Alternate Timeline: What if Doctor Bashir had not been allowed to stay in Starfleet?

Disclaimer: I am nothing to do with Star Trek. I do not own it. I just like to sneak in and play with it for a while. L.T.

"They don't put people away for being Genetically Engineered."

"No. They just won't let you do anything that's worth doing."

(Bashir & Jack - Statistical Probabilities)

A chime at the door. And again. Banging on the outer wall, and the muffled sound of someone shouting his name.

"Julian - let me in."

How long had it been? Three days? Five? Or was time just as illusory as his future, with one day every bit as dark as the next?

"I'm sorry, Doctor." It had fallen to the aging, silver-haired Rear Admiral Bennet to place the final stone on that unbreakable wall, cutting him off forever from everything he had ever dreamed. "The laws concerning genetic engineering are quite clear. I'm afraid there is little I can do."

And it had been left to Captain Sisko to thank the Rear Admiral for his time and consideration, and to smile politely as Bennet signed off. Turning to Bashir, he'd hesitated. His voice came out soft and low.

"I'm sorry, Julian."

"So am I, Sir." But the doctor - no, former doctor - had not had the energy to listen to apologies. He'd barely been able to muster enough of a voice to excuse himself as he hurried from the room.

His mind was projecting the same scene onto the darkness of his quarters as if all his life were some kind of faulty holoprogramme. And the moment it finished, some small ghost of himself would take him back to the start and force him to watch it all over again.

The end of his future had been horribly straightforward. His replacement, a Doctor Nathan Hayes, had arrived from Starbase 375 the very next day. Bashir had surprised himself at how little emotion crept into his voice as he greeted the new CMO at the airlock, and introduced him to all the little daily quirks that punctuated his life on the station. Transferring his personal codes to Hayes, he'd imagined himself channelling the cold, clinical voice of Deep Space Nine's computer.

"Well," he said once it was done, acutely aware of how distant he felt - watching the scene more than being a part of it. "It's all yours."

And then he'd turned to leave.

"Julian," Hayes called to Bashir, who stopped in the doorway. "I'm sorry."

Bashir almost choked on the painful lump that rose in his throat, feeling like he'd swallowed a long, knotted rope. Turning around, he forced a tight smile. "Thank you, Doctor."

It had ended there. He was no longer in Starfleet.

The door chime sounded a third time, followed by a short pause, and the hushed click, click of somebody activating the security override.

Julian barely responded to the sound of the door sliding open, although his eyes were briefly offended by a sudden flood of light from outside. A moving shadow stepped over the threshold just before the door closed obligingly behind them.

"So are you gonna talk to me now or do I have to drag you out of here?"

Miles O'Brien. His distinctive voice cut through the blackness, but Julian knew that it would be a good ten minutes before the chief engineer's eyes would be able to distinguish which of the assorted, unilluminated shapes was him. He set his face into an invisible scowl. "I told you, Miles. Just leave me alone."

"Well, you know something? I'm getting pretty fed up with leaving you alone. I don't reckon it's working very well at all, do you?"

Looks like it's back to Earth after all, thought Bashir. More than one of his family members had offered to take him in. But the thought of returning filled him with such unbearable dread. And there was the hearing. His parents' hearing… He had railed against the very idea of going to court, clearly remembering how tired he had been of fighting lost causes. But then there'd been a summons. They'd given him no choice but to testify.

If only he could just stop thinking about it.

"Anyway," said O'Brien as he picked his way cautiously across the room. "What have you been doing all this time?"


"It doesn't take four days to pack."

So. It had been four. "…And other things."

"Like what?" The Chief paused. "Are you drunk?"

Bashir's only response was a hollow chuckle.

"That's it," fumed O'Brien. "You're coming with me. Now. Tonight. I don't want any argument on this. You're having supper with me and Keiko and I'm not leaving until you agree. And no more of this sitting around in the dark. Computer. Lights!"

Drinking - getting completely, blindly drunk, even - was not a problem for Miles O'Brien. Drinking alone and in the dark? That was crossing a line.

He was met by a scene of a room in disarray. Half empty bottles lay discarded on the floor beneath the windowsills. A glass in one corner had already spilt its contents onto the pages of an open book. Furniture had been upturned, a chair leg was cracked almost in two. Soil from the pot of a horribly abused plant had stained a large section of the carpet, and the surrounding walls bore the scuffs of a furious attack.

O'Brien's stomach twisted into knots as he surveyed the destruction all around him. He'd had enough of his own gut-churning rages to know that they did very little to dull whatever turmoil had caused them. Swallowing hard, he took a deep, inward breath and allowed it to escape just as slowly through his mouth.

Julian was crouched at the entrance to his own room. His head was bowed against one arm, which rested heavily across both knees. Tousled hair veiled his eyes, and his other hand toyed with something slender and lightweight on the floor beside him.

O'Brien felt a sudden chill just beneath his skin. "What's in your hand?"

Moving impossibly slowly, Bashir raised his head a little and lifted the object for closer scrutiny. "Mm… Where'd this come from?"

"Dammit, Julian. That's not funny."

A shrug. "Not for lack of trying, I assure you."

Curse you for a pig-headed moron, O'Brien wanted to shout. But he reined in his temper and narrowly resisted a temptation to join in the concerted effort to trash Bashir's quarters. Instead he dropped to a tight crouch directly in front of him and snatched the object from his unresisting hand. "Tell me, Julian. What is this?"

"It's a hypo," whispered Bashir, his eyes already starting to close.

"I know it's a hypo, you bloody…" Miles slapped his friend's cheek until his eyes opened a little further, and at least appeared to focus.

"Come on - you're not getting away that easily. What the Hell were you thinking?" he demanded.

"I was tired."

"Of all the stupid…" With a yell of frustration, O'Brien leapt to his feet and began to pace like an angry bear. He thumped the combadge attached to his chest, and found himself unable to keep the anger out of his voice as he shouted into it. "O'Brien to Doctor Hayes. I need a medical team to Julian Bashir's quarters. Now."