The Time of Hagalaz, Presumed Guilty Part Two

Chapter Twenty-EIght

"Yes, thank you, Constable…" Sisko stepped into carefully questioning Lange with a gentle reassurance. "Not to debate Gul Dukat's offer and claim of sanctuary…"

"I agreed to surrender my security to Anon," she stated nervously.

"Not the issue, Doctor," Sisko patiently reiterated.

"Though clearly, yes, all part of Dukat's conspiracy," Bashir hastily proposed having apparently decided between one side and the other to change his mind.

Sisko's eyes closed and opened in a pregnant blink. "If you cannot control yourself, Doctor, kindly excuse yourself. There will be no further unnecessary alarms rang to intimidate or coerce Doctor Lange's testimony."

"No, of course not," Bashir apologized. "Sorry."

Sisko studied Lange. "The town elder of your colony, were he and his son, by any chance -- "

"The two Bajorans who came to assist me with Anon in Quark's?" Janice smiled. "Yes. I know you're looking for Anar, Captain, Anon told me."

"I am," Sisko agreed. "Did Gul Dukat happen to inform you as to the reasons why?"

"Yes. As I explained to him, I know how Anar ran, but it wasn't to run away."

"Then why run at all?"

"So he could protect me?" she smiled again. "Difficult to do from inside one of your security cells. You have to understand, Anar's never wanted me involved with the conference. He's been trying to talk me out of it for months, terrified from the beginning Hawk, or someone would attempt to abort the conference; violently abort, yes… And they did attempt, didn't they?" she said suddenly as if the realization had suddenly occurred to her. "Oh, my," tears welled up in her eyes.

"Doctor…" Sisko's reach out was instinctive.

"No, I'm all right," Janice firmly shook her head. "Just please try and understand. I couldn't refuse. The colony is so poor…we've been through so much. I was hoping if I agreed to First Minister Shakaar's request I act as representative, he would agree to extending my grant and allow me to stay…" her explanation move to include Kira staring back at her. "Anar's been working with Anon to try and help him locate the Threat Force… not extinguish," she laughed lightly. "That's just how Anon talks sometimes. But to bring them to justice, yes. Whoever you're looking for, I know it's not Anar, but someone else."

"I…" Kira said uncertainly to Sisko.

"That would be difficult, Doctor," Sisko cautiously replied, "for me to accept under all of the circumstances involved."

"Such as the incident aboard the Klingon Bridge?" her smile remained. "The Bajoran child abducted on the Promenade? I do know the circumstances; some of them anyway. And difficult, Captain, for you to believe perhaps, that it wasn't Anar, but not for me to believe. I know Anar; you don't. And Anar…" she considered the strong and gentle face of her colony's elder. "He's a kind man, Captain. A wise man. A grandfather," she laughed lightly again. "Yes, he's a grandfather… Nadya's grandfather," she reminded Kira of her little nine year old friend she had told them about. "And no more than Anar would ever harm Nadya, would he ever dream to harm anyone's child. "

"And simply by coincidence well versed in identifying former Bajoran Maquis," Sisko nodded. "Doctor, I'm sorry…"

"Of course, Anar's well versed," Janice said. "We live in the outer colonies, Captain. Everyone knows the name Hawk, and everyone is as terrified of him. The colony I arrived on eighteen months ago, had over 2,000 permanent residents. If it wasn't for Anar, I don't think there would be thirty-five of us still alive."

"Thirty-five…" Bashir blinked.

"Doctor," Sisko reminded.

"Well, I'm sorry, but thirty-five?"

"Thirty-five, Captain," Veronica Sorge took charge of Janice's hand. "I think, while Gul Dukat's offer of sanctuary may be tainted with what you would likely call a personal agenda, you have to agree, it is certainly one of the better offers Doctor Lange has had made to her."

"Better ones?" Bashir was aghast. "The man assaulted her."

"No, he did not…Tracy?" she sighed.

