Cynthia Holland had kept her word. It had barely been a week before the Aventine
received its new orders: bringing supplies to the Bajoran system, to assist in the effort to construct the new Deep Space Nine. And when the ship entered orbit of Bajor…Ezri had felt more than a twinge of nostalgia…and sadness, as the loss of what had once been her home established itself in her heart.
She’d authorized shore leave for the crew—well, those not taking part in the distribution of supplest. And as for her…
It hadn’t been too hard to find him. He was currently residing in a housing facility owned by Starfleet, in the Bajoran city of Aljuli.
Ezri stood outside the door of his quarters, somehow unsure of whether to ring the chime, or to walk away. For a while, she did neither.
She hadn’t seen him, since Earth—since the trial, the hearing for what she’d done to defend a colony from the Breen. And…and now…
What are you afraid of? What…?
Ezri swallowed hard, staring at the door. There’s no turning back, Ezri. It’s too late to do that. You’re already here. No turning back
She stiffened, and reached for the panel—
The doors opened before she could ring—and Ezri Dax found herself a mere breath away from Dr. Julian Bashir.
It was a moment transcending time, as they stared at one another in mutual shock.
Ezri felt her eyes widen, as she finally found her voice, “H-hello, Julian.”
He blinked. “Ezri…?”
Ezri’s gaze fell, as she cleared her throat. “Can—mind if I…?”
“Oh—of course, I—come in!!”
He stepped aside, and Ezri walked in, pausing in the center of the room. “I…” she sighed, as she turned to him, “I—hope I’m not holding you up, or—”
Julian shook his head. “No—not at all. I was…just going for a walk.”
Ezri smiled. “Bored?”
Julian shrugged. “Call it that. Sarina’s on duty, I suppose. In the meantime, I suppose my head needs to be cleared…as it were.”
“So…” Julian asked, “How have you been?”
“Better, I guess. I’ve had enough to keep me occupied, anyway….”
He nodded. “I can imagine. So—delivering supplies, I hear?”
Ezri chuckled, and shrugged. “Not very glamorous, is it? But—I was in the neighborhood, I guess….”
Julian nodded again. “It’s…good to see you, again, Ezri.”
Ezri returned the nod. “You, too,” she said quietly. After a moment, she asked with a smile, “So—how have you
Julian looked off, and sighed. “Better….”
Ezri frowned. There was something in how he’d said it… “What’s wrong?”
Julian shrugged. “We’d—why don’t we sit down?”
Ezri nodded. “Okay,” she whispered.
They did so. Ezri made it a point not to sit on the couch beside him, instead pulling up a chair. She didn’t have the right to do otherwise.
“So…” Ezri smiled at him, “Penny for your thoughts?”
He returned the smile. “I am
glad to see you again,” he said, in an absent tone.
“Come on, Doctor—let’s hear it.”
He sighed. “You know, I don’t suppose it would’ve been more awkward between us, if Sarina had been here, with me?”
Ezri blinked. “What about her?”
“Oh, just her being here. I’m reasonably
sure it’d have been harder for the two of us to ‘open up’, as it were….”
Ezri nodded. “I guess.”
That was why you—when you visited me, in my cell, then…you asked her to excuse us, wasn’t it? Something…something personal, between the two of us—
She shoved the thoughts aside, and muttered, “It seems like it’s awkward, now
Julian sighed again. “I know…. I suppose it’s been so long, since I was…able to open up to someone, as it were.”
Ezri felt a tug at her heart, at this. But she sadly asked, “What do you mean?”
Julian smiled, looking off. “You know, I was so sure I could throw myself into a relationship—share my thoughts with Sarina, express my problems…vulnerabilities—that sort of thing. For a while, I was sure that’s what I was
Ezri tensed, and her gaze fell, “Julian…are you sure you should be telling me
He turned to her. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re the last
person with whom I should be discussing…problems in my current relationship.”
Ezri met his gaze. “Maybe I am.”
Julian shrugged. “Regardless…I feel as though I have
to. Somehow…” He spread out his hands, “I feel as though you’re the only one who’d understand.”
Ezri swallowed. “What—what do you mean?”
Julian shook his head, as if in bewilderment at herself. “I…I don’t know. I’m not sure what
I mean. Just that…right now, I feel like I can talk
to you. No problems…no past—we can be…” he shrugged, “—comfortable, I suppose.”
Ezri was not
feeling comfortable, with this. “Julian…what’s wrong
“Nothing,” Julian said, then shook his head, “Everything.”
Ezri shook her head. “I…is something going on, with—with you and…?”
Julian chuckled. “You know, Ezri, there are times I swear you’re telepathic.”
