The Time of Hagalaz, Presumed Guilty Part Two

Chapter Thirty-Two

Bashir's leaned heavily into his elbow propped against the wall of his office just about eye level with Dax's head, his face inches away from hers. "My tricorder?" he teased gaily in response to Sisko's call. "Oh, yes, of course. I never go anywhere without my tricorder."

"Julian…" she said with that Julian look about her.

"What about Dax?" his finger poked her com badge reopening the channel to Sisko. "Should she bring her tricorder, too?"

Benjamin sounded irritable and preoccupied in his reply that one should be enough. Julian was really pushing it. Dax shook her head. "I never said you were going to Cardassia."

"Yes, you did."

No, she hadn't. She said she didn't trust that he wasn't going to try and accompany Lange to Cardassia despite what Benjamin said, and she didn't trust him. She never knew with him. She could never tell with him. When he was joking. When he was serious. When he was just being Julian.

"Julian…" Dax could feel the wall behind her. She wasn't quite sure how she ended up against the wall of Julian's office, but she was there. Julian dangling himself and his tricorder in front of her face.

"What?" he grinned.

He knew what. She told him what when she decided to detour for the Infirmary to see what he might be up to before joining Worf aboard the Defiant where she knew what Worf would be doing. Julian, she found downloading Lange's medical file. She asked him why; his answer was opaque. Something about insuring Sorge had the complete file. That didn't make any sense. Given Sorge's knowledge of Lange's relationship with Dukat, if Sorge was prepared to volunteer his services rather than Bashir, it stood to reason he was well prepared in advance, and that included possession of Lange's complete medical file. Julian's medical tricorder was also out on the console. She asked about that. He referenced his office. Inviting her to search it, along with his attaché to insure he wasn't packing it for a month's long stay on Cardassia Prime.

Dax nodded. That was how she ended up against the wall. A foot race for the office, the attaché that was on his desk, and then once or twice around the desk, Julian already laughing how she was mad, quite clearly mad, and how he had never said he was going to Cardassia, perhaps only in jest.

"Jest?" Dax stared at him. Clearly remembering Benjamin to be infuriated with his insistent insubordination.

"Well, perhaps not jest, exactly," Bashir tailored his rebuttal. "But, no, I wasn't serious, I was annoyed. At Sorge. Perhaps mildly at Captain Sisko -- here, I'll prove it to you," he reached for the attaché she held up and out of reach unless he felt like jumping up and down or tackling her.

"No, I'll prove it," Dax proceeded to dump an assortment of personal articles out on his desk that he proceeded to stare at along with her. Neither of them exactly certain why they were in there.

"No, wait a minute!" Bashir remembered for reasons other than it was his attaché as she groaned "Julian!" now that she had her evidence.

"No, you listen to me," Dax threatened.

He couldn't. He was laughing again. Hysterically, as she backed him toward the wall. Reminding him that while Benjamin might be lenient in allowing his officers the freedom to speak their minds, that leniency usually ended after a sentence or two if their point hadn't been made. If his mind hadn't been changed. And that leniency never extended to crossing the line over into insubordination. Any more than it extended to overlooking one of his officer's getting it into their mind to take off on a jaunt to Cardassia Prime for whatever the perceived good reason.

"Julian!" she groaned wanting to throttle him, or at least take him over her knee.

"Bajor," he was laughing, continuing to, about not packing for a weekend on Cardassia but rather Bajor Prime.

It penetrated. "Bajor?" Dax said.

"Yes," Bashir began collecting up his sundries of items. "I had this idea of taking Janice; dinner with the Sorges'. Dinner somewhere -- I told you that," he threw something soft at her; a pair of socks. "I couldn't very well show up at the airlock with a weekender in hand, now could I? Not only would that have been presumptuous of me, it would have looked presumptuous of me." He threw something else soft at her; she had no idea what it was and didn't care. "This way I simply look like me; professional. Ready to take a tour of the Bajoran Science Academy with Doctors Tracy and Veronica Sorge; which is what I was going to invite Janice to do. Certainly benign enough; hardly suspect. Who would suspect?" he grinned falling into paraphrasing an old Terran quote. "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts and minds of men and their attaches alike?"

"But…" Dax said.

"But what?" he laughed as she stared toward the door. "I told you I was downloading the file for Sorge."