Yes, Sorge knew. If he didn't take the young man aside and talk to him, she would. "No, he didn't assault her, Doctor," he said. "The only evidence of assault, is what you, yourself have been able to ascertain; that of O'Brien. And before you start babbling on about residuals of Cardassian DNA may I suggest that if I took a sampling of the female population of the station, good chances are I would find residuals of your DNA scattered around more than a few places -- likewise without added evidence of assault. True or false?"

"Irrelevant," Bashir said coldly.

"Not to me," Sorge assured Sisko. "Your Advocate looking to hang Dukat for any reason other than he is Dukat? No? Then I suggest you instruct him to get on with the business of whether or not to hang O'Brien. Quite frankly I'm tired of listening to this, and if you think I don't pull weight, a lot of it, with the Federation Supreme Assembly, and just about everyone else, think again."

"Let's hope it doesn't come down to a contest, Doctor," Sisko replied.

Sorge grunted. "Arrogance earned?"

"You bet," Sisko said.

"We'll see."

So they would. "I may have some further questions for you, Doctor," Sisko advised Janice, "following the conclusion of these proceedings."

"No," she shook her head. "I wanted to talk to Kira. I remember wanting to talk to Kira…"

"In confidence?" Bashir prompted. "About Dukat?"

"Anar," Janice said to Kira. "I knew you would agree, not only to speak with him directly yourself, but also with Captain Sisko; explain to him how he and Sian only came here to try and help…and Dak'jar…" she looked suddenly away from Kira to Anon.

"Don't worry about Dak'jar," he shook his head.

"But I don't understand," she said.

"I said, don't worry about it!" the palm of Anon's hand struck the podium with force. Janice jumped; he caught himself immediately, ignoring the staring audience of eyes to concentrate on her. "I know who Dak'jar is," he told her calmly. "Yes, Anar explained it to me."

"But I've known Dak'jar almost two years," Janice insisted. "I don't understand why he couldn't understand what we were trying to accomplish…"

"Because he couldn't," Anon groaned. "It's not important, Janice; it's not relevant, like Bashir says, irrelevant. The conference is over. I will have a new one on Cardassia with Sisko and Shakaar; not you. All right? That's what I told you, right? That's what you tell them. Anon came to my quarters to tell me the conference was to be canceled; he was canceling it. Not Bajorans. Only the Bajorans didn't want to listen. They can't listen. They never listen. They don't know how to listen."

She was frowning, his patience waning quickly; he jumped up, everyone stiff and at attention. "It's not bigotry, Janice. It's truth. It's tricks…" he searched around the podium to find and wave the data padd he no longer had. "Games! Like I attempted to explain to you. The consulate is a Cardassian-Bajoran affair. The orphans, everything; not Klingon. They want it to be Klingon. He does! Gowron! Winn!" he cited Ch'Pok. "You think I don't know, Klingon who put you here, brought you here? Check his flight log, it's from Bajor Prime. Like Tan says, kissing Gowron's hem behind the Federation's back, not mine!"

"Rumors abound, Gul Dukat," Ch'Pok admitted gleefully. "Major?" he turned for Kira.

"I…" Kira said. "Major, what?" she snapped. "What's he talking about?"

"Who knows," Ch'Pok shrugged. "A Klingon conspiracy of some sort, no doubt. In the meantime, Major, the question is put to you about agreeing -- "

"To be a liaison," Janice said, "between Anar and Captain Sisko."

"Major?" Ch'Pok said.

"Yes," Kira waved. "No! I don't know anything about it, but, yes, I probably would have agreed to talk -- Benjamin!" She insisted to Sisko, wanting to know what Dukat was talking about.

"Later, Major…" he shook his head, wanting to know himself.

"Order," T’Lara's gavel banged down.

"Order nothing," O'Brien charged. "She's right. Something reeks here. Someone else was in those quarters. Bajoran, Cardassian, Klingon -- someone! I remember. Never mind what she, or anyone else remembers, I remember!"

"That was me," Kira groaned.

