Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
The Honored
by Gabrelle Lawson

Chapter Eight

Sisko stood at attention, shoulders back, chest out, face set in stone. He didn't like it. Security officers, both Federation and Bajoran, lined the Promenade for as far as he could see in either direction. And just in front of them were the Jem'Hadar.

The Gidari had called this meeting. They had insisted it be held on the Promenade of Deep Space Nine, though Sisko couldn't fathom why. The Federation wasn't invited. Neither were the Bajorans. Just the Dominion. And they had to know the Federation was at war with the Dominion. That's what made Sisko nervous.

The Gidari made a point of being unfathomable. They gave no reasons for their actions. Jaresh had told him that Captain Nardek had seemed tense when he called. He gave more orders than requests, and he wouldn't answer when Jaresh confronted him about Doctor Bashir and Colonel Kira. One Dominion ship must dock at Deep Space Nine. A Founder must be with them. A port must be left clear for the Gindarin which would dock opposite the Dominion craft. The Gidari representative would meet the Founder on the Promenade directly across from Quark's upper deck.

Sisko had wanted to refuse. He wouldn't invite his enemy aboard the station, especially not armed, as Nardek insisted. But Admiral Necheyev had made it clear that Starfleet Command wanted this to play out. The Gidari might be a powerful ally. But, Sisko had considered the alternative. What if the Dominion had gotten to them and the Gidari were coming to give an acceptance speech? They might be a powerful enemy, too. One just never knew.

The Founder stood beside Sisko, staring forward in disdain. The Vorta beside him tried his best to appear obsequious, bowing every time the Founder spoke. If they were nervous or doubtful of the Gidari purpose, they didn't let on. The Vorta smiled confidently and bowed again.

One Jem'Hadar, the First, stood just behind the Founder, flanked by two Starfleet security officers. Odo stood to the left of the Vorta and had to endure a few bows of his own. Worf just looked away. His eyes darted back and forth, taking in each enemy soldier, each weapon and especially the Founder.

The Founder. He had tried polite politics upon boarding. Or rather, his Vorta had tried. But Sisko recognized him. This was Savolar's replacement, Bashir and Kira's killer. And he strode purposefully, unrestrained through the airlock door. He should be dead. Sisko wanted to kill him right there.

"Captain," the voice cut through the oppressive air that filled the Promenade. "The Gidari have docked."

Sisko thumped his comm badge as if the movement would bring them faster, ending the uncertainty of waiting. "Thank you. Have a security team meet their delegation at the airlock and escort them to the Promenade, then back away."

"Aye, sir."

He didn't have to wait long. The sound started at the far side of the station and built as it passed like a breath around both sides of the Promenade. Heads turned, breaking tension. Even the Jem'Hadar glanced over to see what was coming.

"Sir?" the comm signal came again. "Um . . . they're coming. There's a lot of them."

"Are they armed?" Sisko asked.

"Not according to the sensors. But it's hard to tell with them. We can't even see their hands."

"How many?" he asked the security officer. The footsteps grew louder, thumping against the floor.

"A hundred or more. They are still coming."

Finally, when his ears had filled with the beat of even footsteps, Sisko caught sight of them. Two figures in red, one on each side of the Promenade. Behind them, two figures in purple, and behind them, two in red and black. A few more red and finally beige and beige and beige. There had to be enough Gidari to circle the whole Promenade. They marched with grace and purpose, always in step. And they kept coming, each one no more than a meter behind the one before.

The two lead Gidari approached from each direction, pulling a train of Gidari behind them. As always, their faces were concealed by their hoods. But the cloaks were different, at least for the first dozen or so Gidari. They were longer than the utilitarian beige cloaks worn by the soldiers farther back. Ceremonial, Sisko thought, but he wasn't sure if that was a good sign or not. Their arms remained tucked inside their oversized sleeves. Hiding what? he wondered.

