May 2011 Challenge: "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine--'As Time Goes By'"
Submitted for the Challenge theme: "Reconciliation" (Special Thanks to The Lone Redshirt, for this opportunity.)
By Rush Limborg
Author's note: Reconciliation between people is a funny thing. There are times when it doesn't happen until after one of them is long gone--then, of course, the reconciliation is internal, as far as the other party is concerned. And sometimes...it helps one cope with conflicts to come.
Here is a a story involving such a reconciliation. I'm not entirely certain as to exactly when the framing story takes place--some time in the long gap between the latest DS9 Relaunch novel and the beginning of Ezri's tour of duty on the Aventine, shortly prior to the Destiny trilogy.
Though this technically isn't one of my Ezri Dax tales--still, there are quite a few connections with them, including a certain blue sculpture....
A final note: The song Vic sings is, of course, the classic made famous by its centrality to the movie Casablanca.
The word count is 2727.
Deep Space Nine
"As Time Goes By"
Julian Bashir entered Vic Fontaine’s lounge—alone.
The man—well, the hologram, who might as well be a man—was standing up on stage, chatting with his band. He turned to see who’d entered at this late hour, and smiled, walking down to greet him. “Hey, Doc!”
Bashir smiled in return…but only halfheartedly. “Hello, Vic.”
Vic chuckled. “Well—not that I don’t care for an audience, but…what’s bringing you here this late?”
Bashir stiffened, looking off, unsure of what to say.
Vic frowned, staring at him in concern. “Doc?”
Bashir blinked, “Hmm?”
Finally, he sighed, and said, “Ezri’s going to leave, tomorrow.”
Vic swallowed, and said, “Leave. You mean…”
Bashir felt his lip tighten. “She’s gone. Transferring off the station, all right?”
Vic nodded. “Oh, right…”
Bashir sighed. “I’m sorry—I…”
“Hey, it’s fine, Doc. Can’t say I blame you for that.”
Vic nodded to what Bashir was holding under his arm. “That a gift for her?”
Bashir took it in his hands, staring down at it. It was a small abstract figure…a sculpture of a crystal-like material. It was a mild shade of blue; he’d picked it up because of that. It reminded him of her eyes….
He nodded, his voice near a whisper. “Yes….”
Vic gave a sigh of his own. “Doc…I—”
“Oh, no, it’s all right.”
The hologram shook his head. “No, it’s not. Now, I don’t care what her reasons were—”
“Vic,” Bashir said, stiffening again, fighting hard to keep his lip from quivering. “Please…this isn’t the best time.”
Vic spread out his hands. “I know…. Sorry, Doc. I just…well you know, it caught me off guard when it all happened.”
Bashir nodded. “Me too,” he whispered.
Vic nodded to the sculpture again. “Think she’ll like that?”
“I…I hope so.”
Vic smiled sadly. “For what it’s worth…I think she will. Very much.”
Bashir returned the smile. “Thank you, Vic.”
“Hey—just here to help, pallie.”
Bashir chuckled. “I suppose. Listen, I don’t want to impose, but…could you play something for me?”
Vic shrugged. “Anything.”
Bashir looked off, thinking hard. He knew it would be painful…but somehow, it just felt right.
He turned back to his friend. “Vic…you remember that song you played when…when she and I first—well, our first night together?”
Vic’s smile vanished, staring at him in unease. “Oh…Doc, I—I don’t think—”
“It’s all right,” Bashir muttered. “I can take it.”
Vic swallowed, and nodded. “All right….”
He waved him to a seat. Bashir sat down, setting the sculpture down on the table beside him.
Vic stepped back up on stage, giving instructions to the band. Finally, the opening notes of the piano rang out, slowly, deliberately, as Vic began:
You must remember this:
A kiss is still a kiss,
A sigh…is just a sigh….
The fundamental things…apply…
As time goes by….
The rest of the band joined in. Julian Bashir closed his eyes, listening to the words, lettings his thoughts be carried along with them.
And…when two lovers woo,
They still say, “I love you.”
On that you can rely….
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by….
His thoughts turned to another time…years ago, shortly after she had first arrived on the station. He let down his guard completely…and remembered….
* * *
Julian Bashir stood there in the Replimat, at a discreet distance, watching her, waiting for the opportune moment. The girl was standing at the replicator, apparently deciding what to order.
“I’danian spice pudding,” she began in a smiling tone—but then cut herself off, “No—cancel that. I’ll have a…”
She raised her hand, drumming her fingers in mid-air, in apparent “eeny-meeny-miny-mo” fashion. Finally, the smile in her voice returned as she ordered, “Kilm steak, rare…”
But she cut herself off again. “No, Tobin was a vegetarian….”
Bashir felt a surge of compassion at this. Poor girl…I don’t blame her. How immensely difficult it must be for her…all those voices, those conflicting interests battling around in her mind….
I don’t know how Jadzia was able to handle it.
The girl sighed, all the certainty gone from her posture. Thinking hard, she hesitatingly said, “Give me…”
But Bashir had had enough. He wasn’t about to let her suffer like that. “Two Fanalian toddies,” he called out to the computer.
