Kira Nerys had to admit, she found the young doctor's silence disturbing as they piloted the runabout back to the station. While normally she couldn't get the young human to shut up, today she would give almost anything to have him talk her ear off as he had so many times in the past. Julian Bashir was closed off from the world, answering her questions with nothing more than a barely discernable 'yes' or 'no' or the tiniest possible shrug of his shoulders.
With a sigh, she gave up on communicating with him for the moment, instead focusing her energy on altering their course to take them to Runabout Pad C. To the doctor's credit, she noticed that he continued to perform his duties admirably despite his current state, taking note of the slight course change and requesting the necessary docking permissions. The pair completed the docking procedures in silence, and Kira breathed out in relief at the slight bump of the runabout coming to rest before shutting down the engines.
Watching Julian, Kira noted that he too had only relaxed once the runabout stood secure on the pad. She understood, it had been a long couple of days in the mirror universe.
"Bet you're glad to be home, doctor." She attempted, even managing a small smile in his direction.
Julian gave no verbal response, instead turning to stare at her. She fought to suppress the shudder that tried to make itself known at the look in his eyes. They contained betrayal, none of the trust they had first displayed upon arrival through the looking glass. What made it worse was she knew that she deserved every ounce of ill will he now harboured towards her. She looked to the floor in shame, unable to meet his gaze any longer.
He rose to exit the runabout, and she followed a few seconds behind, not wanting to feel the doctors gaze again. The pain from his initial glare at her remained, even as they stepped through the airlock on to Deep Space Nine.
Sisko, O'Brien, and Dax each took a step back as the airlock rolled closed behind the doctor and Major Kira. Julian guessed by all three faces that they hadn't realized they were doing it until they had already done so. He didn't blame them, knew he smelled of sweat and blood and ore grime. He had resisted a similar reaction upon his initial encounter with the enslaved Terrans, so it didn't surprise him that Constable Odo, with his lack of a real nose, was the only senior officer to stand his ground.
He did not yet feel ready to answer their questions; fortunately Kira was the ranking officer. Julian could feel their eyes on him though, taking in each rip in his uniform, each bruise tinting his skin. The concern wafting off them was quite tangible. It came as a relief when their attentions refocused on the Bajoran woman next to him as she spoke briefly of the Mirror Universe and their difficulties escaping, the aid of the mirror Sisko and Smiley. From a distance, he heard Sisko order them to the infirmary to be checked out, and to report to the wardroom at 16:00:00 for a full debriefing.
He was vaguely aware of the Major following him to the promenade, of Nurse Jabara's gasp at his condition as they made their way through the infirmary doors. He waved off her attentions, stating the he was fine and looked worse than he was. She eyed him closely for a minute, finally relenting and backing off when he met her gaze steadily with his own. He led Kira to a biobed and patted it.
"Have a seat, Major."
She did as she was told, and Jabara handed him a medical tricorder before moving to the opposite side of the bed. Julian ran a thorough scan, and nodded satisfied with the results.
"You, Major, are in perfect health." He informed her, even as he reached for the programmable hypospray on the table next to the bed and punched in the code for a general anti-biotic. "I'm giving each of us a general antibiotic to make sure we've not carried any dangerous pathogens back."
She nodded, ignoring the confused expression on Jabara's face. Julian administered the injection to her neck, not mentioning that he was the one that was most likely to have picked up pathogens while they were…there. Just the thought that that was true disgusted him. He motioned that she was free to go, and she practically fled his presence. He waited until the infirmary doors slid shut before sitting on the biobed himself. He picked up the tricorder and ran a new scan, angling the readout so Jabara could read it over his shoulder.
Mumbling to himself at the information displayed, he injected himself with the same anti-biotic he had Major Kira as Jabara began mending the scrapes and cuts on his back with a dermal regenerator. Done with the hypo, he picked up a second regenerator and began work on his left arm. They sat there in the infirmary together for nearly half an hour, carefully repairing physical damage done by his time in ore processing.
Jabara finished banishing the final bruise on his face as he set down his own regenerator. She smiled as she did so, and after shutting off her instrument, she clapped him on the shoulder.
"There! A shower and you'll look good as new."
He couldn't help but smile back at her, managing a shrug.
"Are you really okay?" She asked, lowering her voice.
Julian was silent for a moment before answering. "Not now… but I will be."
Jabara nodded unsurprised. "I'm here if you need me."
He turned back to look at her, already heading for his quarters.
To Julian, the debriefing was embarrassing, at best. He had spoken only as much as was needed, trying to avoid the subject of his enslavement all together. Fortunately, the brunt of Commander Sisko's questions fell on Major Kira after it was established that she was the one who had the most interactions with the higher ups of the other universe. He was content to stand ignored for the majority of the meeting, only speaking properly of his escape from Ore Processing right at the end.
He was surprised that the major remained silent through his portion of the tale, confused when she didn't mention his murder of Odo after he failed to broach the subject. Neither of them had mentioned him so far, and Julian intended to keep it that way. He knew the reason he steered clear of that little fact that the overseer had been the mirror version of their resident shapeshifter. It was hard enough for him to admit he had vaporized some 'nameless terror' without a second thought, let alone his friend, albeit a rather nasty version of him. He was a doctor; he wasn't supposed to kill at all. That hurt more than any of the damage Odo had inflicted during their stint there. Maybe Major Kira at least understood that, and kept silent as a result. He accepted it without objection.
Commander Sisko had ordered him to take the next two days off to make sure he was fully recovered, stating that he looked like he was running on pure adrenaline. Julian had to admit he wasn't far off; the caffeine content of the three raktajinos he had consumed after showering was the only thing preventing him falling asleep at the briefing table. Julian put up little fight at the order, knowing he needed the rest, and headed back to his quarters as soon as he was dismissed.
