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Defiance

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“Who is that?

“Good evening doctor. Did you come back to check up on the major?” Quark offloaded two plates of food into the harried arms of one of his waitresses and shooed her off.

“Is Kira with Commander Riker? From the Enterprise?”

“Not quite what you had in mind when you ordered her to relax?” Quark smirked. The doctor looked perplexed, and his self-confident air from when he dropped Kira off here not even thirty minutes ago was dissipating rapidly.

Quark flipped his polishing cloth over his shoulder and set to work on a new round of drinks. “Riker showed up the second you left. They’ve been inseparable ever since.”

Julian eyed Quark. “Inseparable?”

“He bought her drinks, dinner…and he’s been working on getting her into the holosuite all night.”

Julian frowned slightly. He watched the couple closely and folded his arms. “Is he now?” His tone suggested that will never happen.

“Suddenly regretting refusing to let Kira leave the bar, doctor?” Quark couldn’t resist teasing him. “Relax. She’s having a good time, it’s what you wanted.”

Julian’s face said it was anything but. “I’m not so sure it’s what she wants.”

Quark snorted. “Look at them.”

“I am. And if you had had the extensive training I have had on body language you might be concerned too.”

Quark flapped his towel at him.

Julian continued, adopting the tone Quark had come to recognize as his lecture mode. “Riker is easy—straight up flirting, aggressively leaning into the major’s space, his legs splayed wide, his laugh loud—taking up as much space as possible and keeping her attention on him as much as possible.”

“Uh huh,” said Quark, turning back to making drinks and watering down the spring wine for good measure.

“And when she doesn’t turn him down he escalates the physical touches, first a hand on her arm, But with only limited success. Kira, on the other hand…”

Quark rolled his eyes. “What? She’s smiling and laughing. She’s on her second cocktail of something from Earth I had to use the computer to look up.”

“So he’s plying her with alcohol.”

Quark raised an incredulous eyebrow. “Because you’ve never done that with a pretty girl in my bar.”

“Not one who is suffering from extreme stress and overwork to the point of exhaustion!” Julian raised his hands. “Okay, but look at her – elbows are in close to her body, her shoulders don’t look completely relaxed, she’s fidgeting with her food, and she keeps looking around the room. I think you should go over there. Offer her an out.”

“Me? Mess with Commander Riker?” His voice went high pitched. “This is all your fault, and you’re the only one who thinks she’s not having a good time.”

Julian leaned on the bar, finally tearing his eyes away from Kira. “C’mon Quark, how often do you get a chance to be the hero and rescue a lady?”

Quark rolled his eyes. More times than you might think, it is a bar after all. “Don’t look to me like the lady is in need of rescuing, doctor. If she’s so unhappy why doesn’t she just bid him goodnight and leave?”

He handed off the tray of drinks to the nearest dabo girl, then leaned forward, getting in Julian’s face. “Oh, wait, that’s right, because someone exploited his rank as Chief Medical Officer and made it so she’s not free to leave.”

Julian’s face fell. “Oh come on, you’re not seriously suggesting—”

“And I think that’s why you don’t want to go over there yourself. Guilt.” He tsked. “You know what’s important to Major Kira, doctor?”

Julian was deflating more and more by the minute. Quark’s glee was building.

“Her work. So if only the station’s CMO hadn’t forced her off duty and told her the only way to get back in his good graces—”

“Okay, okay, I get it Quark,” Julian ground out. His gaze had returned to the couple just in time to see Riker pushing another cocktail in Kira’s direction.

Julian blew out a breath and stomped off in their direction. Quark leaned back on the bar and just watched, his smirk returning to see Julian insert himself fluidly between Kira and Riker. Even from a distance he could see the young doctor slip into his cheerful naif persona, all smiles and gangly limbs as he draped himself across the table to reach some of the major’s untouched hasperat, talking with apparent ease to his new dinner companions.

Shaking his head, Quark returned to his duties. If Commander Riker was the formidable figure people seemed to think he was, Bashir would be back over here tail between his legs in a matter of minutes.

 

It took an impressive ten minutes before Bashir returned to take a seat at the bar.

“Feel better, doctor?”

“She says she’s fine.” He sat down heavily on the barstool. “Do you have any of Miles’s ale?”

“So she’s fine, but you’re not.”

Julian rubbed a hand across his eyes. “I suggested she get to sleep soon.”

“Uh huh.”

“And I made sure she knows she doesn’t have to stay here any longer.”

“And how did Commander Riker take your insinuation that she’s only having dinner with him because you made her stick around?”

The doctor glared at him. “She’s exhausted Quark.”

The Ferengi spread his hands. “And maybe this is exactly what she needs!” He placed a mug in front of Julian. “Are you going to sit here and stare at them all night? Aren’t there some refugees you’re prepping medical supplies for?”

“Colonists. And not all the supplies are here yet.” He drank a long draft of the ale. “Where’s Jadzia when you need her.”

Quark cackled. “You don’t want Jadzia, she’d only encourage Kira, and not to get home to sleep if you know what I mean. Heck she might invite herself along. I bet Riker is keen to test the rumor than Bajorans are into polygamy.”

Julian cast a long glance over his shoulder. “I can’t see Kira being excited by that idea, not with Bareil anyway. They’ve never given any sign that they are more than monogamous.”

“What’s it going to be?”

Julian turned a confused look on the bartender.

“If you’re going to sit here mooning over her all night, you’ve got to order food. You stick just to ale not only will you look like a sad drunk propping up the bar as the Commander walks past you on his way to walk the lady to her quarters and a little ooh la la, but you’ll be in no shape to defend her honor if he gets handsy or something and you need to swoop in on your white dog.”

“Horse. It’s supposed to be a white—oh never mind. You’re right, this is ludicrous. Major Kira can handle herself. I’m going back to work.”

He stood up decisively, casting one last look across the room. “But no more alcohol—he was talking about getting her more cocktails, and I told him she’s too tired. Now I’m making it an order, Quark – don’t let anyone serve Major Kira more alcohol tonight or I’ll—”

Quark lazily flapped his towel at him. “Or you’ll shut me down for violations of the health code, yeah yeah, I got it. No more fun for the major. I’ll tell her you said so.”

Mollified, Julian nodded at him. “And if anything happens, I’m right across the promenade.”

“Yes I have had occasion to know where the infirmary is, thank you Julian.”

 

Twenty eight minutes later Julian slid back into the same stool. Chuckling to himself, Quark retrieved his ale and set it back down in front of him. “I had a feeling you’d return.”

“Are they still here?”

“You know they are, you’ve had the door to my establishment under watch this whole time.”

Julian looked about to protest but Quark patted his hand. “Uncle Quark has been keeping an eye on them, and nothing untoward has happened between them. They really are just talking.”

“Nothing unusual?”

Quark shrugged.

“Quark?”

The Ferengi touched a hand to his ear lobe. “Didn’t just keep an eye on them, kept an ear on them too when I was over there.”

“And?”

“You know, doctor, if this is so important to you maybe I should be charging you for this information.”

“Quarrrrk.”

“Okay fine. It’s probably nothing anyway.”

Julian fixed him with a look.

Quark picked up a glass and started polishing it. “He asked her if she was alright.”

“And?”

“Well, of course she said yes. But there was something in the way he said it, like maybe he was picking up on some of that body language stuff you were spoutin’.”

Julian sat back and stole another glance at the couple in question. “That’s it?”

“My point is, when was the last time you were on a date and you asked a woman a question like that?”

Julian’s brow furrowed. “It’s not a date. She’s with Bareil.”

“Yeah, well, right now she’s with Commander Riker.”

“Aren’t they done with dinner yet?”

“They moved on to dessert. Although if the way he’s looking at her is anything to go by, she’s all the dessert he wants tonight.” Quark sniggered at Julian’s face. “Oh relax, doctor. She’s never going to go for him.”

Julian swiveled his chair round and fixed Quark with a questioning eyebrow.

“He’s not Bajoran. The major is like most Bajoran women—when all you’ve known of men your whole life is your either own kind or Cardassian soldiers, then you stick to your own kind.” Quark was surprised the doctor was so quiet, and he couldn’t resist another jibe. “Frankly I'm amazed she has even entertained him this long – but I still think that’s your fault.”

Julian downed half his ale, looking miserable. “If she had the option to go back to work, I doubt she’d be having dinner with Riker, that’s true.”

“So, doctor, like I said, you don’t want to be propping up the bar if you’re going to sit here all night, want to see a menu?”

