d been before. Still…Bashir could see there was a great deal of work left for Ezri.

Simon Tarses seemed like a man who engrossed himself in his work in an unnatural way—unnatural, in that he seemed to make it an obsession, excluding everything else from his notice so long as he was on duty—their conversation notwithstanding.

It was as if…


* * *

“…as if he’s hiding.”

They were in Quark’s again, at their regular table.

Ezri frowned. “‘Hiding’…?”

Julian leaned back, a dejected look on his face. “I don’t know…I’m not the counselor, after all.”

Ezri sighed. “Well, Julian…these things take time. My session with him wasn’t supposed to cure him by itself. You have to plant the seed first…and then water it, little by little…and after a while…you can watch it sprout…and grow. But until then…”

“I know…I know….” Julian rubbed his forehead, as if from exhaustion. Then…he smiled. “How on Earth can you be so…patient?”

Ezri chuckled. “I…guess I’ve had a lot of practice.”

Julian nodded. Suddenly, his expression changed to one of…bewilderment.

Ezri frowned. “What’s wrong?”

Julian raised his eyebrows. “Look who’s here.”

Ezri turned—and saw Simon Tarses enter the bar. She watched as he walked over to the counter, taking a stool…and she wasn’t surprised when she noticed that the stool he picked put him at a significant distance from anyone else nearby.

She wasn’t surprised…but it still saddened her. She turned to Julian. “I’ll be right back.”

Julian nodded. “Good luck.”

“Thanks…” Ezri headed for a stool next to Simon’s, where she sat down with a smile. “Hi!”

Simon stared down at the counter, grinning. “So…‘It’s just a counseling session—standard procedure for any new additions to the senior staff of essential departments.’” He turned to her, and raised an eyebrow. “‘You understand.’”

Ezri raised her palms in surrender. “All right—guilty as charged.”

Simon shook his head. His smile faded. “So…how much of what you’d said to me…yesterday…all that you promised me…how much of that was true, anyway?”

Ezri felt her own smile vanish, as she lowered her arms, and stared him in the eye. “Every word.”

Simon turned away, and sighed. “I…I wish I could believe you…. I want to believe you…but….”

“Let me put it this way, Simon: suppose I had told you everything—that I was talking to you just for you, and that I wasn’t going to interview the others on Dr. Bashir’s staff until a later date. What would you have thought?”

He shook his head again. “I don’t know….”

“Well, I know what I’d think, if I were in you’re shoes: ‘This counselor is singling me out, and just wants to talk to me because she’s heard of me, she knows all about what’s been done to me…and she’s just going to grill me all about that.”

“I thought that anyway.”

“Maybe so…but you have to admit, you had less of an excuse to avoid me.”

Simon gave a sigh, and turned to face her again. “Good point.”

Ezri frowned, and her tone grew more serious. “Simon…one of the rules I’ve set for myself long ago is: I…never…lie. My integrity means a lot to me. I would never compromise it…for anything.”

He looked down, shrugged, and met her gaze again. “Well…I can’t exactly say you told the truth, either.”

“I did. Just not in the way you seem to want to hear it. I mean…would you have preferred it if I had led you to believe that you were the only one of the new staff that I’d be counseling?"

Simon nodded. “Yeah—actually, I would.”

“Well, that…would’ve been a lie.”

Simon chuckled, and shook his head. “You are absolutely incredible.”

Ezri smiled. “I try to be.” She stood up. “Now…why don’t you come sit with us?”

Simon frowned. “‘Us’…?”

“Just follow me….”

He did. Ezri led him to the table with Julian, and sat down.

Julian looked up at the man, and smiled. “Ah, Dr. Tarses! How are you, this evening?”

Simon nodded. “I’m fine, Doctor. Miss Dax was just…”

Ezri smiled, and finished for him. “I was wondering if he could sit with us for a while.”

Julian frowned at her. You sure about this?

Ezri nodded. Trust me.

Julian turned to Simon with a grin. “Of course! By all means, sit down.” He turned to the Ferengi waiter nearest to them. “Broik—let’s have a round of drinks!” He turned back to Simon, “What would you like?”

Simon shrugged. “I don’t care.”

As Broik arrived at the table, Bashir ordered, “A Scotch, neat, for me—a Fanailian toddy for Ezri—and…”

“You know,” Simon spoke up, “I think I’ll have…what the counselor’s having.”

Ezri grinned, raising an eyebrow. “Any reason for that—or are you just…?”

“I don’t know…it just sounds good.”

Ezri nodded. “I’ll accept that.”

Julian smirked. “You got that, Broik?”

Broik nodded, and rushed off.

Simon, who had been standing up the whole time, finally sat down. Ezri resolved to watch him interact with Julian…and only join the conversation to come if she truly had to….

Still, the conversation had to start. She turned to Julian, and after he met her gaze, she looked to Simon…and to Julian again. He got the message, and gave a subtle nod in reply.

“So,” said Julian, “How do you like DS9?”

Simon frowned. “Oh…I like it fine. Nothing to complain about, really.”

Julian smiled. “Well, speaking for myself…I remember when I first came here. You would not believe my excitement about this assignment. I came here, and I said to myself, ‘This will be perfect—real…frontier medicine.’”

“Ah…‘frontier medicine’?”

“Well…seven years ago, this region was a different place. Bajor was…isolated, in a sense…separate from the rest of the galaxy. Few, if any, gave it any real thought until the wormhole was discovered.” Julian leaned forward, grinning, as if getting to the best part. “As far as I was concerned…this sector…was the wilderness…where heroes are made.”

