Three days had passed since the shuttle accident and Julian Bashir had thrown himself into his work. He practically sequestered himself in the Infirmary, taking all his meals in his office, busying himself with all sorts of unnecessary reports and diagnostic simulations. He even reorganized the pharmacy in his desperation to stay occupied.
It was on the third day when his head nurse Jabara banished him for twenty-four consecutive hours. "If you even think about setting foot here during that time, I'm going straight to Captain Sisko!"
There was no doubt in Julian's mind that the petite Bajoran woman would make good on her threat. Her angelic appearance disguised a will of steel. It was that exact reason he had promoted her all those years ago.
As he aimlessly strolled the Promenade, he noticed several people filing into the Bajoran Shrine. There was a lantern lit at the entrance, indicating that there was a service starting. Julian stopped in his tracks and considered veering off into Quark's or perhaps even wandering through Ops.
"There is a service being held at the Shrine for the people lost in the accident," Sam told him when she stopped by his office. "I'll be going with Kira. Captain Sisko is likely going to be there and I think Dax might too."
"I'm sure that will be a lovely tribute," Julian said, not looking up from his computer.
"I thought you might go with us."
"Doctors don't usually attend the funerals of patients they lost, Sam," he explained as kindly as he could, "It's just not done."
"There are exceptions," she quietly pointed out, "I think it may help. This time."
He looked up into her earnest gaze and nearly agreed before his better judgement stopped him, "I appreciate it. Truly. But trust me, its best that I don't."
Julian remembered the face of every patient he ever lost; it was a curse of his genetic engineering. Total recall. He didn't have the luxury of choice. It was true that a physician attending services for a patient was considered taboo. His med school professors had all advised against it and many of his colleagues followed that same practice. After all, death was the ultimate failure of their professional care and no one liked to dwell on that. Besides, Julian wasn't exactly a man of faith. Science was his religion. He found comfort for his grief in the very work of doctoring. He didn't win every battle against death, but when he did it gave meaning to the struggle and made those losses a bit more bearable.
Logical reasons all, for him to keep on walking. Yet, he didn't. He paused then followed the soft, lyrical music coming from inside the temple. The shrine was beautifully decorated in rich tones of red and gold and housed one of the famed Orbs of the Prophets. Thick incense hung in the air, floating over the seated crowd. Today it was packed full of people, only a few of them were not Bajoran. Julian picked out Sam seated towards the front next to Kira and Dax. Captain Sisko, acting as the Emissary, was occupying a seat of importance next to the Orb. Everyone was holding a single red taper candle and the entire space was lit by the glow of candlelight.
Sam had been to services in the temple before. Kira had generously invited her when she expressed an interest ages ago. It really was a lovely religion. Full of ritual and meditation. Sam considered it part of her ongoing education. After all, faith was all in your point of view. And the universe was full of different ones. How else do people learn about one another unless they explore all points of view?
She was suitably outfitted in deep crimson dress. The cut mimicked that of traditional Bajoran fashion so that she would have passed for a native save for her lack of nose ridges. The service was about to begin when Julian suddenly appeared at her left. She looked up with a soft smile and scooted over on the bench so he could sit next to her. He sat quickly, looking very unsure as he fiddled with the tapper in his hands. She reached over and guided his candle wick to touch hers which was already lit. It caught fire and she released it and they turned their attention to the Vedek who conducted the opening prayers.
When the service was over, Julian walked out with Sam into the bright station lights of the Prominade. "That really was lovely."
"You sound surprised," she replied.
"No, I've just never been to a Bajoran service before," he admitted. "I wasn't really sure what to expect."
"It's a lot like Buddhism, minus Buddha. With a Pah-wraiths and orbs and a wormhole thrown in," Sam mused then reconsidered, "Actually, it not that much like Buddhism."
"Are you Doctor Bashir?"
They both turned at the softly asked query and found a small Bajoran woman standing there. Her sunny, blonde hair peeked out from beneath the fine red scarf that covered her head. Her blue eyes were rimmed red, but her gaze held steady.
"Yes," Julian answered tentatively.
The woman smiled graciously, "Ah. I am Laan Julla. Stavva is my daughter."
He recognized the name and the face of the little girl popped into his mind. Blonde, like her mother, he could see the resemblance. One of the cruelest fates in the universe was for a parent to bury a child. Julian swallowed, but was unable to say anything. No words seemed adequate.
It was Sam who answered, saving him from stumbling over a reply, "I am so sorry for your loss. Stavva was a beautiful little girl."
"Yes," Laan acknowledged, "She was the light of my world… now she will be my star in the sky." She paused and took Julian's hands in her own, "I wanted to thank you, doctor."
"Thank me?" he shook his head in confusion, "I only wish there was more I could have done for her."
"When the Prophets call us home to the celestial temple, there is nothing any of us can do except answer. I wasn't there when Stavva was called, but you were. I wanted to thank you for staying with her." Laan smiled though her tears, "I can see you have a very kind pagh and I am so very grateful that it was you by her side."
The petite woman hugged him, "May the Prophets walk with you, doctor."
Humbled, Julian hugged her back, "And with you."
"Mothers are the strongest creatures in the galaxy," Sam murmured as they watched Laan weave back into the crowd, greeting people who had come in support of her and the other mourners. She took hold of Julian's hand, "Are you alright?"
"No," was his honest reply, "But I will be."
Sam nodded, her understanding, "We are all going to meet up in Quark's, just for a quiet drink. Nothing too draining… there's a place for you, if you want to come."
"Another time," Julian replied. He wasn't sure exactly what he was feeling, no longer angry or sorrowful. Perhaps he was on his way to closure, only time would tell.
A concerned frown creased her brow, "You're not going back to the Infirmary?"
"No, I'm taking personal time for the next two days," he smiled at the approval reflected in her gaze. As a doctor, he was usually in the caretaker role. It was admittedly nice, to be on the receiving end.
She sighed in relief, "Well then, I'll try to avoid any potential catastrophes for the next few days."
"I'd appreciate that." He dropped a light kiss on her cheek, "Thank you."
As Sam watched Julian walk away, grateful for the glimmer of hope she had seen reignite in his eyes.