“Hasperat, please,” he responded glumly.

Chapter Text

Kira was on edge. She couldn’t shake the lengths Tom Riker had gone to just to get her unwitting cooperation in his plan to steal the Defiant. She sat down on the bunk in the cramped cabin, curling into herself and wrapping her arms around her legs. The memory of the feeling of his hand low on her back as she showed him the station now made her skin crawl, and how gullible she had been to his outrageous flirting made her stomach clench.

She stood up abruptly and resumed pacing the tiny quarters. It was more than that though, if she was honest. Why was she even here? Wouldn’t it have been simpler to dump her at the airlock at Deep Space Nine so they would be less of a target, or had their departure simply been too rushed? Taking the Defiant was one thing, but with a federation-aligned hostage it compelled the full might of Starfleet in pursuit, and would even involve the Bajoran militia—which until now had turned a blind-eye to the Maquis.

Did she have some political or strategic value to them as a prisoner that outweighed those risks?

If so, would she be of more use if they made her compliant? If these were Cardassians then the leader and his crewmen would likely partake of the spoils of their war and visit her while she was in their custody—the Cardassians prided themselves on their abilities to beat their prisoners or otherwise torture them into being passive and easily controlled.

Much as she told herself it as unlikely from the Maquis—they were probably too mission-focused for it even to cross their mind, and they were hardly Cardassians—she still felt keenly how she was weaponless, and would be cornered in here.

A noise outside her cabin made her tense so suddenly a muscle spasmed in her back. She rubbed it, and almost cried out when she discovered too late she was bruised all along her left side and shoulder. Must just be from when she had been knocked unconscious on the bridge, she surmised.

The cabin door slid open and she froze.

“How are you holding up?” Tom Riker’s voice was soft but Kira didn’t trust it. She trusted even less the expression in his eyes that made her stomach sink when she recognized it – every resistance fighter knows that feeling of having swallow down shame and guilt to do something you wouldn’t have seen yourself doing. Whatever he was trying to do now, it was clearly something he had to steel himself to do.

“Kira?” he prompted when she didn’t answer. “How are you feeling?”

It took all her willpower to resist the strong impulse to back away from him – all she would succeed in doing was showing her fear and further cornering herself. She took a breath, trying to calm her racing heart and willing her voice to sound steady. “Bit claustrophobic in here.”

He glanced around the tiny quarters. “Yeah, didn’t build this thing for luxury, that’s for sure.” He tried for a reassuring smile but then it fell from his face when he saw she wasn’t buying it.

“Want to go for a walk?” He raised one hopeful eyebrow.

Too easy. Her attempt to increase her chances to get out of these cramped conditions and therefore be better able to fend off his advances – or at least increase the possibility of being interrupted by one of the crew – had succeeded. Or did she play right into his hands?

Either way, it felt good to get out of the cabin, and Tom Riker gave her a wide berth as she stepped into the corridor. She had the faintly ridiculous sensation of being able to stand up taller out here, although the height of the quarters couldn’t be much less than the hallway.

She surmised from his determined gait and way his hand kept flexing into a fist that this wasn’t some aimless stroll, but she knew better than to challenge him. He caught her looking at him and tossed her a flirtatious wink that made her stomach roil. Her eyes darted about furtively always hunting for something, anything, she could use as a weapon, but the Defiant corridors were spartan.

Riker’s communicator chirped and he slammed his hand into it with a fierceness that made her jump. Clearly she wasn’t the only one on edge.

He came to an abrupt halt and turned away from her. The voice on the comm was his female subordinate, Kali something. Kira tried to pick up any useful information but it was clear she knew Kira could be listening in, so she was just relaying their approach to goodness knows where.

While Tom was distracted, Kira inched further down the corridor, wondering if the news from the bridge was pressing enough that if she made a run for it he might just have to let her go for now. Not that there was anywhere to go, but every moment she spent running around the ship was a moment not in their custody, not subject to whatever they wanted from her – and greatly increased her chances of sabotaging the ship itself. From inside her tiny quarters the best she could hope for was to maybe disable the cloak for a while if she could manage to crosswire a power converter with the plasma manifold, but that would take a while and was there even anything with enough power in the cabin to short out a plasma manifold?

She spun on her heel and was just about to take off when Riker’s large hand closed on her arm, pulling her close. She shuddered and tried to pull away, but he held her fast.

“We will have to resume our pleasant stroll later, I’m needed on the bridge.” His tone was terse and he didn’t say anything else, just marched her back to the cabin and unceremoniously dumped her there.

Able to breathe again, Kira absently rubbed her arm. Then she went back to trying to remember everything she ever knew about plasma manifolds, and how much power it would take before a short circuit would compromise a cloaking device.

 

---

 

Shaking his head half in anger and half in admiration, Riker walked away from the scorched remains of the replicator and the bulkhead in Kira's cabin. He slung an arm around the bunk, leaning over her.

Kira resolutely didn’t flinch at his nearness and domineering stance. She ignored him and concentrated on staying still as the medic (if he even was that) from Riker’s crew used a medical tricorder on the burns on her arm.

“You crossed the replicator power converter with the plasma manifold, I take it?

“That's right.” She lost the battle, wincing as Riker leaned down.

“Nice work. You realize we'll have this bypassed in thirty minutes.”

“At least that will be thirty minutes that we’re visible,” she tossed back at him.

“Fortunately, I was able to move us into a nebula. No one's going to see us.”

The medic pulled back and Kira thanked him, getting to her feet to escape Riker’s proprietary looming, and trying not to react as she saw out of the corner of her eye as the other crew members left the cabin and she was once again alone with Tom.

“You're lucky you only got a little singed. That whole plasma relay could've exploded.”

As if you care, Kira wanted to spit at him, but didn’t, because ridiculous as it was, she sensed Tom Riker actually did care. Some terrorist he was, he wasn’t going to last one day in this world.

“That was the idea.” Because those are the stakes, Tom, she didn’t add.

Riker considered Kira for a moment, still not abandoning his aggressive posturing. “You spent most of your life fighting the Cardassians. I know you sympathize with what we're trying to do here.”

Kira wondered if that was why she was here – did they think they could turn her? “I fought the Cardassians because they invaded my home. You don't live in the Demilitarized Zone...you don't have any family there...why are you in this fight?”

“People are dying in the Demilitarized Zone and Starfleet isn't doing a thing about it.”

“Taking the Defiant just raises the stakes. The Cardassians are going to send a fleet after you. They are going to kill more people hunting you down than they did in those border raids.

Something changed in his demeanor. “You're assuming the Defiant will stay in the Demilitarized Zone.”

Kira just looked at him, trying to decipher if his cocksure tone was just a bluff, or if he was really stupid enough to go on the offensive. His cold smile convinced her he was serious, chilling her to the bone. None of them would survive this if Tom was on some hero crusade.

“Let's go. I think we'd all feel better having you someplace where we can keep an eye on you.” His hand curled around her arm again, and she lifted her chin in defiance, refusing to flinch this time as he led her out of the cabin none too gently.

 

---

 

Wherever he was taking her, it wasn’t the bridge. Kira tamped down her unease as he marched her along, his mouth set in a grim line. She at least preferred this silent treatment and hostility to the flirtation and attempts to win her over.

They left crew quarters entirely and headed for the mess hall. Did that mean there were others waiting there? His hold on her arm was loosening and she considered again trying to make a run for it, despite his proximity and how much her back was still aching, anything had to be better than quietly submitting to whatever he had planned for her.

“Whatever you are thinking, don’t,” he said through gritted teeth. “Clearly you don’t care if you blow an entire bulkhead into space and yourself along with it, but your dear friend from last night will be on the line if you try anything like that again.”

“My dear friend…what are you talking about? Who?”

He dragged her right past the mess hall and she almost sagged with relief, only to feel her stomach sink again when he headed straight for the sickbay. She was still trying to work out what Tom meant about a friend from last night when they reached the doorway and suddenly his words made sense. Doctor Bashir was pacing the length of the room, stopping abruptly when he saw them.

Of course, Kira thought to herself, Julian had first deposited her at Quarks, paid for her evening’s entertainment, and then come back to check on her periodically, even cutting in on her dinner with Tom to make sure she was okay. She could see how Riker could come to the conclusion that they were close.

Her eyes locked with Julian’s and an indescribable wave of emotion washed over her at seeing him, followed immediately by a sharp twist of guilt at the relief she felt no longer being alone here, and regret that now Julian was in danger too.

