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"Language Lessons"
By justTrip’n

Rating PG-13. Characters face a moral dilemma.
Disclaimer: It all belongs to Paramount; no infringement intended.
Genre: Drama.
Summary: In this week’s episode, Julian Bashir inadvertently plays matchmaker for a young Cardassian refugee stuck in a camp on Bajor. Big space soap opera ensues, with surprising twists. Set in the beginning of the second season of DS9.

Author’s Note: The justTrip’n symbiot used to have a different a host. Seems she was REALLY into DS9!

(Seriously, the first version of this story was written twelve years ago, after the first season of Deep Space Nine). Thanks to the actual writers of DS9, who took us far beyond the stars.

No person or event in this story represents any real person or event, though I did borrow a name.

Thanks to Sharon and Bether for betaing, and . . . just because!


Julian Bashir tried again to peel the crying teenager from his shoulder, but the young Cardassian woman clung to her doctor as if for dear life. It happened every so often, that a patient with a scary diagnosis would cry on his shoulder, but this was different. Silently he cursed Garak . . .

He wouldn’t have minded under different circumstances. She was beautiful . . . pale bluish skin; ridges that accentuated high cheekbones; at the moment wet from tears and tangled. If she weren’t a refugee, a patient, and about half his age . . .

This is absurd, he reminded himself.


He’d come down to Bajor at Garak’s urging, to volunteer at Site 3 Refugee Camp, an orphanage for Cardassian children who’d been abandoned or separated during the recent military withdrawal.

It had been a routine morning of rashes, respiratory problems, and digestive disorders. He’d worked his way through a long line of runny-nosed, dusty-faced children until only two patients waited on the wooden bench outside the makeshift clinic: a pretty adolescent Cardassian with her fiancé—a rather portly middle-aged Bajoran.

Garak, who was registering the patients, learned the two needed genetic testing for a marriage license. Julian came out to greet the odd couple. Making small talk, the doctor inquired where the two had met and how long they’d been together. The girl’s memory was foggy on both points. The Bajoran who’d been holding the girl by the upper arm, as a parent would a child, now gave that arm a tight squeeze, and the girl clamped her mouth shut in pain. “We met through mutual friends . . .” the man began.

Making an instant assessment, Garak decided his compatriot could do better in her choice of a mate. Announcing this loudly, he challenged the startled Bajoran to a fight. Julian jumped between the two men, pleading for calm, but the combatants just danced around him, maneuvering for an advantage.

Julian never saw the fist coming. His vision flashed white—a shock of pain. He stumbled back from the jab—and recoved his footing, it was but too late. The Bajoran had disappeared. Julian bent over, holding his tender jaw.

As if from far away, Julian hear the Bajoran curse his would-be fiancé for not objecting to Garak’s insults. The girl called out to her partner—yes! He was retreating!—She was begging him for a second chance.

Garak shooed away the many spectators who had gathered, before confiding to the shaken girl that it had been the doctor who had first sensed she was in trouble. Julian raised his head, not sure he had heard correctly. Garak was graciously backing off, saying, “I’m sure you and the gallant young man would like to talk alone.”

Julian realized that Garak’s quickly devised scheme made some sense. All Julian needed to do now was be charming— something that came naturally, thanks to the enhancements. He could impress the girl, with his extensive knowledge, earnest sympathy, and deep-brown eyes. If he got her attention, he might be able to steer the confused teenager onto a less risky path.


Once more, Julian tried to remove the distraught girl from his shoulder. He needed to talk fast. The clinic director, a vedic was approaching, wearing an alarmed expression. Doubtless she’d heard the commotion and now Julian feared a disciplinary warning. “So . . . Bria, it is? Your name is Bria? Have you eaten?” Julian asked. “How about you and I go for lunch?”

She nodded, dejectedly.

“Everything’s under control,” Julian called out to his supervisor, “I’ll be breaking now.” And they were gone before the poor woman could begin her sentence.

* * *

By the time the shuttle returned Julian and Garak to Deep Space Nice, it was after dinner. Julian headed up to Ops with the hope of running into Miles O’Brien or learning his whereabouts. After spending a day with the ever-surprising “plain and simple” tailor, Julian craved some male companionship that was truly plain and simple.

Ops was empty except for Major Kira Nerys, who offered to help him locate his friend.

She stabbed a finger at the console. “He’s in his quarters, as one might expect,” she said.

The chief wasn’t big on going out, and was even less keen on spending time with Julian. (Julian’s enthusiasm for Miles was, for the most part, unrequited.)

“So how were the orphans?” Kira inquired.

“I didn’t find much physically wrong,” Julian answered.

“I think the Bajorans have been pretty generous with those children considering.”

“Maybe. But you should observe conditions down there yourself before jumping to conclusions. The camp is dreary and a virtual prison, given your government’s restrictions on the movements of refugees. Some girls are turning to prostitution just to escape from the place.”

