Many thanks to Kaziarl
, for this opportunity.
Before I begin, a few thoughts: First, let me warn that, as this tale is a direct sequel to the recent novel, "Zero Sum Game", and therefore contains major spoilers for the book. (That includes a couple of scenes from
the book, written with different POVs.) Don't say I didn't warn you.
Second, some readers may remember that after my previous tale of Ezri Dax, "A Rendezvous With Destiny", I expressed concern that Mr. Mack's book would effectively invalidate my tales, as far as "real" events of the timeline are concerned. Thankfully, that did not turn out to be the case.
Third, I realize that not all who read this may arrive at the same interperetations that I did concerning the emotional arcs of Ezri Dax and Julian Bashir. I understand and respect the many points of view to this effect, and wish that everyone give my own thoughts the benefit of the doubt.
Finally...this tale refers heavily to two previous tales of mine:
The aforementioned "A Rendezvous With Destiny" (which takes place in the interim between A Singular Destiny
and Zero Sum Game
And "The Cleanest Food To Find" (which shows Ezri's first meeting with her future CMO, Simon Tarses):
While I have certainly put in this tale everything you need to know--nonetheless, I recommend my readers also read these tales, to gain a richer understanding of the directions in which I have taken these characters.
Thank you all, and I hope you enjoy this tale.
Not including this intro, the word count is approx. 8,750. Please hold you're comments until you see the concluding statement. ("And the adventure continues...")
Dr. Simon Tarses never cared for surprises. More often than not, they tended to turn out badly for him, to say the least.
The first major surprise in his life was probably when he found out that his grandfather was a Romulan, not a Vulcan. A terrible surprise that was, which he had struggled for years afterward to deny—a choice which once had nearly cost him his career.
Another was the moment when that simple denial was exposed for all too see. Captain Picard had believed in him…but as far as Simon was concerned, any chance he’d had for a good, productive life was over
a surprise that had turned out to be good—his first week on Deep Space Nine, when he had first met the two dearest friends in his entire life: Dr. Julian Bashir, his first boss in years who had looked past his disgrace, and had chosen to see him as a man
…and Ezri Dax, who had been a counselor then—his mentor and, to be frank, a “second mother” to him (ironic…she was actually ten years younger than him), who had guided him back to self-awareness, self-confidence…and had given him a chance to live again.
He’d ever since done everything he could to make it up to her—which was why he had jumped at her offer to make him Chief Medical Officer on the U.S.S. Aventine
. Come to think of it…that was another “good” surprise.
But those two were exceptions, not the rule. He hated surprises. He hated encountering something he didn’t know—especially if he felt he should
have known. In short, he hated being caught unprepared.
—Which is why he felt a pang of annoyance in the back of his mind, when he and one of his nurses entered the transporter room of the Aventine
, to tend to Julian Bashir and Starfleet Intelligence agent Sarina Douglas.
The two were locked in a warm, intimate embrace, the effect of which seemed to be broken by Simon’s admittedly abrupt entry. The two looked at him in mild shock. Bashir blinked his eyes, with what looked like a brief hint of irritation.
Simon struggled to regain his composure, and somehow managed to stammer out, “Um, uh…sorry, Julian—I mean, Doctor. We, um, didn’t—”
“It’s okay, Simon,” Bashir interrupted, with a small smile, as he and Miss Douglass released each other. “You’re not interrupting.”
“Ah…well, that’s good to know,” Simon replied, forcing an uneasy smile of his own.
He looked them up and down, forcing his feelings away. They were dressed in the standard suits of Breen troops, helmets removed, of course. They both looked all battered, bruised, and utterly filthy.
Simon raised an eyebrow in a moment of genuine amusement. “You two have had quite a rough week, I imagine.”
Julian nodded slowly. “It had its moments.”
“And then some,” added Miss Douglas.
Simon clapped his hands together. “Well, tell you what—let’s get you two down to sickbay, swap those pressure suits for new uniforms—run a few tests—”
The woman held her hand up, with a tired look. “We know the drill.”
Simon hesitated, and turned to his old superior, awaiting further instructions.
Julian shrugged. “Throw in a hot shower,” he said, “And you can run all the tests you want.”
Simon felt his smile turn genuine. “Deal.”
He stepped aside, and extended his hand to the door. “After you.”
As he followed the pair to sickbay, the nurse leading the way, he watched the pair intently. Miss Douglas was walking close beside Julian, and Simon was able to see her hand take the doctor’s.
“In answer to your question,” he heard her say to Julian, “I go…where you go.”
Simon kept his face unreadable, telling himself to show no reaction. Still…as he took in the sight, he couldn’t help let one thought enter his mind:
Well! This is certainly a surprise, as far as I’m concerned. And all things considered…it’s going to turn out bad for someone.
The worst part is—this time…it
And with that, a pang entered the innermost part of his soul. With a feeling of said, anguished compassion, a second thought flowed from the first.
I just hope she already knows. I’d hate to be the messenger. If I am…I sure wish she’ll take it a
lot better than
I could have
* * *
Two weeks later, Dr. Simon Tarses sat at his desk in sickbay, as the Aventine
hovered near his old home, Deep Space Nine. His mind was elsewhere…reflecting on the events of the past two weeks, the aftermath of the entire incident with the Breen….
Nothing. It was uneventful—too uneventful. Everything proceeded according to protocol—Bashir and Douglas were dropped off at the station, and then…shore leave for everyone.
