FOREWORD: This is a fusion story, which has two main sources of inspiration: the story “The wounded and the outcast” in NO HOLDS BARRED 6, and the series Deep Space Nine, in which I’m very much involved at the moment. Science-fiction being my first, best love, this is the setting in which I prefer to see B&D.
I loved “The wounded and the outcast”. However, as I read it, my mind’s eye kept showing me a different combination. Bodie as a Cardassian half-breed was perfect, but I definitely saw Doyle as a Bajoran rather than as a Je’nai. (I was lucky enough to have seen THE OUTCAST, although I have watched very few episodes of STTNG.)
So, if the fancy takes you, join me in the following story, and meet Major Kira Neray and the Cardassian Engineer Dru Bodak.
This is the first part of the story, pre-slash. The second part will (hopefully) be ready for the next Big Bang!
When the distress call from the Cardassian ship came in, Major Kira Neray was on duty in ops. As an ex-Khon-ma, Kira used to have very little sympathy for the Cardassians, and even less trust. Yet he’d recently had reasons to believe that not all Cardassians were the same. Some of them were men of honour, good men.
He called Sisko, who was resting in his quarters, and informed him of the mayday call. Kira said he would lead the rescue, as the ship was, according to her captain, very badly damaged. The matter/antimatter chamber was possibly leaking, and therefore there was the risk of radioactive emissions. The leaking antimatter interfered with the beaming signal, and was rendering highly hazardous any attempt at beaming to and from the ship. The ship had to be boarded, evacuated, and destroyed as quickly as possible - and as far away from DS9 as possible - to prevent the disastrous effects of an implosion of the chambers near the space station. It was tricky, but Kira was positive it could be done - with minutes to spare - if everything was coordinated from the station while the boarding procedures were being conducted.
Commander Sisko was not overjoyed with this reckless plan. Yet he could not let a whole ship of scientists and engineers die. For that was what the Cardassian ship was: a military vessel, as all Cardassian ships were of military class, but on a scientific mission. The fact that there were practically no soldiers on board had prompted a heated defense on Kira’s part, a defense Sisko had cut short.
“Major, there is no need to overreact. I have not - repeat NOT - told you to let them die. We will, of course, try to rescue them. I just want you not to endanger the station or your team, or yourself, for that matter, if you find rescue impossible. Lieutenant Dax will monitor the attempt from here. Doctor Bashir will wait on the hangar deck with a medical team.”
“Right. We’ll have to leave as quickly as possible. We don’t have much time to spare if we are to save them. Kira out.”
The Major opened a station-wide channel to ask for a rescue team. This was a very touchy situation, and he wanted only volunteers.
“...and no married personnel either. This is a very dangerous mission. The volunteers are to present themselves on the runabout deck, stat. The runabout will leave in precisely fifteen minutes.”
As things were, the first volunteer to present himself on the deck was Chief O’Brien. Kira opened his mouth to protest, and then thought better of it. He thrust a hand in his short curls and said in a low voice:
“Okay. Don’t say it. I’ll need you to stabilise the antimatter field long enough to evacuate the crew. You’re the best engineer on board DS9. And you’ll come along even if you have to punch my lights out to do so. Right?”
O’Brien did not waste time elaborating:
“Right”, he said briskly, and went on board the runabout.
Soon, Kira had a full complement of four crewmembers, including himself.
The lifting procedure was expedited. They were able to contact the Cardassian ship about half-way to her location. The ship’s Commander was frantic, his engineer was hardly able to control the failing field, and except for this one man in the engineering room, he’d ordered his crew - fifteen people in all - to gather in the hangar deck, which would be the easiest place to reach. The tricky part was that O’Brien would have to replace the Cardassian technician in the engine room, and then be evacuated last, to give the runabout a good chance to get away from the ship.
Things went smoothly at first. The runabout landed on the hangar deck. O’Brien rushed to Engineering to relieve the chief engineer while Kira and one other crewmember rounded about the Cardassian scientists and shoved them inside the runabout.
Then things began to go wrong. O’Brien, slightly breathless, was calling from Engineering. The situation was drastic; the field was failing, and he needed help to short circuit the matter-antimatter flux.
Kira was already running when he hit his communicator button to acknowledge the call; he arrived in the engineering room at a dead run. The few spare minutes they had ticked away mercilessly. Flippantly, he thought that they would not have time to realise they would be dying if the chambers imploded.
At the console, O’Brien was trying frantically to be in two places at the same time. Kira assessed the situation at a glance, and rushed to the second panel to switch off the secondary antimatter controls while O’Brien stabilized the rush of corrupted energy in the main chambers. The short circuit was essential, as it would give them the few extra minutes they needed to come back to the hangar deck and the relative safety of the runabout.
They had just completed the rigging up when Kira heard the moan. It came from one of the secondary rooms which opened on the main engineering room. He tried the door handle, but it was locked.
“Chief, there’s someone in there!” Then, to reach whoever it was who was locked in this room, he bellowed “Stand aside! I’m going to blast the door to get you out!” At this very moment, O’Brien announced, quite calmly, “Everything is going to implode in one to three minutes. We don’t have enough time to get back to the runabout.”
Kira turned to O’Brien, looked sharply at the man, and hit his comm button in the same movement. “Kira to runabout. Implement immediate launching procedure. O’Brien and I will beam back on DS9. No time left. Acknowledge.”
Carter, The young officer Kira had taken as his second in command for this mission did not discuss the order. “Acknowledged. Procedure starting now. Good luck, Major.”
Kira turned his attention back to the door. He fired on it several time until the lock broke. Then he kicked it with the heel of his boot until the door opened. He rushed into the room, which was dark. He searched frantically for a light switch, found it, and spotted immediately the huddled figure on the floor. No, not unconscious - but not fully conscious either. The prisoner was moaning and trying to crawl to the door. There was blood on his face, his hands, his chest. So much blood... As he watched, Kira saw the Cardassian try to push himself upright, and collapse with a scream as his right arm gave way under him. A pain-filled face turned up to him and bitter, disjointed words reached his ears :
“Couldn’t you let me die... alone ? Have to... watch me suffer... don’t you ? I... won’t... beg...”
The voice faded and the strikingly blue eyes closed slowly. Kira registered some surprise in the back of his mind that the Cardassian had such a fair complexion, unlike the other members of his race. Still, he had only stopped for a fraction of a second. He bent down towards the fallen Cardassian, and took him up in a fireman’s lift. The man was not as large as most of the other Cardassians Kira had met, but he was still bigger and heavier than the slim Bajoran. Good, trained muscles came to Kira’s aid; he lifted the dead weight with a grunt and began to go back to the main room.
The doomed ship lurched mightily as Kira passed the door. He was thrown across the room. He managed to hold onto the limp form across his shoulders, but his ankle wrenched sideways in the process.
“... Three to beam aboard in a few seconds,” O’Brien was saying. Seeing Kira staggering under the weight, O’Brien quickly joined him and supported part of the Cardassian’s unconscious body. Kira hit his button. "Teleport now!"