“You’re referring to arranged marriages between Bajorans and Cardassians?” She looked up from the console to face him squarely.

Julian nodded.

“Doctor, this may sound cold, but those women know what they’re doing. If they play by the rules, they waste time in a camp, waiting for repatriation. If they manipulate the rules, they win themselves a pleasant life on Bajor with all the rights of citizenship. It’s a good trade. I commend them. I know what it is to fight for scraps, but don’t ask for my pity.”

“Fine, I won’t,” Julian answered. He turned and stepped onto the turbolift. There was no way he was going to win this argument with the former freedom fighter. Who knew what she suffered under the occupation. “But that did sound cold,” he muttered to himself as he sunk noiselessly to the promenade.

* * *

Julian entered Quark’s bar, which was bustling. He surveyed the scene with satisfaction, looking for someone to chat with and unwind. He spotted a fellow Human, sitting alone at a table, who looked familiar. He ordered a drink and heading into the crowd.

Julian extended a hand to the stranger. “It’s Julian, Julian Bashir. Hey, didn’t I see you down on Bajor? Site 3?”

“Yeah,” the man answered, surprised.

“So you’re a doctor there. Am I right?”

“An engineer, actually.”

“Oh, I heard some children calling you “Doc.” I’m a doctor. I just assumed . . .”

The man began laughing, “No, the name’s Doug. It’s just that the Cardassians always mispronounce it ‘Duck.’ I guess that’s what you heard. This is the first time anyone’s mistaken me for a physician. I’m Doug Offerman, Sanitation Engineer for Earth Cares. We’ve jointed the relief and development project on Bajor.”

“So I have heard about you!” Julian said, smiling.

“Nothing bad I hope.”

“Not at all, quite the contrary.” It was Julian’s turn to be mysterious. “So you’re the one they call “Gul of the Sewer.”

“Who said that?” Doug demanded, a smile creeping onto his face.

“I had lunch with a girl, a young woman really, named Bria.”

“Sit down!” Doug insisted, gesturing towards a chair. “Bria . . . Yes. She’s my language tutor. Very bright,” he mused, “and very nicely put together, if you’ll forgive me.”

“No need; I had thought the same thing.”

“Bria teaches me her language and I teach her mine. Earth Cares wants its volunteers to be able to function in non–universal-translator-mediated environments,” Doug explained.

“I’ve been thinking of trying to learn the major Bajoran dialect—formally that is. Of course, I’ve picked up some words in talking with my patients.”

“Do it!” Doug urged. “You’d be surprised how much you miss by relying on the translator. And barriers between people seem to break down when you try to speak their language . . . So how’d you meet?”

“It’s a long story,” Julian answered, “but I was working at the clinic and we ended up having lunch.”

“You’re lucky. When I ask her to have lunch, she gives me this excuse about her controlling . . . . boyfriend, I guess you would call him. They intend to get married.”

“She claims that’s over. And I believe her.” Julian took a drink and felt a shot of pain from his jaw. He winced. He should have immediately applied the tissue regenerator; it was a little late now.

Doug studied his face, making a judgment. “What a loser that guy was! But I kept my nose out of it. His thumbprint on a Bajoran marriage certificate would have been her ticket out of camp. I guess she didn’t really have the stomach for it.”

“I think that relationship was doomed from the beginning.” Julian said, “The girl has so much going for her . . .”

“ . . . and he looks like a gettle.” Doug finished, referring to the cow-like creature native to Cardassia.

Julian snorted and they both laughed.

“So you do know some Cardassian!” Doug observed.

Settling back in his chair, he proceeded as if thinking out loud. “So . . . she came to her senses. Well, this changes everything.” Doug looked at the doctor playfully. “In fact, this makes you my only rival for her affections. And, to be blunt, you don’t stand a chance. Bria and I go way back—to her first day in camp and my first day in this sector.”

“I know,” Julian answered.

“Know what?”

“That I don’t stand a chance. She’s already fallen for you.

Doug looked stunned. “She told you that? What did she say?”

“I don’t remember her exact words, but it was convincing. Something about electricity filling the air when you sit close to share a padd, or subspace vibrations emanating from your person, or some such nonsense.”

Doug placed his elbows on the table and laid his forehead in his hands to think. As Julian was enjoying the man’s speechless reaction, he noticed his commander, Benjamin Sisko, enter the bar and head their way. He leaned towards Doug and, in a soft voice, quickly finished, “We were kind of talking about how she might move ahead in a more positive direction . . . and she started talking about you.”

Julian looked up expectantly at his commander. However, Sisko merely nodded at the doctor before addressing Doug.

“So I see you’ve met our doctor?”

Doug looked up and nodded, then explained to Julian, “Your commander is my benefactor. He helped negotiate a role for Earth Cares on Bajor, and he personally arranged quarters for me on the station.”

“And I was glad to do it,” Sisko added. “Routing aid-giving is outside the Federation’s mandate. And there’s so much to be done on Bajor. I’m pleased that Earth Cares is willing to go in and do the dirty work, no pun intended.”