She eyed him. From him the attaché that he was packing with his socks, his toiletries and medical tricorder. "Yes, well," Bashir paused at the tricorder, "with a million and one uses I suppose one or two could be made to be creative."

"Oh!" she turned away from him disgust.

"What, oh?" he laughed harder. "Oh, yes, I suppose you never -- "

"That is not the point!" Dax insisted.

He sobered; briefly. "No, the point is Cardassia; and I'm not going to Cardassia; I'm not. It was a thought perhaps…" he toyed with the tricorder, a glint in his eyes that she didn't notice; not at first. "Briefly," he nodded. "Reasonable even. But ultimately what would be the point? What am I going to come away from going to Cardassia Prime? Other than sunburn, a head cold and eye strain?" he smiled, imagining baked, hot sands, and yellow, arid air. Stylized, lifeless cities dotting the endless ghostly terrain. "Obviously if I were going to come away with something, I would be going to Bajor, not Cardassia. But that's certainly out of the question, isn't it? Apparently never even a question."

He was starting to laugh again. Admittedly feeling slightly foolish over his proclaimed infatuation with Janice, never mind the Chief. "All this fuss about Janice Lange and the damn woman's married, of all people, to Gul Dukat."

"Well, you certainly wouldn't be…" Dax said.

"No," Bashir waved, his tricorder just happening to be in his hand. "I would be going to Cardassia because I'm a doctor. And I am a doctor. And, well," he said, "so is Sorge. Let him take over Janice's medical care."

"Julian…" Dax said.

"I'm serious," he insisted still thoroughly amused. "I'm not saying I wish the woman ill health because of course I don't. I like her. I really do like her. I'm just saying it's not necessary that I supervise her medical care; and it isn't. I know that. I realize that…I accept that…"

That was when he moved to turn the tables, starting to back her toward the wall. Her listening to and watching his capricious tease, thoroughly enjoying himself with what he called the freedom between them; and he was right. There was freedom between them. They were very good friends. But somewhere freedom became unfair liberty, and he was taking liberty now; she wasn't sure why. The position they were in was intimate and compromising. And, no, should Worf walk in, while he might not seize either of them to tear them limb from limb he certainly wouldn't like it. Julian knew that. Benjamin's innocent, though puzzling call for them aggravated the situation, heightening Julian's taunt. There was an odd glint in his eyes when his finger touched her com badge; he was intentionally trying to make her squirm. Benjamin's testy answer to Julian's jovial and unnecessary verification was ineffective in displacing the tension. The seconds of silence between them dangerous following Benjamin's signing off again. Dax waiting Bashir out to see what he was going to do, thought he was doing, planning to do.

The door to the office swished open unexpectedly. Julian's charge nurse Michelle Faraday entering with intentions of handing him Dukat's medical file that she had downloaded for Dukat to take home to Cardassia or whatever he felt like doing with it. Faraday was startled by what she saw. To what extent, for how long, Dax didn't stay around long enough to find out. Her annoyance flared to angry embarrassment. She pushed the tricorder out of her face, Julian away and was gone. Michelle watching after her, perplexed and curious until the door to the boss' office closed.

"Yes, thank you," Bashir was nonchalant in accepting the data padd.

Michelle looked at him before she just gave a slight shake of her head. He stepped to exit his office without further comment, pausing to acknowledge. "I'm in trouble now."

Michelle chuckled. "I would say yes."

"Quite," Bashir left, tossing Dukat's medical profile aside as he passed a console on his way out through the Infirmary. Michelle just shook her head again and began picking up the last of the assortment of personal items strewn about the floor.

Bashir caught up with Dax outside the Infirmary at the turbolift taking its time in answering its call. Or perhaps it wasn't taking its time. Perhaps she hadn't called it. Perhaps she had, letting it pass when it arrived so that she could wait for him to tell him just how low he was.

"Or perhaps not," Bashir said to himself when Dax turned smartly on her heel to head off down the Promenade in search of a new, better, and more cooperative turbolift to ride rather than lower herself to riding with him. He followed without hesitation. Silently, busily typing out and comparing various analogies on his tricorder as he strode briskly along beside her with only an occasional check on the status of her static, stoic expression ignoring him and staring straight ahead. They passed a second available turbolift and were about to pass the third when she abruptly changed her mind, succumbing to calling the lift which arrived immediately and empty. Its doors flung wide, its interior beckoning.