The dangers of teleportation under such circumstances were very real, as Kira and O’Brien realized during the interval of non-being that was normally so short as to be impossible to notice by a sentient life form. This time, the interference with the disintegrating field almost negated the capacity of the transporter to reintegrate correctly the molecules caught in the teleporting beam. The reintegration, instead of being instantaneous, took several nanoseconds. A little longer, and irreversible damage would have occurred, up to and including the materialisation on the transporter pads of an unrecognizable lump of living material - which would not have stayed alive very long. All spacefaring personnel had heard during their training of the famous incident which had cost the lives of Admiral Lori Ciani and Commander Sonak as they were being beamed aboard the legendary Kirk’s Enterprise. Such an incident was rare, but dreaded. During the nanoseconds of delay, Kira felt as if he was being torn apart; he heard a scream, saw O’Brien’s mouth open wide and fill up all the visual space like some distorted, monstrous whale ready to swallow the little Jonases they had become. Then the mouth transformed itself into an image of the wormhole, with all its swirling shapes and colors, dizzying and ominous. Another high pitched scream - this time he recognized he was the one whose mouth had released the anguished plea. Suddenly, a third entity appeared in their microcosm. It was frightened, hurting, and yet its mind had a curious kind of detached clarity - of indifference. Kira’s ghostly hand extended to the entity and touched it gently. A sense of kinship submerged him, and he suddenly wanted to comfort the entity, to tell it that things were going to be all right, to trust him, that he was going to pull them out of this predicament. The entity’s detachment shattered, showing the turmoil inside, the longing, the fears. Then, the rematerialisation took them, and Kira lost his sense of togetherness with the entity, the Cardassian, he realized with a jolt, as they painfully and messily crumpled on the transporter pads.
“Rough ride, eh?” Bashir said to Kira, while his hands were efficiently assessing the damages on the Cardassian’s body. O’Brien got to his feet, only to collapse on the stretcher that two orderlies had thoughtfully put beside him. Kira felt the worse for wear, and his ankle refused to hold him when he stood up. Another stretcher received him. Julian Bashir was busy putting various tubes into the Cardassian’s arms and attaching special monitoring devices to his torso and temples. As soon as he was done with his most critical patient, the little procession of stretchers went back to sickbay. Bashir spent some time assessing the Cardassian’s condition and fixing as much of the damage as he could.
The man had suffered extensive bruising, as if he had been beaten. He had a particularly nasty hematoma on his lower back, over the right kidney, and a large gash along his left shoulder blade, still bleeding sluggishly. Other shallower cuts covered the rest of his back and his chest. One of his nipples had been half torn away. The damages extended to his belly and thighs as well as to his buttocks: cuts and bruises everywhere.
To Bashir, this reeked not of an accident, but of deliberate torture. The trauma of teleportation was probably affecting him too, as it was affecting Kira and O’Brien, two healthy and resilient characters, who were presently very much occupied at retching the entire content of their stomachs in the bowls provided near their beds.
As Bashir’s examination of the Cardassian progressed, he found further evidence of the deliberate mistreatment of the young Cardassian, up to and including the evidence of rape, probably with some large device, as the man was also bleeding internally.
The discovery sickened him, and he wondered once more at how humanoid beings could so abuse each others. No race it seemed, was immune to the brutality that the humans had shown for most of their history. In fact, they looked almost tame compared to some species - the Klingons, or the Cardassians, to name but a few!
Once the Cardassian’s condition was stabilised, Bashir went to assess Kira’s and O’Brien’s well-being. They were going to suffer some residual nausea and dizziness from their near miss with the transporter beam, but no lasting damage had occurred. Bashir decided he would probably release the two men to their quarters with the recommendation to take it easy for a few days. When he arrived to Kira’s side, though, the Bajoran was pale and sweating with the pain of his wrenched ankle. He had not wanted to interfere with the care of the wounded Cardassian, but he was glad Bashir had turned his attention to him. Too proud to ask the orderlies for a painkiller, he waited impatiently for Bashir to propose one. Assessing the situation, Bashir injected him at once without even asking for his permission.
“I think O’Brien will be able to be released to Keiko’s care, but I’m afraid I’ll have to keep you here a few days. I’ll mend your ankle, but you still won’t be able to use it immediately. You’ll be better off here, with all your needs taken care of!” Bashir smiled his childish, good-humored smile, taking years off his already young-looking face.
Kira smiled fondly at the young doctor, remembering their brief liaison. It had been a mistake, because Bashir was not homosexual, maybe not even bisexual. He had crossed a bad patch about his infatuation with the beautiful, cool, unattainable, more than three hundred years old Jadzia Dax.
Kira, attracted from the beginning to the seductive young man, had sought his company and made his move at a moment when Bashir was particularly depressed over Dax, something Kira could not know. In a devil-may-care way, Bashir had thrown himself headlong in the relationship to try and forget Dax. But things were not so easy when one was not truly attracted to their own sex. Kira soon sussed out the truth and extracted a full confession from Julian during the night when the young doctor cried as Kira tried to kiss him. Much more emotionally mature than his lover, Kira comforted him, and held him in a sexless embrace all night while the young man sobbed himself to sleep. They had a long talk the morning after. They agreed on ceasing their sexual relationship as it was obviously not what Julian needed, but Kira did not withdraw his friendship and support. Eventually, Julian came to a sort of peace over his unrequited love for the beautiful Trill. Kira knew the truth: Julian’s banter with Jadzia hid a very real pain, but an accepted, integrated one, a pain which was no longer stunting his emotional growth.
Kira had come to terms with his attraction too. He had not truly been in love with Julian, merely in lust, tempered with genuine friendship. It allowed him to be generous when the relationship came to an end. Unlike the young doctor, though, he was almost exclusively homosexual, his affairs with women few and far between, and usually unsatisfying or frustrating. He had stopped for some time looking in that direction and was presently at a loose end. The opportunities for homosexual relationships did not present themselves very often in the closed world of a space station...
And the one-night stands no longer appealed to him. In short, he was longing for a steady relationship. Someone of his own, to hold and to care for... “Dream on!” he thought. “In my line of work, it’s not very likely... Oh, who cares! I’ll just have to learn to take the good things as they come...”
Relief from the pain of his wound and the residual reactions from his experience with the transporter soon overwhelmed Kira’s resistance and he fell asleep. Julian knew that his resilient friend would be up and about in a couple of days.
But he was much more concerned about the young Cardassian’s condition. The mere fact that he had not regained consciousness was worrying, for it was inexplicable. The Cardassian scientist’s wounds had been tended to and he was already almost healed physically. Some spots would remain tender for a few days, he would keep a scar on his shoulder blade, and maybe suffer some traumatic ache in his lower back, but he was basically cured. He should have been awake, or close to waking. But his EEG showed deep unconsciousness. He left the Cardassian under monitoring and went to his office to call Commander Sisko and discuss proceedings with him. It took no great insight to realise that the Cardassian in the sickbay would be danger if his presence came to the other Cardassians’ knowledge. His imprisonment in this room had obviously been no accident. He had been deliberately beaten and abused, then left there to die. But what had he done to deserve such a fate? Not that anything, in Bashir’s opinion, could warrant such mistreatment of another being, but he knew how the Cardassians’ mind worked. Soldiers at heart, the whole lot of them, even the scientists: prone to snap judgments and harsh actions - and revenge. A safe bet was that the wounded Cardassian had done something drastic, and been punished for it - condemned to death for it. It left them with a very sensitive situation: a shipful of rescued Cardassians, who normally had every right to reclaim their wounded comrade. Bashir had already made his decision; he was not about to hand them back the defenseless young man placed in his care.