He nearly strained his eyes trying to see around the curvature of the Promenade to the eventual end of the Gidari line. There were more of them than there were security officers. Fortunately, because of the war, everyone in Starfleet was armed. And by now, every off-duty officer was lined up around the Promenade's upper level, drawn by rumor and the unmistakable hum of a spectacle about to happen.

The two lead Gidari figures-men or women, Sisko couldn't quite tell-now walked toward each other, turning only when they'd reached Sisko and the Vorta. At that last step, the entire procession came to a halt. A second later, with one breath of movement every one of them spread their legs and drew their arms behind them. 'At ease,' Sisko guessed, though they didn't look very comfortable. Until now, he had thought the two lead Gidari would be the representatives, but they stood still like the others, waiting.

No one had told him where the Gindarin was going, but, somehow, he knew it anyway. And soon after Nastroff had lined him and Kira up behind the palace priestesses, he was certain. The door on the other side of the airlock opened with a familiar tumble that rattled up through the deck into his feet. This was Deep Space Nine. He glanced at Kira, but, of course, her face was hidden. She had to know it, too. Time was short but there was still a chance.

"Follow," the priestess in front of him ordered. "You are Gidari now. Remember."

He nodded, not knowing what was expected of him beyond not acting out. The flame of hope that he'd just found at the airlock door nearly blew out, but he willed it to blaze. The line moved, with the priestesses in the lead. He followed with Kira at his side. As they stepped through the circular airlock door, he could see the familiar black and gold of Starfleet security. He recognized some of them. The Bajorans, too. One of them was speaking through the comm line, reporting on the Gidari's arrival. The Gidari, though, kept right on walking, leaving the security team to try and catch up.

Bashir never heard the airlock door close behind him, and he assumed that the whole crew was coming aboard the station. Kira, beside him, didn't say anything, which the Gidari wouldn't have appreciated anyway. But Bashir wished that he could speak to her. The double line snaked its way from the Docking Ring to the long crossover bridge and into the Habitat Ring. From there another airlock led them to the Promenade. But as they stepped through the door and down the few steps to the deck, their respective priestesses parted ways. Obediently-for now-Bashir turned left to follow. Kira turned right, and they lost sight of each other.

As he marched in step with the priestess, he took in the familiar shops along the Promenade. He'd pass above Garak's soon. Every three meters, a security officer stood at attention, phaser rifle in hand. But it wasn't until he passed the quarter mark that he saw the Jem'Hadar. They, too, were armed, standing like sentinels between Odo's men. For an instant, the thought occurred to him that the Federation had changed sides.

As he rounded the far side of the Promenade, he saw the crowd thicken. There were more Jem'Hadar here, more security. And then he saw O'Brien. The Chief's face looked more haggard than before, and Julian remembered his speech at Captain Cusak's wake. He'd lost three now, since Jadzia had died.

A patch of blue caught his eye from just behind the chief, but Julian didn't recognize the face. My replacement, he thought. He couldn't help but feel a bit betrayed, but it had been a week, and Sisko didn't know. The new doctor turned his head and stepped aside to allow a Bajoran through to the front. He was unfamiliar, too. Kira's replacement.

When he caught sight of Kira's purple cloak again, he returned his attention to the priestess. She stopped and the whole Gidari line stopped with her. It seemed then as if all sound had been sucked right out of the Promenade. No one spoke. They just waited. The priestesses moved again and the lines, now completely encircling the Promenade, 'awaited.' Bashir was glad for the glowing liquid inside him now, as he placed his thumbs and little fingers together behind his back. It would have been an uncomfortable position, especially since he felt they'd be like this awhile.

Now he had a moment to really scan the crowd. Peripherally. He couldn't turn his head. Worf was beside O'Brien with the new Bajoran liaison officer. Sisko, looking much older, was beside him. Bashir locked his eyes on Sisko's, willing him in vain to recognize him beneath the purple hood. But, of course, Sisko didn't. He was watching the priestesses.

It was the face beside Sisko's that would have caused his blood to freeze-if he'd had any. He glanced toward Kira, barely turning his head. She glanced back. She saw it, too. The changeling. Their changeling.

