eponymous_rose: (DS9)
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Title: Simulacrum
Word Count: 11,600 (in four chapters)
Characters: Mirror Miles O'Brien, Mirror Julian Bashir, Mirror Jadzia Dax, Mirror Jennifer Sisko, Julian Bashir, Mirror Benjamin Sisko, Benjamin Sisko, Mirror Dukat, Mirror Tuvok, Mirror Kira Nerys, Mirror Garak
Warnings: None
Notes: For [livejournal.com profile] echoinautumn. Thank you to [personal profile] epershand and [personal profile] justice_turtle for their super-detailed and thought-provoking betas - this story's much better for their help, and any remaining errors are entirely my fault! Also, thank you to [livejournal.com profile] persiflage_1, who did an eleventh-hour beta for a longfic in a relatively unfamiliar fandom - I really appreciate it!

Summary: Through the looking glass, Miles O'Brien makes the acquaintance of two Julian Bashirs. He's always had a talent for fixing broken things.

AO3: Simulacrum
LJ/DW:
Chapter Two: Double Exposure

The second time Miles met Julian Bashir, it came as such a shock that he dropped his stolen disruptor on the floor with a clang that earned him a harsh glare from Sisko. "Sorry," he muttered, and picked it up, bringing it back to bear on the man who looked so familiar. Now that he was beyond his first, startled reaction, though, Miles could see the differences: longer hair, a scruffy beard, and beneath it all, a frustrated, terrified anger.

"No relays. No power junctions. Nothing of interest here," Sisko said, staring out over the room full of slaves with a dismissal that Miles figured to be a bit too carefully calculated. Silence met his words: they were all staring at him, dumbfounded, and Miles felt a twinge of sympathy for their bewilderment. Sisko toed the dead Klingon at their feet, and looked up with a grin, pitching his voice a bit higher. "Unless any of these useless Terrans feel like joining the revolution."

Miles had been avoiding looking at Bashir, but now he couldn't resist darting a glance in his direction. He was staring at Sisko with a strange hunger that was steadily giving way to a sullen resentment. He didn't step forward, but his eyes were blazing, and Sisko zeroed in on him instantly. Give the man credit, he had this whole recruiting business down to a science.

"What about this one, Smiley? Seems a little weak-willed. We need fighters!" Again, his voice rose. The slaves nearest Bashir flinched away, but he merely glowered, sinking further from hunger and deeper into resentment. "Pathetic, eh, Smiley?"

"Uh," said Miles, noncommittally. It seemed clear that Bashir was interested, but it was equally clear that he didn't want to play Sisko's game in order to get involved. It was, he had to admit, a sound recruiting strategy: don't take anyone on who isn't willing to toe the line, to sacrifice dignity for the cause. Loose cannons destroy revolutions. Still, he felt an uncomfortable knot building in his stomach at the thought of turning away, of leaving Bashir – even this Bashir – in a place like this.

Sisko slung an arm across Miles's shoulders. "I guess we'll have to go elsewhere."

Bashir's eyes flickered to Miles, and his lip curled in disgust. Miles thought about probabilities, about the odds of seeing another Julian Bashir, about things that were broken. He met Bashir's gaze steadily, for long enough that the sneer started to smooth out, replaced with confusion, then shrugged off Sisko's arm and took a step forward. "Come with us," he said.

Bashir cocked his head to one side, then dragged his gaze slowly and deliberately over to Sisko, frowning. Miles also glanced self-consciously to Sisko, who was staring at him with a furrowed brow. He'd never really taken a close look at the other Bashir, Miles realized. Probably hadn't even made the connection. Maybe it was for the best.

Miles turned back to Bashir, took a deep breath, and added, "Please."

After a moment, Bashir sighed and stood up, accepting the concession with ill grace. "I hope you're a hell of a lot more competent than you look."


The Bashir in this universe, Miles discovered, was somewhat more difficult to befriend. He wasn't sure how much of it was a genuine dislike, and how much of it was an unfair comparison to the man who'd had such a strong impact on Miles's life, but whatever the case, within three weeks Miles had decided he sort of hated this Bashir's guts.

Fortunately, they'd widened their net of recruitment lately, picking up the odd mercenary or soldier of fortune, and Miles found he got along with some of them considerably better than his fellow Terrans. One such merc was a Trill named Jadzia Dax, and while she'd taken an instant liking to Sisko for reasons beyond his comprehension, she also treated Miles with a modicum of teasing respect, and they'd taken to eating lunch together, during the odd days of downtime.

