Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Doctor
By Gabrielle Lawson

(Author's Note: Have you read Valerie Shearer's The Exile? This will make more sense if you have. You can find it under my profile for now. Valerie: If you're out there, contact me!)

Disclaimer: I don't own much about this one. Viacom/Paramount owns the characters of Julian Bashir and Sisko. Valerie owns the planet and the people. And I think, Bashir's suit. I own only the admiral and premise for this story.

This story was first posted to .Creative on 10/27/1997. It was written with Valerie Shearer's permission.

Admiral Dlouhy sat back in his seat waiting for the man to realize just what had been said. For five years he'd been living as a fugitive, and Dlouhy had to admit, it was hard now to imagine that the one human sitting on the other side of the table was once the pride of Starfleet Medical. He wore a new suit, of the native style, but his features were rough, like someone who had to work for a living. Dlouhy guessed that the Director had even bought the suit for him, so he'd have something appropriate to wear to such an event. Six Starfleet officers sat across from the man and on either side of the admiral, all in dress uniform. They were there to make an impression on the doctor, to show him respect.

It had made an impression all right. But the man hadn't taken it as respect. He had a look of fear and distrust about him when he stepped into the room. He kept his distance and stayed near the Director and the native delegation. He did offer his hand and a smile to Captain Sisko, but then he'd regained his wary nature before sitting down.

The Director was also suspicious, and he hovered near the doctor like an over-protective father about to lose his son. And he would lose him, the admiral was sure of that. Who could resist, after all? Doctor Julian Bashir had lost everything: his post, his commission, his license, his very freedom. He'd been reduced to eking out a living on this god-forsaken planet in some dingy little clinic in the mountains.

The other delegates, a few of them high-placed ministers in the government were less protective, but appeared no less interested in the outcome. What did surprise the admiral was the support of the local populace. But then, he chided himself, he shouldn't be surprised. Bashir seemed to have a knack for engendering that kind of loyalty. This whole delegation was proof of that. Sisko and Bashir's former crewmates, not without the support of the Bajoran government, had lobbied tirelessly for the last three years on the man's behalf. They didn't even let the Dominion Invasion stop the daily calls to Starfleet's JAG headquarters. Someone was always able to get through. They'd found support in Starfleet Medical, too. Seems the doctor had made an impression in his student days. Besides, it was a bit of a disgrace to have the youngest nominee for the Carrington Award named as a fugitive from the law.

So, Sisko finally managed to convince Starfleet Command and the Federation Council. Julian Bashir was pardoned and Starfleet was ready to take him back, lock, stock, and genetically-enhanced barrel. It was a done deal. What Dlouhy didn't understand was why the doctor hadn't jumped out his seat to thank them. He hadn't even moved.

"Julian," Sisko probed carefully, "it's over."

Bashir looked at him and then leaned forward. His voice was barely above a whisper when he finally spoke. "Is it?"

That was not the reaction the admiral had expected. Apparently, the other Starfleeters felt the same way. Sisko was the only one who didn't gasp in surprise.

Bashir stood. The fear had melted from his expression but suspicion remained. "Just like that?" he asked more loudly. And then his dark eyes locked with the admiral's blue. "Why?"

So he wants us to spell it out. Eat a little crow. Well, I suppose we can manage. "Because your commanding officer," he answered calmly, careful not to say 'former commanding officer', "and your crewmates have convinced Starfleet and the Federation of our error. Because you are one of the best, maybe the best, doctor in the Alpha Quadrant and-"

Bashir cut him off. "Oh really?" Then he startled everyone, well everyone who wasn't a native, by speaking in their language. The words rolled off his tongue like poetry, as if he'd been speaking it his whole life. "Salej mi kalanee sin kan adout. . . ." Finally the translation began to kick in. "And you think that by offering me a pardon and my post, that that erases the last three years?"

"And," the admiral continued, standing up to face him, "because we did you a disservice. You were not judged by your actions or even your intentions, but those of your parents."

"How can you know the intentions of my parents?" Interesting how the man could go from the intensity of a thunderstorm to the calm of a spring breeze in less than a breath. Not to mention from the native tongue to Standard. "I lived with the knowledge of what they did for seventeen years before I even came close to finding out their intentions. And there was nothing, nothing, felonious about them."

The admiral sighed and bit the inside of his lip. The man was trying his patience. Enough of the game. He'd played his part. "Do you accept or don't you?"

"You do want it easy, don't you?" He turned away, thinking. "I've been punishing myself for my parents' intentions for a good seventeen years before you came along and joined in. I was always afraid I wouldn't live up to it. I had to be better than everyone else, because everyone else didn't have my gifts. But I also had to be careful, so that no one would suspect I had them." He sat down again, and the admiral noticed how tired he looked. But there was an energy behind his eyes. "Do you have any idea how hard that is? Seventeen years!" He shook his head looking down.