As it turned, Sisko, once apprised of the situation, agreed both with Bashir’s evaluation of the problem and with his decision to protect the wounded Cardassian.
“For as long as we can, we’ll try and hide the presence of the prisoner. But I’m not happy with how they'll react when they find out we deliberately lied to them”, Sisko said. “Put him under guard. If Gul Gerak finds we have him, he may well attempt some drastic move to recover his crewmember. It should be done discreetly...”
“Well, Commander”, Bashir interrupted, “in this case I may have an idea which could work. Major Kira and Chief O’Brien are recovering in sickbay. I could keep them both here. Well, I was going to keep Ner- Major Kira a few days anyway, he’s got a badly sprained ankle. But I think we’d better keep O’Brien too, and warn them of our fears.”
“Yes, Doctor Bashir, you do that! I’ll be in sickbay in a few moments to see Kira and O’Brien.”
“Better wait an hour or so, they’re sleeping off the effect of the transporter malfunction, and Major Kira also had a painkiller for his ankle.”
“All right. I’ll be there in precisely one hour.”
Bashir, somewhat relieved by his commander’s approbation, returned to his patients. Both Kira and O’Brien were asleep; the Cardassian was still unconscious. Annoying not to know his name, thought Bashir, I don’t like referring to him as ‘the Cardassian’. Particularly as he is obviously not entirely Cardassian. Evidently, he was a half-blood; Human blood, Bashir surmised, for his complexion was nearer a Human one than a Cardassian one, and the ridges on his face, neck and chest were much less accentuated that those of a full-blood Cardassian. Of course, he could also be half-Bajoran, but the absence of a ridged nose made it less probable.
Bashir waited for almost an hour, then checked again the monitoring devices. He was relieved to see that the young man was now closer to consciousness. He was becoming agitated too. His head moved restlessly on the pillow, and he began muttering broken, half-formed words. At first, Bashir could make very little sense out of them. As he listened more closely, some words connected together in a kind of subdued plea: “No... Nooo... I did not... Leave me alone! I haven’t... They lie! Aaahhh!” A longish, anguished scream, then the muttering resumed. “I... won’t... beg... Let me... die alone... Always been... alone. I hate you! Hate you! I won’t beg!” Those last words were loud and clear, and the Cardassian opened his eyes. He suddenly sat bolt upright in the bed, disconnecting some of the tubing and sensors in doing so.
Bashir took him gently by the shoulders, not trying to push him back on the bed to avoid panicking his patient furthermore.
“You’re safe, you're on Deep Space Nine, you’ve been healed and you’re safe, you’re among friends.” Bashir’s warm brown eyes plunged into the startlingly blue eyes of his charge, and he saw the eyes lose their wilderness, only to become bleak and hopeless. The young Cardassian let himself fall back on the bed with a resigned sigh.
“Friends? I have no friends... When you hand me back to Gul Gerak, he’s going to have me killed. Make it quick, please. I don’t want to have to wait too long for it.”
The last words were a mere whisper. The hopeless eyes closed again, but Bashir knew, from the tension around the mouth, that the Cardassian had not lost consciousness again.
“We’re not going to hand you back without a hell of a fight! Commander Sisko will be here to see you in a short time.” While talking, he was monitoring the vital signs of the young man on the medical panel, and he did not like what he saw. His blood pressure was way too high, he was running a temperature, and all the metabolic signs of high stress were present.
“You need rest for now”, Bashir murmured. “Try to relax.” He replaced the dislodged tubes and took that opportunity to add to the perfusion a light sedative, which would enable the young man to rest till Sisko came here to try and know a little more about the situation in which they’d found themselves implicated.
When Sisko arrived in sickbay an hour later, both Kira and O'Brien were awake, if still somewhat groggy from shock and drugs. The Cardassian was beginning to wake up again from his drug-induced sleep. Sisko sat near the bed where the still-agitated man was lying.
"You're among friends, calm down, I only want to know your name and the reasons why you were beaten and locked in this room."
The Cardassian's eyes flew open at that and he rasped "...not only beaten... abused... condemned to death... they'll kill me as soon as you hand me back to them. I have done nothing... NOTHING!" His voice rose and his agitation increased until he was trying feebly to sit up. He had no strength left, and collapsed back on the pillows, panting.
"I am not going to hand you back to Gul Gerak without a good reason, believe me!" Sisko said. "Please tell me your name at least. I'd like to be able to address you properly."
"Bodak, Dru Bodak..." The young man whispered, then he added with a curious snarl, "But you can call me bastard, that's the name Gul Gerak preferred to give me! He asked his lieutenant to castrate me before dumping me in the engineering deck... said this way, I won't be making more bastards like me... but he beat me... raped me instead, with... not with his... He used a torch he had with him... then he knocked me off, fled the room, I think. No time left to carry out his instructions."
The four men, Sisko and Bashir near the bed, and the other two in their own beds, were appalled at the callousness of the Gul and the bitterness in the voice of the young man.
"Why?" Sisko asked softly.
"Why?" Dru's voice was flat, drained of all emotion by his previous outburst. "They accused me of sabotaging the ship. I had no way to prove they were wrong, to defend myself. They never accepted what I am, the half-human son of a slave... I've been set up, but I could not..." His voice broke and he fell silent. His haunted blue gaze turned inwards, reliving the nightmarish event.
Before Sisko had time to speak again, the young man said softly:
"I wish you had let me die on the ship... it would have been over, no more pain or fear... Now I'll have to go through this all over again... I don't think I'll have the strength..."
Kira, whose temper was always close to the surface, had been boiling at the tale the Cardassian was telling. He jumped from the diagnostic bed, winced as his bad ankle gave a very definite twinge, and limped to Bodak's bed.
"Are you crazy? D'you think we'll let them have you and... and... mutilate and murder you? No way, mate! We have you, we keep you! And they can go to hell!" Then he turned a somewhat sheepish face to his Commander, looking for Sisko's assent. Bashir was hard put not to laugh at Kira's and Sisko's expression. The plight the young half-breed was in helped him keep a serious face. What had befallen the young man was no joke. He had barely escaped mutilation and death, and his situation was presently not the most secure in the Federation.
Sisko hastened to confirm Kira's words, although he made a mental note to give his boisterous second a proper dressing-down for overstepping his authority once again.
He could see that Bodak was only half-believing his reassurances, more used to treachery than to openness.