Dax paused, preferring for there to have been at least one or two other people aboard with which to ride other than him. Or at least a few other people around who were interested in joining on as passengers. She looked around; there weren't. They entered alone. The doors swished closed and they stood there. Bashir smiled to himself. She had forgotten where they were going. All that fussing about Cardassia, tricorders and medical logs she didn't have a clue where they were to meet Benjamin; unable to recall a word he had said. Something which was probably all right because Captain Sisko was apparently as preoccupied over something what with having called for the two of them, and when Bashir responded as opposed to Dax who didn't respond at all, Sisko failed to call her again.

"Amphitheater," Bashir offered without looking up from his study. She glared at him; the lift engaged. She glared at him again when he abruptly turned the tricorder on her to scan her but he was quick to show and explain why. "That's what you look like when you're angry."

She stared at the tricorder with its graphic of many colors, whirling circles and diametric lines. "Quite. That's you," Bashir nodded, pointing out the streaming parade of equations running across the bottom. "That's all the chemical and neuro-physical changes taking place."

She stared at him. The turbolift halted, the doors opened and she stalked out to head down the corridor, round the corner and storm on for the amphitheater. Bashir shrugged. Following her out and keeping pace beside her as he scanned her with the tricorder again. And again. They got to the corner before she whirled on him ready to kill, maim, rip the tricorder from his hand and fling it through one of the windows into the eternal vacuum of space. Bashir stepped back with a laugh before she did any of the above intentionally or otherwise. "I'm serious. That's you. Here, I'll show you." His offer included clearing the display and turning the tricorder on himself. Momentarily startled and changing his mind about sharing the result when he read the analysis. "Yes, well, perhaps you don't want to know at that…"

She gaped at him filling in the blanks with what she believed he meant. He certainly never said anything even remotely off color, only laughing again. "What?"

"Oh!" she turned away from him again.

"No, wait," he protested.

She attacked him. Spinning him face-forward up against the wall, pinning him as she snatched the tricorder to hurl it down the corridor. It screamed past Odo, striking the doors of the amphitheater and bouncing off to skitter its way across the floor.

"Julian!" was all she said in desperate warning, whipping him around to face her. Still holding him pinned flat against the wall, her hands gripping his wrists tightly. Her markings vivid black as she took a breath, the muscles of her upper arms straining against her uniform. Bashir held his breath that her breath would calm her, steadfast in not averting his eyes from hers burning into his. He wasn't angry, or frightened. Extremely concerned for her is what he believed he felt, feeling the power of her strength pressing, crushing against him. He couldn't have moved if he wanted to, not without having to strike at her. She broke eye contact first. He could feel the change, the tension in her hands starting to relax. Bashir was relived one moment, startled again the next along with her when the door to the turbolift suddenly opened and Kira disembarked with Worf.

"Yes, well, now you know I'm innocent, if only because you're innocent as well," he agreed as the four of them stared at each other in a scene that was reminiscent of the one in his office with only the position of the two players reversed. Dax pressing him up against a wall, rather than him pressing her.

"Julian…" Dax sighed as Kira decided she didn't want to know, rousting herself from gawking at the two of them to stalk off for the amphitheater.

"Quite," Bashir nodded, taking advantage of the opportunity to excuse himself out from under her to retrieve his tricorder quite possibly dead on its arrival down the other end of the corridor.

"Yes, well, it's seen worse," he reassured Odo watching him clip the tricorder's rugged and durable hinged sections back together.

"Yes, well, why has it?" Odo wondered.

"What?" Bashir said. "Oh. Figure of speech really. Just something everyone says when they do something to something…that they really shouldn't…" he gave the tricorder an encouraging whack in its sensor assembly. "And it nevertheless ends up working as well as it ever did."

Dax felt Julian pull away from her, letting him go without an argument, and briefly studying the ceiling above her head before she smiled confidentially to Worf. "You really don't want to know."

His grunt confirmed she was right, as he was certain it had everything to do with Bashir rather than her. They walked to the amphitheater together, Julian glancing up out from under his brow once.

