“The Doors We Open and Close”
Prophet’s Mercy Hospital
Dr. Julian Bashir’s focus was misplaced. He should’ve been beaming about Colonel Kira’s impressive recovery, but his mind kept drifting back to the colonel’s strange visitor. Perhaps strange wasn’t the best word for it. Familiar was more appropriate. Somehow he knew the woman, though he had never seen the ranjen before.
After he had taken care of Kira’s migraine and given the woman a sedative, Bashir had asked the staff about the ranjen. None of them seemed as interested in her. They had told him she had visited the colonel several times, though her path had never crossed with his. Kira was one of several patients the woman visited. Julian did know it was fairly standard practice for the Bajoran clergy to visit the infirm, even aboard Deep Space Nine.
He reasoned that perhaps he had caught sight of the woman there, though that explanation still didn’t quite sit right with him. But where else could he have met her?
His mind recycling possibilities, his nose stuck into a padd filled with Kira’s bio-readings, Bashir caught the motion out of the corner of his eye too late. He plowed right into the person before he could stop himself.
With unusual clumsiness, Bashir’s legs got tangled with the other person’s and both of them pitched toward the floor, until an arm shot out and found purchase. Bashir’s fall was abruptly stopped.
He quickly untangled himself from the person and offered a hand. The younger human male, tow-headed and fresh faced, waved the proffered hand off.
“My apologies Ensign,” Bashir said, his cheeks warming with embarrassment. The ensign wore operations gold beneath his gray and black uniform. Julian tried to place him, but gave up after a few seconds. He could’ve been new to the station or from one of the visiting starships.
“This wasn’t how I envisioned our first meeting Doctor,” the junior officer said. “Minister Tenva said you were a head full of steam, but I wasn’t expecting to literally be caught in your path.”
Bashir pulled back his hand. His posture stiffened, his eyes narrowed, and his voice lowered, “You’re the new contact.” It wasn’t a question.
The man nodded, “I’m temporary, until the section can figure out what to do due to this Bajor First business.”
Otos Tenva, Julian’s previous Section 31 contact, had been a member of the recently ousted government.
“Tenva didn’t even say goodbye,” Bashir said wryly. “I wonder what happened to him.”
The young man shrugged, completely uncaring. “I didn’t ask.”
“I see,” Bashir said, not the first lie he had told. He had been lying to others, but mostly himself, ever since he had decided to join Section 31. He had done so in the hopes of saving Garak and protecting the people he cared for. “Are you going to give me a name?”
“Crisp,” the ensign grinned, a bit sheepishly, “Apologies.”
“What do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” Bashir didn’t hide his sarcasm. He refused to be disarmed by the aw-shucks guise of the operative.
“There’s a new assignment for you,” the man said, “The data rod will be in your quarters. The usual location.”
Bashir shuddered. He hated that this Crisp was carrying on the invasive practices of Tenva.
“Do I get an inkling of what it will entail?” Bashir asked.
A shadow crossed across the man’s face. “You’re not going to like it.”
Deep Space Nine
Two nights later…
“I can’t believe you just up and did this, without even asking me!” Ezri Dax thundered, arms folded severely across her chest, and her delicate chin jutting forward in anger. She pushed from the table, nostrils flaring at its contents, her face a mask of disgust. “And you thought Bularian canapés and Denevan plum pudding were supposed to mollify me!”
Bashir at turns felt both awkward and awful. He didn’t know what to do, short of telling Ezri the truth and that is what he couldn’t, must not do.
“This is a great opportunity,” he weakly offered. “One that Starfleet Medical said would be great for my career.”
“I thought you had become more settled…here, with me,” Ezri said, a stricken look in her eyes.
“Perhaps…that’s the problem,” Bashir hated himself for saying it, even more so for the grains of truth in the statement.
“Julian, you can’t mean that,” Ezri was taken aback.
“No, please, listen Ezri,” Julian thought about reaching out to her, but then changed his mind. “I came to DS9 to study and practice medicine on the frontier, to be on the cutting edge,” he paused, reminiscing over the younger, more callow man he had once been.
“I had every intention of leaving DS9 after an allotted time, of working my way up through Starfleet Medical, of catching up to and surpassing Elizabeth Lense. But of course, life happens while making other plans,” he smiled, trying to inject some levity into the gathering storm clouds.
“So, I’m just a detour?” Ezri charged.
“No, no, no, I didn’t say that, I didn’t mean that,” Bashir protested.
“That’s what it sounded like to me,” the Trill shot back.
“Listen, it’s not like Cardassia Prime is on the other side of the galaxy,” Julian noted.
“We barely spend enough time together as it is and we live on the same space station,” Ezri rejoined. “Think how hard it will be to continue our relationship on different planets?”
“You know that’s a hazard of the service,” the medic pointed out.
“One would hope that the couples actually discussed their separations instead of one just making the decision on his own.”
“I’m sorry Ezri, but being the Starfleet liaison for the Interspecies Medical Exchange on Cardassia is a plum assignment, and it’s one in which I can do a lot of good. The Cardassian people still need as much help as they can get, and you know that.”
“That’s not the point,” Ezri huffed.
“Then what is?” Bashir started to feel his own anger rise.
“You should’ve discussed this with me first. Maybe I could’ve secured a position on Cardassia Prime too.”
“I didn’t want to upset what you were doing here,” Julian said smoothly. He really didn’t want Ezri too close to him while he carried out the work Section 31 doled out.
“You should’ve given me the option to make that decision or not, but you didn’t,” Ezri said.
“I’m sorry,” Bashir replied.
“Are you? Are you really?” Dax asked, looking searchingly into his eyes.
“Of course I am, why would you ask that?” Julian was incredulous.
“Because over the last several months you’ve spent a lot of time off the station. If I didn’t know better I would think you were putting distance between you and me,” Ezri’s voice was half-accusing, half-breaking.
“Well, I don’t know what to say about that,” It was perhaps Bashir’s first true statement in a long time to his lover.
“That says it all, doesn’t it?”
“Ezri, I don’t understand,” Bashir pleaded.
“I think I do,” Ezri shook her head, a light shining in her eyes. “You’re not ready for this to go forward, and you just don’t want to hurt my feelings.”
“Ezri,” Julian started to protest, but another, hated voice blossomed in his mind: This is your out, this is your way to protect her…the despised inner voice clutched the doctor’s vocal cords and he hung his head. “Maybe you’re right,” he said quietly, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” she reached out and touched his hand for a few agonizing seconds. “Maybe I’m not ready for this to go forward either.”
“Ezri,” he started again, but caught himself. “Maybe it’s for the best,” he smiled weakly.
“Maybe,” Ezri’s crestfallen look belied her words. She pulled back her chair and awkwardly scrambled out of it. “I think its best that I leave.”
Bashir really wanted to stop here, he wanted to hold her in his arms and tell her how he really felt, but he didn’t. If he really loved Dax, he would have to let her go. And so he did.