Bashir drew discreetly Sisko aside, leaving Kira hovering protectively at Dru's bedside. From the corner of his eye, he saw the Bajoran smile at the wounded man, and smooth the black bangs on his forehead. Kira murmured something that Bashir was too far to hear, but he caught the little sigh the Cardassian gave, and saw him close his eyes in weariness. He was asleep again in seconds, and Kira hopped back to the diagnostic bed. Bashir imparted to Sisko the worries he had about his Cardassian patient's state of health, mainly his mental health. Sisko reminded him that ensuring the physical protection of the young man was an absolute priority, on the grounds that one had to be alive to have psychological problems.
Bashir quite agreed with his analysis.
"Having him protected by Kira and O'Brien seems perfect to me! Not too intrusive or too obvious, as everyone knows they've been admitted in sickbay after the transporter incident."
Sisko and Bashir came back to Kira's bed, on the edge of which O'Brien was perched, obviously believing he was going to be released from sickbay.
"Major Kira, Chief O'Brien," Sisko began abruptly, "You're both needing to recuperate and you'll do that better in sickbay..." Sisko smiled when he saw the ready denial in his second's eyes, and explained fully his protection plan to the two attentive men.
The next three days were rather uneventful. The Cardassian had been able to leave his bed on the second day. He walked around the room, supported by O'Brien, as Kira's ankle was still too weak to properly hold his own weight, let alone that of another, heavier body.
Bashir had insisted on having the young Cardassian walk and exercise as much as he could for he had a hunch that he would need his strength back as quickly as possible. Besides, it helped to keep his mind off his woes for some time, and that was positive too. Slowly, the young man, without totally relaxing his guard, was beginning to believe that these men were not meaning him any harm. More, they actively wanted him well. Kira, particularly, had made overtures of friendship that Dru found difficult to resist. The curly-haired Bajoran was always swift to come to Bodak's side if he awoke screaming from some nightmare - which happened five times in three days, virtually every time the young man slept or even dozed off during the day. Kira talked gently to him, reassuring him in the panicky moments where the Cardassian was suspended on the edge of sleep, still half-caught in his nightmare, not really knowing where he was or who was there. But he had come to rely on the soft, bass voice which crooned him back to reality. During these three days, he got used to seeing concerned green eyes and a chipped-tooth smile greeting him every time he settled back in the real world. It made him feel somewhat steadier, more secure than he'd ever felt, even if he tried to resist counting too much on the Bajoran's presence and help.
Kira, for his part, had recognized the attraction he felt towards the Cardassian almost at once. He was not one used to hiding from the truth, and he knew, as soon as the second day, that he was in lust with the beautiful Cardassian. He also knew that the young man was in no state to be bothered with such things. Bashir had reluctantly agreed with Sisko that Bodak's guards should be apprised of what had happened to him. He did not like divulging details of the medical condition of a patient to non-medical personnel, but in this case it was necessary. Kira and O'Brien needed to know exactly what Dru faced if he was taken back by the Cardassians. Besides, there was some half-forgotten event nagging at Kira's mind like a tooth ache. Some memories were coming back from the disjointed time lapse during the teleportation.
He remembered an entity talking wordlessly to his mind, reaching out to him. He remembered the sense of kinship he'd had with the entity, and he also remembered the jolt with which he realized the entity was the rescued Cardassian. Oh yes, he remembered and it made him thrust his lust to the back of his mind, and put the Cardassian's well-being to the forefront. For the time being he was content to care for the young man, and felt absurdly happy when he managed to make the sad blue eyes look a little less hapless, a little less bleak. And yet he felt great reticence on Bodak's part, as if he could not really let himself believe that Kira, O'Brien and the others only wanted to help him.
Nonetheless, Kira felt he was making some progress in winning Dru's trust.
On the fourth day, Bashir had every reason to be proud of the elaborate precautions he'd suggested to guard the Cardassian. There were no official demands to return the prisoner. As far as they knew, the Cardassian were not aware Bodak was on the station. And yet, an attempt was made against Bodak's life.
Bodak had felt exceptionally well on the morning of that day. The regen units had worked wonders on his wounds, and if he was by no means entirely healed, he was well on his way to recovery. Walking was still uncomfortable, but he ploughed along doggedly, exercising as much as he could, which was not a lot yet. Kira, his ankle almost back to normal on the fourth day, had even shown him a few mild, static calisthenics. They had moved together under the benevolent gaze of Miles O'Brien, who considered himself too old to indulge in the same puppy games as these two were. Miles, in his own opinion, was getting all the exercise he could handle with the occasional tennis match with Bashir; not to mention the nighttime activities with Keiko. His wife might not be very big, but she was very strong-minded. She knew exactly what she wanted, and, most nights, this included Miles' energetic loving.
The engineer suddenly wondered why he was thinking of making love to his wife as he watched the two young men going through their moves. Sure, he had his suspicions about Kira... Miles had never known him to have a steady female relationship in the two years he'd been on the station. And he'd seen a lot of Bashir at one time...
The young Bajoran had not been obvious about it, but he had not exactly gone to great lengths to hide his inclinations either.
O'Brien was a "live and let live" man. That Kira was probably homosexual did not bother him at all, but it explained his suddenly sexually-oriented thoughts. There was sensuality in the way the young man moved. No one could pretend he was making a pass at the Cardassian, yet there was some unspoken tension between them... No, not tension, a - sparkle - was nearer to the truth.
Yes, Miles decided. That was it. A sparkle. A sense of kinship, of belonging; and of honest-to-god lust. The same he experienced with Keiko, in fact.
The Cardassian always seemed to be on the defensive; yet he started to respond to the offered friendship and was slowly opening to the warmth with which he was surrounded, like a desert plant suddenly blooming after a life-giving rain.
The Cardassians were stern people, Miles knew, but they must have been particularly harsh to a half-breed. Apart from those few muttered words when the young man came to in sickbay, they had not been made privy to all the hardship that Dru had endured, but they had a good idea of what a life made up of frustrations and debasement could be like. It was more than probable that Bodak had a somewhat low opinion of himself, and was lacking in self-confidence. Not to mention the fact that he was living with the fear of being taken back by his "fellow" Cardassians.
Finished with the calisthenics, the young men went to the shower cubicle and indulged in a water shower, each in a separate booth, a fact Kira regretted. He'd have liked to get a glimpse of the Cardassian's body. He'd never before been attracted to a member of their species, but there was no way he could deny it: he was attracted to the half-breed, even if he was able to pull the lid on these untimely urges. Kira also recognized that beside the physical attraction there were some different, deeper feelings on his part, a gentler emotion, which allowed him to give time to whatever was building between them.
Kira did not know what alerted him to a problem in the shower booth next to his own. There was no sound, no material clue as to what was going wrong. Later, Kira would find himself telling Sisko that he'd heard a faint humming sound. He almost came to believe it himself, but there had been no sound. Only the absolute certainty that Dru was in trouble. He bolted from his cubicle, heart racing, and called to his companion:
There was no answer. He hit at once the override button, and heard the whoosh of air rushing into the cubicle.
Into it ? He thought disjointedly, at the same time seeing the Cardassian crumpled on the floor, curled into a fetal ball. Then he was dragging the unconscious body out of the shower stall, yelling for medical help as he went. When Bashir dropped beside Bodak, Kira was alread administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, for the half-breed had not been breathing when the door opened on the small room, almost totally emptied of air.
