The note was there, on an absurdely anachronistic piece of paper. When they had first told him that one of them had killed herself, Julian had been sure it was Sarina, and for a moment, he could see it all: her dead body, his own letter of resignation to Starfleet, which should have been written two times already, Miles' attempts to persuade him otherwise, and Sisko yelling at him about desertion in the middle of a war. Then his perfect, photographic memory replayed the message for him, and this time, he caught the name. Not Sarina at all, who lived her life somewhere, untouched, in the way a genetically enhanced girl was supposed to, or not.
He couldn't quite understand it. Nor could he understand why Lauren should have left him something, or why that something should be a note, a single sentence written in on a piece of paper that must have been numerously folded and refolded. He could feel the creases under his fingertips as he touched it. Lauren hadn't seemed the type for creative anachronism, but really, how well had he known any of them at all?
He had taken care not to know them too well.
Jack must be completely mad now, Julian thought, catching himself refolding the note without having read it. As for Patrick, sweet and affectionate Patrick... one could only hope the doctors there offered more than just sedatives. Of course, he could, in theory, call them. Find out for himself. Or even visit.
It was the middle of a war. He couldn't do anything like that, Julian told himself, and surpressed the memory of how easy they had found it to visit him on Deep Space Nine. Then he shuddered in disgust. He was behaving like his father, he decided, and resolutely opened the note.
There it was, in a firm hand obviously used to writing on paper, which was another surprise, bold strokes with a pen using a coppery kind of ink, something between red and brown. There was nothing girlish about the letters, not as there would have been if Sarina had written it.
He recognised the quote, as a genetically enhanced boy was supposed to. Or not. For a moment, he thought: But Lauren is not the type for Hamlet, either. Was not. Or for Shakespeare in general. Restoration comedies, that was what he would have associated with sultry Lauren and her lazy, amused smiles. Then his medical training kicked in, and he identified the ink on the paper. She had used blood; her own, presumably, though he wouldn't have put it past Jack to volunteer.
A little more than kin, she had written, and less than kind.
He could be his parents' son for a while longer, and refuse to acknowledge it. He could go and play another round of darts with Miles, or permit himself another long-delayed lunch with Garak, whose comments were laced with increasing bitterness as reports of Cardassians dying for the Dominion doubled and tripled by the hour. He could even hope for another visit from Sloane who was able to summon up the righteous indignation of the Julian who had been so easily.
But it wouldn't help, not really. He knew what Lauren had meant.
They were his family, his brothers and sisters, and he had betrayed them. He could hear himself, confirming to Sarina that there was no hope for any of them except herself, even as he demonstrated to her that she had to be normal, normal, normal, or she would be locked up and hidden away again. As every genetically enhanced human being was. Except himself.
Live the lie, his parents had told him with every gesture and every word during his childhood, or don't live at all. He had not understood what they must have felt until he had come face to face with Jack, and Patrick, and Sarina, and Lauren.
There had been no reason why Lauren could not live in freedom, not really. Nobody had ever considered locking the legendary James T. Kirk up for the habit of making a pass at attractive people on a regular basis, had they? And Patrick wouldn't harm a fly. Jack might bear watching. But your avarage Klingon had a more explosive temper, and due to having spend a lifetime training in martial arts was considerably more dangerous than Jack with his nervous fondness for acrobatics.
He could have said this out loud. To Sisko, to Miles, to anyone on the station. To Starfleet Medical, to Starfleet Command. But he hadn't. How easy, after all, for the reverse conclusion to be drawn. Why not lock up Jullian Bashir as well? Who lied to get into Starfleet, whose sex life might appear less than wholesome upon close examination, who could get obsessive about finding a cure for diseases that were genetically engineered. Yes, let us lock up Bashir as well, together with the others.
It was an irrational fear. In all likelihood, nobody would react like this. But it pumped through his heart, his perfect heart, it whispered in his ear each time he looked at them, his brothers and sisters. And so he had betrayed them.
He didn't know how Lauren had expected him to react to her message. But she, who had been able to analyze Damar, whom she had never met, probably had guessed what he would do, and smiled about it in her lazy, knowing way even as she wrote each sharp, accusing letter.
Julian folded the paper. Refolded it, opened it, refolded it, until the edge cut into his skin ever so slightly, drawing his own blood. Then he took it to the replicator, and let it burn out of existence.