"No, it wasn't you. It was a hand. I felt a hand. On my shoulder…I don't know. My back…"

"It was me!" Kira jumped up.

"That's enough!" Sisko reminded.

"Quite," Bashir nodded to Ch'Pok. "It was Kira. With the fractured knuckles to prove it."

"Yes, well, even without the knuckles, it was Major Kira," Odo assured. "Commander Dax and I right behind her."

"We're getting a little ahead of ourselves, Constable," Ch'Pok smiled.

"Talking about Wednesday when we're still talking about Tuesday," Odo was following him. "Of course it will be Tuesday by the time we get to Wednesday…yes, Doctor Lange requested a private conference with Major Kira following the day's session."

"1900," Kira verified. "I was late!"

"I am more interested at the moment, Major," Ch'Pok said, "as to why a conference? Private or otherwise?"

"I don't know," Kira insisted. "We never had an opportunity to talk."

"But you did want to talk, Doctor," Ch'Pok prompted Janice. "About? Your Town Elder Anar?"

"Yes," Janice maintained. "Anar was desperate to help all he could with tracking the Maquis -- "

"Alleged terrorists, Doctor," Ch'Pok interjected. "Alleged Bajoran terrorists."

"Alleged Bajoran terrorists," she consented. "Anon was ambivalent about involving Captain Sisko or Major Kira. But I felt with Kira's assistance, Captain Sisko would be more inclined to at least listen."

"And why wouldn't Captain Sisko be inclined to listen?" Ch'Pok smiled.

"I don't know," Janice said. "I don't know Captain Sisko well enough to answer that."

"But you know him well enough to have formed an opinion," Ch'Pok nodded. "It's all right. Gul Dukat's ambivalence toward the Federation is understandable. As is your own apparently. After all, you are Human, though preferring to align yourself with the Neutral community, rather than the Federation."

"Yes, I prefer my Neutral status; I am a Neutral."

"And for some reason far more inclined to trust Major Kira in lieu of Captain Sisko," Ch'Pok nodded.

"Anar is Bajoran."

"As is Major Kira. As is Captain Sisko Emissary to the people of Bajor -- you are aware of that?"

"No…" Janice paused. "No, I wasn't aware…I don't think. Had I been I would never have hesitated involving him."

"So you admit you did hesitate," Ch'Pok smiled.

"Yes, I admit that. I said that, I believe."

"As you exerted your wish to involve Major Kira over Gul Dukat's apparent protests."

"Yes," Janice said. "Anon isn't unreasonable or stubborn, he's cautious."

"Not quite cautious enough, Doctor," Ch'Pok scolded. "For he was caught together with you by four alleged Bajoran extremists none too happy to find the two of you together -- "

"We were talking," Janice replied. "Anon and I were talking."

Ch'Pok nodded. "None too happy to the point that they would, together with their demands for the conference to be canceled -- "

"Yes, they wanted the conference to be canceled," Janice agreed.

"Then why didn't you just point them in the direction of Gul Dukat?" Ch'Pok's hands planted themselves on the table top, his eyes deeply probing Janice's. "Who wanted the conference canceled as well, and save the two of you a great deal of extraneous trouble?"

"Because I didn't want to cancel it," Janice said.

"I beg your pardon?" Ch'Pok cocked his head.

"The Bajoran-Cardassian citizens need a consulate. Hawk will come to realize that in time, I truly do believe that."

"The man had a phaser rifle trained on you, Doctor," Ch'Pok reminded harshly. "Two of his men had phaser rifles trained on you. What happened to terrified? What happened to Gul Dukat's desperate and determined effort to protect you?"

"Anon did try and protect me; he did protect me."

"Oh, please," Ch'Pok turned away from her in disgust. "Please, Doctor, please. Spare us, both of you, anymore of this nonsense -- to summarize," he cited Anon, "and remember you are under oath, Gul Dukat, whether you take it seriously or not, we do. And to summarize; at approximately 1720 you transported to Doctor Lange's quarters. Doctor Lange dismissed her security matron. You and Doctor Lange engaged in a discussion until the arrival of four Bajoran intruders approximately twenty minutes later. For the next -- hour, was it? Hour and a half? Two?"