“Responsibility is the ability to respond!” Doug answered brightly.

“Earth Care’s motto,” the commander recalled. “It’s a long way from our Prime Directive . . .” he finished, seeming distracted.

“So pull up a chair.” Doug offered. “Maybe Julian can join us?”

“No, I’m going to have to cancel for tonight. I did want to buy you that dinner I promised, but something’s come up. Jake and Nog are having a party . . . in my quarters. It’s best I maintain a presence close to home.”

“No problem, another time!” Doug assured him. “Actually, I’m glad you were delayed. The doctor just relayed some surprising news from Site 3. To make a long story short, I hope to be able to introduce you to someone I met there—someone very special.”

“A girlfriend,” Sisko guessed.

“Perhaps,” Doug answered mysteriously.

“One of the Bajoran staff?” Sisko asked.

“No, a Cardassian.”

“One of the children!” Sisko almost shouted.

“No!” Doug defended himself, “She’s a young adult, like your son.”

“Who, in many important ways, is still a child. Have you thought of how this could look?”

“Commander, you’re misconstruing this. When you meet her, you’ll find that she’s really quite mature.”

“It’s true, Commander,” Julian contributed.

Nevertheless, this is so unprofessional,” Sisko continued, ignoring him.

“But I’m not a professional,” Doug protested. “Look, I do this for free. I guess that makes me an amateur. I’ve given up a lot to come here and design latrines for Bajor. But I won’t put my whole life on hold . . . forego the joys and opportunities that come my way.”

Sisko considered the argument in stony silence. “OK,” he began, seeming to relent. “You’re an amateur, but the doctor here is not!” Turning to Julian he continued, “From what I hear, an opportunity to give medical assistance to Cardassian children doubled as a chance to date one of them. Let me remind you, Doctor, we are here on this station by Bajoran invitation only, and the way you conduct yourself on the planet has consequences for all of us.”

Julian felt his face flush with anger. If his commander had needed to get that off his chest, he could have picked a less public place. He shook his head slowly. “Whew!” he said in disbelief.

“Don’t feel bad,” Doug consoled him, sounding angry. “I’m sure that reprimand was meant for me. This is exactly why I never joined Starfleet. I would love the challenge, but I also need my independence, my integrity.”

“Hey!” Julian objected, “I would have said something back there, but . . .”

“No, no! I didn’t mean that. I just mean, I’m not a follower. I chart my own path.” He paused, looking distracted, then stood up to leave.

“Hey, good luck,” Julian said as he slapped the departing man on his arm. “Say hello to Bria for me when you see her.”

“Right,” Doug answered. “Hey, it was great meeting you,” he remembered to say, looking over his shoulder as he rushed out. Julian watched as the brash young man disappeared around the corner—presumably to explore his possibilities, unbridled by Starfleet rules and regulations.

* * *

A few days later Bashir argued with a woman in an orange headdress, whose image glowed on his communication screen.

“While I’m sorry to turn down your generous offer to treat our refugees,” she was saying, “I’m afraid we’ll have to deny you further access to our camp. As I told your commander, I’m unconvinced you understand the folly of personal involvement with our young Cardassians. Vedeks have tried to guide this troubled woman and failed.”

“But I’ve done nothing wrong,” Julian protested. “I gave her good advice. Surely you are thankful for one less thumbprint marriage.”

“You are new to our interstellar neighborhood. You can’t be expected to understand, let alone straighten out, the complicated relations between Bajorans and Cardassians. The girl you tried to help has proceeded with her plans. He is married and no longer resides in this camp. It’s my responsibility to see that doctors and other support staff serving at the camp are not themselves drawn into these marriage traps.”

It was unwelcome news, but the doctor chose to focus on the bigger picture. “Vedek, I promise you that I will not be courting any refugees. In the future, I won’t even have lunch with them if it makes you uncomfortable, but I do want to keep treating them. Flu season is approaching and Starfleet has a vaccine . . .”

“Feel free to send any donations to our medics . . .”

“But . . .”

“Seek the will of the Prophets on this matter, Dr. Bashir.”

The face abruptly vanished. Julian sat there disappointed, collecting his thoughts. He pictured the vulnerable young woman he had so recently convinced to go straight, and reflected that some problems, like some diseases, had no easy remedy.

“Sisko to Bashir!” the com system sounded.

“Commander,” he answered.

“Come to my office.” The commander fired his words like photon torpedoes. “I need you to show friends of ours around the station.” The tone of his voice gave Julian a chill.

* * *

Julian stepped off the lift and into a grim scene. Bria and Doug seemed to be waiting, smiling and nervous, for some answer from the scowling commander. The group stood on the threshold of Sisko’s office, as if on stage for the rest of the crew in Ops—who to their credit tried to appear buried in their work.

“Come on, Commander,” Doug tried. “I didn’t expect overwhelming enthusiasm, but perhaps a word of advice for a newly married couple?”

