With all appreciative homage to Enemy Mine:
“Are you all right, Miles?”
A painful groan preceded the sarcastic response, “I feel like somebody just knocked my head off, but other than that, I’m just dandy.” He winced and rubbed the back of his head as he sat in the dirt.
“Try to relax; you have a concussion. This’ll help, but you’ll have to take it a little easy for a while.” The doctor, squatting beside him, made efficient use of the hypo.
“Are we anywhere near where we’re supposed to be?”
Bashir shook his head. “I don’t know on which moon we crashed; this is a much more life-bearing solar system than most, so we can’t tell that way. Sorry that I’m not the pilot that you are, but when you got knocked out, I….”
“That’s all right, Julian; you had your hands full. We’re lucky to be alive, and on a somewhat livable world at all. Who shot us down anyway, the Jem’Hadar?”
Garak turned to them from where he was standing nearby, scanning the landscape. “No, actually it was my people.”
O’Brien was rueful. “Figures.” At Garak’s look, he said, “I didn’t mean anything by it, really; this just hasn’t been one of my better days.”
Appreciating the human’s attempt to soften the remark, Garak smiled cheerfully and said, “Well, look at it this way: it’s not just us in this predicament; we shot them down, too.”
The patient was clearly more alarmed than pleased. “Where?? How do you know???”
Garak answered both questions at once. “Just down the hill.” He pointed.
O’Brien squinted, and could just make out the other wreck. “Oh…hell. Do you see any signs of life??” He obviously dreaded rather than desired a positive response, earning a dark look from both Garak and Bashir. “Well, hey, I’m sorry, but we’re at war with your people, remember?”
“I’m not,” Garak said a bit sharply.
“Oh, yeah? Then, why did you leave on the Defiant with us, when your people retook DS9? And why are you on this fiasco of a mission with us, now??”
“I’m already asking myself that, as well,” Garak shot back peevishly.
“All right you two,” Bashir chastised. “This isn’t helping. I’d better get down there to check for survivors.”
O’Brien physically grabbed him. “You’ll do no such thing!”
“Miles, I’m a doctor; I have to try!”
“Bad enough that I had to remind Garak that we’re at war with his people; now I have to remind you, too??”
“Miles! I took an oath to preserve life!”
“You also took an oath to protect the Federation!”
“Saving an individual life or two will not endanger the Federation!”
“I’ll make sure that that gets used as your epitaph! Julian, they’ll see that Starfleet uniform, and the fact that you’re human, and you’ll be dead a lot faster than you can say, ‘Don’t shoot! I’m a doctor!’”
“Let Garak go check on them!”
Garak stared at him. “Yes indeed; I’m certainly expendable.”
O’Brien was defensive. “They’re your own kind, and you’re not wearing a Starfleet uniform!”
“Garak’s not a doctor, Miles!”
“Right: he’s the expert at taking people apart; you’re the one that puts people back together! So then both of you go!! And make sure that they see him, first!”
“We can’t just leave you here alone!”
“As mad as I think that I’ve made Garak just now, I’ll probably be safer if you take him with you! See?? Look how he’s looking at me!!”
“Well no wonder, after that last remark! I can hardly keep from being angry with you, myself! But in any case, I outrank you, and I’m going!”
“Unnecessary, gentlemen, as we’ve found you, first.”
Bashir whirled where he hunched in the dirt by his patient. “Dukat! Damar!”
“Huh boy!” O’Brien put his face in his hands, his elbows on his knees, shaking his head all the while.
“Well,” Bashir told him uncertainly. “At least they’re not strangers.” Then he addressed the newcomers. “How did you two come from that direction??”
“Circled around you,” Dukat said casually, looking down from above him.
Garak told the humans bitingly, “Undoubtedly easy to do, considering all the noise that you two were making!”
“Oh, and like you never said a word this whole time???” O’Brien demanded defensively, his head coming up abruptly.
Garak took one step closer. “I’m going to offer you one very valuable piece of advice, Chief: if I were you, I’d keep quiet for a while.” He glanced meaningfully at his fellow Cardassians. “Because at this point, you’re at a severe disadvantage: injured and very much outnumbered.”