"Two, not quite, yes," Anon agreed, listening closely. "I engaged the sauna for 1900. I arrived late. 1930. Somewhere around then."

"1900," Ch'Pok waggled his finger. "If I order a replay of your earlier testimony, I believe you'll hear yourself say 1900 was the time you arrived at the sauna."

"1930," Anon replied. "I'm telling you 1930 now. Ask the Ferengi. It's his program. He'll tell you what time I arrived."

"Is the owner and proprietor Quark of Quark's here in the courtroom?" Ch'Pok turned on the audience with a howl.

"Yes, he's here," Quark hoisted himself to his feet with a scowl. "You know he's here. He had no choice but to be here…What do you want to know? 1930? Sounds about right. 1920 sounds even closer. But, hey. You think I'm going to count slips when I'm looking at bars? Guess again. He engaged every holosuite there's to be had in the house between 1900 and ad infinitum. He could have shone up 1901, never, or somewhere in between. What do I care? Especially since he was late, not early. Early, then I might have had to renegotiate the settlement. But, no, he wasn't early. He was there -- 1920. End of story…how'd I do?" Quark sat down.

"Not bad," Garak approved. "Not bad at all."

"Uh, huh," Quark said. "Not so can I say the same for you know who."

"No," Garak agreed. "No, he does become flustered easily, doesn't he?"

"Uh, huh," Quark said. "Short for his old man he is not. Great. Because if you ask me where all of this took place…"

"Why, where do you think it all took place?" Garak blinked.

"The Replimat," Quark clouted him. "Where do you think it took place? The holosuites. Trust me. That's how my luck runs around here."

"Gul Dukat?" the Klingon Advocate was exhausting for Anar to endure, Anon had to be close to his wits' end.

"I said yes to everything," Anon groaned. "That is exactly what happened. When I left I went to the sauna to relax; think."

"And Doctor Lange?" Ch'Pok turned to her. "Do you concur with Gul Dukat's sworn testimony to be your sworn testimony as well?"

"Yes," Janice said.

"How unfortunate." In racing, great strides the Klingon was back at his bench, flipping open his attaché and activating the overhead, forward viewer screen of the auditorium.

"What are you doing?" Anon blinked as the occupants of the room stiffened again and aboard the Tir, Anar stared.

"Playing the video, Gul Dukat," Ch'Pok waved unconcerned and unperturbed. "That data padd is only a select sampling of stills…"

"Video…" O'Brien spoke for the masses turning like an obedient wave to gape at the blank viewer screen in anticipation.

"No!" Anon jumped to his feet with a scream. "Don't play the film! Don't play it!"

"He was already in bed with her…" Bashir mumbled, agog as the rest of them. "Or the equivalency," he said when the screen flashed on with its stark image of what was hardly a bed, nothing even remotely similar, with its two clearly naked players bathing…"What is that?" Bashir lapsed into a peer for the oozing, bubbling slimy liquid.

"Fish oil," Odo grunted.

"What did I tell you?" Quark's knuckles thumped against Garak's breast. "The holosuites."

"That's enough, Advocate," Sisko was outraged. "I said, that's enough! Turn it off!"

Except it was already bedlam in seconds. Bashir countering "Fish oil?" to Odo's monotone. Dukat still screaming not to play the film that was clearly playing up through and including Leeta's rambling announcement about alternative choices.

"Tan! Sian!" Anar's enraged fist struck the console, activating their neural link as he activated his holographic projector with a barking order to the hovering sentries to go, and a threatening warning to Ziyal. "For the last time, child, I cannot help them, if I cannot help them! I will not sacrifice a daughter who is as much my daughter as you will ever be the daughter of your father and his whore Tora Naprem!"