“I’m sorry, this is so sudden. Nothing comes to mind,” Sisko answered stubbornly.

Julian gathered his courage and stepped forward to greet the couple. When Bria saw it was him, she gave a happy sigh of relief and the doctor’s inhibitions melted away. Ignoring the spectators, he congratulated the new bride and groom with a hug for each. Doug silently raised his eyebrows, signaling his gratitude.

“I understand you know each other already,” Sisko said, gesturing to Bria. “So, you’ll be staying here on the station with Doug?” he asked the woman.

“Yes, and I’d like to find work here.”

“Well, what do you do?” Sisko asked.

“On Bajor, I took care of some of the younger children in camp,” Bria answered. “Of course, I didn’t get paid or anything.”

Kira caught the eye of Chief O’Brien, who worked nearby. She and the chief were all too familiar with the duplicity of Cardassians.

“Commander,” Miles interjected. “This lady might want to talk to Keiko. My wife knows the child care providers on this station and who would need those services.”

It was a minor betrayal and the major glared at her console.

“Good idea,” Sisko said.

“Thanks, Commander,” Doug mumbled.

“What’s done is done,” Sisko answered in the same hushed tone.

And with that they were dismissed.

Kira watched the turbolift disappear from view before pursuing her point with O’Brien. “A single Bajoran would need an expensive license to work on this station. She knows how to make her way around.”

“Shame on you, Nerys,” Jadzia Dax chided. “Can’t you believe in the innocence of first love?”

“Yes, I’m sure you’re an expert on first love, like everything else,” Kira shot back, “having experienced it so many more times than the rest of us.”

Dax shook her head, still looking serene, “I’m just saying, give them a chance. It’s their wedding day, after all, and the negativity you’re radiating could be read on a long-range sensor scan.”

“OK,” Kira agreed. “I’m minding my own business. And when that girl earns enough latnum to buy her way onto a transport vessel for Cardassia, I’ll try not the say, ‘I told you so’.”

* * *

Julian, Doug, and Bria exited the turbolift and headed down the corridor on their tour of the station.

“Well, I suspected that he liked me,” Bria was saying, “but I had no idea . . . Anyway, I waited in the commons and suddenly he’s running up to me all out of breath, . . . .and proposes marriage!”

“It’s amazing how one day changes everything,” Doug added.

Odo came down the hall and approached the group.

“You must be Bria,” he said.

“Word spreads fast on this station,” she answered.

“Not really,” Odo growled pleasantly. “I just received a transmission from Bajor, someone looking for a young Cardassian woman.”

“And I’m the only one on the station who fits that description?”

“Get used to it,” Doug said. “Now you know how I feel hanging out at the camp. You’re going to be a novelty.”

“I can handle it,” she answered brightly. “So who’s looking for me?”

“A young Cardassian by the name of Sanar. He asked me to give you this message.” Odo handed over a crystal rod.

Bria took the cylinder and turned it over thoughtfully. “A boy from camp. One of my only friends. I left so quickly I didn’t take time to say goodbye. I wonder if I’ll ever see him again.”

“He wouldn’t cause any trouble?” Doug teased.

“No, nothing like that,” Bria answered. “I’m sure he just wants to congratulate us.” Bria looked up into her husband’s face and her mood brightened. “So you told me this station was stark and inhospitable, but I just love it. It looks like home. I’m starting to suspect you just don’t appreciate Cardassian architecture.”

“Maybe not, but I’m getting used to it. Any place we’re together is home.”

Julian smiled to himself and let the newlyweds on their tours. Maybe DS9 was not such a bad place for a honeymoon, Julian considered, given the station’s main attraction. Eagerly, Bria pressed close to her husband for a better view out the large oval window. A freighter accelerated towards the coordinates of the wormhole, which burst into and out of existence like fireworks.

* * *

Time went by. Ships docked, unloaded, loaded, and embarked. Gossip on the station began to ebb. Doug won respect for continuing his duties on Bajor with hardly a break: taking the shuttle to the surface to supervise work; staying a few days before returning to pour over design work on the computer and consult with his Earth Cares colleagues working on projects throughout the sector.

Bria, who could look childlike, achieved a more mature appearance when she threw out the refugee clothing—items rejected by Bajoran youngsters—for more flattering, Cardassian dress, custom-made by Garak. And she had started her first job. Keiko O’Brien was hoping she could catch up on these latest developments and, so, was glad when Bria popped her head in the door of Keiko’s empty classroom.

“Excuse me, I wonder if you have a minute,” Bria asked. “I need to talk to someone. Back home, I would have had my mother . . .” She was unwilling to finish the thought.

“I may not be your mother, but I’m a mother. Why don’t you bounce your ideas off me. I’ll do my best,” Keiko volunteered. “So, how’s the job? Is that going all right?”

“It’s easy. At least the kids have toys to play with.”

“So what’s up? Did you and Doug have a fight?”