Kira had sensed at once what the problem was. He'd felt his own chest constricting and pumping for air which was no longer there. Then he felt his lungs giving up the battle, and his consciousness fading away quickly. The phantom sensations coexisted with the feeling of his own real lungs taking in air normally and easily. Kira had not had time to wonder about the strangeness of it all. He was a man of action, and he did what was necessary to save his friend's life.
After several seconds, the broad chest picked up moving on its own again. Bashir had his patient transported to a medical scanning bed. "There's little physical damage done except from a rather nasty bump on the left temple, probably sustained during his fall - but he's going to have some headaches to contend with on top of everything else!" The doctor grumbled.
But there was not the slightest doubt: had Kira not acted when he did, the booth would have lost all its air, as the station logbook showed. A few seconds in total vacuum would have sealed the young Cardassian's fate.
The psychological damage, however, was difficult to assess. It was easy to understand that it would do no good to the man's self-confidence, or to his already shaky belief that things were going to be all right.
After the assassination attempt, Bashir insisted on having Bodak undertake psychotherapy, but Bodak refused with a peculiar stubbornness. Bashir thought better to let it rest for the time being. Security was reinforced. Sisko had the computer systems of the sickbay running on a separate power/control unit, manned by O'Brien and his men.
This ensured that no electronic tampering program could be run from another part of the station. It appeared that the 'malfunction' of the booth had been remotely controlled by unidentified individuals tapping into the system at a control access hatch. The physical security of the sickbay was also reinforced. Two guards joined O'Brien and Kira in their protective mission.
Predictably, two days later, Gul Gerak asked to have his crewmember back. He demanded to know why he had not been informed of the young man's rescue. "Medical reasons" was all Sisko answered. It sounded rather weak, even to his own ears. He continued to refuse to send Bodak back, on medical grounds, and pending the examination of a claim the young man made that he had been deliberately left to die. Gul Gerak pretended that the matter did not belong to Sisko's jurisdiction. Sisko reminded him of the fact that criminal procedures had to be conducted by the commander of the station. Besides, Dru Bodak, being half-human, had opted for and been granted Terran citizenship.
This was Sisko's trump card. He knew it would not stop Gul Gerak trying to snatch back the 'traitor', or another anonymous attempt on his life, but it effectively silenced the official demands.
The problem was that Sisko had no authority to grant such citizenship. The young man's application had been sent by the fastest way possible to Starfleet Headquarters, the only instance which could grant the citizenship. Still, the answer would take a few days to come back. It was only a matter of time.
Time was precisely what Bodak did not have. If handed back to Gul Gerak, he would probably be summarily executed. Despite the Gul's protestations of fair judgment, it was painfully clear that Bodak would not live to meet his judges. Or, if he did, that he would receive the only verdict Cardassian judges ever gave, for the improvement of citizens' morale and the glory of Cardassia: guilty.
Hence Sisko's lie about the procedure.
To everyone's relief, the citizenship grant arrived in less than a week. Sisko immediately informed his second in command of the good news, and Kira could not wait to tell his friend. The young Cardassian was still in sickbay, pending the receipt of the grant. Then he would be transferred to civilian quarters on the station. Sisko hoped that the citizenship claim would forestall the Cardassians' attacks on Bodak. He knew that the young man would have to be quite cautious for some time, because the Cardassians were not renowned for forgetfulness or forgiveness. But Bodak was, after all, a rather small fish in a rather large pond...
Kira, a hardcopy of the grant in his hands, bounded into sickbay. He'd said to Sisko that he would take the opportunity to settle the young man in his quarters before resuming his normal duties. He was rather dissatisfied with having to stop Bodak's protection, but he understood that it could not be done forever. However, he promised to himself to keep as close an eye as he could on his friend. He knew that O'Brien too would help as much as possible, for he had come to like and respect the young Cardassian. Besides, as Bodak began to feel better, they had found much in common. Both were engineers and delighted in technical mumbo-jumbo which was far beyond Kira's grasp, despite his working knowledge of the basics of the station's design and engineering. This knowledge, however, was not an in-depth one. He knew enough to help Sisko run the station in an efficient manner, that was all.
O'Brien had brought some technical manuals for Bodak to study while he was stuck in sickbay, and they could spend hours debating some theoretical point, to Kira's slight dismay.
Up to now, Kira hadn't had much time to think of what Bodak could do for a living if his citizenship claim was accepted. He thought about it on the way to sickbay and found that a civilian posting as technician, under O'Brien's supervision, would be a handy solution. A fleet posting was out of the question. One had to graduate from Starfleet Academy to get that. A civilian posting needed only competence and training. Bodak had the former and could easily begin the latter on the station. O'Brien for one would be glad to oblige.
Bodak received the news in a subdued manner, as if he could not believe it was quite real. He wasn't used to having so many people striving for his welfare. Unfortunately, he had been dealt so much unfairness in his life that he had come to associate change with bad tidings automatically.
When Kira handed him the citizenship papers, they found out that Dru had been given the full name of William Andrew Philip Bodie, as the half-Cardassian had only thought to ask for his mother’s name, and had mentioned nothing about his first name.
“So,” Kira asked, “how would you like me to call you? William? Andrew? Dru could be kind of short for Andrew, you know.”
“I think I’d like to go by Bodie only,” he’d said then. “Those first names mean nothing to me, but my mother’s name… I don’t have much left from her, except memories, and her name. And Dru… it’s not such a good memory, either.”
“Bodie…” Kira said, as if he was tasting the name. “Yes, I think it suits you. I’ll call you that, and I’ll let the others know it’s your name, now. What would you say about calling me “Ray”? Kira is my family name, and it's a bit official. My first name is Neray, but my mother always called me Ray. I don’t know why… I never thought to ask, and now… it’s too late."
There was pain in his eyes as he said that, Bodie saw. He deduced that Kira’s - Ray’s – mother was dead, but he did not dare ask about it. It seemed too personal, and even if the young Cardassian would have liked to know, and maybe to help ease his friend’s pain, he felt that it was not his place to do so.
When Kira told him of his new quarters, he followed rather meekly but without much enthusiasm.
"I realise you may need some time to get accustomed to such a change in your life", Kira said. "Your job is going to be different; you'll have to learn new things... Well, I know O'Brien and his family are willing to help you as much as they can. And I'll be there too. Don't be afraid to call on me when I'm off-duty, I'll be glad to be of help."
"Thank you, Ray, Bodie said. But I know all of you are quite busy, and I don't want to bother you or make too many demands on your time."
"It won't be an imposition if we are willing to help you, as we are! Please, don't hesitate to ask!"
If truth be told, there was much more that Kira wanted to say, but he felt so many fears in his Cardassian friend that he could not voice all his thoughts. Not now, anyway. This is much too early to even hint at anything beside simple friendship. Although I bet he's as attracted to me as I am to him... Only he's probably unable to identify his own feelings at this stage...