She heard him, listened, believed, feeling the same, either that or he was as filled with the power of the Prophets as she; the holographic projection worked. Anar was down in the corridor outside the amphitheater tearing the phaser rifle from the Deputy Task Leader's hands. The dumbfounded, confounded man managing to gape "First Minister…" before his head spun at an unnatural angle and Anar was turning to face the delayed hail of worthless phaser fire passing harmless through his ghostly image.

"Now!" Anar directed Sian, releasing a string of compressed cylinders, hissing and spitting as they exploded, spraying the corridor with a choking gas, the Special Forces officers dropping, gasping hopelessly for air. Sian was through the doors of the amphitheater before the first explosion. Aboard the Tir Anon's sentries were long gone, through the airlock and on a rampage down the Promenade, its startled patrons hastily scrambling out of their way as scattered security quickly called for reinforcements in an attempt to find out what was going on. Anar's holographic projection met Anon's squad at the archway to the corridor, the station's ventilation system fully engaged to clear the last of the dizzying fumes and allow the sentries passage through to the amphitheater.

Inside the hollowed halls of the Federation's courtroom the giant Tan had already reacted to Anon's howling screams to abort the video before Anar's voice penetrated his skull demanding the same. Raising his phaser rifle to shattered the viewer screen, Tan missed, Damar knocking his arm aside with a cruel laugh, gloating as he drank in the scrambling, frightened couple on screen; it should have been Damar's last hurrah; he got lucky. The doors the amphitheater opened, the anticipated surge of Special Forces security producing only one; a single officer a step ahead of several small explosions behind him in the corridor. It was the so-claimed acting Commander of the Bajoran Special Forces on a determined and maddened run down the aisle, his phaser rifle targeting Shakaar's and Sisko's forces as he shouted for Tan and Pfrann to secure the room; Pfrann already taken to the air. Like an acrobat clearing the tops of the seats as he jumped to secure Janice, a phaser rifle in one hand, his descent proceeded by a spinning series of small discuses that he pulled from his waist to let fly with deadly accuracy and razor-sharpness. One whirled past Sisko, slicing his arm to burrow itself in the chest of a security officer.

"That's the son-of-a-bitch from the platform!" O'Brien barked over the raging shouts blending in an incoherent, deafening roar.

The other son-of-a-bitch apparently; the younger one. Not the one with white hair. Their unexpected visitor was a Bajoran male of about thirty, thirty-five. Tall, tanned, healthy. His face contorted, there was something almost familiar in the features distorted by their strained, angry eyes and twisted mouth. Sisko stared at the Bajoran listening to his barking orders for the Cardassian squad and Dukat's screams for Lange.

"I have her!" Pfrann grabbed Janice protectively up in his arms, shouting back to his brother, directing the Bajoran to secure Veronica Sorge as a hostage as he trained his field unit on the Changeling.

By that time the doors to the amphitheater had open again and: "Fifteen," Odo counted with a nod, additional Cardassian sentries entered to join the ranks of the ten already there. Somewhere between there as quickly as the madness rose it dipped abruptly to an uneasy silence; a standoff between Special Forces; forty, at least, and twenty-five Cardassians.

"Pfrann…" Lange was beside herself, clutching at the arm holding her. "No, Pfrann, don't. Please don't…"

"It's all right," he sought to reassure her. "Calm yourself. They can't hurt him; they wouldn't dare."

"Him?" Bashir interjected angrily. "Are you mad? The woman's had a severe brain trauma -- "

"Don't touch her!" Pfrann's foot arched quickly up and forward, his boot planting itself sharply in the pit of Bashir's stomach. "I'm sick of you touching her!"

"Julian!" Dax said as Bashir crumbled to his knees and Worf rolled his eyes.

"That had to hurt," O'Brien agreed.

Yes, Sisko was sure it had. "Doctor?"

"Quite. I'm fine," Bashir groped gratefully for Dax's helping hand. "As neither does it change anything. I'm telling you she could have a seizure."

"Anxiety attack, at least," Sorge likewise eyed Janice warily. "You're frightening her, Dukat, as much as you're trying to help her."