Because Riker was right – there was no way she would risk the young doctor’s life as cavalierly as she could her own.

Chapter Text

Her eyes catalogued the signs that however Julian had got here, he had not come gently. His hair was askew, there was a bruise purpling over his left eye and his usually immaculate uniform was rumpled, even ripped at one sleeve.

Riker’s hand tightened around Kira’s arm. She steeled herself not to react but couldn’t stop herself from trying to pull away. His grip only tightened further and she winced as he pulled her closer to his body.

Bashir visibly flinched. “Let her go.” He came to the edge of the medbay and stopped with his toes inches from the doorway where Riker held her fast. A force field, Kira guessed, as there were no guards down here. Her suspicions were confirmed with Riker’s next words.

“You give me your word you will treat our wounded when we reach our destination, and Major Kira will come to no harm while she is in the custody of the Maquis.”

So maybe she was simply here to assure Julian’s cooperation—if Riker had come to the conclusion that she meant a lot to the doctor. Kira almost scoffed out loud. clearly they didn’t know Julian or they could have skipped bringing her along; he would treat their wounded without anything hanging over his head.

Julian bristled, his lips curling, baring his teeth slightly. “She has done nothing to you.”

“And the settlers – many of them women and children – have done nothing to deserve their fate either, doctor. What’s it to be, I have no wish to cause her any further distress but I did have the phaser set on the highest stun setting when I used her to board the Defiant, so you might want to check on your colleague sooner rather than later.”

Bashir’s jaw twitched.

“I’m fine, Julian, don’t lis—” She sucked in a breath when Riker swung her around, pushing her up against a bulkhead.

Stop. Stop it, Riker, I’ll do whatever you want.”

Riker’s grip eased immediately at Julian’s words, although he kept his eyes trained on Kira’s face.

Julian continued, his voice so low and intense Kira almost didn’t recognize it. “But Major Kira must stay here with me. You will only have my cooperation as long as I know she’s safe. If she’s out of my sight, I’m not—”

“Done.” Riker shoved her at the same time he hit a code into the console for the door. The force field deactivated seconds before Kira was flung through the entrance, and reactivated almost immediately afterwards.

He wasn’t taking any chances with them, Kira surmised. Smart, she would have been equally wary.

She landed awkwardly, the bone-shaking force jarring her bruised back and causing her to bite her lip hard to stop from crying out. She tasted blood. Bashir was at her side in an instant, shouting something angrily at Riker.

Riker stood over them, watching them for a moment, his eyes full of an apology he did not utter.

Bashir crouched in front of her, angling his body now to put himself between her and Riker. “Major, are you all right?”

She nodded gingerly. “I’m fine.”

At that, Riker turned on his heel and left them alone, the door to the sickbay sliding closed behind him.

“You’ve tested that force field?” she asked the doctor.

He nodded distractedly, reaching out to support her as she tried to get to her feet. “There’s no way out. Easy, take it easy, Major—”

She yelped when she tried to put weight on her left ankle and it almost gave out underneath her.

Julian’s arm went around her waist, stopping her from hitting the ground again. “There now, I’ve got you. At least we’re trapped in a sickbay. Let me have a look – is it your ankle?”

She could feel tremors in his body that belied his suddenly calm voice and practiced soothing bedside manner as he helped her over to a biobed. Still shaken up herself, and seized with an urge to escape, she concentrated on breathing through her nose and tried to focus on what Bashir was saying.

He was frowning, his eyes running over her. “Let me get you something for the pain first.”

She shook her head, drawing her knees up to her chest on the bed, batting away the hypospray. “’M fine. Need my head clear, we have to get out of here, just fix my ankle.”

Bashir set the hypospray down slowly.

“Kira…”

She fixed him with a stare, and he held up his hands.

“Okay, lie back, I need to make sure the energy weapon didn’t do any serious damage as well.”

She tried to obey, but she was still too keyed up from the encounter with Riker, and the thankfully wrong fear that he had been leading her into a room full of crewmen for an entirely different purpose than blackmailing Bashir.

She met the young doctor’s eyes, knowing she would be completely unable to explain any of this to him.

“Nerys?” His voice was soft. “Here…” He touched the controls to raise the head of the biobed, then with a warm hand on her shoulder, gently guided her to sit back.

“Okay?” His eyes were compassionate, and his manner so soothing, Kira just closed her eyes before they could fill with irrational tears, and nodded. She wasn’t alone here anymore, and while she wouldn’t have wished this on anyone, she couldn’t deny the relief she felt at Julian’s calming presence.

She opened her eyes again when the pain in her ankle eased (and when she was sure she wouldn’t embarrass herself by crying over something that hadn’t even happened).

“Better?”

She returned his hopeful smile. “Much. Thank you.” She flexed her foot experimentally, it felt almost normal.

“The energy discharge from Riker’s weapon did a number on your electrolytes and ion balance, pretty standard for the highest stun setting, I’m going to give you a hypospray to help sort things out, okay?”

She nodded, looking away when he touched the hypo to her throat.

“May I examine the wound where the phaser hit you?”

“Oh,” Kira looked down, her hand going to her stomach. “Um, it’s fine, but sure.”

She shrugged out of her uniform jacket. The doctor took it from her, noting the burn marks on the shoulder with a raised eyebrow, then carefully setting it aside.

“I’m going to check out your arm and shoulder too okay? Those look like plasma burns.”

“It’s fine, their medic fixed it.”

She held still as he carefully cradled her arm in his gentle hand while running a tricorder over it until the remaining discomfort she had felt there disappeared completely.

His hand came up to her face, then paused, his thumb and forefinger very gently lifting her chin. “Your lip…” His expression darkened. “Did he hit you?”

“No… no it’s nothing” She moved away from his touch as she shook her head, fearful his gentleness might make her tear up again. “I did that just when I fell.” She indicated the floor just inside the force field where she had landed and gave him an apologetic self-conscious shrug.

He was still watching her too closely. “All right. Let me just take away the slight bruising and fix the cut?”

She nodded, holding still while he ran the dermal regenerator over her lip, being careful not to touch her this time.

His eyes were hooded when he set the tricorder down and just studied her for a moment. “Did he hurt you in any other way, Nerys?”

Her eyes widened, and she swallowed. His eyes were trained on hers.

“No… I’m fi—”

“You’re ‘fine’. Yes, I know.” He sighed but gave her a small chagrinned smile. “Okay.”

“Actually,” she managed, and then instantly regretted it when she saw his whole body tense in preparation for what she was going to say.

She shook her head to allay his fear then winced when the action send shockwaves of pain down her spine, reminding her of what she had been about to mention. “When I was knocked out by the phaser blast I must have hit the ground pretty ground, messed up my back a bit.”

He exhaled, and perked up slightly. “That’s something I can help with.” He gave her a slightly self-conscious smile that she couldn’t help but return, then guided her to lie back again while he used the bio scanner. She sighed with relief and closed her eyes when the muscles in her back and side began to relax, warmth flooding her body with whatever the doctor was doing to relieve the spasms and heal the bruising.

He gave a low whistle. “You’re really tense,” he murmured.

She opened her eyes but he was still looking at the instruments rather than her.

“I’m giving you some localized muscle relaxants as well as reducing the swelling. They won’t knock you out or anything but at these doses even highly localized administration might leave you a little sleepy.”

She frowned. “Julian—”

“Relax, Nerys, we are going anywhere for a while.”

Just then the unmistakable boom of an explosion rocked the Defiant and it pitched violently starboard.

Chapter Text

The ship was under fire and the evasive maneuvers were too fast for the inertial dampeners to compensate, overwhelming even the backup stabilization system. Kira was glad of whoever had the foresight to include railings on medbay beds on starships, otherwise she would have been sprawled on the floor—probably with a whole new set of injuries for Doctor Bashir to patch up.

She grabbed for the doctor, who barely managed to stay upright. They locked hands and she held onto him with all her strength until he was able to get a grip on the biobed railing, just in time for the Defiant to lurch hard to port.

When the room stabilized again, Julian moved fast, hitting a quick-release button for the railing, he half-helped, half-lifted her off the bed and swept them both under the nearest bolted down lab desk. They sheltered there, hemmed in on three sides, as the ship rocked a few more times. Random pieces of medical equipment fell around them, but the desk provided protection.

“Okay?”