They parted after Kira helped Bodak to settle in. Kira showed him the various functions of the command panels of the cabin, how to turn the day couch into a wide bed, and how to order food and clothing from the synthetiser.
"See, you choose the size here -" Kira pushed a key on the panel, "- once you know your size in Federation measures, of course. There's a chart here (he showed Bodie another key) to find it. For finer clothes, you can always go to Garak's shop. As you may know, he's a Cardassian, the only one who stayed on the station when Cardassia evacuated Bajoran space. He's a strange fellow, but a nice one."
"What do you mean?"
"His closest friend is doctor Bashir. A very unlikely combination, wouldn't you say? A doctor and a tailor... Seems they can't have much in common, and yet... They go along like a house on fire!"
Bodak smiled, which made him look years younger. Made him look about his real age, in fact.
"Doctor Bashir is a very nice, compassionate person. I'm not surprised this - Garak? - would want him as his friend. As the only Cardassian on the station, he must get very lonely at times..."
The young man's eyes closed. Obviously, he was thinking of his own isolation.
"Oh, Garak is well accepted here! He's the one who keeps to himself. But he went out of his way to befriend Bashir, or so they tell me! There is a lot of a gossip going on in such a cooped-up community, you know... Speculations, rumours..."
"Like..." The green-eyed Bajoran smiled impishly. "Like, Garak lusts after Julian's beautiful bod... Like he's besotted with the good doctor, who doesn't know by which end to catch such an unlikely suitor."
Looking very serious, Bodak replied, after a short silence: "But it's not all that unlikely on Cardassia. I mean, male bonding between very close friends... Don't humans... or Bajorans... have this custom also?"
"I guess they do, at that! Kira said with a wry smile. Although maybe not as... overtly, at least on Bajor. No, what people think unlikely is that particular pairing. They seem so different from each other! Garak is so cunning, devious, and Bashir looks so naive... But then he may not be! And besides, this is only gossip, eh?"
When Bodak was settled in, Kira went back to his quarters, rather pleased with himself. His little indiscretion has worked well. Bodie would have heard the rumours in a very short while anyway, and it gave Kira food for thoughts: his young half-Cardassian friend was not likely to be horrified if he made a pass at him. He still didn't know if he would respond, but he wasn't going to give Kira a mouthful of knuckles.
Three days went by before they met again. Ray had been obliged to entertain a visiting Bajoran dignitary, and this left him no time to seek Bodie. When the dignitary went back to Bajor, he went immediately to Bodie's cabin.
Ray and Bodie normally worked the day shift; for the duration of the Bajoran VIP's visit, Ray had virtually worked day and night, grabbing only a few hours sleep after the end of the formal diners with Sisko and his officers. He was rather the worse for wear at the end of this spell of duty, but decided to go and see Bodie instead of going to sleep as his body insisted. Those diplomatic duties grated on his proverbially-thin patience. He was less tired after a physical endeavour than after mere talks with diplomats.
The young half-breed had finished his working day under O'Brien supervision. The Chief Engineer was satisfied with his student's progress and was confident that he would be able to handle his job alone in two weeks or so. Bodie was a good engineer; he only needed to learn about the specifics of the job that had been assigned to him. He was going to be the assistant of the civil engineer who catered for the station's supply in power and breathable air. Tomlin, the engineer responsible, had very little time for training his second, so Sisko had arranged this particular training with O'Brien. Besides, it gave him a good reason to keep O'Brien near the Cardassian and thus give him a little extra protection.
Ray found Bodie rather subdued. He was investing a lot of energy in learning his job. As his strength was still under par, he tired easily.
"That bad, uh?" Kira commented at the dispirited response he got to his question about how the day had gone.
"No. I shouldn't complain, given all you and the others on the station have been doing for me. I guess I'm just too exhausted to be rational about it."
"Makes two of us then. That diplomat was one of the worst of his kind! Kept nattering about things we know and can't change. Sisko was bored to tears and I would gladly have shoved the guy through the nearest airlock. Only thing that stopped me was that I did not want to spend the rest of my life in jail.”
That elicited a smile from the young Cardassian.
“That would have been a shame, indeed. I don’t think I’d have liked to visit you in a cell. My cabin, or yours, is a much more pleasant venue, even if they’re a bit cramped. And there is the promenade, which makes up for the lack of space in the living accommodations."
“Oh? So you went there already?”
Ray was somewhat worried, because on the promenade, Bodie would be much more exposed than during his working hours or the time he spent with him. But the young half-breed could not be permanently confined to his quarters, Kira's or O' Brien's quarters, or the engineering rooms.
“Yes, twice. The last time was today. You know, perhaps, that Commander Sisko gave me an allowance, an advance on my engineer salary. I wanted to go to Garak’s shop, to get a set of extra clothes, as you suggested. You were right; he’s a rather nice fellow. He did not seem to resent my presence in his shop, although he was not overly friendly, either."
“Well, that’s Garak for you! As I told you, he’s only really close to Julian. To my knowledge, he doesn’t have very much to do with Cardassians, although we have some on the station, from time to time, like now, for instance. I know nothing of his past on Cardassia, but I can make an educated guess that he wasn’t very happy there. He’s elected to stay on DS9 when the Cardassians evacuated Terok Nor. He’s the only one who did so, and he wasn’t the only non-military personnel here. Unlike you, he’s a full-blooded Cardassian, but I don’t think he was much more accepted by the other Cardassian than you were.”
“I beg to differ, Ray. Whatever his background is, he wasn't a slave, as was I. Maybe he wasn’t happy in a militaristic society, though. I could have been, if this opportunity had been opened to me. I’ve always liked martial arts, wrestling and such, but I did not have many chances to practice them. I was banned from everything, denied any kind of learning or education, except what my mother could teach me. It wasn’t a lot, and she died a while ago. From a broken heart, I would say. Even caring for me wasn’t enough to make her want to continue living as a slave…”
“Bodie, she may not have had a choice in this, either. You don’t die from a broken heart, but from a broken spirit or body. It’s not the same thing. I can feel your mother loved you, and gave you all she could. And maybe it wasn’t enough, but not through any fault of her own.”
“You’re right, of course. But sometimes, I just can’t help being bitter about it all. And wondering why my genitor tolerated me for so long. After my mother's death, he even allowed me to learn engineering, which was almost unheard of for a slave's son. I came to think he may have had a bit of paternal interest in me, after all... And then he sent me on that ship and arranged for my assassination on board it. Because I’m quite sure it’s what he did.”
“You may be right about this. I can’t pretend to know what was on his mind, though. Maybe he suddenly realized you really were, after all, his son…”
“You mean his bastard,” Bodie interrupted with a twisted, bitter smile.
“Whatever. And, for some reason, maybe political, he didn’t want to keep you around. Maybe realized you were becoming a man, someone who could threaten him in some way…”
“I don’t know. The progeny of slaves have no status at all on Cardassia, whoever their genitors are. I don’t see how I could have threatened him…”
“Neither do I. But the fact remains that he wanted you killed. Or, anyway, someone did. You must remain watchful at all time. You’re partially protected by you Federation citizenship, I know, but that may not be enough if Gul Gerak renews his attempts against your life. Well, he and his crew should leave in a short while now. I know a Cardassian ship is on its way to pick them up.”