O’Brien sighed deeply, but otherwise followed the recommendation. He also turned his eyes away from everyone else, and stared off into the distance.
Bashir said tentatively, “We didn’t know that it was you in the other ship.”
Damar quirked a humorless grin. “And if you had, you wouldn’t’ve shot us down; is that what you’re saying?” His hands rested comfortably on his hips.
He hesitated. “Well, I don’t know; I hadn’t thought that far ahead yet, when I said that. But we certainly would’ve felt differently about it, and we might not have.”
“We didn’t know that it was you, either. Though, as for the rest….” Dukat shrugged noncommittally.
Bashir offered, “Given the number of times that we’ve helped each other, even saved each other’s lives, we surely should’ve each given it a bit of thought at least, had we known.”
Dukat repeated his shrug, and turned to his countryman. “So, Garak: now you’re even accompanying them on missions???”
Trying to remain unruffled, Garak retorted, “And the rest of you are in league with the Dominion; how is that any better?”
Dukat actually smiled ruefully, and said, “Maybe it isn’t.”
“Sometimes I wonder,” Damar agreed. “Especially every time that I have to deal with Weyoun.”
Dukat made a rude noise in concurrence.
O’Brien eyed all of them uncertainly. “Um…if I’m allowed to speak: it’s getting darker. And colder.”
“That it is,” Garak agreed evenly, giving him a neutral glance in keeping with his bland, inoffensive observation.
Dukat nodded. “Considering how much the temperature has dropped just since we emerged from what’s left of our ship, it’s going to get dramatically colder during the night. We’d better find some shelter, and soon.”
Damar commented, “And from the look of your ship, no better than the one we just left, neither one is going to provide that. We’d better start moving.”
Bashir rose slowly and looked worriedly from the Cardassians to his human friend. “He’s not in any shape to….”
But O’Brien was already struggling to his feet. “I’m fine, don’t worry about it,” he said a bit too sharply. He succeeded awkwardly, but staggered slightly.
Bashir hastily braced his shoulder with a hand, and looked a helpless question to the others. “It would be best if….”
“Julian! No one’s carrying me, even if someone were willing! And that’s final!” Tightlipped, he was determined not to show weakness in front of the Cardassians, or let them get close enough to help him, if inclined. “Let’s go.”
At a loss at the supremely awkward situation, Bashir insistently put an arm around O’Brien’s waist, and drew one of the patient’s arms over his own shoulders.
All three Cardassians eyed the blond for a moment, obviously reading the inflexibility of his unwillingness to let them get close.
“O’Brien, you’re going to have to let us help you; it’s too steep here,” insisted Garak testily.
“I’ll make it!”
“Yes, but will you do so by walking, or by falling and rolling?” he challenged.
“What do you care?” O’Brien muttered under his breath.
“That does it!” said Dukat firmly. He swung the injured human up so fast into his arms that the latter didn’t even have time to protest, nor did Bashir have a chance to exclaim in surprise before his patient’s arm dragged rapidly across the back of his neck and was gone. Dukat continued, “I’m tired of hearing Garak and O’Brien squabbling, and O’Brien whining”
“I don’t whine! And put me down, damnit!”
“Look!” Damar’s temper was barely in check as well. He whirled intentionally intimidatingly toward his commander’s burden. “It’s getting colder fast! As unsteady as you are, you’ve been going at an old woman’s pace, and I’ve had enough of slowing down for you! Reptilians hate the cold; we don’t have that handy internal heat source that you mammalians take so for granted, and I have no intention of turning into a Breen icicle just because you’re too proud to let a Cardassian help you!”
“Then leave me behind, why don’t you??! After all, I’m the enemy!”
“So says the hero of Setlek 3!” Garak shot back at him.
“Will you stop calling me that?!!”
Temperaments improved somewhat, once inside a cave, sitting around a warm fire.
“How are Kira and Odo?” asked Bashir. “And Quark and Rom? Oh, and especially Jake Sisko??”