"Tell me again about these invaders from another universe," she said today, eyes sparkling wickedly over her bowl of gruel-like soup. He wasn't quite able to judge yet if she really believed his stories, but she seemed content to listen to them, and he was finding that telling stories was a lot like fixing a ruptured plasma conduit – they were a balm, a way to smooth out the broken places.

So he told her the tale again, with hardly any hesitation this time, and she listened, head cocked to one side, a tiny quirk of her lips the only indication of her amusement at his enthusiasm. This time, instead of smoothing over his meeting with the other universe's Julian Bashir, he paused.

"You know," he said slowly, "I think I probably should've expected how different they were. I mean, their Kira and the Intendant seemed nothing alike."

Jadzia shrugged. "I've seen a lot of people be a lot of different things under different circumstances. You can run all you like, but trust me, you can't ever really get away from the people who live under your skin. I'd be willing to bet that the man you met is buried deep inside there somewhere." Her voice had taken on a thicker layer of irony, and her eyes darted to a point just beyond his right shoulder.

He turned, and came face-to-face with Julian Bashir.


Bashir made a concerted effort to avoid him after that, and Miles spent a few distracted days replaying that conversation with Jadzia, trying to remember just how much awe and wonder had spilled into his voice when talking about the other Bashir. Eventually, he stopped wondering: the wary looks Bashir shot him from time to time were answer enough.

In the time since the escape from Terok Nor, operations had drifted gradually toward the routine. Another unlikely recruit found his way to their fast-growing rebellion: a Ferengi named Rom, whose stubborn claim of wanting revenge for his brother's death was enough for even Sisko to treat him with a grudging respect. Miles liked the man, but couldn't help holding up the warped mirror of the other universe, trying to picture what was missing in Rom, what was keeping him from being a whole person. His brother's death, presumably.

After one of the good days, when they'd both imbibed enough of an intercepted shipment of Romulan Ale to loosen their tongues, Miles brought up that other universe, with the fuzzy-headed intention of drawing Rom out in some idle speculation. Instead, Rom only offered him a blank stare and an annoyingly unslurred and coherent reply. "Why should I care about some other universe? This is the one that matters."

"No," said Miles, and added, with a wobbly earnestness, "Everything's better there. Different. Changed." It took him a moment to notice that Bashir, sitting at a nearby table, was listening in on their conversation with a deepening scowl. That suited Miles just fine, he decided, and raised his voice. "Maybe if we tried to act more like them and less-" He hiccupped. "-less like us, we wouldn't need this revolution in the first place."

Bashir shoved his chair back; though he'd seen the anger building, Miles was so startled by the noise that he nearly fell off his own chair. "Look," Bashir said, a fresh edge to his voice, "I don't know who you think I am or... or who you think I should be, but if you're so disgusted by this whole bloody mess of a universe, do us all a favor and remove yourself from it."

Miles just stared at the glass in his hands, fighting a belated sense of unease, until Bashir stomped away. He felt vaguely ill, and he was sure it wasn't all down to the ale.

After a few uncomfortable moments, Rom snorted. "No wonder you're quiet all the time."

Miles sighed, and slouched away to be quite thoroughly sick until morning. The next time they intercepted a shipment of Romulan Ale, he found an excuse to be as far from it as possible.


A few weeks later, Rom brought Sisko a new scrap of intel – apparently he still had a contact on Terok Nor with some level of freedom, though he steadfastly refused to reveal that contact's identity. Miles trusted Rom, and he knew Sisko did as well, so plans started unfolding with a little more speed and confidence than their usual skulking in the shadows. It was a good feeling, Miles thought. Professional.

Rom's informant had identified a small Alliance outpost – little more than a shuttle acting as a sentry – and had somehow managed to obtain a series of codes that would give them full access to the outpost's systems. They had to act quickly; the codes would reset automatically every twenty hours, and they had no information about the algorithm used to regenerate the passkeys.

Even with the time limit, it was almost laughably easy to take Sisko's ship in, take advantage of the outpost's short-staffed status, and take out its defenses remotely. They hadn't really thought too far beyond that point, though, and when long-range sensors picked up an Alliance cruiser on the approach, Miles managed to convince Sisko and a seething Bashir that discretion was the better part of valor. The rebels retreated.