Bodie looked alarmed.
“A military one?”
“I thought all Cardassian ships were military?”
“Yes, but some are manned by scientists and engineers, like the one I was on, with a minimal military crew, and some are exclusively military, with even the cooks and the low-grade maintenance workers being military, of the lowest rank, but still...”
“I should have to ask if this information is available. Cardassians are not very forthcoming, you know.”
“You’re telling me… Ah, never mind, I just hope they go off the station soon and leave me in peace. All I want is to remain here, and work here, under O’Brien’s supervision. He’s a really good man.”
“One of the best! Without him, I’m pretty sure we couldn’t have saved the crew on your ship. He was the only one able to stabilise the antimatter field long enough for the shuttle to depart. Our escape, though – his, mine and yours – owed more to blind luck than to skill. We came very close to death…”
Bodie had asked O’Brien about teleportation under such circumstances, and was well aware their survival was a kind of minor miracle. And the feeling he’d had, during the dematerialisation… He was still intrigued by it, but he had not dared ask O’Brien about it. He would have liked to ask Ray now, but he couldn’t find the wherewithal to do so.
“Yes, I know. And he’s being very good to me. He helps me as much as he can, and that’s something I will never be able to repay. He also invited me for meals in his quarters, and introduced me to his wife. He explained to me that, although Terran like himself, Keiko belongs to a different subspecies than his own. He told me that, among humans, such pairings have not always been approved by various members of both subspecies, although these prejudices are now more a thing of the past, he said.”
“Yes, so I heard. We never had the problem on Bajor, as we have only one species…” Ray decided to change the subject and lighten up the mood. “So, what would you say to going to the promenade, for instance to Quark’s? It’s a lively place, primarily a gambling establishment, but we can get food there, too. After all, Quark was a cook before coming to live on DS9 – Terok Nor, at the time of the Cardassian occupation.”
“I passed in front of this establishment when I went to Garak’s shop. Its owner is a Ferengi, isn’t he?”
“Yep. Another strange but interesting character! We don’t always see eye to eye, though. He’s a bit too devious for me. But his place is nice, and besides, he’ll probably welcome you, because he’s not prejudiced at all against Cardassians, rather the opposite. He once had a romantic relationship with Natima Lang, a Cardassian female. Rumour has it that they still see each other from time to time, and that Quark never really got over her. I must say, she’s really lovely!”
“This station of yours really seems quite multispecies, after all”, Bodie said with a little smile.
“Indeed. And just wait until you meet our Security Officer, Odo. Believe it or not, he sleeps in a bucket - in liquid form!” cackled Ray.
He has an infectious laugh, Bodie thought.
“I seem to recall O’Brien mentioning him. He did not speak of the bucket part, though. But he told me he’s the one responsible for security. He investigated the incident about the shower booth, and discovered the tampering, but he was unable to find the culprits.”
“Yes, I know, said Ray. I’ve read O’Brien’s report. The annoying thing being that several people on DS9 have clearance to access this type of control hatch. But we never thought it could be used for tampering of this nature. And none of the authorised personnel seems guilty. We could place none of them near that hatch, at the time it was opened. We have to assume it had something to do with the Cardassians of your ship. I can guarantee this will not happen again. I had measures implemented to prevent a reoccurrence. A fat lot of good it would have done you, though, if you’d died in that booth!”
“Ah, Ray, don’t beat yourself up about this. You could not have known. And, speaking of that, how did you know I was in trouble?”
That was a good question, Ray thought. A very good question. He’d told Sisko he’d heard a faint humming sound… But, thinking hard about it, he could not actually remember any sound. So, what had alerted him? A sudden sense of foreboding that was the closest he could come to an explanation. And, stranger still, he’d felt his lungs working hard to suck up an almost-absent air…
“I’m not sure. A sound? No. A… feeling? I really can’t explain it, Bodie, I’m sorry. But I sure am damn happy I did feel it at the time, whatever it is.” Ray yawned, and stretched.”Aww, I’m beat. If we don’t start immediately for the promenade, I’ll fall asleep in your cabin!”
Almost two hours later, after a meal at Quark’s, the two men strode leisurely back to the living quarters. They were tired, but pleasantly full after some good food and a few Romulan ales. Ray left Bodie at this cabin, and went to his own, thinking how much he liked the young half-breed. Liked, yes, and lusted after. He’d know almost at once that he was physically attracted to the young man. That was not difficult, as Bodie was more than easy on the eye, and was the type of men the Bajoran liked best: big, powerfully built, and a bit taller than himself. In this respect, Julian had been quite a departure from his usual likes, but opportunities were scarce on board a space station, and, even if he hadn’t been in love with Julian, he’d felt enough friendship for him to compensate for his lack of physical attraction to him.
Of course, there was Gul Dukat... He had all the physical attributes Ray appreciated, but he was too much of a hard, unforgiving character for Ray to feel really interested in him. He liked some gentleness in his lovers, and Dukat, despite his physical appeal, was much too ruthless and cruel for Ray’s taste. In fact, all Cardassians were. The one exception was the young half-breed. Ray thought of him as “young”, even if Bodie was, in fact, only less than two years younger than himself. But his experiences, or lack thereof, made him seem much younger than that. Ray found it not displeasing at all. He was very much attracted to the well-hidden but real vulnerability of the man, coupled with a certain stubborn tenacity. Bodie had decided to make a life for himself on the station, and wanted to learn sufficient skills to be of some importance to the running of DS9. He’d applied himself to it and wasn’t sparing his efforts. He was a fast learner, and not one to abandon his goals easily. That too appealed to Ray, quite a lot, in fact.
Besides, he'd taken up martial arts courses, and was proving not too shabby at them, even if he did lack training, having had so little opportunities to practice. Ray was confident his new-found friend was going to settle well on DS9, and he was looking forward to knowing him better.
The next day, the name of the Cardassian ship was on the duty roster. Ray would forever be unable to pronounce it, but he knew it was Gul Dukat's vessel. As soon as he was off duty, he went to Bodie's quarters to give him the news, as he'd promised.
When he told his friend who the commander of the ship was, Bodie blanched and sat abruptly down on his sofa - truth to tell, he fell more than he sat. Alarmed, Ray joined him and put a hand on Bodie's shoulder.
"What is it? You seem disturbed by that bit of news. Do you know him?"
Bodie didn't answer immediately. His face had taken on the hard, faraway look that Ray was beginning to recognize as a mixture of dismay, fear and worry. He coughed as if to clear his throat, then said, with a deprecating laugh. "Do I know him? Oh, yes, of course! I know him. He's... he's my genitor."
It was Ray's turn to remain silent for a few seconds, so shocked was he by that news. But he shouldn't have been. He knew for a fact that Dukat, along with other commanders, had taken prisoners on Bajor, particularly young and beautiful women, for the express purpose of using them as "comfort women", a term which was a badly disguised euphemism for "sex slaves". And he'd heard rumors that he had fathered at least one child with one of those women. His own mother... But Ray refused to think of her, of what she'd done. It was all in the past, irrelevant now.