She nodded from her position tucked against his chest. He had kept her locked in the same embrace from when he had moved them so quickly to safety, and Kira was too glad of it to think of pushing him away. Her body was languid, her previously taut neck and back turned to jelly, the medication he had given her to relax her muscles working despite the adrenaline flooding her system from being under attack (or for all they knew, on the attack).

“Julian, we have to get out of here, Tom Riker has some crazy scheme of going on the offensive right in the heart of enemy territory, he’s going to get us all killed.”

“Agreed, but I’ve been trying to find a way out ever since I woke up here.”

“They knocked you out too?” Kira felt his nod, his chin brushing against her hair. She moved back a little until she could see his eyes. “Doesn’t look like you patched yourself up as good as you did me,” she added gently, gesturing to the cut and bruise just above his eye.

He looked at her blankly so she lifted her hand and very delicately touched her fingertips to his forehead above the injury.

“Oh.” His own hand followed hers and he poked at the bruise with considerably less gentleness. “Ow,” he muttered. “I didn’t even notice.”

The ship seemed to be back on an even keel for now, so she wriggled out of his arms, willing her lax muscles to work. She ignored his pleas for her to come back, and grabbed for a medical tricorder before ducking back under the desk.

“Thanks.” He held out his hand to take it from her but she held onto it.

“There’s a cut too, maybe you should let me.”

He gave her a slightly dubious raised eyebrow, on the uninjured side of his face.

She rolled her eyes. “It won’t be any superstar Starfleet Chief Medical Officer routine, but I can use one of these for field triage and at least make sure you don’t get an infection and get the swelling to go down. Then you can make yourself pretty again when we get back to the station.”

His lips twitched and he handed her the tricorder, watching closely as she programmed it. She held it out so he could inspect the settings himself.

“Looks good, major.”

“Thank you, doctor, now sit still.” She gave him a reproving glare, even though he was perfectly still, and a full-blown smile broke out on his face.

Kira had to admonish him two more times to keep still once she activated the tricorder, but by the time she was done the bruise was just a shadow and the cut was more or less gone. She watched as he ran his fingers gingerly over the area.

“Nice job,” he pronounced, a note of admiration in his tone that pleased her more than she wanted to admit.

She ducked her head. “I think it’s safe to come out now.”

“For all we know anyway.” He raised his hands in a gesture of frustration.

Kira made a noise of sympathy; it was difficult to not be on the bridge and not to know what was going on. “And you’re sure there’s definitely no getting out of here? We can’t just crawl through a Jefferies tube or something? No medical override transporter back door?”

He huffed a laugh with little mirth in it. “Tried both. That force field is the kind that seals off the entire room, and the transporter is locked down.”

“If only we had weapons.”

Julian gave her a dark look.

“What?”

“I’m in a sickbay, Nerys. In my hands this place is better than an armory. For one thing, I could isolate this room and flood the rest of the ship with anesthetine gas in less than five minutes, render Riker and his crew unconscious for at least a good hour.”

She stared at him, not sure if she was impressed or unnerved—particularly by his calm, flat delivery. “So why didn’t you do that already?”

“Because I knew they had you – Tom was careful to make sure I understood this, probably precisely to keep me in line.”

She blew out an exasperated breath. “But I’m here now, and—”

Julian held up a hand to forestall her responding to tell him she would have been fine with being knocked out under the circumstances.

“There is also the problem that we can’t get out of here to get to the bridge, we would be sitting ducks in space if we engage with Cardassians—”

“Which from the damage the Defiant just took, it sounds like we already have,” she finished for him. She dropped her head back and banged it against the desk.

“Hey,” he admonished her softly, putting a hand to the back of her head.

“Sorry, I just…we can’t just sit here and do nothing.”

“Looks like we’re not going to get rocked around anytime soon, how about you let me finish my ‘superstar Starfleet Chief Medical Officer routine’?” He cracked a hopeful, boyish smile.

Kira almost rolled her eyes again, but he was impossible to resist. It had to be the muscle relaxants in her system, maybe they relaxed her a little too much if she was falling for Julian’s exuberant puppy antics.

He uncoiled himself from their cramped corner, unfolding his long limbs while she watched, and got to his feet, crouching down to offer her a hand.

She accepted his help only because her muscles still felt liquid in her body. He must have noticed because he didn’t move away once she was standing, instead moving his other hand to her elbow.

“Okay? Those meds might make you a little woozy.”

She made a noncommittal sound, but held onto him a little tighter. He helped her back to the biobed, re-securing the railing and gathering up everything that had fallen or got tossed around when the Defiant had been hit.

She closed her eyes when he started fiddling around with the bioscanner again. She could almost doze but it was freezing in here and she was just about to ask for a blanket when her eyes flew open.

“It’s cold.”

“Hmm, you feel chilled?”

He produced a blanket as if by magic and touched the backs of his fingers to her forehead.

“Julian, do you think whatever damage we just sustained affected primary systems – like life support?”

His eyebrows drew down and he turned to his instruments. “Oxygen and CO2 levels are normal, pressurization too.” He paused, then turned to the bioscanner. “You’re a little hyperthermic but the environmental temperature is normal.”

Kira mind worked. “If life support is damaged the most efficient way to conserve what you’ve got is to gather everyone into one central area. How big is Tom’s crew?”

“Um…Small from what I could tell…” Julian was paying more attention to his instruments than to her words. He exhaled and his shoulders relaxed a little. “Doesn't look like the fever is related to any infection, but I need to check the phaser blast wound site just in case.”

“The Maquis always run with the fewest members possible in a cell. It’s not like the Bajoran resistance which had the numbers if nothing else; the Maquis can’t spare more than the minimum necessary to get the job done.”

He looked at her then, a smile playing about his lips. “Tell me this isn’t febrile rambling, Nerys?”

“Compromised life support would get everyone gathered in one spot, and with a small crew, that would be the bridge, because that’s most likely where they all are anyway.”

The smile faded and his eyes turned serious. “Except us. But Nerys…”

“I know, it’s risky, but can you do it? From here I mean? They won’t leave us here to freeze to death, not after going to all this trouble to bring a doctor to their wounded. They’ll have to bring us to the bridge.”

He pressed his lips together, thinking about it for no more than a second, then nodded. “I can, but you’re talking major system damage to disable life support to the point where they would shut down the sickbay and take us out. There are multiple redundancies in primary systems like that.” He rubbed a hand over his eyes. “Miles’s is going to kill me if we ever make it back alive.”

She squeezed his arm. “Miles is going to kill us you mean.”

Chapter Text

“So what do we need to do, to make the anesthetine gas?” Kira shoved off the blankets, ignoring the shiver than ran through her at the cold air in the sickbay. Now they had a plan she couldn’t wait to get started, to at least feel like she was doing something.

“Hang on, major. We’ll get to that. I’ve done as much as I can for your back and neck for now, there’s just one more thing. I need to check the wound where the phaser hit you?”

She deflated slightly, and lay back again, pulling a blanket with her. Her hands went to lift her white top to let him examine her, trying to shake that sense of foreboding that came over her.

She found she couldn’t do it, her fingers bunched the fabric instead of exposing her midriff.

Julian was looking at her, his face growing more and more concerned. “Nerys?” he prompted very gently.

“I…it’s not you.” Her brow furrowed and she looked around the medbay to make sure they were alone.

“I’m not sure what you mean.” That tone was still there, like he was trying to coax a panicked haru cat out of its hole. “It’s just us here, Nerys.”

Something Riker had said to her came rushing back to her just then, and her eyes slammed closed as her mind finally pieced together what was niggling at her.

Julian’s hand ghosted over hers. Kira opened her eyes and grabbed for his wrist. “Give me a second?”

“Of course.”

She thought for a moment, then screwing up her face, bared her stomach to him. He looked at her uncertainly, but then quietly set to running the tricorder over the area where she had taken the phaser blast.

By the time he was finished she had the inkling of a plan, but it was a terrible idea.

“All done,” he said softly, carefully smoothing down her top to cover her again, then pulling a blanket over her for good measure.

She quirked her lips and pressed her palm against her forehead, willing herself to come up with a different plan. “Thank you, Julian.” Then she took a deep breath. A bad plan was all she had, and they didn’t have a moment to waste. She drew in a breath, then looked at him directly. “I know you must think I’m losing it but I’m just so cold.”

He opened his mouth no doubt to say something reassuring, but she barreled on before she lost her nerve.

“In the resistance the only thing that worked to get warm was to huddle together.”