His head snapped up and he again caught the admiral's gaze with his own. "Well, I'm not going to do it anymore. I didn't ask for the enhancements. I don't even know for sure that I needed them. But I can't change it either. This is who am. And I am not a monster. I'm a Doctor."

He stood again. The admiral thought of calling it off, but he could see Sisko out of the corner of his eye. He was proud. "All I ever wanted to do," the doctor continued, "was help people. To make them well when they were sick, to heal them when they were injured. And I gave an oath and my life over to Starfleet because I believed they wanted to help people, too. And what did Starfleet give me? They treated me like a freak, more than that, like a monster, a criminal. And they told me I couldn't be a doctor anymore. Farsej me dan i lat." He smiled and waited for the translation so that the Starfleeters could share in the joke. "Might as well tell a fish not to swim."

The native crowd giggled in nervous laughter. They, too, were still unsure of his decision. The doctor sensed it, and seemed determined to drag this out as long as possible.

"You don't approve of this planet, do you?" Bashir asked. It wasn't an open question to the Federation. He was putting it right to the Admiral, knowing that he shouldn't say so in front of the natives. "You think it's backward, don't you? The people aren't as sophisticated; the technology is obsolete."

The Admiral didn't answer, but he could tell that Bashir knew the answer from his silence. The big whig natives knew the answer, too. They were fidgeting in their seats and tugging at the collars of their hot, overpriced suits. The Admiral got the feeling they didn't exactly like the questions either.

"Maybe they aren't as sophisticated," Bashir admitted. "And the equipment isn't as fancy. But these people," he raised his arm, fanning it toward the crowd of ordinary natives, his cheering section. Probably from the mountains where he lived and worked now. He spoke slower and louder, so the translator would have time to pick up his words. "These people are not as self-absorbed as Federation citizens tend to be. They are not pompous and arrogant. And they don't judge someone by what was done to them. They don't trust right away, these people. But they're a good judge of character. They make you earn their trust, their respect. But if you do that, they give themselves wholeheartedly to you. When you wanted to take everything from me, they gave me a home and a place to practice medicine. And I earned their trust. I gained their respect and their friendship. And they gave me citizenship.

"You may think that insignificant," he said with a flare of his hand. Then he became serious again. "But it means so much to me."

He waited for the Admiral, or anyone from the delegation to say something. But there was nothing to say. He was right. Dlouhy did think them backward. And he didn't understand how a man of his intelligence and talent would want to waste it on this insignificant rock. He could have Federation citizenship. Hell, he'd never lost it.

Bashir sighed, a little disappointed. "You want to pardon me?"

Dlouhy nodded. That was why they had come. It was beginning to look like a waste of time.

"I'll take it," Bashir said finally, coming to the point. Dlouhy leaned back in his chair. Only Bashir wasn't finished yet. "But that means that you think I really deserve to be punished but I receive instead your mercy. Isn't that the true connotation of the word?"

Dlouhy bit his bottom lip and glared at him. He was trying awfully hard to humiliate the Federation, and the Admiral didn't find it entertaining in the least.

"I don't think I'm deserving of punishment," Bashir continued. "I did lie by omission on my application to Starfleet Medical, I'll admit that. But practicing medicine isn't a crime. Helping people to feel better, saving lives, isn't a felony. It shouldn't be punished. It should be encouraged. Still, I don't much like having to worry about bounty hunters or roving law men, so I'll take your pardon, but I think we should talk about the post."

He left the Admiral alone now and looked to Sisko. Dlouhy could tell there was a lot of respect there, and it was mutual. He spoke quietly. "It's tempting," the doctor said. "But I have to ask you something very serious."

Sisko nodded. His brow was creased just slightly, the only outward sign of his feelings about the proceedings. Dlouhy guessed he was torn. He was obviously proud of Bashir's new-found self-acceptance. But he had worked long and hard to get this far, to offer the man the life and opportunities he thought were unfairly taken away. And it saddened him.

Bashir smiled a lonely little smile, but a genuine one. "You told them I was the best doctor in the Alpha Quadrant?" He sounded like an eager child, hoping for a compliment.

"I told them the truth," Sisko answered.

Bashir's smile faded until he wore an expression very much like the Captain's. "Why is the Federation more deserving than these people," he looked to his cheering section again, who were, of course, silent as they waited for him to decide, "of the best doctor in the Alpha Quadrant? If the Federation gets the best, who do these people get? The worst?"

Sisko was speechless. Then his brow creased even more. Bashir's decision was made and he knew it. Dlouhy couldn't help but notice how Bashir spoke of the Federation as "them" when he spoke to Sisko, but used the second person, "you" when speaking to the Admiral. The Admiral was one of "them." Sisko was not.