The short time spent with Sisko waiting for his science officer and physician was uncomfortable, silent and long. Too much longer and second thoughts and suspicions would have overshadowed Anar's trust in the Prophets that the point to involving the Federation was to reveal a Guardian hidden somewhere among their ranks. Their plan beyond the mortal one of fulfilling Janice's dream of securing the assistance of a botanist and legitimacy for the tiny colony.

It wasn't the Federation who walked in through the door first though, it was Kira Nerys.

"By the Prophets…" Anar whispered, though the choice of Guardian made sense. The surrogate mother to Dukat's Bajoran indiscretion. He, the surrogate father to the Human wife of the Prefect's eldest heir; sister to his brothers, and so on down the line.

Anar was convinced without Ziyal's endorsement even though Kira didn't appear initially to share in either his revelation or appreciation. She stopped with the sight of a Special Forces office standing with Sisko on the floor of the amphitheater. Though only one of them sported the dried, crusted colors of blood, none appearing Human even under the muted light, the profile of the office turning to face her was Bajoran, as clearly was he someone else when he did face her. Kira stiffened with the combative attitude of a hawk, sweeping down the aisle to strike at the effrontery to Shakaar.

"Shakaar has no living relatives," she denied Anar, informing Sisko.

An exaggerated claim, undeniably false. Anar chuckled. "To the contrary, Nerys, by my small numbers alone, I count three cousins aged four months to thirty-four years…as well as an uncle, yes," he inclined his head when she turned on him from Sisko. "Two of them, unfortunately. I am Anar. Preferred for simplicity's sake to Shakaar Adon the elder. But then we are notoriously far less formal in the outer colonies -- "

"Don't!" she raised her hand to stop him and his lies; he caught it clasping it to lobe of his ear. Something she read in his pagh made her pause. Something he couldn't read in hers made him frown. In any event it was not the meeting of two like souls that he had imagined moments ago. Those were the doctor's words approaching a few comfortable, cocky steps behind the Trill with her amused expression and the Klingon flustered in his perplexed annoyance.

All right, so I was wrong. Anar thought to himself of Guardians and then he thought of Federation clowns rather than Cardassian ones. The Trill was turning her bemused observation of him to Sisko.

"Well, it explains…"

"Yes, Commander," he interrupted quietly. "It explains General Martok's bridge."

"Element of surprise," she unnecessarily clarified for her husband.

"That necessary edge," the Doctor Bashir quipped in irritating addendum, accepting the little jar of purple cream from Sisko for evaluation.

"I disagree," Worf growled far preferring to uphold his belief in the power of being Klingon and a needed squad of Cardassians to better them rather than this one lone Bajoran regardless of whose face he wore.

"Yes, well…" Chances were Bashir would far prefer to have his tricorder be working; which it wasn't. A good guess as to why. He attempted to catch Dax's eye for her opinion as to the mysterious cause behind the single, rather anemic looking blip attempting to struggle its way across the display screen? "Unfortunately, we can't always get what we want…" She attempted to ignore him leaving him little choice but to sidled his way up to her to share with her the tricorder's findings, or lack thereof. "Yes? No? You see something I don't?"

"Interesting," she admitted.

"Doctor?" Sisko was interested as well.

"Well, actually I think Dax is likely more qualified than I am to comment…"

"No, that's all right," she nodded.

"Well, I'll admit it has some interesting properties…" Bashir said.

"If not some interesting characteristics," she agreed.

"Color?" he looked at her.

She hesitated briefly. "Consistency?"

"Texture," Bashir started to laugh, quick to forestall Kira's impatient reach for the tricorder. "No, that's all right. Actually, Dax and I really would rather not comment until we have had time to conduct an actual analysis…that's not to say you can't tell us what this is supposed to be? At least it's point? Purpose?"

"Some form of botanical tissue rejuvenator, is my understanding, Doctor," Sisko replied.

"Regeneration," Anar corrected that understanding with a reach for the jar that Bashir willingly returned to him. "Not to be ridiculed, or confused with an age reduction cream."

Bashir smiled pleasantly. "If it's capable of tissue regeneration, it would likewise be capable of rejuvenation -- at least on a temporary basis. That's not to say we haven't a data bank full of such prescriptive compounds, because, of course, we have. All with their own documented percentages of success and/or failure. In any event none will ever surpass any body's own ability -- "

"Depends on the state of that body, Doctor," Anar proposed harshly. "The planet you come from -- "

"And the availability of modern technology to induce and maintain regeneration," Bashir neatly concluded for him. "Point taken. So I'll tell you what, I'll point you in the direction of the morgue, per chance you don't know already know the way, and when you've managed to regenerate one of those bodies to the point that it once again lives -- "

"An idea, Doctor," Sisko nodded.