His mouth closed with an almost audible gulp and his eyes widened. She grabbed for his hand. “Would you, uh, maybe, um, just for a minute…”

Then just like that, she lost her nerve. Forget it, this was a really bad plan, she had to find another way.

“If you think it would help.” His tone was calm, like it was the most normal thing in the world that his first officer would suddenly ask him to lie down with her. “But if you’re really cold let me see if I can find more blankets first, okay?”

She nodded and lay back on the bed, her mind reeling. This had to look natural, and if at all possible, it had to happen without Julian responding as if it was completely unexpected. She pressed her hands over her face for a moment, her cheeks aflame with embarrassment.

He cleared his throat, and she looked up to see him standing at the side of the bed, holding out blankets. Good, they were huge and there were enough of them they could hide under them.

“Still want me to…uh…”

“Yes,” she replied a little too quickly. “Please.”

Looking a little perturbed, and like he was waiting for her to change her mind, Julian lowered the railing and tentatively got into the bed beside her. And now Kira was suddenly much closer to Doctor Bashir than she had ever imagined herself being. Even though her thoughts were spinning in a hundred directions, part of her found it incredibly endearing how he did his best to give her as much space as possible. She shuffled over but there still wasn’t much room—biobeds weren’t built for two after all.

Time for the next stage. She swallowed hard.

“All right?” he asked quietly.

Not trusting herself to speak, she just nodded, then grabbed the blankets and began burying herself and Julian under them as much as possible.

His huge eyes followed her progress, but he didn’t move. Then she arranged herself on the pillow so they were face to face. For a moment she just stared at him. His eyes were a mesmerizing shade of hazel green this up close.

“Nerys? Do you want me to hold you, or something?”

Actually yes some part of her responded inside her head. She pressed her lips together. “Just stay still, okay?” she whispered.

“Okay…”

His breath caught in his throat as she looped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer. Her trembling fingers threaded their way into his hair and she moved until her lips were as close to his ear as she could manage. She could hear him gasp audibly and he went stock still in her arms, but at least he wasn’t pushing her away or jumping out of bed.

“Don’t say anything, please, let me explain,” she whispered urgently, closing her eyes and hoping desperately that to an observer this looked like a lover’s clinch and nothing more.

Their cheeks brushed together as Julian nodded.

She smoothed his hair back with as light a touch as possible and pulled a blanket up around them as she whispered again, hoping that if their watchers observed them it would look more like casual intimate conversation, and not the two of them plotting. “We’re being watched, I think. I don’t know if they can hear us too, but we have to assume so.” She took a breath. “I’m sorry, but I just now figured it out.” Drawing back to meet his eyes, Kira was cringing inside and feeling utterly mortified and terrified of what she would see there.

She almost sighed with relief when he didn’t look angry, or disgusted. He did look stunned though, and that wouldn’t do to convince any onlookers that they were in fact as close as Tom Riker had implied.

She moved her lips to his ear again. “Riker already believes we’re together, I think. This is all I can think of to disguise this conversation. I-I’m sorry.”

Prophets, this sounded even more lame as a plan once she voiced it aloud. Her cheeks burned, and she hid her face in his neck for a moment when she couldn’t suppress an embarrassed grimace.

He moved then, finally. His arms came up around her and he snuggled her tentatively against his chest. She shivered as the action did in fact achieve the supposed reason for doing this: to warm her up.

He froze up at her shiver. “Okay?”

“Yes.” Very piped up that decidedly unhelpful voice again.

He dipped his head and moved his mouth closer to her ear. “How do you know, that they are watching?”

“When Tom took me out of the crew quarters I thought we were going to the bridge, because he said something like “we’d all be more comfortable having you some place we can keep an eye on you.”

“Hmm, yeah that only makes sense if they are watching us.”

His lips brushed against the shell of her ear and she shivered again, goosebumps traveling all down her arms. He moved his hand into her hair, mirroring her own actions, his gentle touch soothing.

“So now what?” he breathed.

“I don’t know, I can’t think straight,” she admitted quietly. “Now I know they are listening, I mean,” she clarified. She was not ready to confess that his nearness and the ways it was making her feel had a fair bit to do with it too.

He took a breath, and she reveled in his warmth as the action pressed his chest closer to hers. “The meds are probably not helping either.” His tone was apologetic. “They’re also lowering your blood pressure, making you feel cold and tired.” Then he dropped into a whisper again. “Riker and his crew won’t let us go through with the anesthetine gas plan, but if we act like we are making it they’ll be forced to intervene.”

She thought about that. “And then what though?”

“Is it wishful thinking to hope that means they would bring us to the bridge at that point? To really make sure they are keeping an eye on us?” He sighed against her hair, sending goosebumps down her back now. “Maybe they would if they hadn’t heard us discussing that very thing.”

“We don’t know that they did.”

“We don’t know that they didn’t.”

She made a noise of frustration and dropped her head on his chest before she quite processed what she was doing. “I can’t think.”

His hand smoothed her hair again, with a little more pressure now. It was so comforting she closed her eyes and just let herself sag onto his surprisingly sturdy chest.

“Maybe just relax for a bit, get warm, let your mind clear.”

He was using his doctor-voice, which communicated that this was more than a suggestion. Kira wanted to object, but it felt so good to not be cold anymore, and the exhaustion of the day was catching up to her.

“Did he say anything else to you?”

Kira processed the deeper timbre of his voice at the same time she felt the rumble in his chest.

“Riker?”

“Mmm hmm.”

He was tense now, and she raised herself up to look at him, startled by the protectiveness and concern in his eyes. She bit her lip; he was still worried Riker had threatened her and she owed it to him to ask least try to explain.

“Earlier, when you asked if he hurt me? Riker?”

There was a tightening around his eyes but otherwise he held very still. “Go on, Nerys,” he added softly.

“Nothing happened. He’s not…” Cardassian, her mind supplied. “Well, he’s Starfleet, at his core, I think. He wouldn’t…” She shrugged, then shook herself a little. “But you weren’t wrong, I was a little twitchy earlier, but it’s nothing he did. It was just…the situation.”

His eyes flashed. “He did plenty. He shot you, took you prisoner, dragged you in here, and threw you up against a bulkhead before tossing you to the ground like a ragdoll.”

She closed her eyes, opening them again when she felt Julian’s hand warm on her shoulder, his touch light. Their eyes met and he looked so uncertain that his touch was welcome she moved to thread her fingers with his, just a for a moment.

It was too hard to keep staring in his eyes though, they still sparked with indignation on her behalf. She laid her head down again, some of the tension inside her melting away when his arms came around her securely.

“When he came into cabin where he was keeping me…I thought…I thought for a moment what Cardassians would likely do with a female prisoner of war. Then when he brought me here, at first I thought—I know it’s illogical, but I was thinking if this was a Cardassian ship's captain he would be bringing me to his crewmen.”

His hand moved in comforting circles on her shoulder, but she could tell from a glance up at his carefully neutral expression that he wasn’t following what she was trying to say. She envied him a lifetime in which such concepts as war rape were not the first place his mind went to.

“His crewman?” he echoed when she didn’t elaborate.

She nodded. “For their, uh, enjoyment.” Her voice faded on the last word, but she saw the horrified realization dawn in his eyes and she immediately regretted saying anything. Better to let him live in a world where such possibilities wouldn’t even occur to him.

“Oh Kira.”

Chapter Text

“So I was just on edge.” Kira finished quickly, squirming a little under his intense gaze.

“Yeah, I could tell. But I had no idea—”

“Nothing actually happened. Maybe I shouldn’t have told you.” She curled her fingers over her mouth, feeling sheepish. “But I was just trying to explain—it wasn’t Riker, he didn’t do anything, it was all in my head.”

His mouth set in a grim line and he looked like he was resisting arguing that point. Kira didn’t know what to do with all the emotion she saw in his eyes. She wasn’t used to having someone be so protective, and get so ardently indignant on her behalf. She supposed she hadn't given much thought to it, but somehow this wasn't how she would have thought Doctor Bashir would have reacted to this kind of situation. His serious demeanor and depth of compassion was overwhelming.

She ducked her head, resting it tentatively on his chest again, not entirely sure how far she could push this ruse of intimacy between them. Any worries that she was taking advantage of the situation were assuaged when his arms moved around her and he stroked her back.

“I’m sorry you had to go through that,” he said very softly.

She had to resist the sudden absurd urge to bury her face in his shirt. Instead she settled for just turning her cheek against his chest, and breathing him in.