Simon shrugged. “I…take it the wormhole changed all that?”

“It did—for the better. I thought to myself, ‘At lasthere is the chance I’ve been looking for. The chance to be the first doctor to encounter a new disease…and to cure it. To gain knowledge which no doctor has ever gained before. To publish paper after paper about my discoveries—and far better, to finally be…the hero I desired so much to be….”

And then…Julian sighed, and leaned back. “Shows you how much I knew….”

Simon looked at him, apparently unsure of what to make of this. “So…you became a doctor…to be famous?”

Slowly, Julian shook his head. “No…thank goodness.”

Broik came back with the drinks, set each one down, and walked off.

Ezri reached for her drink right away. Julian did the same. Simon, however, took his drink slowly…and stared down into it, not bothering to take a sip.

Julian frowned. “Is…something wrong?”

Simon’s head shot up. “Oh, no—that is…not really,” he amended, as his gaze fell again.

Julian nodded slowly. “Well…?”

Simon fiddled with his mug for a while, and finally sighed, “I just… Doctor, why did you accept me?”

Julian frowned. “Pardon?”

“I mean…when I was assigned here…you could have refused—like so many others did. Even those who let me in…they quickly changed their minds. But…you accepted me—and you’re still ready to accept me.”

“Is…there a reason that I shouldn’t accept you?”

“Come on. Why do you want me on your staff?”

Julian shrugged. “Because…you’re a good doctor?”

Simon scoffed. “Really? Says who?”

Julian blinked, clearly taken aback. “Says…your list of achievements—which, quite frankly, is considerable.”

“Yeah. My achievements. So what’s your real reason?”

Excuse me?”

“Did you feel sorry for me? Did someone recommend me? What?”

Julian’s eyes narrowed slightly. “Because…you’re…a good…doctor.”

But it was clear Simon didn’t believe a word of it.

All right, Ezri thought, Time to join in. “Simon, is there a reason that you can’t accept that you’re good?”

“No…there’s a reason that I can’t accept that that’s his reason for wanting me.”

“Oh?” Julian leaned back and crossed his arms, raising an impatient eyebrow. “And that would be…?”

Simon’s hand squeezed his mug. “Do I…have to spell it out?”

Ezri nodded. “I think that would be best.”

He sighed. “All right…fine. I’ll say it. I’m a pariah. Oh, I was accepted back onto the Enterprise well enough, sure. But after that, I go from post to post—and does everyone else treat me like that? Oh, no. ‘You’re no good, Tarses—you’re a sham. You’re a liar—you’re a disgrace—you have no place here, good bye!’” As if to punctuate this line, Simon raised him mug, and drank.

Julian turned to Ezri, with a tired look. You’d better handle this….

Ezri nodded. She turned to Simon—and sighed. “Well…looks like we have a problem.”

“I…guess you could say that.”

“In all seriousness…is that what this is all about? Have you been told that you’re no good so much…that you’re actually starting to believe—that you’re just not worthy of anyone’s respect?”

“Look, Counselor…Doctor…I’m very appreciative what you two are trying to do. Really, I am. But…look, Ezri, uh…you said, a little bit ago, that honesty means a lot to you.”

“It does.”

“Well…it means a lot to me, too—and…look, I have to be honest with myself: I made a big mistake at the very beginning of my career. And now…I’m paying the price. I don’t deserve to be accepted anywhere—as a good doctor, anyway. And I never will be—and that’s that.”

Julian shook his head, puzzled. “And yet…you’re still in Starfleet. You went on to peruse a doctorate—and got it. Are you really so…masochistic…as to continue on a path where you think you have no chance?”

Simon looked down at his mug again. When he brought himself to speak, it was in a pained near-whisper. “No….”

Ezri frowned. “Than…why?”

“Because…because…” He swallowed hard, and blurted out, “Because I’m a fool.”

Ezri turned to Julian. He just frowned. She couldn’t blame him.

Simon continued. “I guess…there’s always been…that little voice inside…telling me not to give up…to hold on…to not lose hope.”

Ezri’s mouth opened in a silent gasp…and she felt her eyes widen. Of course…that’s it, isn’t it? That’s…what it’s always been….

Finally, she understood—why the man was so very reluctant to accept any offer of help—from her, from Julian, or from anyone else. And just like that…she found herself feeling a growing sense of respect for Simon Tarses.

Julian frowned, apparently unsure of what to make of her reaction. She made a mental note to explain later.

She turned back to Simon, a small, reassuring smile on her face. “I think…you should listen to that voice a little more.”

Simon looked up, and stared at her, his face completely unreadable. And then…he stood up, downed the rest of his drink, and said, “Well…It’s been fun. Enjoy your drinks, you two. Have a pleasant evening. Now—if you’ll excuse me….”

He put his empty mug on the tray of a passing waiter—and rushed off, out of the bar.

Julian began to stand—but Ezri’s hand shot up, grabbing his shoulder, stopping him. He looked at her in bewilderment.

Ezri shook her head. “Let him be, Julian. Let him be….”

Julian sighed, and sat back down.


* * *

The Badger September 10 2009 11:34 AM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
Interesting. Another well written piece, and Dr Tarses psychological condition seems very plausible. Do you have any background in psychology or counselling yourself, Rush?

adm_gold September 10 2009 04:44 PM

Re: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--The Cleanest Food To Find
 
Well written. A good story developing.


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