“They’re all fine,” Dukat said, nodding briefly. “Although I certainly am surprised that Benjamin let Jake stay.”
Bashir smiled supportively. “That’s because he didn’t. He’d thought that Jake was aboard, and by the time that we realized that he wasn’t, we’d’ve been caught by you-all and the Dominion, if we’d gone back for him.”
“Wooo!” Damar grinned. “I can just imagine Sisko’s reaction when you discovered that, then! And I’ll bet that Jake will really get it when they’re reunited!”
Bashir’s eyes twinkled with humor. “I was amused that the commander’s second biggest worry, after Jake’s safety of course, was how he was going to explain to his own father, on Earth, how he’d managed to leave his only grandson behind in an enemy camp during wartime, especially when he’d managed to evacuate everyone else!”
O’Brien contributed, “Even though I don’t agree with what Jake did, I can see why he did it. He’s so bent on being a reporter, and if he’d asked Captain Sisko’s permission to stay, the answer would’ve been a resounding ‘No!’ I still think that it was unwise, even reckless of the boy, though. Are you sure that he’s all right?”
Dukat nodded firmly. “His only problem, as far as I know, is how to persuade Weyoun to let him transmit any of the articles that he writes.”
O’Brien frowned slightly. “Is Weyoun giving him a particularly hard time?”
“No, no. He’s polite as can be, to the child. He just keeps telling him that the articles are biased against our side, and that they must be impartial if he expects to be allowed to publish them.”
Damar put in, “And then Jake replies that he refuses to write Dominion propaganda, and the two are at a stalemate.”
Bashir looked well reassured. “That doesn’t sound so bad, then. Nothing worse than professional disagreement.”
After a moment, Dukat returned the favor, asking, “How is Benjamin, otherwise? And Dax, Worf, and Nog?”
“They’re fine, as well. At least, they were the last time that we saw them. I hope that they still are; they left in a different direction, on a mission of their own, at the same time that we did,” Bashir said.
O’Brien glanced at him warningly. “I don’t know that you should be telling that, Julian.”
“Whom are they going to tell, Miles?? They’re stuck here the same as we are!”
“For now,” O’Brien allowed. “But how long will that last? Are you sure that it’ll be long enough to let the others finish their mission?”
“Our two ships are destroyed,” remarked Damar. “No chance that any of us will get out of here under our own power.”
Fatalistically, Garak agreed, “We’re all stuck here until we’re missed and found.”
“But found by which side?” mumbled a depressed O’Brien.
Dukat was too cheerful to suit him. “Either way, some of us will be rescued, and some of us will be captured. It will be interesting to see which way it goes.”
O’Brien snapped, “Yeah, well, you can say that so calmly and blithely; our side doesn’t mistreat its prisoners!”
Even Bashir’s eyes flickered uneasily at that. The Cardassians couldn’t help but notice, as the firelight caught the sparkle of worried movement. Garak’s own eyes softened with legitimate concern for his friend; Dukat and Damar shifted uncomfortably in position. None of the three of them knew what to say to the two humans at that; they certainly couldn’t deny that O’Brien’s point was valid this time.
“You know, Julian,” O’Brien said cautiously. “I wonder if we shouldn’t consider finding our own separate cave. Maybe the five of us could all agree not to reveal the presence of the other group to any of our own rescuers.”
At the affronted expressions of the Cardassians, his human companion said, “Aw, Miles, please!” Bashir had no lack of sympathy for his friend’s fears, nor did he doubt the validity of his concerns. And he knew full well that O’Brien’s experiences with Cardassians, throughout his life, had been a far cry from his own. But that didn’t make this awkward togetherness any easier to bear, and his injured friend seemed intent upon making it as difficult as possible.
“That would be to their benefit, too!” he insisted. “I’m sure that they don’t want to be our prisoners, either, no matter how benevolent the imprisonment!”
“I’m just saying that quarreling isn’t helping!”
Fed up with Bashir’s unheeding determination to keep relations friendly at the cost of realistic planning, O’Brien announced, “I need some fresh air! I’m going for a walk.”
“Miles, no; you can’t go out there alone!”