“No, not exactly.” Bria hesitated. “It’s more like I should have thought this whole thing through, but I didn’t.” She looked like she was going to cry.

“You know, it’s understandable to have second thoughts after taking a big leap like this. Here.” Keiko gestured toward a chair beside her. Bria sat down.

“Do you think it was crazy—me taking that leap?”

“No!” Keiko assured her. “Are you letting people’s reactions get to you? You may be one of the first Cardassian–Human couples ever, and people are bound to stare. But if it works for you and Doug . . . let them talk.”

“You would think people on this station would have seen a mixed marriage before.”

Keiko waved her hand dismissively. “My mother told me, “Every marriage is a mixed marriage if it’s between a man and woman.”

Bria smiled before proceeding. “No, I’m not worried about that so much.”

“How do you feel about Doug?”

“I love him. He’s everything I ever hoped for in a man. He’s kind, he’s sexy, . . . he’s so confident.”

“And he’s crazy about you,” Keiko reminded her.

Bria nodded her agreement. “Can I ask you a personal question? What if Chief O’Brien were to be reassigned someplace really unpleasant—would you go?”

Keiko laughed, “As a matter of fact, I considered DS9 a really unpleasant assignment. I guess that’s not a good example since you like this station. Anyhow, for me, it was a big adjustment getting settled. Things eventually turned around for me. I have a job and I feel comfortable with my new friends.” Keiko put her arm around Bria’s shoulder, trying to cheer her. “Is Doug going somewhere?”


“Then, aren’t you getting ahead of yourself? Why not just take things a day at a time?”

“I suppose . . .” the girl said. “When you married Chief O’Brien, was he successful?”

“Well, he had enormous potential, and I was sure he would be successful, even though at the time he was only working the transporter. He had this tremendous intensity when he was working. I always got a kick out of that.”

“Sorry to be nosey. I mean, about your love-life.”

“Not at all. It’s nice to reminisce about that honeymoon phase . . . which is what you’re supposed to be enjoying right now. So you took a big leap. Don’t overanalyze it just yet. Take this time to just enjoy each other and get settled.” Keiko saw that her words were not consoling her young friend. “You seemed pretty confident about your decision the day after you married, when we were introduced.”

“I was. It wasn’t even like a decision; I didn’t think twice, I wanted him so much.”

“There you go! Usually one’s first instinct is what’s right.”

“I hope so. I don’t want to hurt him.”

Keiko stared at her closely. “Am I missing something?” she asked.

Bria looked guiltily at the floor.

“Are you getting enough rest?” Keiko asked. “Why are you so pale? Have you been eating?”

“Not too much,” Bria answered, and started to cry.

“Keiko put her arms around the girl.

“OK, let’s get you to Dr. Bashir.”

* * *

Bashir ran a medical tricorder over Bria’s abdomen. Keiko stook nearby.

“Well, you’re pregnant,” the doctor pronounced slowly, examining the readings. “The fetus is . . . about sixty days old.”

Putting two and two together, the doctor entered the tricorder code for one additional test, took the scan, and looked up.

“Keiko, could you leave us alone a minute?”

“No, I wish you would stay,” Bria said to the older woman, who nodded.

“OK, then. The genetic scan indicates the fetus is 100 percent Cardassian, no human contribution.” Julian looked sad and maybe a little angry.

“I know what you two must be thinking,” Bria began, “but remember, this marriage was so sudden. Sixty days ago Doug was just a friend who maybe had a crush on me . . . and vice versa. The father is another boy at the camp, Sanar.”

“When did you break up with this old boyfriend?” Keiko asked.

“There wasn’t any official breakup, but when I left the camp, that of course ended everything.”

Bashir and Keiko exchanged worried glances.

“We were just kids,” Bria explained. “Neither of us had a future. We were just existing in that camp. Both of us were trying to get out any way we could: by adoption, by marriage, with illegal documentation—whatever. And neither was going to stand in the way of the other’s escape. In fact, I thought he would get out first. He had located an uncle or someone willing to take him back to Cardassia. It was just a matter of finalizing some documents.”

“Just for the record, what about the birth control?” Julian asked.

“He was supposedly safe—he’d had a reversible surgical procedure. I know because he got a free overnight pass out of camp for having it done,” Bria answered. “I think he went to the local Harvest Festival.”

“They ask you to trade your fertility for prizes?” Julian asked, appalled.

“Of course. It’s that way at all the refugee camps.” Bria glanced from Keiko to Julian, trying to understand their shock.

“Whatever you do about this pregnancy,” Julian continued, “you’ll have to tell your old boyfriend he’s still fertile.”

“Yes,” Bria answered.

“So what are her options?” Keiko asked.

“The Bajorans oppose abortion except in the earliest stages. If you wait very long, you’d have to have it done off the station. There is a new procedure in which an unwanted fetus is transplanted, beamed basically, into a suitably prepared infertile women or other host. It would be best if the host was Cardassian, but theoretically a Bajoran woman could be the mother.”