The hard labour had left him exhausted and hungry, so a hearty meal of pasta was in order as soon as Julian's door slid shut. By the time he was finished eating, he was feeling both comfortably and uncomfortably full. Barely taking the time to undress, he fell into bed, fully intending to sleep for a day.
Sisko asked her to stay for a moment after the debriefing, so she remained in her chair, waiting for the rest of the senior staff to file out for the commander to start speaking. Kira could easily guess that what their subject of conversation would be, and from his first question, Sisko did not disappoint.
"Is he alright?"
The major shrugged, not quite sure how to answer. "I think he's still in a bit of shock…"
Her voice trailed off, a distant look in her eyes. Sisko could only guess that she was remembering the occupation. Her words confirmed his suspicions, though.
"We saw it a lot from people the first few days they were in ore processing." She explained. "I think he'll be fine though, it was only a few days he spent there."
"You couldn't get him out?"
"I tried sir. I was lucky they let me see him." Kira reasoned, ignoring her conscience, berating her every word. You could have tried harder. You could have snuck in at night to free him.
Sisko paced the room a bit, hands behind his back. "I suppose that's true…" he muttered quietly, to himself. Sighing, he returned to his seat, resting his chin on folded hands.
"I'm worried about him." He admitted. "That's the first time he's ever had to kill."
Kira nodded. "Everyone handles it differently…give him a few days, sir." She suggested. "If he isn't improving, we can have Counselor Telnorri talk to him."
Sisko considered this for a moment before giving his agreement. Kira was relieved, hoped it wouldn't come to that. She wouldn't let it come to that.
She found him wandering the promenade at three in the morning, a lost look on his face. Kira could guess the problem, too many memories, too vibrant to ignore. She had just spent several hours observing Quark from afar, trying to see some of his mirror counterpart in the bartender. He hadn't deserved to die.
Julian remained still as she approached him, staring vacantly out a view port in the direction of the wormhole. He moved only at the touch of her hand to his shoulder.
His head swiveled to stare into her eyes. Kira had once heard one of the Starfleet officers on the station mention that 'the eyes are the gateway to the soul.' She supposed she had known that on some level after her time in the resistance, but never before had it been so obvious to her as the moment Julian Bashir turned to face her. His eyes were haunted by the ghosts of the mirror universe – by Odo's whip, by Garak and the Intendant's insistence that he work in ore processing like the Terran he was, by his crime against his own humanity. Kira had lost count of the times she had seen that expression during the occupation faster than she cared to admit.
Julian's gaze was searching, almost desperate – begging for someone to pull him from the hell of guilt and pain and fear his mind was currently entrenched in, and Kira felt obliged to help lead him from the vortex of despair he was grappling with.
She slid her hand down his arm and took his in her own, giving it a gentle squeeze. Julian's head tilted almost quizzically to the side, and she felt as if his eyes were burning through her. Eventually though, his shoulders relaxed, and he returned the squeeze. He still seemed wary of her yes, but the mistrust of that afternoon was gone. Kira gave him what was not quite a smile, just a look of reassurance, and led him forward; putting just enough pressure on his hand to be sure he would follow.
Julian followed the major in a daze, not really sure where they were going. It came as a shock to him when they arrived at his quarters, Kira leading him inside, straight to his bedroom. He left here to escape his nightmares, only to find that they wouldn't leave him. And then she was there next to him, and he could see the same horror and loathing in her eyes that he felt inside himself. And so he trusted her.
Kira motioned for him to sit down, and she knelt on the floor, pulling his boots off. He didn't recall putting them on, let alone getting dressed, but clearly he had at some point. She disappeared into the main room, and for a moment he feared she had gone after taking him back to bed like a naughty child, but his worries eased as she reappeared, mug of some form of steaming liquid in hand.
"Drink this." She suggested, holding the mug out for him, and he took into with caution, sniffing the steam before taking a guarded sip. It had a taste of alcohol and reminded him of a hot toddy. They sat in a comfortable silence, Julian sipping and both thinking.
It was only when Julian had finished the drink that Kira spoke, hesitantly.
"Doc – Julian. I wanted to say I'm sorry."
He looked at her, confused. "For what?"
"I should have gotten you out. I knew what t was like…" she trailed off not sure how to put the words together. "I…I wanted you to know."
A dark mask seemed to pass over his face for a moment, but when he met her eyes there was no blame. "I know, major. Trust me, I know. And you tried. That's all I needed."
"But how…" can you forgive me? Let me get away with that? There were too many ways to end the question she had started.
She was surprised when he picked up her hand and smiled at her. "Because you didn't mean for it all to happen. For me to kill Odo. For Quark to die for trying to help us. I wanted to resent you at first for leaving me there...blame you...but it wasn't your fault. Not really."
He reached out to wipe away the tear that was forming in the corner of her eye. "I'm okay Nerys, are you?"
Surprised by his sudden use of her name, Nerys bit back a chuckle and smiled back at him through the tears that were continuing to form. It was strange, that in that moment they each had nothing but understanding for each other, a pure comprehension that had they lived the same lives, they would not be so different after all. She reached out to hug him, whispering in his ear.
"I'll be alright."
She got up to leave, but found herself drawn back to him before she ever reached the door. He had truly been exhausted, his eyes already shut as she walked back to his bed. He barely twitched as she lay next to him, stroking his hair. She would stay with him tonight, through the nightmares, the way she had wanted someone else to the first time she had killed someone. He was her comrade, and she felt it her duty. Somewhere inside, she knew that Julian Bashir was the only one on the station that would truly comprehend what she had survived. And she was the only one to understand him.