“Watch me!” He was gone.
Bashir sighed with embarrassment as he eyed the three Cardassians. “This is all so awkward!”
“No one’s blaming you, Julian,” Garak assured him.
But he appeared more, not less, uneasy. “Please try not to judge Miles too harshly, either. His past experiences with your species are worlds apart from mine.”
“But he constantly forces you to perform a balancing act between him and me, and that’s not a decent position in which to put a friend.”
“I know. But I wouldn’t be much of a friend, either, if I didn’t make allowances for his past traumas.”
“I hope that he appreciates all of that latitude that you give him.”
With a look of guilt, despair, discomfort, and apology aimed mostly at Garak, Bashir mumbled, “I’d better go after him.”
The two humans gone, Damar stated the obvious. “O’Brien sure doesn’t like us much, does he? Was he really the hero of Setlek 3, from the humans’ perspective?”
Garak nodded. “The engineer who fixed a transporter fast, out of desperation, just before he and some other humans would’ve been slaughtered, or captured, by our troops.”
Garak went on to say, “And I happen to have discovered that his favorite captain, the one before Sisko, Picard, was severely and infamously tortured by Gul Madred, while Gul Lemec rubbed the Enterprise crew’s collective noses in that fact.”
Dukat nodded solemnly. “I heard about that event. I didn’t know that O’Brien knew the victim.”
“O’Brien was still on that ship when it happened. And O’Brien’s commander even before that, Maxwell, lost his whole family, massacred on Setlek 3, at the time that O’Brien was on his ship.”
Damar shook his head. “He does seem to have a penchant for running afoul of us, doesn’t he?”
“It gets even worse.” Garak briefly told of the abduction, imprisonment, tribunal, and threat of death penalty that O’Brien had personally suffered at the hands of their people, including the fact that it was all a deliberate setup by the Cardassian government. “I admit that he tries my patience on a regular basis, but he’s not without my sympathy, most of the time.”
“Does he know that?”
“I hope not,” Garak replied grudgingly, with a lopsided, semi-humorous grin.
Damar nodded supportively. “No matter how much justification you might suspect that he has, I can see why you’d be reluctant to acknowledge that to him, with his attitude.”
“Let me tell you what’s really going on with him,” offered Garak. “It’s not truly anger, or even hate; it’s fear. O’Brien is terrified of the thought of being captured again by our people, and most likely tortured, perhaps even as severely as Picard was, especially now that it’s wartime. He’s beside himself with terror. To make matters worse, he doesn’t want to admit to us that that’s the real problem; he fears that we’ll perceive it as cowardice. So it emerges as hostility.”
“When did you become a psychologist?” inquired Damar.
“It’s part of any torture-expert’s repertoire, to be able to see through potential victims, and go right to the heart of their phobias.”
Dukat commented sarcastically, “And wouldn’t it be a comfort to O’Brien to hear you say that?”
“The signal that we picked up is from Gul Evek,” Dukat informed them days later, as they stood outside of their cave listening to the rapid descent of the small craft. “We’re about to be rescued.”
O’Brien’s face flooded with terror. There was a note of near-hysteria to his voice as he cried, “Julian!!!”
Even Bashir went pale and said, “We are in big trouble. We’ll be imprisoned and abused for sure!”
“And Evek’s the one who abducted me for that ludicrous, trumped-up tribunal!! I am not letting that same heartless ruffian get hold of me again! I’m getting out of here! Come on, Julian!!”
“Stay here!” Dukat insisted. “It will be all right. Just let us handle it.”
“Handle it how???”
“No time; you’ll just have to trust us!” His eyes nearly dared O’Brien to reply sarcastically to that.
The human looked agonized, but at least he didn’t turn and run. His eyes begged Dukat to sincerely mean his promise. He received a short nod in reply.
“Sorry, Evek,” said Dukat soon after that. “But I refuse to let them be taken to Cardassia Prime. They’re our prisoners; we shot them down, and I intend to take them back with us to Terok Nor for interrogation.” The two humans had been convincingly tied just before Evek’s arrival.