The girl—Ezri, wasn’t it?—turned to see who it was, blinking in confusion—and what looked like relief.
Bashir smiled at her, as he walked up to the replicator and concluded, “Hot.”
The computer chirped, and the order appeared in the console.
A smile appeared on Ezri’s face, and Bashir could have sworn her eyes were sparkling. “How’d you know?” she asked in a tone of warm gratitude.
Julian felt his smile grow. “Lucky guess!” he replied with a shrug.
He found himself taking a liking to her already. She was very beautiful, certainly…but it was more than that. Right away, he could deduce a pleasant, fun personality—different than Jadzia’s, of course; somewhat more demure, more “pure”, as it were. Still…she was immensely attractive, as far as he was concerned.
Bashir took the tray, and asked, “Care to join me?”
Ezri gave a slight nod, her voice gaining a slight tone of amusement. “Sure!”
Bashir led her to a table he’d already set up, a chair already pulled out for her. He set her toddy down first, and waited for her to sit down before he did.
As he sat, he found himself observing her, despite himself. She sat there grasping her mug with both hands, her posture tense—not with discomfort, so much as with anticipation, which showed in her eyes as she met his gaze, blinking as if to wake herself from a daze.
Such an eagerness about her…an enthusiasm, flowing through her—a drive so hard to keep inside. This was something he sympathized with completely—he somehow felt something of a kindred spirit in her.
Bashir mentally struggled to find the right words to say. What could one say to a person you had never met…who possessed all the memories of one of your dearest friends?
Is this how Captain Sisko felt, when he first saw Jadzia? Seeing a beautiful young woman, all too aware that she also remembered him as a pupil…a brash young man whom she—then a he—had had to reign in…
Bashir shrugged off the thought, and began, “So, um…here we are!”
Ezri chuckled softly at that, giving a light shrug of her own, her blue-grey eyes sparkling again.
Her eyes…Bashir found himself suddenly captivated, looking at them in wonder. There was a certain element of wisdom in them…a deep thoughtfulness, in stark contrast to youthful bloom which filled the girl’s features. It was so eerily familiar, somehow…. Of course, that should have been no surprise.
The sound of her voice snapped him back to reality, as she narrowed her eyes in what looked like amusement. “What was that?”
Bashir blinked. “What was what?”
Ezri shot him an expression implying that the answer should have been the most obvious thing in the universe. “That look…?”
Of course. He’d been so captivated by her eyes…that he’d let all subtlety vanish.
Ah, well. No sense excusing it. “This may be the last thing you want to hear,” he said, “But…you have Jadzia’s eyes.”
Only half of the truth, of course. There was a sweet, childlike element there that was decidedly pure Ezri. Still…it was probably the best response he could give without possibly disturbing her.
Apparently not. Ezri stiffened again, as she gritted her teeth, lowering her gaze as if mentally counting to ten.
Bashir immediately realized his mistake. He remembered, just a few minutes ago, she’d been struggling with all the memories of past hosts. A reminder of that was the last thing she’d wanted to hear….
“I’m sorry,” he muttered softly, and sincerely. “I, um…I shouldn’t have said anything.”
She looked up at him, with a tired smile. “Don’t flirt with me, Julian—please?”
Bashir blinked, caught completely off guard at this. “I’m not—”
“I remember how you used to flirt with Jadzia.”
For goodness, sake, I was trying to be nice, and she has to bring up—?
Bashir shook his head quickly, driving the thought from his mind. “It—it was just an observation—”
“Good,” she cut him off again, nodding quickly, her eyes widening in what looked like nervous defensiveness, “Because I’m not like her. She knew how to handle it—actually,” she looked off, and a smile seemed to play on his face, “She quite enjoyed it.”
Bashir felt a smile of his own at this. “Really?”
Ezri tilted her head, with a smirk. “You didn’t know?”
Why, of course I did. “The lady doth protest too much,” and all that.
Bashir shrugged. “Well, I…always suspected it….”
Ezri nodded…and finally, she seemed to relax a bit. “You can be very charming….”
Julian lowered his gaze, staring into his mug, dejected at how this was going. Oh, I “can be”? Frankly, I’m not sure how to take that, Ezri. I’ve heard too much from Jadzia along those lines to take that as a good sign. Goodness, what is it about women I still can’t find myself able to understand?
But Ezri wasn’t through. “You want to know something?”
Bashir looked up, mentally preparing himself for the inevitable rejection, the “Julian, you’ve been a great friend, but you must understand we Trill should consider ourselves above such things”, the “Julian, I was a man once, so I understand all the emotions you’re going through”…the patronizing, without any mercy—all with her unaware of what she was doing.
But nothing prepared him for what she did say.
Ezri leaned forward with a smile, as if indicating he’d love what she was going to telling him…and said in a conspiratorial voice, “If Worf hadn’t come along, it would’ve been you.”
Julian Bashir stiffened, the blood running cold in his veins.
No—she didn’t mean it like that. She didn’t mean to say…
But whether she did or not…nonetheless, the words churned inside, tugging at his heart. And despite himself, a feeling of bitterness swelled up inside him—certainly not at Ezri, not even at Worf…but at a friend long lost, whom he’d often wished would be something more.