His face began to heat up beneath his hood, mimicking the true effects of the anger he felt. Now he knew why they had come to DS Nine and why they had made such an entrance. The Gidari-he figured by calculating the circumference of the Promenade-outnumbered the Jem'Hadar by a wide margin.

The two priestesses stepped forward, but Bashir sensed no other movement and remained still. Each of them took something from their sleeves: bars of blueish metal, reminiscent of galena, but nearly half a meter long, which they placed on the floor. The two bars and the square of deck between them began to glow. A low hum rumbled from the bars and was taken up by the priestesses and passed down the long line behind Bashir. As each new voice joined in, the hum grew louder, filling every space on the Promenade. The bars grew brighter until they threw up a brilliant light that reached all the way to the ceiling. It remained for two seconds and then was gone. And as instantly as it was gone the hum was gone. Nailati had replaced them both.

She stood tall and resplendent, her not-quite full height but still towering over all present. And she was unhooded.

Sisko looked up to face the woman. God, he thought, she has to be two and a half meters tall! She wore a shimmering cloak of gold but no hood at all. Her hair fell in golden braids upon her shoulders. Her face, too, was gold, covered in a mask that appeared skin tight. Her eyes met his in an eerie stare. They were black, solid black with no variation. And when she spoke it was as if he heard three voices at once, in harmony.

"We are the Gidari!" she pronounced, and the mask moved with her lips. "We have come for the Dominion."

The changeling beside him still hadn't moved. Neither the Vorta nor the Jem'Hadar would have considered prompting the Founder. Odo had no such qualms.

"I think she means you," he grumbled. Though Sisko noted he kept his voice low.

The Founder's eyes narrowed, watching the Gidari woman. He stepped forward and bowed. "Leader," he said in mock deference. There was contempt in his eyes. Sisko felt a touch of relief. There was something between them. Something bad. He kept silent and watched, not wanting to get between the two. It seemed a dangerous place.

The Leader's lips peeled back to permit a snarl. "We are not dead!" she said, leaning toward the Founder. The changeling backed away. "We have been Leader of the Gidari for more than four hundred revolutions. You cannot harm us."

The Jem'Hadar nearest the Founder shifted their feet and placed their hands on their weapons.

"The Founders," the changeling began, raising his chin to look her in the eye, "have ruled the Dominion for over two thousand years."

"No more!" she thundered. The floor shook with the weight of her voices. "Your Dominion is at an end. The Gidari are at war!"

Sisko felt a rush of energy with those words. A new ally. Or at least a new force against the Dominion.

"Then the Gidari will lose," said the Founder.

At his word, the Jem'Hadar First fired. But before the bolt of energy could reach her, the Leader had raised her arms and crossed them in front of her face. From her cloak, feathers of metal emerged like wings, absorbing the energy effortlessly. The wings quaked with the power of the blast until her right hand began to glow. Her long fingers, sheathed in golden gloves, extended and the energy poured into the palm of her hand until it was a ball of crackling light. She turned her gaze to the First who had fired. He raised his weapon to fire again and she flung her fingers forward. The ball caught the First on his breast bone. He was sent flying over the rail behind him. Sisko heard the thud as he hit the floor.

The Founder had not even watched the death of his First. "It is the Gidari who will be destroyed," he said calmly. But he held up a hand to forestall any other attacks from his people.

The Leader raised one eyebrow in a very human expression. But she did not reply. "Honored," she said. "Step forward. Uncover yourselves."

Uncover? As Sisko watched, the two Gidari in purple, swiveled their heads toward one another and then back to their leader. They seemed uncertain, but they did as she commanded. The one on the right was quite a bit taller than the other, where all the other Gidari-except the leader-were nearly equal in height. They stepped forward, stopping just behind the leader, and slowly pulled back the hoods that covered their faces. Sisko gasped. So did everyone who could see them. Even the Founder was left startled, his mouth hung open in uncharacteristic fashion.

"My God!" O'Brien whispered. "It's Julian."