“We can interrogate them!”
“You don’t even know all of the questions that we plan to ask! Besides, who’s better than our expert Garak here to get the answers out of them? You don’t outrank me, Evek. So you can’t take them from me; I already had possession long before you got here.”
Even aboard Evek’s Galor-class warship, Dukat stood his ground. He refused to permit Evek’s guards to place the two humans in the ship’s brig.
“We intend to retain our prisoners personally. It’ll be more than adequate for us to lock them into the inner rooms of our own quarters.”
When Evek again objected, Damar demanded, “Do you question our ability to control two humans?”
Not asking for permission, Garak possessively took Bashir by the upper arm at the same moment that Dukat did the same to O’Brien. Heedless of any continued objections, they led their captives, closely followed by Damar; none looked back to view Evek’s or his guards’ reactions.
Garak, Dukat, and Damar were amazed at how long it took for O’Brien’s breathing rate to reduce to something close to normal, once the five were safely ensconced in private quarters.
“Did you see the way that he looked at me?? He remembered me all too well!”
Bashir hated to criticize his friend when he was so emotionally vulnerable, but he still couldn’t help saying, as gently as possible, “Miles, how could he not recall you, when you kept repeating, ‘I told you never to touch me again!!’”
“He’d already recognized me, Julian; I saw that in his eyes before he grabbed me! What I said was no news to him! His eyes were sinister; he was sadistically eager to drag me off alone!” The blond was completely distraught.
“Easy, Miles, I must’ve missed seeing that; I’m sorry!”
O’Brien was shaking his head, even as the rest of him still shook tremulously. “He couldn’t wait to get his cruel hands on me again!!”
Dukat admitted reluctantly, “He did seem to have quite a bit of animosity toward you.”
“He probably hated it that you escaped what he thought was an ironclad trap, in that tribunal,” suggested Bashir.
O’Brien regarded their three Cardassian protectors frantically. “Thank you for keeping us here with you! Please don’t leave us alone even for a second!”
“Agreed.” Garak clearly was convinced that O’Brien’s assessment of the risk was correct.
“Meanwhile, Miles, you need rest.” Bashir spoke deliberately soothingly. “You’ve been through way too much, for someone with a concussion.”
“If Evek has his way, I’ll go through a lot more than a mere concussion!” He looked up again at the three Cardassians. “When we get to DS9, what happens then??”
“You’ll be safe there. We’re in charge.” Dukat indicated himself, and Damar beside him. “Along with Weyoun, who, though a nuisance, is certainly polite and harmless, provided that you don’t give him any trouble.”
“We won’t!” O’Brien said, perhaps a bit too hastily.
Damar added, “Although, I don’t know what the chances are of your ever being able to rejoin your own comrades.”
“So we’ll wait for when they return to the station after the siege is over; it doesn’t matter.”
Dukat regarded him quizzically. “You’re presuming a great deal as to which side will emerge victorious.”
“Yes, I am,” he replied unabashedly, no doubt at all in his expression.
“Miles, get some rest. Come on; lie down here.”
“Yes, mom,” O’Brien said, amused, without rancor or sarcasm.
The three Cardassians couldn’t help but be mildly entertained by the all-too-human style of byplay. Their brow ridges collectively rose at the hypo that Bashir automatically administered, and the resulting speed at which the patient went to sleep.
The doctor saw their implied question, and explained, “As agitated as he was, there was no chance of his entering a natural sleep within a reasonable amount of time. And he needs as much rest as he can get.”
Garak was observing O’Brien thoughtfully. “Relaxed like this, he resembles a small boy, more than an adult.”
Bashir smiled fondly. “I think that it’s his curls that mostly add to that impression.”
He nodded. “Curly, light hair: something that we never have.”
Dukat agreed. “Makes him look helpless.”
Bashir eyed him, uncertain how to take that.
The gul saw the look, and his eyes twinkled. “Don’t worry, Doctor. That assessment only makes me feel more protective. We’ll keep you two safe, for as long as it takes until we can perhaps return you to your own people.”
<Return to the Deep Space Nine page>