Author's Note: This is a sequel. It could most likely stand alone but my thoughts are that it would be a better experience if you take the hour or so to read the first Butterfly story.
The following tale came to fruition with thanks to those who were kind enough to leave reviews for Butterfly Dreaming. Jumana P. (who suggested the teenage years), Lilith Kayden (for giving me that final nudge to start), MuseUrania, and Valadan.
This one's for you guys!! (And everyone else too - Just a bit of fun, really.) :-)
2376, Deep Space Nine
2376, Deep Space Nine
Sighing heavily, but secretly, Julian squirmed - and paused to adjust the collar of his uniform. Again. There was something about that day, perhaps. It didn't matter how many times he tugged down the hem of his jacket, pulled at his sleeves, or shifted his collar until it started to chafe against his neck. Nothing he was wearing would ever stay quite comfortable.
The Security office had maintained enough of a dark, foreboding air over the years to discourage the desire for long-term visits. Certainly, the prevailing atmosphere was a near perfect match for his mood. Feeling caged, he glanced warily from one pair of granite-brown eyes to the other. But the women offered nothing in return, save for a pair of pale, stone-edged stares.
Ro leaned forward a little, crossing her hands in front of her and setting them upon the desk that had once been Constable Odo's. She watched as though intending to stare the answers from him before he'd even had a chance to speak. Not far behind her, back pressed against the wall although never to the extent that he could ever accuse her of slouching, Kira was the one whose eyes Julian finally sought.
The beginning, she had told him. Start at the beginning. And that was what he intended to do, as soon as he could discover what had happened to his voice.
They'd known each other long enough, after all. If anyone would understand… But there was nothing to be found beyond her silence. Her eyes were hard, and afforded no more room to manoeuvre than Ro's had done. Still, seeking the safe harbour he was never likely to find, Julian clenched and unclenched his hands and forced yet another deep, calming breath. He would have to take his own cue this time.
"We're waiting, Doctor."
He nodded in response to Ro's tight rebuke, swiftly replaying the events of the previous week, checking that there was nothing he had missed. His memory was as clear as it had ever been - possibly even clearer. Faces flashed before him like characters in a holo-drama as he tried without much success to locate the exact point where it might have started. Had it been merely days ago, perhaps, or should he take them back still further - to the playground in London and the gawky seven year old he had once thought himself to be?
With another sigh, he rubbed his eyes, and adjusted the hem of his too-tight jersey. And then, after a final glance at their hard, expectant stares, Julian Bashir opened his mouth and finally began to speak.
2376, The Beginning
Rather peculiar, isn't it? thought Julian, as he rubbed the back of his aching neck. Until that moment, he had not even noticed how sore it had become. Not on such a busy Friday morning with its ceaseless stream of routine check-ups, minor casualties… not to mention paperwork.
He was thankful that there had not been anything too serious. But the traffic through the infirmary had never seemed to stop. The station's Chief Medical Officer was beginning to ask himself if he would ever find the relative quiet of a research lab. And there were still all those reports due to Starfleet Medical within the week. It would not be long before he'd have to drag people in - possibly even start making threats…
There was always the Replimat, he supposed. But that was far too bright and exposed. And he was hardly in the mood for anything that had maintained its habit of squirming between his fingers. That ruled out the Klingon restaurant. So - it was a far from perfect alternative that day, but he elected to find himself a quiet, dark corner of Quark's. Possibly somewhere close to the stairs, where he could use the stairwell as a shield against the excitable chorus of dabo players and the gathering throng of rowdier afternoon patrons.
As soon as he reached his table, Julian decided, he would fall into one of the chairs and allow the ache across his shoulders to pass. Grateful that there was never such a great distance to cover, he already found himself imagining how welcome the barely illuminated space would be. And if he was lucky, he might even get a chance to close his eyes and imagine himself alone.
The notion was extinguished before he'd even had a chance to approach. A wall of noise exploded outwards through the open doors like uncontained plasma, and the muscles along Julian's back were immediately tense as he stood and surveyed the gathering crowd. Perhaps it would be easier to try the replicator in his quarters. There was no quiet lunch to be found at Quark's that day.
The ambient light inside the bar was always dimmer than it was outside on the Promenade, but Julian did not fail to notice the distinctively bulbous outline of Morn, seated at his regular place by the bar. And standing close by was the silhouette of Quark the bartender - his unmistakeable cranium large even by Ferengi standards. He was busy, rushing as usual, and half-shouting at his customers in a voice that failed to reach the doctor's ears.
Julian sighed, quietly resigned. Perhaps he could get to the Replimat after all. He could always carry whatever he happened to order back to the office with him. Might even save it for later…
"Excuse me," said an elderly voice at his side. Somebody brushed past him, close enough for their shoulders to touch, and Julian dodged apologetically out of the way.
"Oh. I'm sorry."
He caught a glance from the same old man - almost too brief to notice, but long enough to make him hesitate - and frown. The shadowed grey eyes that stared back at him also seemed to pause, and Julian wondered if it was the lighting that was giving the old stranger's face that odd, viridian hue. Flashing a smile in the old man's direction, which failed to hide his newly troubled expression, he nodded once and stepped to one side of the door.
As the stranger turned, Julian quickly found that his gaze was drifting back towards the interior, where Quark had only just seemed to notice this latest newcomer. The Ferengi started, mouth open in a broad, yellow toothed grin, and set his tray upon the bar.
Get to the Replimat, Julian reminded himself forcefully. Otherwise you'll be hungry all day. He wondered why he had not already started to retrace his steps. But with the approach of this stranger, he had felt his instincts sharpen as though pulled by some invisible chord. Ducking surreptitiously behind one side of the entrance, he peered around its edge and continued to watch their exchange. If the continuous stream of customers had noticed him at all, they weren't saying so.
As surely as he now clasped the door frame, Julian was holding his breath. He found himself gripped by a sudden, inexplicable unease as Quark skirted around the moving crowd to greet this peculiar newcomer. Even without a way to locate the source of his own apprehension, he held onto one small certainty. The Ferengi bartender had been expecting this meeting. And when Quark was this happy to see someone he barely knew, it could only mean trouble for everybody else.