“Yes, theoretically.” Bria said. “. . . if Bajorans didn’t hate Cardassians .”

“And of course you can go ahead with the pregnancy . . .” Julian said.

“And my child would be born in a refugee camp,” Bria concluded.

They all paused to consider this.

“So you’re pretty sure Doug will want a divorce?” Keiko asked Bria, who shook her head hopelessly.

“As your doctor, I am obligated to keep all this confidential,” Julian began. “But as a friend of both you and Doug—as the one who basically set you up—I must admit you’ve put me in an awkward position. I would never have gotten involved if I had known . . .”

“I didn’t mean to mislead anybody,” Bria responded. “The relationship between Sanar and I was pretty much a secret even in the camp. We hid it from our Bajoran caretakers to avoid being separated if they happened to disapprove. Please believe me, it’s not like I don’t love Doug. When he proposed to me, it was like a dream come true. I could have it both ways—have my love and my freedom.”

“And Sanar?” Julian asked.

“Sanar would have done the same thing in my shoes. Julian, have you ever passed up a romance because it conflicted with a field assignment? And Keiko, you followed Chief O’Brien to a strange space station, but would you have even married him in the first place if he were stuck in a refugee camp from which he couldn’t escape? Please Julian, Keiko, maybe you can understand; then, you could help me explain it to Doug.”

“Well, that’s going to be hard,” Julian answered, “because Doug didn’t see this marriage as a mission of mercy. It seems he viewed you as an equal, with the freedom to say yes or no to his proposal.”

“He’s blind if he doesn’t know I’ve never been his equal,” Bria answered fiercely. “My desire for love and a chance at life is equal to anybody’s, but I’m a refugee without a basic right to freedom. Right now, my only hope for a normal life rests with him.” She turned to Keiko, “I’ll go tell Doug. Will you be there in case this goes badly?”

“Sure,” Keiko answered and reached out her hand to squeeze Bria’s in solidarity.

* * *

Bria’s meeting with Doug went as well as could be expected. The resulting commotion set off security alarms. Odo rushed to the scene to find Bria violently kicking the closed door to her quarters.

“Let me in! It’s not my fault. I didn’t know!” she was pleading.

“You knew you loved someone else, but you married me,” Doug shot back from behind the door, “That’s your fault.”

“It’s behind me. You are my husband now. I love you, not Sanar. I will never look back. Let me in. I can fix this.”

“Stop that kicking,” Odo ordered, “and maybe we can work this out. What seems to be the problem?”

“It’s my husband; he won’t let me in. These are my quarters,” she cried.

“Sir,” Odo called out, “Please open the door.”

“Come in,” Doug muttered angrily and the doors slid open—about half a meter before sticking. Odo stepped into the space, gave a shove, and the two panels slid into the wall.

“Congratulations, you’ve broken the door,” Odo growled. “Now. We will proceed more constructively, or I will begin to assess some fines.”

Doug looked at his wife and wandered to their sofa. He sat down and put his head in his hands. “When we came here, half the station thought I was using you; the other half thought you were using me. And I didn’t care because I knew differently.”

“Nothing’s changed,” Bria tried to soothe him. “Not really. Can’t you forgive me?”

“I don’t know. I went out on a limb for you, and now you’ve humiliated me—in the camp and on this station. I don’t even know how I can go back to work. I was so foolish. I thought you and I . . . I don’t know . . . all our language lessons . . .” He drifted into silence. Finally he looked up. “Please leave me alone. Both of you.”

“But we’ve got to talk,” Bria said desperately. “What will I do about the baby?”

“That’s for you to decide,” Doug answered bitterly. “I’ve got nothing to do with it. You’ve lost me in any case.”

* * *

When Bria appeared at their door in tears, Keiko wanted to take her in, but Miles wasn’t having it.

Out of earshot of their guest, he explained himself in a horse whisper.

“Honey, I admire your ability to empathize; I just don’t share it. Why should her self-inflicted problems ruin our family life? We need our privacy.”

“But Miles,” she pleaded, “It would just be for a short time.”

“Send her to Julian,” he suggested with a chuckle. “Let Julian talk her ear off. Maybe then she’d hurry back to her husband, or off this station.” And the case was closed.

So, reluctantly, Keiko sent Bria to Julian, who gave her a couch—though he feared what rumors of their cohabitation could do to his carefully managed reputation.

* * *

A few days later, Julian checked in with Doug to learn whether anything might still be salvaged from the ship-wrecked romance.

“I know you may not want to hear this,” Julian began, “but it’s only natural she would have a double motive for marrying you. Shouldn’t you have talked about this before you got married?”

Doug stared at the wall as he answered. “I felt it would be insulting. I mean, I knew she was attracted to me. I was picking up signals from her all along. Even when she was with that Bajoran. She’d smile too much, lose her train of thought when she spoke to me. So I let myself forget she’s looking to sell herself to the highest bidder.”