Confound it, Jadzia. What that how you thought of me? Was I a “backup plan” for you—was that it? You knew how I felt—how many times did I tell you, only to have you shrug it off and tell me I’d never succeed with you? How many times…and now I hear this?
“If Worf hadn’t come along…”
Was it that you had felt something…? Your coming to my quarters on the Defiant, vulnerable, scared…asking if you could sleep there—your holding on to me, after I’d saved your life, joking with me about how foolhardy it was—was there more to all that…and I just didn’t see it? Did I just give up too soon?
But why didn’t you realize that? Why didn’t…
“If Worf hadn’t come along…”
Jadzia…why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you give me any sign…any indication that you really did feel something? Why the games—why the constant pushing away?
But just as the questions were becoming more than he could bear…he felt two soft, almost frail hands take his own. It was Ezri.
He briefly looked up at her…and was stunned at the sadness in her eyes. It was as if she could read the conflict simmering inside him—as if…
Immediately, Bashir’s gaze fell once again in shame. It was his problem…he had no right to make her feel guilty in any way.
But he saw and felt her grip on his hand tighten…as if pleading for him, begging him to accept what amends she could make.
“You really miss her, don’t you?” she asked in a near whisper.
The innocence of the question—the simple offer of support for a friend…caused him to meet her gaze again. At her words, he somehow felt as if the bitterness inside him had suddenly washed away. Despite all that had happened…
No…it wasn’t your fault at all, Jadzia…was it? It was me. I’d told myself you would never feel the same way…and I’d accepted it—for the most part, anyway. I found myself able to…to get over you. I could live without you—I could live happily, finding other things to bring me peace, such as it was.
I…it was never really ‘love’, was it, Jadzia? I was infatuated with you…and it blinded me to reality. Had it all been real…I’d have waited. I’d have persevered. But…I didn’t. Because it wasn’t love. I’d thought it was…but it wasn’t.
And I have no one to blame but myself.
And now, Ezri Dax sat there across from him, waiting for his answer.
Julian Bashir sighed, and nodded. “Yes. I, uh…suppose I always will.”
And he felt a small, genuine smile of gratitude, as he added, “But, somehow, talking to you—it seems to help.”
She returned the smile…and it seemed as if tears were welling up in her eyes. Was she thanking him—for being willing to recover from the pain, for accepting the nonverbal apology she gave?
Whatever it was…Julian Bashir felt his spirit lifting, as he let her hold his hand, and smile. For now, at least, he was at peace.
* * *
He opened his eyes as the memory ended. Of all things…why that memory?
Was it—he was almost afraid to consider this possibility—was his mind telling him to let go? To put the memories aside, and move on?
Vic continued the song:
Moonlight and love songs…never out of date…
Hearts full of passion…jealousy, and hate…
Woman needs Man—and Man must have his mate—
That, no one can…deny….
Julian remembered the lesson he had learned, then—about himself…and Jadzia.
There was something I heard once…something about love. Something like…“It’s not about finding the person you want to live with…it’s about finding the person you can’t live without.”
He had found he’d been able to live without Jadzia. And, though she had seen him as a possible choice…ultimately, it was Worf whom she could not live without. But he—Bashir—she could.
But…was that true about Ezri—and him?
He remembered his relationship with Leeta. They had broken up without any problems whatsoever. No pain in the aftermath—although, (he felt an internal smirk), he had felt a little put off upon discovering that part of the reason for it was that she’d found she was attracted to Rom….
But with Ezri, it was different—far different. There had been tears between them, when it had happened…there had been a feeling of darkness, of…of emptiness. And frankly…those feelings somehow returned every time his thoughts returned to that moment—and to all that had led to it.
That’s what it is, isn’t it? I’m asking myself if…if I can live without her, like I could live without Jadzia. And the answer…well, I don’t think I have an answer, yet. And until I do…I can’t really deal with these feelings…can I?
The voice of Vic Fontaine filled his ears, the lyrics of the song reaching down into his soul:
It’s still the same old story:
A fight for love and glory,
A case of do, or die….
The world will always welcome lovers…
And with that, the song ended. Julian Bashir found himself blinking back tears as he rose from his seat, taking the sculpture under his arm.
Vic came down from the stage, walking up to him. “How we feeling, Doc?” he asked softly.
Bashir shrugged, shaking his head. “I don’t know. But, somehow…I had to hear it.”
I don’t have any answers, Vic. But…whatever they will be…I’d better find the strength to handle them…somehow.
Vic nodded slowly, thoughtfully, as if able to guess his thoughts.
“Well,” Bashir extended his free hand to Vic, “Thank you, my friend.”
“Hey,” Vic clasped it, shaking it firmly, “I’m always here if you need me.”
Bashir chuckled. “I know. And thank you—for everything.”
With that, he left, the blue sculpture under his arm, Vic Fontaine standing still, staring after him in silence.
And Julian Bashir returned to his quarters.
* * *
Julian Bashir Will Return….