"Nerys," Odo breathed.

Captain Sisko remained silent, skeptical. He had seen them die, though it was possible the security sensor logs were faked. But the blood in the runabout had been unmistakable. Both of the figures looked pale, slightly blue. Not quite human in Bashir's case. Not quite Bajoran, in Kira's.

"You would destroy us," the Gidari leader threatened, "like you destroyed these?" The Founder had no reply. "Now you will witness true destruction. Nikat." The last word was spoken with only one voice. The universal translator refused to translate it, but it had sounded like a command to Sisko. Still, none of the Gidari behind her had moved. Three more Jem'Hadar stepped forward to protect their Founder.

Odo stiffened and the security around the Promenade tightened their grips on their phasers. Sisko stepped forward, just one step, hoping to avoid a battle here. "I am Captain Sisko, commander of this space station."

"Fah!" she spat, and Sisko thought it an insult. He didn't so much see what happened next as he felt it and heard it. In one sound, one movement, every Gidari that Sisko could see-maybe fifty or more-flung their arms forward or to the side. The sound was one of a whip cracking, the feeling, one of air rushing quickly just past his face. Then there came the gargling sounds and every Jem'Hadar on the Promenade fell to the deck. Save one.

Only one Jem'Hadar was left standing, and he didn't have time to take a protective position in front of the Founder. Sisko caught the movement this time. The leader flung one of her hands forward. A flash of light on metal marked the passage of the blade that flew from her sleeve on a long cord. It imbedded itself into the Founder, who quite easily let them pass through his liquid body. But the Jem'Hadar behind him was not so fluid. The blades buried deep in his chest. With a flick of her wrists the cord retracted and the Jem'Hadar knees crumbled.

The Vorta touched his sleeve, probably hoping to transport away. But both he and the Founder remained, the only surviving members of the Dominion delegation. Then he noticed Bashir and Kira had each had a weapon that Sisko had never seen. They leveled the weapons at the Founder. Sisko decided it was wiser to order his staff back. Only the Vorta stood beside the Founder now, loyal to the end. The weapons fired and the Founder was hit. Bits of liquid changeling flew in every direction, splattering the deck, the ceiling. It fell back down as gray dust.

"Little Vorta," the leader sang to the one man still standing in front of her, "you too will die. Go now, and tell your people of their future. Here, time is told in minutes. You have five of these time units. Make your peace with this Life. It ends."

The Vorta was frozen in place. Brushing off the gray-black powder remains of the Founder from his shoulder, Sisko found his own comm badge to order the Vorta transported to his ship. But the leader was faster. She raised one hand and darkness dropped onto the Promenade. A blue light flashed, burning Sisko's eyes. When he uncovered his eyes, the light had returned, but the Vorta was gone. So were the Jem'Hadar. Not a trace of them was left, no bodies, no blood.

Sisko didn't know what to say, but he knew he had to say something. The Gidari had declared war on the Dominion and proven themselves quite adept at handling such a circumstance. He looked to Kira, hoping for some guidance-if she really was Kira. Her eyes were wide, and she met his gaze, but she said nothing and didn't move. Her eyes moved back to the leader, deferring to the Gidari woman. Bashir, on the other hand, kept his sight on Sisko, who couldn't help but find it disturbing. It was Bashir's blood he'd seen. Too much of it had been in the runabout. He could not have survived. Kira's death was less certain. Neither one was holding a weapon now

"These are the Honored," the leader spoke. "They wish to remain with you."

For the first time, the Gidari behind her broke ranks. A few of the red-hooded heads turned or shook. Sisko thought he even heard grumbling. But the leader raised a hand and there was silence. She turned her back on Sisko though and faced Kira. "I had hoped," she said, with no trace of her earlier imperiousness, "that you would take your Leaving among us. You are Honored among the Gidari. But you are not Gidari. They will ask you, want you to tell of us."