The effect of even this short-lived victory on morale was surprisingly palpable. A lifetime of oppression, Miles was finding, tended to create a mental avalanche of successes for every act of rebellion. Tapping into those long-quashed dreams of freedom opened a floodgate of possibilities.

They took another minor outpost, and managed to hang on to it this time by waiting and watching, gathering sufficient intel that they could simulate standard operations to outside observers, all the while planting tiny, significant orders here and there, destabilizing piece by piece. That victory was smaller, but no less symbolic, and their numbers were buoyed as tales of their accomplishments spread, illicit and whispered by slaves, ground out and cursed by their masters.

They were learning.


One evening, in the midst of another recruiting operation, Miles found himself sitting across from Bashir in the slaves' mess on a small Alliance transport. He suspected assigning the two of them to infiltrate the place together had been a joke on Sisko's part – even he couldn't have missed their growing animosity – and so far, their attempts at reaching out to the dispirited Terrans aboard the ship had only ended in dull, blank looks. They needed a breakthrough of some sort, so they'd taken a moment to regroup, but Miles found he was having trouble meeting Bashir's eyes. He pretended his bowl of protein-gruel was the single most interesting thing he'd ever seen, and didn't look up. Bashir seemed to be taking a similar approach.

After a few minutes, though, Bashir broke the silence without preamble, like he was merely continuing an ongoing argument. Miles supposed he was. "Look," Bashir said, "if there's another me in that universe, surely there's got to be another you."

"That's right." Miles risked a glance up to see that Bashir had set his jaw and seemed intent on glaring him down. Miles went back to staring at his gruel.

"If you're going to hold me to that Bashir's high standards, why not yourself?" There was a strangely reasonable tone to Bashir's voice, one Miles wasn't sure he'd ever heard before. It made the hairs at the back of his neck stand up.

Miles stirred his gruel. "That's why I got involved in this whole thing. The other Miles was an important person, and from what I heard, he always did his best to help others."

Now Bashir's voice was nearly a whisper, still frighteningly calm. "How can you know that?"

Miles took a breath, then glanced up and met Bashir's eyes. His voice was suddenly hoarse, quavering. "Does it matter what he's really like? I want to be a better person, and I'm working on it. What's your excuse?"

"My excuse," Bashir said, "is that I don't want to erase my identity to become somebody I've never met." He stood, and in one smooth motion planted his elbow in the throat of a passing Bajoran guard – Miles could hear the snap of something going horribly wrong in the man's breathing – then twisted and jammed the heel of his hand against another guard's nose, breaking it with a crack that echoed through the shocked silence in the room.

Miles fumbled for a moment, then drew his concealed weapon, watching as Bashir wiped some of the guard's blood off his hand. Bashir grinned as another trio of guards started toward them, hampered by new murmurs of discontent among the slaves, the start of an uprising. He glanced back, met Miles's eyes. "I won't betray who I am," he said, and flung himself back into the fight.

As they made their way with a handful of escapees through the labyrinthine corridors of the transport, Miles couldn't shake the stubborn feeling that this had been far too easy. He knew, without asking, that Bashir felt the same way.

When they rounded the corner and came face-to-face with a half-dozen heavily armed Cardassians, Miles felt his heart thud to a stop. Bashir was already raising his weapon, but Miles found himself lowering his own, meeting the lead Cardassian's eyes. There was a faint smile on that reptilian face, coupled with something that looked a bit like resignation.

"You have friends here," the Cardassian said, in a soft voice, then turned and shot the officer standing next to him in the head.

What followed was chaos. Their would-be ally died in the next volley of disruptor fire, but the delay was enough to give Bashir and Miles each time to take down the others, and then they were running again, trying to weave their way through the bodies to the open corridor beyond, spurred on by the stampede of terrified, exhilarated Terrans behind them.

Once they'd reached the getaway shuttle, Miles fell into the navigator's seat and let Bashir pilot their way to freedom. It took them nearly three minutes to clear the transport's sensor range, which Miles knew was far too long considering their escape had already been detected, but, impossibly, nothing happened to stop their flight, and they made it into the comforting haze of the Badlands without any further incident.

Bashir glanced over at Miles. "What the hell happened back there?" He was still breathing hard; they both were.

Miles shook his head, then laughed out loud, giddy with the realization that they'd made it, that they were safe. "I don't know. Maybe... maybe sometimes good things happen to good people."