"Oh. I'm sorry! If I'd known that... I would have told you with more... more..."
"No need to apologize, Ray. It's not your fault half my genes came from him. That's all he is to me - a gene donor."
"Still, he's your father..."
"No! A father is a man who loves his children, who raises them with respect and affection... He never showed affection for me, barely seemed to know I existed. I guess it was my mother who wrestled from him the right for me to attend an engineering school, barely enough to get me qualified for my job on the ship. I shudder to think about how she managed to get that right for me... Anyway, she died before I began the courses... I wonder if he accepted only so he could get rid of me that way, later..."
"I wouldn't be so sure about that. He could have disposed of you in all kind of other ways, if what I know about Cardassia is accurate. He didn't need to let you live."
"I don't know. Maybe you're right... I used to see his other children in the house, the youngest ones, at least, and they were never friendly with me, they treated me as... as the slave I was. The two older sons never came home, I think they had gotten some command in the Cardassian military. But the remaining five - three boys and two girls - were really nasty. Although I guess they treated me adequately, considering my position... Gul Dukat wasn't home very often. At least, my mother got that - she was left alone most of the time, with not much demand on her time, except a few menial tasks. I wonder if that is what, ultimately, killed her."
"You never told me how she died, Bodie. What happened?"
"She... faded away, in the space of a few months. She got sicker and sicker, and almost never left her bed at the end. She never told me what was wrong, but maybe she knew. Soon after her death, my genitor sent me to the Engineering school. I don't know exactly why. A slave doesn't ask questions of his master... And, when I came back, after my graduation, my genitor placed me on that ship, and... You know most of the rest. Someone sabotaged the ship, and its commander concluded it was me."
"Well, we need to decide what to do about Gul Dukat now. Obviously, he will ask to Gul Gerak where you are. You're a Federation citizen now. We can officially acknowledge your presence on the station, as Gul Gerak can no longer touch you. I think it would be better if your fa- genitor knew the truth ; it would probably stop any other assassination attempts from your old ship's commander. The more I think about it, the less probable it seems to me that Gul Dukat is the one wanting you dead. It doesn't make sense..."
Bodie remained silent a long time. Then, frowning, he said: "Maybe it will be better. Anyway, if I intend to remain on DS9, I can't spend my time hiding from every Cardassian who will set foot on it. Better to clear the air."
"Right. And we should begin by telling Sisko that Dukat is your sire. On arrival, he will go to meet Sisko, as all ships commanders are wont to do. The ship will be here in two standard days. We'll have time to decide with Commander Sisko what to tell Dukat, and to make clear to him that you are now a Terran citizen. Even if he's the one who ordered your assassination attempt, he'll have to think twice about trying it again! And he'll have me and your other friends to contend with, before he'll be able to touch you! But I still don't think he'll do such a thing..."
"I'm not as sure as you are, but Dukat is known among his peers as a man of honour... When it suits him," Bodie added with a wry smile.
The next day, they asked to meet Sisko, and were told to go to his office at 1230. They arrived together, having met just before, at mid-shift. Sisko surmised their request had something to do with the arrival of Dukat's ship and the fact that Gul Gerak would probably try to get his "crewmember" back, using Dukat's importance to try and influence the human commander of the base to give him back. He was, of course, decided to resist any such demands, and he lost no time in letting Bodie and Ray know it. He hadn't been overly surprised that they'd asked to meet him together, as the two young men had become fast friends since the Cardassian ship's rescue.
"Of course, I will make it clear to Dukat that Bodie will never be handed back to his commander! Whoever sabotaged the ship and accused him, and tried to kill him, is still on board, assuming it is not Gul Gerak himself," Sisko said immediately upon the two friends arrival.
"There is more to it, Commander," Ray interjected. "I'll let Bodie explain, but the situation is possibly even more delicate, and, maybe, more explosive."
"Oh? So, Bodie...?" Sisko asked.
"Gul Dukat is my genitor," Bodie said bluntly. "He's the one who kidnapped my mother on Bajor and took her for his "comfort woman". He placed me on that ship after my mother's death. I wonder if it was to get rid of me..."
"Or to protect you," Sisko said, echoing Ray's previous opinion on the matter. "He'll be here tomorrow, and we can get to the bottom of it. Anyway, you won't go back to him or Gul Gerak. Your Terran citizenship ensures this. There's nothing they can do to reclaim you."
"They'd have to go over my dead body to do so!" Kira said heatedly. "And I'm sure O'Brien would back me and help protect Bodie if push came to shove."
"Well, after Dukat sees me, he'll meet Gul Gerak. And I don't doubt that he'll ask to see you after that. Do you want to set up a meeting in my office?"
"No, I'd rather meet him alone..." Bodie said, glancing at Ray, who nodded slightly. "Or in Major Kira's presence, if he doesn't mind-"
"You know I don't!"Ray said. "In fact, had you not asked me, I'd have insisted on you not being alone with him. We can schedule a meeting in my quarters, if you want. Neutral territory."
"I agree," Sisko said. "It would be better this way. I'll tell that to Gul Dukat when I see him."
After the two men left Sisko's office, they went to Ray's quarters, to try and relax as much as they could. Ray has seen how tense Bodie was at the idea of meeting his father, and he wanted to make him forget for a while the oncoming and probably difficult discussion.
Over the course of the last few days, Ray thought he had seen in his friend a measure of interest towards him - not merely friendship, but something stronger, deeper. For his part, he knew his feelings were quickly evolving from lust into love, but he also knew it was altogether too soon to do or say anything about it. First, they had to overcome that momentous hurdle, Bodie's meeting with his father, for the first time not as the bastard son of a slave, but as a free Terran citizen. Ray hoped the interview would not be too damaging to his friend's still precarious balance. He knew Bodie was resilient, strong and determined to make a good life for himself on DS9, but there were times when he could see shadows in his eyes, and a reluctance to talk about his past which indicated unresolved traumas and problems.
And he was determined to help him any way he could.
"Do you want a drink, Bodie?"
"Yeah. Something non-alcoholic, please."
"You got it. Orion tema juice. No alcohol, but very tasty!"
They drank in peaceful silence for a little while, then Ray asked: "Are you really okay with meeting Dukat tomorrow? Oh, why am I asking this? I know you can't be thrilled by this, but there's no choice but to meet him. Even if he doesn't have any more say on your life, you need to make sure he knows this. You need to make sure you know this."
There was again a long silence, fraught with tension this time.
'You're right," Bodie finally said, reluctantly. On everything you said. And I'm not happy about my reaction, but I guess it's hard to shake off a life of slavery in a few moments. Particularly when you have to face the man responsible for it. Not that he ever mistreated me unduly, but, while I grew up in his household, it was always clear I was there on sufferance..."
"I do hope that talking to him will help you free yourself of those memories. You don't owe him anything, and it's time to make it clear."
'I'll try, Ray. That's all I can promise."
"It's more than enough for me, Bodie. Until tomorrow, then..."
End of part 1