Deep Space Nine, 2376
"Stop. What are you doing? Get off her. You're hurting… Leave her alone."
With a gasp, Julian opened his eyes.
For a moment he imagined that he was still a child, that he had never seen this room, this bed, these sloping grey walls. Then he remembered. These were his quarters. This was his bed. He was still on the station, a grown man, and there was Ezri at his side.
She was wide awake, watching. Her brow tensed with concern as she touched his face. To his surprise, he flinched.
"It's all right, Julian," she whispered. This time he didn't shy away from her touch. "Just a bad dream, that's all."
She kissed his cheek, and continued to watch, but didn't say a word as he sat up and half rolled out of bed. Feeling unusually heavy, he padded over to the replicator and ordered a large kava juice and… "Anything?" he asked. Ezri shook her head.
As his drink materialised into existence, he leant against the wall with one arm outstretched, and focused on the steady rise and fall of his chest. He felt haggard, breathing far more deeply than he did on most mornings, and sensed his own pulse gain speed at the base of his neck.
Drink, insisted a voice from his distant memory. Downing the entire glass, he reflected how glad he was that Ezri had asked him nothing so far about his dream. But he knew that she was there, silently anticipating the moment when he would open his mouth and begin to speak.
The drink flowed into his tired and aching muscles, and he closed his eyes with a tight frown. The Federation had fought a war, and won. All over the Quadrant, exhausted soldiers were busy gathering up the remaining pieces of their lives. Was it any wonder that old ghosts were finally catching up with them?
And yet… "I never expected to remember her," he said, rubbing his eyes with a thumb and forefinger.
"Who?" came Ezri's voice from behind him.
Julian turned to where she sat with the sheets gathered in a tangled pyramid against her chest. He swallowed, as though to remind himself that he still had a voice.
Gems of wet dew clung sparkling to every blade of grass. It was a cold night, without a strong wind, but even what little breeze ambled past was stiff enough to chill the bones. Brushing against barely seen wet branches, the boy shivered, wrapping slender arms across his chest. Somewhere far away, an owl moaned.
And from the opposite direction came a long, high pitched scream.
The boy raced forward, still keeping to the cover of the surrounding trees. The fog was heavy, even for this time of morning, but he still thought - believed - that he was seeing three distant, moonlit shapes at the other end of the oval. It's not too late, he told himself, frustrated that his legs could not move faster over the grass and around the empty school yard. Fog-touched air burned in his lungs. You can still save her.
One of the larger shapes shook the smallest. The boy heard a cry, and the harsh sound of somebody whispering. Anger rose inside him as he clenched his fists, tears of fury welling in his eyes.
They're hurting her! Jules Bashir's thoughts cried out to him. Stop it. Leave her alone!