He relaxed slightly, as if he had been waiting for her to push him away. His arms tightened around her.

“Nerys? Can I ask you something?” he said after a few minutes had passed.

She made an affirmative noise, hoping he hadn’t noticed how close she was to falling asleep.

He moved a little to ostensibly bury his face in her neck, and dropped his voice to a whisper.

“I get that we needed to talk without being overheard, but where on earth did you come up with the idea to, uh, you know.”

She nodded a little, and he continued. “I mean, wasn’t there a risk Riker and his crew would think it was a little strange that two senior officers would be…”

His lips were tickling her ear lobe sending sparks dancing across her skin, and it took Kira a moment to realize he was waiting for an answer as his voice drifted off.

“Um, Riker already thinks we were together, from what I can gather. That’s why he kept me around, to make sure you cooperated.”

“He thought we were dating?” There was a note of surprise in his hushed voice.

“I think he was watching you in the infirmary—when we were on the station, I mean—you were his main target. Then he followed us when you brought me to Quark’s.”

He moved one hand to rub her back. “I didn’t even stay with you though.”

“Riker commented on that actually, said if I were his girlfriend he wouldn’t leave me alone in a place like this, but I was too busy laughing at the idea that Quark’s was dangerous to answer that – I think I might have mentioned you were busy prepping for new colony field hospital, but I didn’t put it together that he was under the impression that you and I were more than friends. I’m not sure he did think that for sure, but maybe when you came back, to check on me a couple of times.

“And muscled in on your dinner with him.” He was nodding now. “I was just making sure you were okay. Riker has a bit of reputation.”

She pulled back to look at him quizzically.

“Oh, not anything bad as such, just…assertive in going after what he wants. I thought he might be a bit pushy and I knew you were exhausted. I just thought he might be a bit much to deal with.”

Her lips twisted wryly. “I told him right at the start that I was involved with someone.”

“Yeah, but, well, first of all, he’s Riker – or a Riker – and second of all, you’re Bajoran.”

Her brow wrinkled. “And?”

He shifted a little and half-shrugged. “It’s over-simplified but with Bajoran culture being more open to polyamory than a lot of the federation, that’s something that sticks in people’s minds.”

At her raised eyebrow he continued, “I know it’s not all Bajorans, or maybe not even a majority, but the point is there are relationships that go beyond monogamy—that isn’t a taboo on Bajor.”

“Why is that something people think of?”

“Well,” he wriggled a little, “maybe more men than people. Unattached men. Starfleet locker room talk?”

She didn’t get the reference and it must have shown in her face.

“It’s not a big deal, I’m just speculating why you being involved with—”

His voice had returned to normal volume, and Kira moved her hand to his mouth before he could say anything else. His eyes went round in surprise, and his lips moved behind her fingers. Desperate to keep him from finishing that sentence and blowing the whole charade, she moved up and pressed their foreheads together, hoping to shield from any watching eyes the true purpose of stopping his words.

He gasped at her closeness. Trying hard not to wince or freeze up with embarrassment, she moved her lips to his cheek in an approximation of a kiss as she whispered a ‘shh’.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, so low no one listening could have heard.

“I didn’t say who I was involved with,” she whispered, when she could find words again, “so he presumably thinks it’s you.” She pulled back. His eyes looked a little chagrined, but mostly he was staring at her in something like wonder.

“Sorry about…” she breathed, brushing her fingertips to his lightly stubbled cheek where she had effectively just kissed him.

He leaned in a little trying to catch what she was saying as her voice faded with embarrassment. “Don’t be sorry.” He didn’t even try to say it quietly. He graced her with a soft smile and the awe in his eyes didn’t fade.

She pressed her lips together but couldn’t stop smiling back, feeling strangely shy—it wasn’t a feeling she knew what to do with. Her gaze moved to his mouth before she could stop herself and she bit her lip. He was so close, and he didn’t look at all disturbed by her kiss—if anything the opposite—he returned her gaze without compunction.

He lifted a hand and smoothed her hair back, tucking it behind her ear with a casual intimacy that took her breath away. How did he do this and make it look so easy? And why was she just now starting to feel a little guilty about Bareil when none of Riker’s outrageous flirting gave her any misgivings?

Because I never felt about Riker the way I feel now, about Doctor Bashir of all people.

She suppressed a tremor and dropped her eyes. She really must be exhausted. “What, um, what do you think they are doing on the bridge?” she whispered, wiggling down into the blankets a little deeper to force herself away from Julian, and his suddenly so ridiculously attractive face.

He took a breath, loosening his arms around her until she got comfortable at his side, then embracing her again. She could tell he was watching her carefully, but she didn’t trust herself to make eye contact again just yet.

“I don’t know…but maybe,” his tone dropped low again, “that’s a good way to approach the problem: given what we must assume they know of our plans to cripple life support or gas everyone, what would we do in their position?”

“Separate us,” Kira muttered immediately, then completely failed to suppress the shudder that ran through her entire body.

He hushed her gently, cradling her close. “I won’t let that happen. I already told Riker, you stay with me or I won’t cooperate.” She wasn’t sure if she imagined it or if he kissed her head.

“I’m just saying…that’s what I would do, but also I would want us where they can see us. And not just through a video feed,” she whispered into his chest.

He nodded against her. “But they haven’t come for us yet.”

“We also are clearly not actively sabotaging anything right now,” she countered quietly.

“Incapacitate us, in some way? Nothing permanent, just until we get to their destination.”

Her fingers tightened on his shirt. “That makes sense.”

“Moving us somewhere other than the med bay already failed them.” He stroked her arm were the recently-healed plasma burns had been.

She took a shaky breath. “Do you think they would tie us up?”

“Could be the minute we move from here to make any kind of move against the ship’s life support, that’s exactly what they’ll do.”

She dropped her head on his chest, half-wishing they hadn’t started this thought-exercise. His hands moved across her back in soothing motions.

Chapter Text

The ship rocked again. The rumbling jolt of what could have been quantum torpedoes firing, followed by rapid evasive maneuvers caused Kira to wrap her arms around Julian and hold on for dear life. The rattling of the sickbay’s instrumentation almost seemed in tune with the fluttering in her stomach as their bodies pressed together. She wanted nothing more than to just hide here in the doctor’s arms and ride it out, but she knew they had to do something, or they wouldn’t make it home alive—and neither would anyone else on the Defiant.

After a particular sharp swerve, during which Julian’s arms tightened around her and they both sucked in a breath, they locked eyes and she saw her own resolve reflected in his expression. Even if it meant they ended up separated, in restraints, or knocked out by phaser blast again, they had to at least try.

“We have to—”

“I know.” His soft voice was tinged with regret, and he gently tucked her hair behind her ear again, his eyes full of emotion as he catalogued her face.

He helped her up as soon as the rocking eased, keeping hold of her as they climbed off the biobed. “Let me know if the drugs are still affecting you and making you unsteady, okay?” His voice was very quiet and he moved his mouth close to her ear before he spoke. Kira supposed it made sense not to draw attention to anyone listening that she might still be weak.

“I’m fine,” she assured him, squeezing his arm.

They stood frozen for a moment, all was quiet, no running feet or shouting voices. Julian’s cheeks looked a little flushed and he looked to her for the next step.

She tugged him down to whisper in his ear, curving her arms around his neck in the hope it looked like an embrace. “Could we just act like we are sabotaging the life support, and talk about that, see if it gets their attention?”

He nodded, running his hand through his hair as she stepped back. He looked rumpled, and thoroughly distracted. It was just wishful thinking, but Kira imagined he was as reluctant to break the spell between them as she was.

She took another step back and opened her mouth to launch into a series of questions about where they should begin their sabotage, when someone else spoke, and she jumped in surprise.

“We’re going to die.”

They both turned to the man standing at the door of the sickbay. Julian closed the distance between them in an instant, moving to angle his body between her and the newcomer.

Kira cleared her throat and placed a placating hand on Julian’s chest. “Tamal, isn’t it? You were the one who fixed my arm.”

He nodded. “He’s going to get us killed.”

“You’re talking about Tom Riker,” Julian interjected.

“I am ready to die for the cause, but not like this, there’s no value to this. I…” He looked away for a moment, shifting his weight. “I need your help.”

Kira took a step towards him. “What do you need, Tamal?”

“For you to talk to him.”

Julian and Kira exchanged a look.

“Will you come with me?” he pressed.