"I beg your pardon?" Bashir blinked.

"Perhaps not the morgue," he turned to Worf. "The Defiant, Commander -- "

"Commander Dax and I await your orders," Worf assured.

"Yes," Sisko believed he was in the process of giving them. "To the Cardassian boarder only. From there I'm sure Mister Anar and his son won't mind providing you with direction -- "

"Out of the question," Anar said.

"It has cloaking ability," the Trill offered in her smiling seduction, implying that might be of some significance or value to him.

"He's a Klingon," Anar damned Worf. "I don't care whose uniform he wears. You may not object to sitting down with those who dine on the hearts of their enemies, but I do."

Worf huffed. "I have never -- "

"Worf," Dax stopped him.

"Quite," Bashir said. "Because, no, it isn't propaganda. Klingons do dine on the hearts of their enemies. No less than an ancient and honored tradition."

"And irrelevant," Worf insisted as Dax looked at Bashir; as right she should. As right she did more than sit down with this one, not merely join with him on some rampaging blood-soaked path under the guise of helping old friends desperately seeking revenge on some Klingon outlaw colorfully dubbed the colorless or the Albino. One or the other reality made Bashir nauseated to even think about it; he was sure it was both.

Worf was busy continuing to flex his Klingon brawn for the Bajoran who couldn't care less. "You have heard the Captain's orders. You who call yourself -- "

"Shakaar Adon, to you predator," Anar assured. "Set one foot on my world and I'll wear your flailed and dried flesh for a robe."

"That's enough," Kira's hand scratched its way to holding his arm and him at bay, apparently believing he was sincere. "No one has to set foot anywhere."

"Then you'll just have to act as escort, Nerys," he countered in cocky humor. "Or surrender one of your runabouts to my son and I; I'd rather the runabout. No offense. We are earthbound, and that is a convenience we can use long after you are gone."

"No doubt either or having to be necessary due to the classic the ionosphere of my world is not stable enough to allow transport," Bashir muttered to Dax.

"If not short for if you don't surrender a runabout we will have no alternative but to take one by force," she muttered back.

"Quite," Bashir smiled, pleased to see she had forgiven him for whatever transgression she perceived him guilty of earlier.

"No, I haven't forgiven you," Dax shook her head.

"I see," he said. "Nevertheless I am obligated to forgive you for rupturing my processing block?"

"How do you know it's not the peripheral sensors?" she took the tricorder.

"Well, I highly doubt if I would even have a blip if it were the peripheral sensors, would I? It knows it's a tricorder. It's just not quite sure what I'm trying to do with it."

"Or where you're pointing it," she aimed it at him. "It's the peripheral sensors. Either that or you're remarkably limp."

He hesitated. "Limp?"

"Limp," she indicated the display screen having the devil of a time attempting to spark itself back to life.

"As in weak," Bashir nodded. "Now you see what I'm saying. If it can't associate me who must fire off how many thousand electrons every time I so much as flick an eye lash, how do you expect it to be able to decipher something as lifeless as a jar of cold cream?"

Oh, yes, she could see what he was saying, and about the only thing she could add or say to that was a sympathetic pat on his back and equally sympathetic, "I'm sure it's only temporary."

"If you are earthbound…" Worf was huffing, not seeing wings on the Bajoran's shoulders or feet. "How do you come to be on this station?"

Anar almost told him, and would have if he wasn't confident he'd know soon enough for himself. "Where there's a will, there's a way," he offered instead, above Sisko's demand for the senseless and inflammatory debate to cease even though he probably wanted to know the answer as well.

"Terran," the tireless Bashir preempted the Trill in identifying the exact origin of the idiom for the rippling brow of the Klingon.

If not thoroughly applicable to the occasion. The droning voice of the Changeling Constable interjected itself over Sisko's com badge. "Excuse me, but I have a response to Major Kira's priority transmission to Bajor…"

"What?" Kira barely managed to finish saying before Anar was on top of the console activating the monitor screen; it was Shakaar.

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