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The Chip

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Okay, he'd gotten out to the parking lot without anybody noticing. He'd been parked over by Quark's when all of this had started, so it was a bit of a walk now, but if he could just manage to get out of town before someone realized what he'd done, he could -

"And just where do you think you're going?"

Julian winced; darn it, caught five feet from his goal. Putting on an innocent expression, he turned to face Constable Odo, whose general air of suspicion didn't lessen one bit. "Constable Odo! How good to see you. I was just heading home for the night," he explained, gesturing to his car and hoping against hope that Odo wouldn't question him.

"Really? Because from what I hear, you intended to stay at the clinic overnight, to keep an eye on your patient."

Damn. "Yes, well - "

"How is Garak?" Odo put on a light, innocent tone of his own, and Julian wished for a moment that he wasn't so transparent when it came to his work. If he could just manage to lie about his patient, then maybe...

"Badly." When Odo gave him an expectant look, Julian elaborated, "He's in a lot of pain. There's really not much I can do at this point, so..."

"You're just abandoning him to his pain? That doesn't sound like you, doctor."

Giving up the facade, Julian threw open the trunk of his car and tossed in his overnight bag. "Damn it, Odo, you know what I'm doing, stop pretending otherwise!"

Unaffected, Odo crossed his arms. "Of course I know what you're doing. The real question is: do you?" When Julian ignored him to start up the car, Odo stepped in front of it. "Enabran Tain is not someone to be trifled with, doctor."

"This is hardly a trifling situation," Julian objected. "A man's life is at stake!"

"Is it?"

Julian's jaw clenched involuntarily. He knew Odo was only trying to frustrate him at this point, but the implications in his question were ones Julian fought against every single day. Every conversation with Miles that turned to the ethics of their respective jobs, every patient that left his practice for the large teaching hospital one town over because they only treated humans, it was all about this: what makes a man, and what makes a monster?

And can you be both at once?

"Yes, it is," he said firmly, glaring up at Odo. "Garak's as much a man as you or I, constable, and I won't let him die if there's the slightest chance I can save him."

Odo stared unblinkingly at Julian for a minute, then nodded and stepped aside. "Very well. But, doctor," he added as Julian started to pull away, "keep this in mind. Simply removing that broken chip isn't going to save Garak. Not when its presence has been the only thing keeping the hunters in this town from killing him for the last two years."

"I know it won't be easy," Julian said. He drove off, not caring for speed limits when the strictest enforcer wasn't in a position to arrest him for it. "I know it won't be easy," he repeated to himself as he followed the directions Quark had told him led to the ancient vampire's home two states away. "But I'll think of something. I always do.

"I have to."