“Tele—” Ezri shook her head again, quickly, “Julian, what
is going on? Did you and Sarina have a…?”
“Fight? No,” Julian shook his head. “No, nothing like that.”
Julian looked off, saying nothing. Finally, he rose to his feet, and walked over to the replicator. “Two Fanalian toddies…hot.”
Ezri had risen to her feet…and upon hearing this, she froze. She lowered her gaze, and her eyes closed. A soft sigh escaped from her.
She opened her eyes, looking to him. “Do—do you remember the first time you…ordered that, for us?”
Julian turned to the replicator, and took the two mugs. He brought them over, handing one to her. “Yes,” he said…the nostalgia in his voice matching her own. “I do.”
Ezri took the mug, sipping it. The warmth of the drink helped her to relax…if only a little. But it was enough.
“Okay,” she said, “Tell me the truth, Julian…what is
Julian took a sip from his mug. “Well, lately, I’ve been wondering if I have a problem with relationships.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, just that I’ve never been able to ‘hold on’ to someone for too long. Well—for the most part, that’s not too bad, but…when I truly
care for someone…”
Ezri tensed. “What?”
Julian shrugged. “Is it that I fail to understand them? Something I just can’t see coming—when, looking back…I feel as though I should
Ezri swallowed. “What happened?”
Julian smiled—bitterly. “Just that I don’t know if I should feel like an idiot, or not.”
Julian nodded, his jaw set. “She was
a…an agent of Section 31.”
Ezri froze, her eyes wide…unable to speak. Her mind was reeling—with two thoughts.
The first: So, it
is true—Cynthia was right! She was right—it…all this time. It
wasn’t just jealousy—my suspicions of Sarina had a reason, after all.
The second: He knows? He already
knows? But—how? Did Cynthia change her mind—no…no, she couldn’t have. After that warning she gave me—all the consequences of his discovering the betrayal like this, for himself…she couldn’t have!
But those two were suddenly overcome by another train of thought—and it led her to frown, and ask, “Was
Julian frowned, as if looking aware of the apparent insanity of whatever he was about to say. “She…told me she had
“Wait a minute,” Ezri held up a hand. “She—told
Julian sighed, in what resembled defeat. That was his only answer.
“But…well, what did
she tell you?”
“That…that she was assigned to me, to claim she was an agent of Starfleet Intelligence…and—was to effectively recruit me back into the organization, without my knowing who
I was really working for.”
Ezri shook her head in bewilderment. “Great I’nora
Julian nodded. “I know.”
Ezri shook her head, her gaze lowered. No—you don’t know, Julian. I’m not surprised that she is—was?—one of them. I…I’m just surprised that she
told you! What on Trill—?
She looked up. “And…why
did she tell you all this?”
Julian looked off—and what appeared to be a smile of amusement, at himself, played at the corners of his mouth. “She…tells me that she’d long since—well, decided to become a mole. Infiltrate the organization, pretend
to work for them—that sort of thing.”
Ezri could barely speak. She’d come here, prepared for anything
—she’d thought. But…but this
‘Pretend to’…? But—for goodness sake, Julian…that doesn’t make any—
Wait…well, maybe it did. But then—
Ezri managed to ask, “When…when did she—tell you?”
Julian met her gaze. “Shortly after your trial,” he quietly said.
Ezri shook her head, suddenly feeling amused, herself. “What, she didn’t think you were ready before
Julian sighed, and looked off.
“I mean…” Ezri went on, “Couldn’t she have just told you, when
“I don’t know, Ezri…” he muttered. “I just don’t know. I—suppose
it was to sell the deception to L’Haan, so Sarina could be sure she wasn’t…watching us….”
Ezri logged the name in her mind. She must be the director of Sarina’s—‘division’.
She nodded. “But…?”
Julian’s lip tightened. “I don’t suppose you heard of what happened—the investigation into DS9’s destruction?”
Ezri frowned. “Bits and pieces, I guess. What happened?”
“Until…we uncovered the man responsible—Sarina was the prime suspect.”
Julian snorted, “Apparently, Ro found out before I did. Or, maybe Sarina told her….” He paused for a moment, and said, “Well, after the arrest…L’Haan—that’s her superior in the Bureau, apparently…”
Ezri nodded. “Go on.”
A bitter smile appeared on Julian’s face. “She commissioned
me to clear Sarina’s name.”
“Well, that’s understandable, Julian, but—I don’t see…”
His smile grew, in bitterness as well as size. “Other than the woman confirming Sarina was
an agent? Oh, I might have…idly revealed that Sarina had—informed me of her.”