Bashir rolled his eyes, but there was a faint smile playing at his lips.


"You know," Jadzia told him, another day, as they huddled in yet another captured shuttle, waiting to take its Cardassian owners by surprise, "I think I took on this job out of a sick fascination: when you Terrans fail, it's going to be spectacular. Only I'm starting to wonder if maybe you might pull this whole rebellion off after all. Maybe Sisko really is as impressive as he thinks."

Miles grinned, reveled in the feeling of his heart pounding faster and faster. He felt alive in a way that went beyond breathing. "Maybe he is, at that."

Two days later, Benjamin Sisko was dead.


Things showed every indication of going completely to hell after Sisko's death. Bashir immediately fought tooth and nail to force himself into a position of power, supported by Rom's frustrated rage. The power grab, however, was by no means absolute: the new Vulcan recruit, Tuvok, showed a particular aversion to him. Miles couldn't really blame the man for trying, but appeals to logic only went so far with Bashir.

When word came down that Sisko's estranged wife was on Terok Nor, setting up a sensor array that would light up their hiding place in the Badlands like a beacon, Bashir immediately called for the destruction of the station. Tuvok pointed out that destroying the station to keep their secret safe would also murder the Terran slaves aboard, and would effectively provide the Alliance with all the proof they could ever want to further discredit the rebellion as a bunch of terrorists.

"Oh, yes," Bashir said, sneering. "And you think they aren't already calling us terrorists now? What would the difference be?"

Unperturbed, Tuvok merely raised an eyebrow. "They'd be right."

Bashir gave a snarl of frustration and stalked off. Miles watched his retreating back for a moment, then sought Jadzia's eyes in the crowd. She met his glance and shrugged. Since Sisko's death, most of the non-Terran mercenaries had broken their contracts and bailed out, but those who had stayed betrayed the fact that something was keeping them here, be it anger or fear or... or simple inertia. Behind Jadzia's laconic expression was a stifled defeatism that terrified Miles. He knew it well; he'd started seeing it in the mirror.

Shivering, he turned and jogged after Bashir.

He found the man pacing up and down the length of a back room in a paroxysm of frustrated energy. "Now is not the time for us to develop a moral compass!" His voice was raised, but he avoided Miles's eyes.

Miles leaned against a wall, watching Bashir pace. "I think I agree with Tuvok. Even if we made the operation smaller-scale – say, just smuggled explosives into Professor Sisko's quarters – there'd still be the strong risk of Terran casualties. And you'd need volunteers for what would amount to a suicide mission. That's not what we're about."

Bashir stopped pacing, whirling to face him. "That's exactly what we're about. We're about throwing ourselves against a brick wall until we either smash through it, or until the stack of bodies is tall enough to climb over." Miles must have done a pretty poor job of hiding his expression, because Bashir sneered. "What, would the other Julian have abhorred that plan? Would it have turned his stomach?" He took a step closer. "Surely you've considered that if there's some of him in me, there must be some of me in him. You knew him for what, a day? Two? How long have you known me? Which of us do you think is the more real?"

"You want to know what I think?" Miles set his jaw. "I think you're too damn scared of the possibility that you could live a life that makes you happy. It doesn't matter who you think you are. You're too used to being miserable and angry." He paused, then decided to push his luck. "Scared."

He'd expected an outburst, maybe even a punch to the jaw, but Bashir just lapsed into a sullen silence. After a long moment, he said, "I don't understand you at all."

"No," Miles said, and turned away. "You don't."


The solution came to Miles in the middle of the night, when he was staring up at the ceiling, letting his mind do its slow, methodical work on things that were broken, on twisted mirrors and distorted reflections. He kept catching himself thinking that the revolution needed Sisko again, which wasn't entirely true: it needed stability, adjustment, time to give the thinkers a chance to catch up with the reckless hotheads. The revolution would probably do better without Sisko in the lead: he'd been an effective recruiter, but he'd also had a talent for recruiting thugs, and he had no sense whatsoever of subtlety.

So they needed to stall, to give themselves time to regroup, and that meant neutralizing Jennifer Sisko. But surely there was another way. Talking. Thinking. Changing minds.