Kira bowed, folding her arms first in front of her until the backs of her hands touched fingertip to fingertip, and then sweeping them back behind her. She stood again after a nod from the leader. "Leader, the Gidari have given me life beyond my death." The voice was hers, but the words were uncharacteristically formal. "I would honor the Gidari as they have honored me."

"And you, Healer?" She faced Bashir. "Would you Honor us as well."

Bashir only nodded and bowed as Kira had.

"I know you would try to stay your Life," the leader continued, apparently oblivious to the audience still watching. "I do not know if that is possible. But we give you leave to try."

Sisko was sure he heard mumbling this time. "Silence!" the leader ordered. "These are Honored among the Gidari. So they will remain until they take their Leaving." She dropped her voice again, speaking to the Honored. "But know this, if you dishonor us, you will find your Leaving at my hand."

The two of them bowed again, though Sisko noted Bashir took a bit longer to get back up. The lights went out again, and a series of bright flashes of blue light took first the Leader and then the rest of the Gidari two by two. In less than five seconds the lights returned and the Gidari were gone. Bashir and Kira still stood where they were, though now they relaxed their stance. "Captain?" Kira said. "We need your help."

Sisko held up a hand to stop her. "Doctor Mfuma." The doctor scrambled forward, tricorder already in hand.

"I can understand your confusion, Captain," Kira tried again. "But it's really us."

Mfuma had started with her, waving the scanner in front of her. He frowned at the results on the tricorder. "It appears she's telling the truth, Captain," he reported.

"You don't sound certain," Sisko challenged.

"Well," Mfuma said, stepping away from her, "her blood isn't right. But the rest of her is Bajoran."

Kira gave Sisko a what-did-I-tell-you? expression, though she wisely decided not to voice the words. Mfuma moved on to Bashir and his tricorder squealed in simulated confusion. Mfuma, for his part, nearly dropped the little device. "Doctor?"

"I, um," Mfuma struggled, "I'm not quite sure, sir. He's human. Or he was."


"He's dead, sir."

Sisko met Bashir's eyes. They were calm, knowing, as if he were patiently waiting for Sisko, Mfuma, and the others to catch up. He turned his eyes to Mfuma and tapped a finger to his head. "Not brain dead."

Mfuma didn't reply to him but turned to Sisko. "But he's not breathing. He doesn't have a pulse. I don't know how he's standing here. It's like someone's . . . ." He paused looking for the words, but Bashir didn't wait for him to find them. He began to undo the top of his cloak at the neck. When it was loose, he pulled it back, revealing torn flesh and a gaping hole in his chest. Sisko felt the bile rise in his throat, and he swallowed it. Someone behind him wasn't as lucky. He didn't turn to see who. His attention was riveted on Bashir. That hole in his chest was glowing.

"He can breathe if he wants to," Kira said in Bashir's defense as he closed his cloak once again. "He has to to speak. How long, Julian?"

Bashir covered his chest again. He removed a tricorder from his cloak. "Thirty minutes, give or take."

"In thirty minutes," she went on, "he'll be as dead as you thought he was. An hour later and I will be, too. Unless you help us."

Sisko held up one finger. "Condition aside," he addressed Mfuma, "is this Julian Bashir?"

Bashir raised his left hand to Mfuma's tricorder scanner. "With the exception of his current 'injuries,'" Mfuma reported, "he matches Bashir's medical records. It's him."

Now Sisko allowed Kira to speak. "Can we do this in the Infirmary?" she asked.

"Give me the short version," Sisko said, "then we'll all go to the Infirmary."

"We can't tell you about the Gidari," Kira said, "so it will all be short." But she did explain. "We were dead. We think. Anyway, we woke up on a Gidari ship. They put that stuff in us."

Sisko interrupted, "The glowing substance?"

Kira nodded and then continued, "It keeps us alive. Gives us everything we need: air, energy. We don't get hungry or tired or even feel pain. But it's wearing off. We were told it would last roughly one week. That week is up in thirty minutes."

"Give or take," Bashir added.

"I was revived after Julian," Kira went on, "so I have a little longer."