Ezri blinked. “How did she take it?”
“L’Haan? As I recall…quite well.” Julian’s lip tightened again. “As if she’d expected
Ezri nodded, her gaze lowered. “Or ordered it,” she muttered, through her teeth.
Julian stiffened…and slowly nodded. “Perhaps.”
Ezri sighed, shaking her head sadly. “Julian—I…”
“No, it’s—I can’t tell, either way.” Julian shrugged. “L’Haan’s a Vulcan—she could’ve just been…covering her reaction. But—” He let out a sigh of his own, spreading out his hands.
Ezri nodded. “But that would mean you were projecting—channeling how you interpreted her reaction through…what you were already feeling.”
Julian turned away, and started pacing the floor. “I’m supposed to trust
her,” he muttered. “That’s what it’s supposed to be built on, isn’t it—a relationship? Trust?”
Ezri shook her head. “Julian, if she’d been arrested
,” Julian turned to her, “When you
were brought before the Council—I knew
, with everything I was…that you were innocent. No one had to reassure me—I knew
you, Ezri!” Julian said, frustration and anguish filling his face, “I can
trust you—why can’t I trust Sarina
Ezri stiffened, as the warnings of Cynthia Holland filled her mind. “Julian, don’t
Julian stared at her, with a questioning look. “‘Don’t’…what? Don’t ask you that?”
Ezri closed her eyes, gathering herself. She opened them, and said, “Don’t compare that, Julian. It’s not that simple.”
Ezri swallowed, suddenly realizing that she’d gone too far. She managed to meet his gaze.
“Julian—when did these doubts begin?”
You’re treading on shaky ground, Ezri. Be careful.
“About…whether you could trust her. Was
it when she was arrested?”
Julian’s gaze fell. Finally, he shook his head. “No.”
“It was—when she first revealed to me who…what
she was—or ‘had’ been.”
Ezri nodded. “You were afraid she wasn’t telling the truth.”
He looked at her…and nodded.
Ezri couldn’t resist asking, “Did something happened, to make you suspect otherwise?”
Julian smiled, his gaze internal. “Well…not something she
did. No, it—”
He froze, as his eyes widened a bit.
Ezri frowned. “Julian…?”
“Fool me twice,” Julian muttered—and chuckled.
Ezri shook her head in amazement. Right…that’s exactly what I thought, Julian. Cynthia…Cynthia Holland was a precedent, wasn’t she?
But something told her she had to confirm it. “Did this happen before, Julian?”
Julian shrugged. “Not exactly. Well…in a way, yes.”
It was all Ezri could do to keel from blurting out, I know
Julian shook his head. “You know—sometimes I wonder if I’m becoming a masochist.”
Ezri blinked. “Excuse me?”
“Well, after we…you and I—well, what do I find myself doing? I fall for a woman who turns out to be with Section 31. After that
’s over…I wallow in self-pity, without anyone—and then
, Sarina shows up, I swear to myself that she
is my one true love, and then
Ezri quickly shook her head. “Look—Julian, you don’t know
, all right? For all you know, she is
telling you the truth. I mean…she chose
to tell you, didn’t she? You…you didn’t suspect anything…”
He shook his head.
Ezri swallowed. “So—don’t just…don’t just take this and…”
“Thank you,” Julian quietly replied, with a small smile.
Ezri, sighed, and stared at her hands, as she wrung them a bit. Finally, she looked up at him, taking a few steps forward. “Julian—I don’t have any right to…to lecture you, on her
. But…” she found herself blinking back a tear, “Just—whatever you do, don’t
do it unless you’re sure. Don’t break up with her, just because she might
be lying to you. For—for all you know, you…and her…”
She couldn’t bring herself to say …were meant to be.
Julian nodded, his eyes sad, as though he knew why she couldn’t finish.
Ezri swallowed, and her gaze intensified. “But—but don’t
just sweep this all under the rug, and…”
Julian smiled. “And play the ‘sap’ for her, as it were?”
Ezri flinched. “Well—just don’t jump into things, either way.”
She didn’t add, Like we did…in the runabout, after Trill
Julian nodded…in silent understanding.
Ezri returned the nod. “Okay,” she whispered, as she turned, and began to leave.
She stopped, and turned to him, wondering what it was.
Julian’s gaze fell, as he gathered himself. Finally, he looked at her, and asked, “You’re not…staying?”
“I—” Ezri sighed, and shook her head. “I don’t think…”
“Well—before you go, I…well, do you mind if I ask a—personal question?”
Ezri chuckled nervously at this. “Well, um,” she said, quietly, “Now would
seem like an appropriate time.”