Kira grabbed for her jacket with the shredded sleeve, and pulled it on. Julian stayed close by her side.

 

By the time they reached the bridge Tamal had filled them in on the crew’s objective: an Obsidian Order base hidden in the Orias system—intel that had been confirmed by their scans. The cloak was compromised by a neutrino leak, and while they might be able to fight off the Cardassian warships nearby, ten more were closing on them.

When they emerged onto the bridge Riker spun on his heel towards them. “What the hell, Tamal?”

“You told me to keep an eye on them. They were about to release gas into the air ducts, or sabotage life support, I had to bring them out of there.”

Riker glowered at them. Kira squared her shoulders, bracing herself. Julian moved closer to her side, his hand brushing against hers.

Kalita cut in. “We're approaching the first cruiser, they'll be in phaser range in fifteen seconds.”

Riker’s jaw set. “I don’t have time for this right now.” He gestured towards the Ops table. “Sit. You move one muscle and I won’t hesitate to use this.” He indicated his phaser on his hip then turned to Tamal. “Go to impulse, decloak the ship, raise shields and stand by phasers.”

Tamal rushed to the aft cloaking console.

“Come to heading one one eight, mark three zero one, lock phasers, and fire.”

“Direct hit on the cruiser's port nacelle,” Kalita reported. “Their shields are down by thirty percent.”

The Defiant rocked hard to port. Beside Kira, Julian locked an arm around her and used the table to keep them both upright.

Tamal called out a report of being hit on the starboard shield as Kira peered at the view screen.

"What is it?" Julian asked, leaning in close to be heard over the volley of fire.

Kira lifted her shoulders. "Probably nothing, but those don't look like standard Cardassian warships to me. They're faster and their maneuverability is impressive."

The barrage continued but their shields were holding. Riker launched full spread quantum torpedoes.

“Their defense systems are off-line and they've lost main power,” Kalita said.

“Tom,” Tamal chimed him, the tension in his voice unmistakable. “Three more cruisers have just appeared in the Orias system. That makes five ships ahead of us...and ten behind.”

Riker’s jaw flexed. “Resume our original course to Orias, Stand by emergency power to the shields.”

Kalita cut in. “Incoming message from Cardassia Prime...it's Gul Dukat and Commander Sisko.” The surprise was evident in her voice.

Riker turned to Kira and Bashir. “On screen.”

“This is Gul Dukat of the Second Order. I am authorized to tell you that if you will surrender your ship none of you will be harmed.”

Riker all but rolled his eyes. “Is that right.”

Sisko moved into view. Kira’s heart leapt in her throat. Beside her she heard Julian exhale.

Sisko spoke directly to Riker. “Listen to him, Lieutenant. If you surrender, the Defiant and its crew will be handed over to a Federation starship at the Cardassian border.”

“Why the sudden generosity?”

Sisko indicated Dukat. “He wants the Defiant's sensor logs on the Orias system. And they're worth a lot more to him than Maquis prisoners.”

“I don't buy it. The Cardassians aren't going to let us just walk away.”

Sisko inclined his head. “You're right. Someone has to pay the price.”

Kira’s stomach sunk. She turned to Julian and leaned in a little closer, wishing she didn’t have to listen as Sisko outlined a deal that let Riker live out his life in a Cardassian labor camp.

Riker cut the audio.

Her stomach leaden, Kira stood up. Julian rose too, and she appreciated his show of support, but she nodded to him that she was all right. Then she made her made over to Riker.

“Tom.”

He followed her to the side.

“There's no reason for you to continue, they're giving you a way out. The only reason not to take it is because you want to die.” She paused, sickened that she was trying to convince someone to voluntarily surrender to Cardassians. “You’re not a very good terrorist, are you?”

She intended it to come out as a challenge, to try to provoke him, but regret and sadness tinged her voice.

“Maybe we’re just different kinds of terrorists.”

“No, you’re just trying to be a hero, and terrorists don’t get to be heroes.”

A muscle twitched in Riker’s cheek. “I came here to complete a mission.”

Julian spoke up then, his tone low and measured. “A mission? You may not make a good terrorist, Tom, but you do make an excellent Starfleet officer, and you’re still thinking like one. That mission is over. You'll never make it to Orias... you know that. There are five ships out there ahead of you, but there might be fifty waiting for all we know.”

Kira met Julian’s eyes, and continued. “Be a Starfleet officer one last time, Tom; think of your crew. I know you want Tom Riker to go out in a blaze of glory that they talk about for the next ten years...don't drag them along with you.”

She stepped toward him. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Julian hovering.

Riker stared at her for a long moment, then signaled to Kalita to resume the comm link. “On screen.”

He addressed Dukat coldly. “I agree to your terms.”

Kira closed her eyes and breathed out, barely hearing Sisko make the arrangements. Julian’s hand ghosted over her back and he stood at her side as the ship they had just attacked extended their shields around them. It made no sense to her why they were in some sort of standoff with the newer and older style Cardassian ships, but all too soon it was time for Riker to beam over to one of them.

She squared her shoulders and met Julian’s eyes as Riker addressed his crew. “I'm turning command over to Major Kira... she'll get you back to the Federation.” He turned to her soberly. “I'm holding you personally responsible to see that these people get a fair trial.”

She held his eyes. “I give you my word.”

Riker reached for his combadge.

Her heart lurched. This felt so wrong. “We'll get you out of there, Tom. I promise you that.”

His face softened as he looked at her, taking a step toward her. Julian shifted at her side where he was still standing protectively close. She started a little when Julian took her hand, his eyes still locked with Tom’s. Something passed between them.

“You’re a lucky man, Doctor Bashir.”

Julian inclined his head in acknowledgment, not relaxing his hold until Tom beamed away.

Shaken, she squeezed Julian’s hand and looked up at him. His eyes were intense, but unreadable. Something shifted between them as she let go of his hand to take ownership of the command chair. With one last lingering look at her, he took up one of the helm stations and just like that they were back to their professional relationship.

Unblinking, knowing they had to get out of here, Kira ordered Kalita to set course for the Federation. The Defiant engaged as the Cardassian ship carrying Tom disappeared in the opposite direction.

They were barely underway when the phaser was pressed to her temple. She had been expecting this, but judging from Julian’s gasp behind her, it had taken him by surprise.

Chapter Text

Kira lifted her hands very slowly from the arms of the Defiant’s captain’s chair, raising them in surrender under Kalita’s watchful eyes.

“We’re not heading into Federation space.” Kalita’s tones were clipped and it was clear who was in charge now that Tom was gone.

“I understand,” Kira answered her steadily, careful not to make any sudden moves as she rose from the chair.

She knew if she could turn around to see Julian he would be in a similar situation. Tom didn’t understand terrorists very well to assume they would submissively surrender to an unarmed duo from the Bajoran militia and Starfleet just because he had told them to do so.

She angled her body around as she stood up so she could get a better sense of what they were dealing with. The entire bridge crew had their phasers trained on Julian and herself.

“So where are we headed?” Julian jaw was tight, his eyes full of worry when they flicked to hers.

The Badlands - deep into Maquis space, would be her guess. Kalita chose not to answer them, instead gesturing for Kira to join Julian at the back of the bridge.

Tamal couldn’t quite meet their eyes, but he nonetheless didn’t balk at putting a hand on Julian’s shoulder and making him take a seat at the ops table again.

He swallowed and turned away from them, his expression sheepish, but squared his shoulders as he addressed Kalita. “We should tie them up, the neutrino leak happened because Major Kira was left alone, and the two of them in the sick bay nearly crippled the whole ship.”

“Find something to secure them,” she ordered. “We’ll get rid of them first chance we get.”

When two crewman came over, cable junction ties in their hands, Kira could feel Julian bristle at her side.

“You don’t have to do this. Your commanding officer arranged for you to turn yourself over to the Federation instead of the Cardass—”

Kalita cut him off with a bitter laugh. “You are just as naïve as Tom. Honoring a superior’s orders at the cost of spending possibly many years in jail is the kind of notion Starfleet might have the luxury of entertaining, but the Maquis are fighting for their lives.”

She stalked over to them and knelt down, getting in Julian’s face. “Such romantic ideals turn to ash when they mean dead civilians at outposts because you were sitting in jail instead of defending their homes against Cardassians.”

She almost spat out the words before spinning on her heel and claiming the command chair.