"No, you're frightening her," Pfrann insisted. "Stay back, all of you… All of you," he warned Odo. "Release Anon now or die."

"Yes, well," Odo glanced over the field unit holding him hostage rather than the phaser rifle holding Veronica Sorge, "apart from I am not the one holding Dukat." To where about half the available security in the auditorium were attempting to pretend to be interested in attempting to. That video playing overhead highly, and rather starkly effective in casting Lange into a suddenly different and unfavorable role, regardless of how it cast Dukat; Odo doubted if anyone cared about Dukat. Clearly Lange, yes. It wasn't sympathy playing the otherwise stoic faces of the security staff protecting the amphitheater, particularly the Bajoran half. "You can't be serious."

"We are," the Bajoran holding Veronica Sorge corrected and something like an electrical force struck Odo in the upper quadrant of his chest. It stung enough to where some could say it hurt. More disorientating actually, rather than pain. However the next thing Odo knew he was the one being helped up by Captain Sisko from off his knees.

"A taste, Dominion," Pfrann sneer was waiting. "Care for another?"

"No!" Sisko halted his Constable.

"Then release Anon," Pfrann demanded. "We've had enough of you. We want to go home. That's all we want to do!"

Sisko glanced from him to Lange listening to her repeated pleas and the Sentinel's continued faltering attempts at reassurance. "I would listen, Emissary," their Bajoran partisan advised; Sisko stared at him.

"Surgical reconstruction," Worf decided was the only logical explanation for the display of Cardassian protection and affection for who had to be one of their own. "Doctor Lange is a sister, perhaps."

"And the Bajoran?" Dax said.

Worf looked at her, from her to Benjamin and lastly to Kira riveted and silently watching.

"Excuse me," Kira exited abruptly up the aisle, unmindful of the sentries who did not stop her. The Bajoran watched her go over, Pfrann's field unit still trained on Odo. Dax studied Lange.

"Well?" O'Brien's question of Benjamin intruded.

"Well, now I suppose we begin again," Ch'Pok gleefully picked up the cue.

"No, there's no reason to begin anything again," Anon howled exasperated from the witness stand. "Janice is my wife; to be my wife. What do you want to know?"

A fair question to say the least. Sisko forgot Ch'Pok, Pfrann, the Bajoran, even Odo to stare at Anon.

"Wife…" Bashir stammered as O'Brien turned away and up in the stands Garak sat up straight in his chair.

"Wife…" he repeated, speechless otherwise.

"There's no accounting for taste," Quark agreed.

Ch'Pok chuckled to Anon. "Which it is? Is Doctor Lange your wife, or is she to be wife? A minor difference, I'll grant you, but a difference nevertheless."

“Fiancé!” Leeta shouted out in offer, the roomful of stares understandably briefly turning her way. “That’s not the word?” she frowned at Garak.

“No, that’s the word,” he smiled back with an accompanying beam for Odo and of course, Captain Sisko. “It is precisely the word, you are quite right.”

“Human term,” Quark explained to Rom.

“Um, yup,” Rom nodded. “Leeta told me.”

Sisko just shook his head.

“Gul Dukat?” Ch’Pok waited.

Dukat was confused. Tracy Sorge wasn't. "Wife," he assured. "And, no, he didn't hurt, or in any way harm or assault his wife, Doctor." Bashir's stare back at him was matched only by Sisko's. Neither of them exactly happy. Neither of them on Sorge's mind. "Nor is Veronica inclined to hurt anyone," he notified Pfrann. "So if you wouldn't mind I would appreciate the same respect and concern be afforded my wife you are demanding be shown the wife of your brother."

"Release her, Pfrann," Anar's voice spoke to the three of them; his son, the Sentinel and the engineer Tan. "Yes, just release her. That is Sorge, Janice's counselor, you are holding. The other must be Bashir's second opinion. Allow one of them at least to examine Janice and insure her neural transmitter is functioning correctly."