"But we saw you die," Odo said, stepping toward her. "The Founder shot you after he killed Bashir." He looked to Mfuma for evidence of the shooting. Mfuma shook his head.

"That's just it," Kira said. "Julian healed me. He had-we have a theory. If we're not wounded, if you fix our bodies and give us blood, we should have no reason to be dead. It worked with me so far. The phaser burns are gone."

"What about him?" Mfuma asked.

"Could you perform heart surgery on yourself, Doctor?" Bashir threw back. Mfuma shook his head. Kira took something from inside one of her sleeves. A PADD, Federation technology. She handed it to Mfuma, who activated it and began to read. Bashir looked to Kira and tapped one hand on the back of his wrist. While people generally didn't wear wrist-watches anymore, it was still an unmistakable sign.

"We don't have time for you to stand out here and read that," Kira spoke for him. "He's outlined everything."

"How do you know this will work?" Mfuma asked, letting his hand and the PADD fall to his side.

"We don't," Kira said. "But we have to try." She turned to Sisko. "The Gidari don't think it's possible. But Julian does, and I trust him. Besides, what have we got to lose?"

"One hour," Odo said, touching her hand.

Those two words were meant for Kira, but they echoed in Bashir's ears. One hour. He'd written messages, but he could use his time to really say good-bye, to tell his friends and family how much they meant to him, to forgive some of them, to ask forgiveness from others. Many people didn't get such a chance. The alternative meant spending that little time-and perhaps more-in surgery, perhaps never to wake up again.

But the moment wasn't over yet. Mfuma was skeptical. Odo and Kira were lost to each other. Sisko and the others were still in shock. Bashir felt the uneasiness in his legs. He felt unsteady, unstable, as if a gentle wind could knock him down. He was wearing down. The fluid would be gone soon. And with the dying of his body, he yearned for life, even just the chance of it. A half hour wasn't enough. For all the trouble and all the danger life held, it was still something precious, something he'd fought for. Do not go gentle, he thought, reciting the poem. He would rage, too, against the dying of the light.

He turned, moving toward Quark's. Kira followed, bringing Odo with her. Sisko and the others came after. Quark's was empty, which was odd and kind of eerie. But this was the fastest way down from where they were. He found the stairs and reached the lower level. His infirmary-his last chance-was close. He heard Mfuma calling for Girani and the nurses to meet him there.

He went straight to a biobed and then turned back to Kira. He started to remove his cloak. "You have to secure these."

She nodded and waved the other officers back. Mfuma passed her and grabbed a blanket. Bashir appreciated that. He didn't need everyone staring. He kicked off the boots and lifted the last of the cloak from his shoulders. He handed it to Kira and then wrapped himself in the blanket.

He looked to the new doctor. "Julian Bashir, nice to meet you."

"Ifeanyi Mfuma," he replied in kind. He still had the PADD in hand. "Likewise. Odd circumstances."

"Very odd," Bashir echoed. "She's going to need a massive transfusion. A full complement of blood. I'll need a bit more than that." He laid back on the bed. "Best to keep me in stasis until you have it all figured out."

Mfuma's eyes were still wide but he nodded and activated the stasis field. Bashir's thoughts froze in that instant.

Sisko had kept the others at the door to Sickbay to allow some privacy for his two resurrected officers. Doctor Girani pushed past him. Mfuma filled her in and they got to work. The nurses filed in and were put to work as well. Once Girani had Kira situated, Sisko stepped in.

She had an IV in her arm pushing dark red blood into her veins. There was another leading to a collection tank at the side of the bed. That tube glowed blue. "Think carefully," he told her. "What can you tell me?"

Kira had been watching the flurry of activity around Bashir's still form. Girani had joined Mfuma, leaving a nurse to monitor her transfusion. Sisko approached her from the side. "Think carefully. What can you tell me?"