Julian persisted. “OK, let’s face it. She thinks you’re a ‘good deal’—a better deal than this kid Sanar. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you. Clearly she does.”

His friend gave no response, so he tried again. “You know when I find the right woman, I won’t waste time agonizing over whether she fell for me because of my charm, my brains, or my good looks—or whether the opportunity to live on DS9 was a factor. Whatever the initial attraction, as long as she loves me deeply and commits herself to staying through the hard times, I’d consider it a good relationship. Can’t it be that way for you and Bria?”

“I don’t know,” Doug answered, dejected. “I guess we’ll never know. I just can’t get over this.”

* * *

When Doug refused to talk, Bria knew he was serious. It was time to pursue alternatives. Ironically, it was Doug she had to thank for her knowledge of alternatives. In practicing language on long afternoons in camp, their conversations had wandered freely, touching on questions of life, the universe, and radical politics. She chose a course of action and sent Julian Bashir to drop the bombshell.

* * *

“Doctor Bashir just informed me that the station’s newest Cardassian resident, Bria, would like to claim asylum on this station,” the commander announced to the group gathered in his office. “And before we blame the Doctor, I should add that the possibility of this legal maneuver was once suggested to her by Doug Offerman, in his capacity as a charity worker.”

“Help from the foreign voluntary agencies comes at a price,” Kira commented. “So what’s the basis of her claim?”

“Wrongful imprisonment,” answered Bashir. “When she returns to Bajor, having committed no crime, she will be confined at Site 3 Refugee Camp.”

“She’s a refugee!” Kira noted.

“I’m afraid the doctor may have a point,” Sisko said. “According to Federation Treaty, refugees must be free to come and go from the sites that accommodate them.”

“But that’s impossible,” shouted Kira. “A refugee camp resulting from war will always be the base of some type of resistance movement. And you’re saying we should just let these people walk around? It’s a huge security risk.”

“Then Federation guidelines would have the camped moved to a neutral location—another planet, for instance,” Bashir explained.

“Bajor only has one planet!” Kira answered, exasperated.

“Another good point,” Sisko said. “Legal technicalities aside, this thing just isn’t going to happen. I can’t grant Bria asylum because I can’t justify the harm it would do to Bajoran—Federation relations. At some future date, if Bajor decides to join the Federation, refugee policy may be part of the negotiations. Today’s debate on the subject will then be irrelevant. So back to Bria and her asylum request . We need to make it go away. Any thoughts?”

“Can’t the doctor convince Bria that it would be best to return to camp in order to be with the baby’s father?” Kira asked.

“The baby’s father is no longer in camp. He’s been repatriated to Cardassia,” Odo informed them.

“How do you know?” Sisko asked, puzzled.

“Easy, I’ve been monitoring communications between Bria and her Cardiassian friend,” Odo said. “Major Kira’s right: the camps areswarming with spies and discontents. It’s best to be careful.”

Sisko frowned and gave the constable a sharp look. “That reminds me of a second item on my agenda for future Bajoran—Federation discussions.”

Odo chose to ignore this. “I’ve got an idea!” he exclaimed. “Family reunification! If I’m not mistaken, a single woman would be repatriated immediately if she were joining ‘family’ on Cardassia.”

“I don’t know that she wants to marry the father,” Julian said.

“She may or may not need to. Let me look into the technical qualifications for repatriation,” Odo replied.

“That would be perfect,” Kira declared. “She gets what she wants. We move her off this station without incident. Everyone’s happy. I’m surprised that Bria didn’t think of this.”

“Let’s make the necessary arrangements. Odo, work out the details. Doctor, present the plan to Bria. I’m giving you a chance to straighten out this mess,” Sisko warned. “Don’t disappoint me. Dismissed.”

* * *

Benjamin Sisko waited in the conference room with Keiko and Bria, who sat in a chair, fidgeting nervously with her necklace. No one said much. They were gathered to witness the dissolution of a marriage, foolishly, but hopefully undertaken. What consolations could be offered? Benjamin only hoped that Julian had convinced Doug to cooperate and make this easy.

Keiko glanced at Bria, who was agitated.

Julian entered the room, followed by Doug.

Bria leapt from her chair, knocking it backwards. “I must talk with you, Doc,” she cried, placing her hand tenderly over her abdomen.

“What’s wrong?” Sisko asked, startled. “Is it the baby?” He looked to Julian, expecting him to rush to the side of his patient.

Ignoring the commander, Bria continued, “I tell you I will name the baby “Doc” because I wish you are the father.”

The commander now shot a ferocious glance at his medical officer. Julian raised his hands as if to deflect an accusation, “’Duck!’ not ‘Doc!’” Julian clarified, pointing to Doug.

Of course, Bria had spoken in the standard language of the Humans, idiosyncratically, but competently enough that the universal translator had left her words alone.

Though the translator remained untouched by her grammatically imperfect speech, the same could not be said for the other listeners. Sisko feared his former friend would break down. Doug moved towards his wife and took her hands. He murmured to her in Cardassian. They couldn’t catch his words, but he sounded impressively fluent.