Tamal took the cable ties from a crewman and knelt between Kira and Julian, and almost apologetically starting securing Kira’s wrists behind her back as his colleague tied Julian in a similar fashion. She fought to keep her breathing even, and didn’t resist him. Even if there had been any point to putting up a fight, Kira knew she couldn't, she was too worried how Julian would react. She could sense his eyes watching her carefully, his entire body tense and ready to attack Tamal if she gave any sign. Julian would only get himself hurt trying to defend her, and she found she couldn’t bear that.

“She lost her children.” Tamal muttered under his breath, his eyes indicating he was talking about Kalita. “The Cardassians invaded our settlement, they said her young boys were resisting. She’s not going to go quietly sit in some jail cell if she can help it, none of us are.”

Kira nodded at him, heartsick for what these people had been through, but relieved that his words seemed to deflate Julian’s anger. The Maquis weren’t their enemy, no matter how Starfleet saw it.

When the crewmen moved away, Julian shuffled closer to her, and mouthed “okay?”

She nodded quickly, then looked down, touched by his concern. She was glad they were at least still together.

Kalita was pacing now, and Kira softly called her name.

The other woman narrowed her eyes at her.

“The Defiant. Kalita, they’ll not spend time coming after you and your crew, but this ship—Starfleet won’t rest if you try to keep it for the Maquis—for one thing, the Cardassians won’t let them. It’s a warship, tricked out for inflicting maximum damage.”

Kalita paused in her pacing.

“You know this. We need to find a way to get Julian and I, and the Defiant back into Federation hands, with you and your people being long gone. Let us help you.”

Her lip curled slightly. “We will never know how much your explosion in the plasma coil cost us today. The last thing we need is your help.”

You’re all alive, aren’t you, Kira didn’t say. She just inclined her head. The important thing was just that Kalita not try to keep the Defiant – the prison sentence would only be longer when they were eventually arrested, if they didn’t get killed in the ensuing fight. But it seemed like Kalita understood there was no point to taking on the might of Starfleet.

“Do you think she gets it?” Julian whispered at her side.

She looked up at him, instantly calmed by his warm eyes. “Yes. They won’t harm us, we just have to sit tight.” Moving a little closer to him, Kira was grateful not for the first time that as far as these people were concerned Julian and her were more than friends. No one batted an eye when they leaned into each other, and she drew more comfort from his presence than she would ever have thought possible.

 

~~~

 

Kira couldn’t remember the last time she had disembarked a space-faring ship directly onto grassland instead of an airlock, but she breathed in the fresh air gratefully, for a moment not even caring that her hands were still tied behind her and her captor had a firm grip on her arm. Suns were setting on the horizon, but that could mean anything, on an unknown planet suns could set in anywhere from minutes to months.

“Kalita.”

The woman holding her and escorting her down the ramp didn’t acknowledge Kira’s voice, just looked straight ahead, eyes like flint. Kira looked over her shoulder, Julian was being led down the ramp too, blinking at the suns.

“Can I speak to you alone? Please?”

Kalita did look at her then. The two women regarded each other, then she marched her smartly ahead of everyone else, signaling behind her for the crew members to hold up, but for Tamal to follow them – as cooperative as Kira and Bashir had been ever since Kalita had taken command of the Defiant, she was not taking any chances. Kira would have done the same.

She waited until Julian was out of sight, then she lowered her voice. “You have a good crew here. I meant what I said, I’m not leaving Tom in some Cardassian labor camp.” She allowed herself to spit out the word Cardassian like the epithet it was. “I could use some help when I go get him, I doubt the Bajoran militia or Starfleet will sanction such an operation.”

Kalita regarded her coolly, but Kira sensed the woman was at least considering it. Lowering her voice even further, she spoke aloud her resistance call sign and comm codes.

“These are ways we can get in touch, if you decide you will help.”

“And if I don’t?” Kalita was suspicious, no doubt suspecting a trap.

“Then I will find another way. I don’t leave anyone in Cardassian custody, no one but collaborators deserve that.”

Kalita’s features softened. “I will consider it.”

Just then Julian started calling her name, concern evident in his voice. Kalita rolled her eyes even as she marched Kira back into Julian’s line of sight. “Has it bad, that one. I’m surprised the Federation lets officers serve together if they are dating, seems like those uptight pricks would have rules or something.”

Kira bit her lip to suppress a smile lest it be misinterpreted. “We’re not exactly, uh, dating…” She hesitated, the trust she was building with Kalita was so tenuous and Tom Riker’s life could come to depend on it. Revealing their ruse had little value at this point, she decided. “No one we work with knows we’re dating, I mean.” That much was true, given that they most definitely weren’t dating.

Kalita snorted. “That won’t last long, the way you two are.”

They had reached Julian now and Kalita released Kira, who went straight to his side.

“Are you all right?” he looked so perturbed that they had been separated, even for a moment, and she remembered his reaction holding her close when she had been upset at the idea earlier. The ludicrous thought crossed her mind that a small part of her actually missed being snuggled up at his side in bed with him. Her cheeks warmed and she nodded that she was fine, brushing her shoulder against his arm, and looking away from the intensity in his eyes. Her gaze caught on the gathering clouds.

Kalita was looking at the sky too. “This planet is M-class, but barely. The nights are long, and with the tropical heat, looks like a storm is coming. It will be several hours before we contact Deep Space Nine with your location, to make sure we are long gone, so you should seek shelter. It will take you at least an hour or so to get out of those ties, I imagine.”

She pulled a knife from her kitbag and showed it to Kira before tossing it in the undergrowth behind them, then she came close to her and removed her combadge, tossing it as far as she could throw. At her nod one of the men did the same with Bashir’s combadge.

“Don’t want you getting ahead of our head start. But if anything goes wrong with your rescue, you’ll eventually be able to recover those, and I imagine you’ll also get around our lock-out of the Defiant so you can seek shelter inside.”

Layers of redundancy, for both her own crew’s escape plan, and to ensure no unnecessary collateral damage, Kalita thought like a freedom fighter. Kira’s respect for the woman was growing by the minute. She nodded to her as Julian’s captor released his arm and he moved closer.

No more words were spoken. The Maquis crew hiked over a bluff and were gone. The roar of a much smaller spacecraft engine could be heard, then nothing.

“You okay?” Julian asked as soon as they were alone.

“Yes, I’m fine.” She smiled at him, and breathed in deeply again, enjoying the clean air despite their circumstances. "You?"

He nodded. “Pretty sure I clocked where that knife is.”

He headed off a little ways a way, walking awkwardly with his hands still behind his back, and used his feet to kick through the undergrowth. Kira took a moment to just watch him, the sunlight playing in his hair as he so intently focused on his task.

 

~~~

 

They heard their rescuers before they saw them; the forest was dark and the almost constant rain reduced the visibility to just a few feet.

“Major! Doctor!”

“Julian! Nerys!”

The shouts of Sisko and Dax gave Kira and Julian a few precious seconds to disentangle from each other and stumble to their feet.

“Dax! Commander! We’re here,” Julian called, once he was sure Kira was standing steadily.

He kept a hand on her elbow as they emerged from under the shelter of the Defiant’s starboard bow, blinking in the blinding light from flashlights after sitting in near-perfect darkness for hours now.

Within seconds, Kira was enveloped in Jadzia’s enthusiastic hug, and she laughed, hugging her back.

“Nerys! We are so glad to see you! Are you all right? What happened?”

“Dax,” Sisko’s tone was gruff even as he released Julian from a hug. “Give them a moment to breathe. Kira?”

She accepted his hug happily.

“You’re both soaked through,” he exclaimed. “And what happened to your uniform?” His eyes narrowed in concern as he took in her charred jacket sleeve, then he stood back to take in both of them, his eyes looking for injuries.

“We’re fine,” they said almost in unison, then their eyes met. A small smile played about Julian's lips

“No you aren’t, is that a phaser burn?” Sisko trained his flashlight on Kira’s midriff.

“I took care of that, and her arm.” Julian almost sounded affronted, and Kira couldn’t repress a smile of her own as she reached over and squeezed his arm.

“She took care of me too,” he added, looking only at her.

Suddenly glad of the pouring rain so that no one could tell her cheeks were burning, Kira dragged her eyes away from Julian only to meet Jadzia’s frank what-the-hell-is-going-on expression, and Kalita’s words about hiding this came right back to her.

Except there was no ‘this’, it was all in her head. Kira shook herself a little and took a last gulp of fresh air before following Sisko and Dax to a runabout, Julian at her side.