"Thank you," Sorge secured Bashir's tricorder from the table with a turn for Janice as the Bajoran lowered his phaser rifle slowly. "Just one last request…a rather innocuous one…"

"Yes, well, actually," Bashir interrupted Sorge's advance.

"Julian…" Dax caught him protectively by the arm with Pfrann's immediate warning reminder to stay back.

"Quite frankly," Bashir argued, "I don't give a damn whose wife Janice is, when who she is, is my patient…"

"I said don't!" Pfrann insisted with Bashir's step, his field unit trained and his thumb posed to activate it. "One of you is enough."

"He isn't," the Trill promised calmly, taking the Human in hand, shielding him from the field unit.

"Do I get a kiss if I agree or disagree?" Julian cracked in her ear.

Dax looked at him, feeling his hand touching her hip, and her hands holding his arms; Benjamin was behind him equally as protective and almost as close.

"You'll have your chance, physician," the engineer Tan spoke up in agreement. "The Gul's wife goes nowhere without the doctor Bashir; those are the orders."

"What?" Bashir said.

"Cardassia Prime," Pfrann smirked.

"Out of the question," Sisko shook his head.

Bashir was angry, eyeing Sisko over his shoulder. "Well, perhaps for you it's out of the question, I'm the doctor."

"Julian…" Dax advised as Sisko flushed.

Bashir ignored her for Sorge. "Damn Federation red tape, and damn you. I'm a doctor."

"So am I," Sorge assured. "One who's already had his career. Veronica and I will take over Lange's medical responsibility, be it on Cardassia Prime, or whatever it is, damn Federation red tape is right…any objections?" he asked Sisko.

"Your choice," Sisko agreed.

"So it is," Sorge completed his quick scan of Janice; she was fine. Better, if she could sit down.

"Excuse me, but I do have objections," Bashir insisted.

"When we become a democracy, Doctor!" Sisko silenced him.

"You should have settled for a kiss," Dax added quietly clever as she turned him away.

Bashir jerked to startled attention. "Are you serious?"

"No," she smiled. "Not in the least."

"Oh," he said. "Well, I certainly am…" he watched Sorge coerce Pfrann into allowing Janice to sit, the Bajoran remaining in close supervision of Veronica. "Who the devil cares how many of us he taught? I could probably count on one hand how many living patients he's had in his career."

"I'm stronger than you are," Dax reminded with a pat of his arm before she took hold of him again, steering him toward their side; the defense. A place he really had belonged from the beginning.

"Don't remind me," Bashir dropped down into his seat with a sullen mutter.

"We can't all be perfect all of the time," Dax misinterpreted his complaint. "Why would anyone think Sorge's opinion would extend to manipulating the data?"

"I suppose if you're talking about my being understandably oblivious to Sorge's deception," Bashir agreed, "you're right. I was talking about me and those persistent irritating feelings of being shown to be inferior to you. Yes, you're physically stronger than I am. And? So? Meaning? My questions to address. Yours would probably be something more like, is there a particular reason I feel a need to find myself making weekly visits to the Infirmary? Is the true meaning of love really to be found sub-categorized under torn rotator cuffs and cracked ribs? For all the medical evidence I have to 'prove' in your particular case it apparently is, I remain emphatically committed it most certainly is not." He settled back against the curved arc of the seat with an annoyed sweep of his hand though his hair. Dax turned away, eventually thinking the better of it altogether, rising to join Captain Sisko and, of course, Mister Worf.

"It's all right," Bashir nodded. "Quite all right. One of these days, Jadzia Dax. One of these days…what?" he said to O'Brien glowering over the back of his seat at him. "Excuse me if I don't look forward to the day of having to scrape Jadzia off some examining table. But for the grace of God, Janice could have been Jadzia with no one having to spend a week investigating who is responsible…to contrary…" There was bitterness and jealousy in his scowl for Worf. "Not only would we know, we would have been informed rather proudly. If someone rightfully suspects a perversion somewhere, they're quite right, and it certainly isn't mine."

"Uh, huh," was all O'Brien said.
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