“If you don’t forgive me, I will never be happy!” Bria cried out in a familiar tongue. All eyes went to Doug.

“It’s OK,” he whispered. Surprising everyone, his wife most of all, he took Bria in his arms and they began to kiss. It was an inordinately long and passionate kiss, worthy of two characters in a holonovel—and this was no holosuite. Sisko cleared his throat—loudly, but to no avail. Keiko stared at the ceiling, while Julian wandered over to the windows to check out the Milky Way.

At long length the couple stepped apart, but held each other’s gaze.

“I love you. I will miss you,” Bria said simply.

“But now I can’t let you go,” Doug replied.

His wife stared in amazement.

Sisko gave a heavy sigh of resignation. “OK, Doug. But the timing is terrible. We can cancel the divorce, but a Cardassian transport vessel is already on its way to pick up your wife.

“NO! I need the divorce!” Bria almost shouted. Then trying a calmer tone, she continued, “You must give me your thumbprint, Duck. So I can go with my baby. I will take Duck to Cardassia.”

“Why are you so frightened?” Doug asked, worried. “We’ll keep the baby. We’ll raise it together.”

The commander looked puzzled, then tapped his badge. “Sisko to Odo.”

“Commander?” Odo’s voice answered over the com system.

“What is the status of the repatriation agreements?”

“The baby is cleared to go. We transferred custody to the Cardassians this morning. I still need the divorce agreement before Bria is cleared to go. Presumably Bria and the baby will be traveling together.”

“What do you mean, ‘presumably’?” Sisko asked.

“It is possible for the baby to go without her, by surrogate mother. Of course it’s best if he goes with Bria.”

A shocked silence filled the room. Keiko looked to Julian to confirm she had heard correctly.

Switching back to her native tongue, Bria explained: “I wanted to stay, but it was impossible. So I gave custody of my boy to Sanar. He really wants his child. So I must marry Sanar and we will be a family.”

“I’m sorry, it was the only way to work the repatriation under Cardassian law,” Odo said from his office. “Only the baby has direct relatives on Cardassia. It’s the best I can do. Odo out.”

Doug looked stunned. “Bria, do you love Sanar?”

“I loved you more,” she answered. “You were the best.”

“Bria,” Doug began, desperately. “We could run . . . before they get here.”

Bria froze.

“Where would you go?” Sisko demanded of Doug. “To a place with no Cardassians? Your wife would be an outlaw in her own home. Stop and think. It is too much to ask of someone so young.”

Doug looked up with a dazed expression, then nodded in agreement. The commander place a hand on the young man’s shoulder and slid a padd of documents into place beneath him. Doug pressed his thumb on the padd.

Bria, still shaky, did the same.

“Thank you,” she said to her ex with a weak smile.

“No problem,” he answered softly.

And they all filed out.

* * *

Doug stood before the ornate oval window that was perfect for wormhole watching. Only today, Doug watched the ship that carried his ex-wife to Cardassia slowly fade to a speck. Momentarily, the wormhole did appear, looking like a giant sewer pipe. One freighter spilled out. It seemed a good day for contemplating one’s impotence in a cosmos full of violent anomalies. Julian came up behind him.

“I’m sorry,” Julian offered. “I thought things would turn out better.”

Doug replied without turning to face him. “I’m requesting that Earth Cares transfer me to the Cardassian border colonies. There’s a lot of relief work to be done in the embattled areas and my language skills will be useful there. I can’t stay here and be reminded of the mess I made.”

He paused, “Maybe, I can persuade Bria to meet me at the border . . .”

“No,” Julian told him, gently.

They stared out at the darkness and the stars.

* * *

Julian and Garak occupied their usual table, for their usual lunch, engrossed in conversation.

“So let me get this straight,” Garak began. “The vedic says you’re banned from the camp. Your commander refuses to intervene . . . and you think I can do something about it? Frankly, I’m flattered you think so highly of my diplomatic skills. A Cardassian contact got us into the camp. But now that we’re kicked out, I’d have to deal with angry Bajorans—and that is not my specialty. . . . Now if you want a suit made . . .”

“Yes, yes, I know . . .” Julian said, impatiently. “I appreciate your help, limited as it is.”

They sat for a moment in thought.

“So, did we accomplish anything down there on Bajor?” Julian asked Garak.

“Of course,” Garak answered. “Thanks to us, Bria is now in a Cardassian family. And Cardassians value family. I envy her situation.”

They sipped their raktajino.

“So how’s it feel to be an outcast?” Garak asked finally.

“I’m not an outcast!” Julian objected.

“Come now,” Garak chided, “You’ve been punished for coming to the aid of a young Cardassian trickster.”

“I’d almost agree, except, I’ve always thought of you as middle-aged.

“Doctor! I’m disappointed by that remark,” Garak exclaimed. But his twinkling eyes said just the opposite.

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