Tears

By Laura Schiller

Based on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Copyright: Paramount

('Missing scenes' from the episode "Armageddon Game".)

=/\=

Keiko could not cry.

She sat on the sofa in her living room, her arms wrapped around a pillow, and stared at the stars through the viewport without really seeing them. She looked around at her potted plants, lush and green as if nothing was wrong, at Molly's crayoned drawings on the walls. Their home still looked the same. How could it look the same when Miles, the life and heart of the apartment, would never return?

Poor Dr. Bashir, too. He had been such a bright, funny, promising young man. Station life would be that much duller without him.

"Mommy?"

Keiko turned. Molly, so small in her bright blue jumpsuit, was standing in the doorway to her room with a white rabbit under her arm.

"Yes?" Keiko's voice sounded strange, as though it hadn't been used for days.

"When is Daddy coming back?"

Keiko would have expected that question to hurt. It didn't. She was simply numb.

"I don't know, sweetheart," she lied, beckoning for Molly to sit next to her.

She was so small. She didn't need to know just yet. In a few more days, Keiko would tell her, when saying the words made it truly final. Not just yet.

It didn't feel quite real. It couldn't be real. He'd kissed her goodbye only a week ago, promising her a romantic evening in the holosuite when he got back. Nineteenth century Dublin. She had her gown and bonnet ready in the closet.

There was so much she wanted to tell him, including silly things. She had never told him she actually hated those fat pearl earrings he'd given her, or about her secret stash of Klingon romance novels, or that she was worried about his growing coffee addiction. She hadn't apologized for complaining so much about the move to Deep Space Nine, which he had borne with ineffable patience and dry humor. She cound think of a thousand small occasions where she had been impatient, or he had been insensitive, and instead of just reasoning it out, they had snapped and snarled at each other and made other people, like poor unfortunate Data, carry messages. All that time, forgetting how much they loved each other.

But still, there was something missing. Questions tormented her until she could barely breathe; they were choking her. She knew the video she had seen must have been altered. She knew Miles inside and out; she knew all his quirks and habits, including the fact that he never drank coffe after noon. The video must have been altered somehow. But why? How had Miles and Dr. Bashir really died? What did the Talani and Kelloren have to hide?

Keiko put her arm around her daughter and kissed the top of her silky black head. At least Molly wasn't going anywhere.

"Kira to O'Brien," came the Major's voice through her commbadge.

For one brief second, Keiko expected to hear Miles's warm Irish burr answering from somewhere inside the quarters, before she remembered that "O'Brien" was herself.

"Yes, Major?"

A sharp intake of breath hissed across the channel. "Please come to Sickbay immediately," said Kira, sounding breathless, like a little girl on Christmas morning. "There's someone you should see."

"Major? Is it – have you found something – "

The next voice was that of a weary but jubilant Dr. Bashir. "Mrs. O'Brien? We're back. Miles and I are back!"

Keiko didn't think twice. Waves of happiness seemed to flood the living room until it glowed – the sofa where she would sit with her head on Miles's shoulder, the kitchen where he would help her cook, the artworks of Molly's he would smile at (and where was that flowery mug the child had painted? He'd be so proud!).

"I'm coming!" she said, hardly noticing the warm tears pouring down her face and coloring her laughter. "I'm coming! Molly, did you hear that? Daddy's back!"

Keiko scooped up her daughter and half walked, half ran to Sickbay.

=/\=

It took several days for Miles to recover from the genetic disruptors, days with Keiko sitting at his bedside every second she could spare from running her school or looking after Molly. Dr. Bashir, as well as the Bajoran healer who had been about to replace him, were looking after Miles to the best of their abilities, and they assured her several times that her husband was going to be just fine.

"Mrs. O'Brien," said the Doctor, his young face creased with embarrassment and contrition. "I want to thank you. Commander Sisko told me how you found the alterations in the vid … they might never have found us if you hadn't got them looking."

He squeezed her hand so tightly, her fingers hurt.

"We were arguing, Miles and I," he continued, with a rueful little smile. "About the advantages of married life over bachelorhood … I'll have you know that Miles was very firmly on the married side. He said I don't know what I'm missing. And I've discovered he has a point."

"What do you mean, Doctor?"

"Why, the coffee, Mrs. O'Brien. The fake shot you spoted with Miles holding a coffee cup. If you didn't know your husband so well, both he and I might be dead by now."

=/\=

On the third day, Miles opened his eyes.

"Keiko … "

"Miles!"

What he said next was exactly what she had expected, a rumble of "Jesus, Mary and Joseph!" accompanied by a grimace of pain. "I feel like I've gone to hell and back. Or am I still there?"

"How many demons do you know with tweed jackets and stuffed rabbits?" she shot back, motioning to Molly's toy, which was sitting next to his pillow. "Molly lent him to you. Just until you're feeling better, of course."

"Naturally," said Miles, returning her smile.

Keiko ran her hand along Miles's sandy blonde curls. Just to do that again, a gesture she had taken for granted just two weeks ago!

"I'm so happy," she said, fighting to get the words past the lump in her throat. "I thought you were … "

"Shh, sweetheart, it's all right." He reached up, with some effort, to wipe a tear from her cheek. "I've got the luck of the Irish, remember?"

Trust Miles to comfort her when he was the one strapped to a biobed.

"I love you," she said, leaning over him for a kiss. "You know that, don't you?"

"I know."

"And you know that as soon as you're on your feet, I am going to yell at you until my voice gives out?"

He chuckled. "Oh, I know."

"Miles Edward O'Brien, you've got to be the most exasperating man I've ever met."

"Delighted to be of service, Ma'am."

Keiko hadn't wanted to marry a Starfleet officer, not even the love of her life, knowing that someday, she might easily find herself in a worse situation than this one now. It had taken Data at his most logical, combined with Miles himself at his most charming, to coax her to the altar. But as she looked down at her husband's pale but happy face in the harsh glare of Sickbay, felt the gentle pressure of his hand, heard his beloved voice, she knew that she wouldn't exchange her life with Miles for anything in the universe.