He had thoroughly enjoyed catching up with his old colleagues. There was a serious bent to the visit—particularly when he’d discovered that Captain Elias Vaughn was completely comatose, laying on a bio-bed…his life down to almost nothing. He remembered the shock he’d felt when he’d learned that the man’s daughter, Prynn Tenmei, had seriously been considering pulling the plug on him.
Fortunately, Bashir had apparently convinced her to re-connect the respirator…as he had pointed out that there was something in the man…something which refused to accept his death. It was remarkable how well the man’s vital signs were faring even when he wasn’t breathing.
“I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel,”
Simon mused, reflecting on the Oath he and Bashir had both taken, at the beginning of their respective careers. He’d often noted with bitterness how many doctors seemed willing to fold that clause into vague obscurity—much like the bloody clause immediately following it had once been—but Julian Bashir, he knew, was a man who took his Oath seriously—every word of it.
The trouble was…when the man didn’t know
when he was doing harm—
Oh, stop it. You’ve been guilty of that, too. Don’t get all high-horse on him.
He heard the doors to the sickbay open. He looked up…and felt a big smile come to his face. “Hi, Skip!”
Captain Ezri Dax smiled, and took a seat across the desk. “Hi, Simon.”
Simon nodded. He couldn’t help but remember the first time he’d seen her—outside the door of his quarters, to confront him on his not showing up for his appointment. He remembered how stunned he had been at the sight of the beautiful, charming girl in front of him—and how hard it was to believe that she
was the person he’d been so terrified of facing, her personality was so warm, her smile so pleasant….
Now, she seemed a little distant—her smile didn’t meet her eyes. She seemed…deep in thought, but somehow…almost desperate for a distraction.
Simon spread out his hands. “So, what brings you here?”
“Oh…I just thought I’d stop by for a minute. How are things, today?”
“Good. Everything’s all cleaned up and working like new.”
She nodded. “That’s good….”
“Word from the brass?”
“Mm-hmm—our old friend, Nechayev
Simon felt his lip tightened at the name of the admiral—the woman whose name, as far as he was concerned, would live alongside Norah Satie’s in infamy. “What did she
“Oh, just a debrief…and then she told me not to be afraid of any reprisals, despite what the Pact says. The President will clear it all up for us….”
Simon nodded again. “That’s good.”
She returned the nod. “Mm-hmm.”
There was silence for a moment. Finally, he spoke up, “So…what’s next?”
“Actually…nothing. I guess we’ll go back to patrolling the border—as usual.”
“Oh, that’s good! Looks like we won’t need you, then.” Simon leaned back with a smile. “You ready?”
She blinked. “Ready…?”
“Well—I think Sam would agree, we can manage just fine without you for a few weeks….”
Another blink. “Are you…trying to get rid of me, Simon?”
He shrugged. “Is there a reason for you to stay on board?”
Ezri tilted her head, her eyes narrowing. “Did…did I miss something?”
Simon stared at her blankly. “Skip…are you that
tired, that’s it’s affecting your memory?”
She shook her head. “Simon—I have no
clue what you’re talking about.”
Simon let out an exasperated scoff. “The leave
, Captain. You remember—right after that trip with Spock? ‘Simon, I think I’ll take you up on that rest leave.’ ‘Well, it’s about time you listened to reason! Where to, and how long?’ ‘Oh, I think I’ll go to DS9 for, say, a month
—catch up with old friends, and all that!’”
He leaned forward. “Does any of that ring a bell?”
Ezri looked as if something clicked in her mind. “Oh, that’s right…” she muttered, as she leaned back in her own seat. “Simon…I think we’ll have to put that off for a while.”
Simon froze, as his brow furrowed in bewilderment. “Excuse
“I just…I don’t think I need it, right now.”
“You don’t think you need
“Ezri—I don’t believe this! I seem to remember your telling me how much you were looking forward
to it all—I swear, you were like a little girl about to go on a trip to that old park in Florida—the one with the darned mouse
?” Ezri’s eyes grew wide, as she apparently struggled to suppress a laugh.
“Oh, forget it—Ezri, what’s going on here?”
Ezri sighed, growing serious again, and seemed to choose her words carefully. “Look…I don’t think it’s a good…impression…for the captain to leave the ship right after a crisis. It’s not…it’s not good for morale.”
Simon had to fight to keep from giving a snort at that. That’s nonsense, Skip—and you know it. Now, is there any reason why you wouldn’t—?
And then the answer hit him. A memory struck…two weeks before, in the transporter room, when he stumbled on…
He nodded slowly. “Right….”
Ezri raised her hand to her forehead, rubbing it in a clear sign of stress. “All right…is there anything you need me for, right now?”
came here, remember?”
“Right. Well…I guess I’d better get to the bridge.” She rose to her feet. “Thanks, Simon….”
She began to walk off…but Simon’s mind was racing. He spoke up. “Skip, can I ask you something?”
She turned to him. “Hmm?”
Simon paused for a moment, gathered himself, and asked, “When your shift’s done…what’s on your schedule?”
Ezri briefly looked off, frowning. “I…wasn’t planning on anything. Why?”
Simon nodded. “Good. When you’re done for the day, go straight to your quarters, and stay there. Doctor’s orders. I’ll be over.”
“Okay…but I don’t—”
…I really feel we need to talk.”
She stared at him, as if unsure of what to make of this. Finally, she let out a sigh, and nodded. “All right.”
Simon gave a last nod, allowing her to go.
As the doors closed behind Ezri, Simon rubbed his forehead, like she’d done a moment ago. Captains always make the worst patients. And they’re even worse when they used to be counselors
* * *