Julian nodded, with a half-smile of his own. But it faded, as he swallowed, and asked, “Have…has there been anyone? After…after me?”
Ezri froze, her lips pursed, as she stared at her hands, wringing them a little. He wants the truth…that’s all he wants—and he’ll
know it, if I give him anything less.
She sighed, met his gaze…and shook her head. “No,” she whispered. “There hasn’t.”
She saw Julian’s lip tighten…as he accepted it, and all it implied. He nodded.
Ezri looked off…and tried to smile. “I, um…” she shrugged, as she looked to him again, “I—guess I haven’t…haven’t felt that way about anyone, in a while.”
Julian looked off for a moment longer, and finally said, “Don’t tell me you were waiting for me.”
Ezri blinked…and sighed. “I don’t know,” she whispered. “I just…never felt—none of the men I’ve…well, none of the relationships I’ve had, lately—they’ve all been friends. I honestly never considered anything more—with any of them.”
A smile seemed to play at Julian’s mouth. “You know, from what I’ve noticed, Simon’s quite devoted to you.”
Ezri froze. And then—she laughed, caught completely off guard at this unexpected subject. She quickly restrained herself, and said. “Wow! Well
Julian’s smile formed.
Ezri paused for a moment…and shook her head sadly. “Look, Julian—I know it.”
Ezri nodded. “But…he and I both
know that it…it wouldn’t work. Even if his feelings were
mutual—” she shook her head, “It…it just wouldn’t. He was my patient
, for goodness sake! I…I doubt it’d be approp—”
Ezri froze, upon seeing Julian flinch at this…and right away, she understood what was going through his mind. He—and Sarina…
She quickly added, “But Julian—it isn’t just that I’m waiting for you.”
Julian frowned. “‘Just’?”
“I…I honestly just haven’t…found
anyone. Maybe I’m just not looking, but…”
“Well,” Julian said, a small smile returning, “Neither was I, to be honest.”
Ezri nodded, and turned to go again.
“Ezri…” Julian began again.
Ezri turned to him, waiting.
Julian met her gaze, and said, “You don’t owe me anything, Ezri. Don’t
…wait for me.”
Ezri stared at the floor for a moment, and sighed. When she met his eyes, she said, “If…if I do
find someone—ever…I’ll let you know. Call that a promise, Julian.”
He nodded again. “Fair enough,” he said.
Ezri shook her head, and walked back to him. “Look—Julian…if you’re sure
—really sure—that you can trust her, with your heart, I won’t
stop you. I can’t, and I won’t try. I just…” a tear came to her eye, “…just want you to be sure.”
Julian stared at her in silence, saying nothing. Finally…his hand came, and gently wiped the tear away, as he’d used to. Ezri closed her eyes at this, feeling all too well how hard all of this was making it, for him. And yet…and yet, in some cruel yet tender way, it was right
She opened her eyes, looking at him. He nodded, his hand lowered, and said, “Thank you.”
Ezri returned the nod with a smile…and took his hand. She’d probably meant to shake it, in acknowledgement of their everlasting, unbreakable friendship—but suddenly, whatever reason it had been just vanished, as they stood there…looking deep into one another’s eyes, and…
And then Sarina Douglass entered the room.
Ezri froze, slowly releasing Julian’s hand. He turned, and saw the other woman, and stood silent and still.
Sarina looked at both of them…and her gaze fixed to a point between them, as though the image of the hands held were burning in her mind.
Ezri cleared her throat. “Well, Julian, as I said, it’s—good to see you again.”
Julian turned to her, and nodded. “Likewise. I…believe I have some things to do.”
“Oh!” Ezri nodded, hands raised in acceptance—somehow, to Sarina as well. “Well—don’t let me stop you. I have to get back to my ship.”
“Very good. If—excuse me….”
And Julian turned, and walked to the door through which Sarina had just entered. He stopped, to give her a reassuring smile, and a nod. Sarina returned the smile, halfheartedly…so clearly uncertain what to make out of what she’d stumbled upon.
Ezri somehow managed to meet Sarina’s gaze. The other girl met it…her posture stiff, her face filled with anxiety.
Ezri tried hard not to swallow, and shrugged, forcing a smile, “Well, um…Sarina—how…how are you?”
Sarina nodded, with a forced smile of her own. “Hello, Captain.”
Ezri returned the nod quickly. “Well—like I said, I hate short notice, but…I-I have to get back—”
Sarina nodded again. “Right, um…good to see you again, Captain.”
“Yeah—the same,” Ezri returned it, eyes wide. “Excuse me.”
She walked past her, struggling not to break into a run.
* * *