He sat up, earning an annoyed grunt from the man bunking next to him. All the loose threads he'd been patiently untangling at the back of his mind for the past year were coming together, a skein, a fine line tracing the only possible course of action. For some time now, he'd been researching, pulling information surreptitiously with every venture near an Alliance database, and he'd started fiddling with a device that would reconfigure the transporter, simulate the effect that had brought James T. Kirk through the looking glass in the first place. If he could reverse the effect, he had a vague sense that he could ask for help and it would come running, that he could ask Julian-

No, not Julian. This time, it had to be Sisko. The other Sisko.

The plan was coming together in his mind, so quickly that Miles was almost overwhelmed. When had he stopped tinkering and puttering, and started plotting and scheming? But it could work, it might work.

It would work.


Before grabbing Sisko, Miles decided it would probably be prudent to try a couple of test transports into the other universe. He told himself it was so that he could scout out the place, make sure the station was the same on the other side as it was on his, but he had to admit that curiosity drove him more than necessity.

The first time, the transport went off without a hitch, and he stepped cautiously through the strange/familiar corridors of the station, peering around every corner, hoping he wouldn't run into someone who had just had a conversation with the Chief. It was a big place, however, and the few glimpses of recognition he saw in passersby were only accompanied by nods of greeting, which he returned with an easy smile. He had the sense that the Miles in this universe smiled a lot.

The second time, he was able to hack a console and find, among other things, the Operations duty roster, including the other Miles's schedule. It would be easy enough to work around that, and he figured it would be a few days anyway before his colleagues noticed he'd made off with his borrowed ship, so what was the harm in making a few more trips through the looking glass? Maybe he'd run into Julian again, see if he could spark a glimmer of true recognition in those eyes. Or the other Kira. Or-

He remembered the other Julian talking about the Miles on his side, mentioning a family. All at once, the notion of cross-universe voyeurism had lost a great deal of its appeal. Maybe some things were best left where they belonged. No broken things, in this universe. No need for him to interfere.

The third time he stepped into the other universe, Miles got straight to business, and successfully abducted Sisko from the other side.


The plan had worked. Miles realized it the first time he locked eyes with Professor Jennifer Sisko and saw the same startled, growing wonder he recognized in himself from the first time he'd met Julian. The other Sisko was no thug, no leader of thugs: he commanded.

When it was all over, when Sisko had returned home, Miles met with Professor Sisko in the quarters they'd hastily erected for her, and saw in her eyes that Sisko had told her the whole truth. They wound up talking, for a while, about the other universe they'd only seen in pieces and snatches.

"It doesn't seem fair, Smiley," Professor Sisko said, leaning back in her chair and tilting her head toward the ceiling. "They're always rescuing us. Don't they ever need rescuing? Is everything really so much better there?"

Miles let the silence stretch, then smiled. "As I understand it, their universe is lacking at least one thing that makes ours superior." At her puzzled glance, he said, "Jennifer Sisko."

She smiled at that, and they talked until the night stretched gradually into day, easy in each other's company.


The next morning, Julian Bashir was waiting for him in the hastily erected mess hall. "We need to talk," he said, and strode out without waiting for Miles to follow.

They walked to a secluded area, and Miles fought down a bizarre paranoia that he was being led off to be murdered somewhere quiet and out of the way. That didn't seem to be Bashir's style. If he was angry enough to kill, he'd kill in the open, where the grand gesture would earn him the fear, if not the respect, of the rest of the rebels.

When Bashir spun to face him, though, Miles immediately crouched into a defensive position. "Where is Sisko?" Bashir's voice was a low, angry hiss.

"Uh," said Miles.

"Where is Sisko?"

"Uh," said Miles, again. It probably wasn't the best strategy, so he took a deep breath and started again. "He's trying to open communications with the Romulans."

Bashir crossed his arms, and there was a wildness behind his eyes that Miles hadn't seen before. "Where is Sisko?"

Miles's mouth twisted. "You know where he is, damn it!" The volume of his voice surprised even him.

Bashir's anger subsided a little and he drew back, looking startled at the ease with which he'd extracted this admission. "So he was from the other universe."

Meeting his gaze head-on, Miles said nothing.

"Then our Sisko-"

"Is dead, yes." In for a penny, in for a pound, Miles figured. "I borrowed a ship, built a device to transport between universes, and abducted their Sisko. It was the only way."

Bashir was watching him with a curious, assessing look, more cautious than Miles had ever seen him. "You're not as stupid as you look," he said, at last.

Miles figured that was the closest he'd get to even a backhanded compliment, and tried to tamp down the weird surge of elation that was welling up in him at the thought. "Thanks."

Chapter Three: Darkroom

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