Bashir continued, "I really do appreciate the effort, Captain, but the Federation has thousands of doctors. These people don't have enough." His sad smile returned. Amazing how much those eyes of his spoke. He almost didn't have to say the words. "Up there, in the mountains, all they have is me." There was a sincerity to his voice, as if he and Sisko were the only two in the room. Dlouhy hated to be ignored. "Some of the people I treat have never seen a doctor. Never. Before I came, people were dying of the flu! I can't leave them."

Dlouhy could hear the collective sigh in the audience. It was like they'd all been holding their breath. Dlouhy didn't feel like sighing. He felt like getting back to his ship and leaving that doctor on this dirt ball. He had heard that the man was arrogant at times. Still, he had to be diplomatic. "Well, you're a free man. Good luck, Doctor." He offered his hand across the table and to his surprise Bashir shook it.

"Thank you," he said. The rest of the delegates offered their hands and the usual pleasantries to the self-important natives. Bashir simply turned to leave. For the first time, Dlouhy agreed with the man. But he had a job to do, hands to shake, smiles to fake.

Sisko saw him start to leave. He had been playing his part as a member of the Federation delegation, but he didn't want to miss Bashir. "If you'll excuse me," he said to the Director who had been pumping his hand. He freed himself of the crowd and ran after the doctor.

Bashir smiled when he saw him. He had been waiting just outside the door. "Just can't wait to get out of that dress uniform, huh?"

Sisko smiled, too. He couldn't help it. He had missed Julian's sense of humor, the lightness he brought to the station. "You know me too well." They walked a little away from the building. Sisko had to squint against the bright sunlight. It had been much darker inside, and the contrast gave the landscape an unreal quality.

"I can't blame you," Bashir quipped. "I'm dying in this thing." He loosened his own collar. Behind them, the building was pouring forth its population. Dlouhy and the Federation diplomats headed straight for the shuttle. The Director stopped to shake Bashir's hand and to say something Sisko didn't understand. Bashir nodded. It seemed sufficient. The man went away.

"Heading back?" Sisko asked.

Bashir nodded again. "A doctor's work is never done."

"You wouldn't have it any other way," Sisko said. He let his smile fall so that Bashir would know he was sincere. "We'll miss you, Julian."

Bashir looked at him with the most convincing puppy-dog eyes Sisko had ever seen. "You mean you don't already?"

Sisko laughed. He felt like he was losing something, but the laugh came out anyway. He looked back. The shuttle was nearly ready for take-off. "Every day. Poor Garak doesn't know what to do anymore. No one to eat lunch with."

"Tell him to come here!" Bashir suggested. "It's not a bad place to spend one's exile." Then he became serious, too. "I miss all of you, too." He seemed to be struggle to find the right words. "Can you talk to them, try and make them understand?" Sisko knew he wasn't talking about Dlouhy and the Federation. He was talking about Kira, Dax, and O'Brien. And, of course, Garak.

Sisko shook his head. "No, you will. I recorded everything you said." He took another glance at the shuttle. Admiral Dlouhy was watching him from the door.

Bashir noticed him watching them. "Do you have to rush off," Bashir asked, "just because the Admiral does?"

Sisko looked at him. "Well," he said, "I do have some leave time coming."

Bashir smiled. "And what did you have in mind for your holiday, Captain?"

Sisko shook his finger at him. "I'm not your captain anymore. I'm just your friend. Call me Benjamin. And I thought I might go to the mountains."

"That will take some getting used to. Any mountains in particular?"

Sisko made a show of looking around him. He pointed off to the west. "Those there look pretty good."

Bashir frowned and shook his head. "Well, they're not bad. But those are better." Sisko followed his hand to the North where two violet and blue peaks pushed up into the clouds. A caravan of sorts was already forming to head that way.

Sisko pretended to give them a great amount of scrutiny. "Hmm . . . I think you're right." And he started to head off after the caravan.

Bashir ran a few steps to catch up to him. "What about Dlouhy?"

"I'll call him, tell him to drop off my bags and maybe some medical supplies."

As they neared the group of people, small children broke away from the caravan and ran to meet them chattering in that lyrical language Bashir was so fluent in. "I can't offer you much in the way of luxury, Captain. I mean Benjamin. No fancy equipment, no comfortable beds. No food replicators. You'll have to carry your own weight." One of the children tugged on his pantleg, lifting her little arms so that could pick her up. "And probably someone else, too," he added with a grin.

Other children were gathering around them. Someone tugged at Sisko's leg. He picked the child up and was surprised when the little boy hugged him close. "I think I can manage." He hoped he was telling the truth. It looked like a long walk to the mountains Bashir had pointed out. But already the people were packed and heading out, singing a pleasant song as they did so.

"So tell me, Benjamin," Bashir said, following the crowd, "what have I missed?"

The End