She took a few minutes, looking back to Julian. He looked dead now that he was in stasis. Was that how she had looked to him before she woke up? She turned back to Sisko. "We don't really know what they did or how they got this stuff into us. They told Bashir he was needed for a purpose. They took that very seriously. The Dominion had attacked their leader, gave her a version of the Blight from the Teplan system. Julian was able to find a vaccine. The virus didn't spread. Normally, they'd leave us Honored in a peaceful clearing in the woods to just go back to being dead. We thought we'd try something different. We escaped but had no way to get back to Federation space. They put us on their ship. We had no idea they were bringing us back here until we docked." She was smiling by the end of it. They'd done it. They'd gotten back to Deep Space Nine.

"A vaccine in a week," Sisko said. "Impressive. The leader is still infected then?"

Kira shook her head. "No, but I don't think I can get into that."

"They do this often, bring people back from the dead?"

Kira shrugged. "Often enough, I suppose. They don't do it lightly. Only for a purpose and only for a week."

Sisko looked to the activity around Julian. "it's a bit hard to wrap my mind around. I have so many questions that you probably shouldn't answer."

Kira's smile widened. "And I have so much I'd love to share, but I probably shouldn't." It was entirely possible that the Gidari were gone and wouldn't have any way to know what she said. But it was also entirely possible that they would know, and their little experiment would end before it had a chance to really get started. "It wasn't easy for us at first," she admitted. "Julian woke up alone and confused. He remembers just as I do. He had to wait an hour before I woke up. And I didn't trust him at first. Thought the Pah Wraiths were playing tricks on me."

Suddenly she yawned. Hard. She blinked her way out of that. Mfuma approached her and Sisko stepped back. "You woke up after him? Your blood replacement will last longer?"

She nodded. "About an hour."

He had the PADD with him. "This won't work."

Kira felt a jab in her stomach at those words. "Why not?"

"Because the fluid in him is static. His heart isn't pumping it. We can't wait for him to get the full transfusion before we start working and we can't work while he's in stasis." He lifted the collection tank. "But if I give him this, maybe I buy him some more time." He smiled. "I will save him. He'll probably want his job back."

She smiled. "Just remember mine is on a timer too. It's still counting down."

"We'll collect it a unit at time, inject it in different locations. I have a plan."


Ezri took a seat and waited. Kira had been asleep for hours, apparently catching up on the sleep she hadn't needed in the last week. Girani had assured them she was fine. She'd probably be hungry when she woke up, too, Ezri thought. Julian was still in surgery. He was on bypass equipment now. The blue liquid that had kept them alive had just dissolved into a colorless, viscous liquid as its time ran out. She warned Mfuma against studying it in any way. Jadzia had been down that road.

So Julian would have an artificial heart after this. His was beyond repair. Well, that isn't so bad, she told herself. Captain Jean Luc Picard of Enterprise has had an artificial heart since he was an ensign. It hasn't slowed him down any. No, Julian would be fine. As long as he and Kira woke up.

She didn't remember falling asleep, but she woke again to a touch on her shoulder. She had a familiar crick in her neck from sleeping over a desk. "He's breathing on his own," Doctor Girani told her. She had a soft smile, but there was pride in it. Either for the work she and Mfuma had done or for having Doctor Bashir back in her Infirmary, on the mend. Either way, Ezri joined her in that smile.

"Is he awake?"

"Oh no," Girani said, looking back to where he was laying. "He'll be out for a while yet. And if the colonel is any example, he'll be asleep for quite a long time after that."

"She's still asleep?" Ezri looked at the time. "It's been ten hours."

"She's in REM at the moment, dreaming," Mfuma replied, coming to join them. "Just imagine what she's dreaming. She's been to the Gidari home world! For a week."

"Maybe we should wake her up," Ezri suggested, "let her get back to her quarters."

Girani shook her head. "She wants to be here when Bashir wakes up."

It was the hunger that woke him. A deep pit in his stomach, one he recognized. It didn't do good things to his dreams. So he opened his eyes. A face leaned over him, smiling widely.

"Nerys?" he said. "It worked?"

Her smile grew wider still. She nodded. "It worked, Julian. Welcome back."

The End