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Julian rushes to Garak’s quarters, mind racing. What has he just done? There are so many ways this could go wrong, and it’s the kind of decision that Garak really should’ve had a say in, but there simply hadn’t been time. Even if he’d had the luxury of time, though, he doubts he would’ve chosen differently. Some things are instinctual.

He can only hope Garak agrees. No less than seventeen scenarios present themselves to him and he definitely prefers those where Garak agrees.

The trip to the habitat ring seems to take an inordinately long time, but at last he’s in front of Garak’s quarters ringing the doorbell. “Who is it?”

“Julian.”

The door opens to permit entry. He knows he’s a ball of nervous energy and so wastes no time in informing his lover, “I’ve just returned from an alternate reality courtesy of Jadzia’s microsingularity experiment.”

“Oh?”

“This universe has no wormhole so the station was still orbiting Bajor, and we left as DS9 was going to be sacrificed to save Bajor. No time to evacuate.”

“Isn’t this kind of information supposed to be classified?”

“You need to know.”

“Why?” asks Garak, suspicious.

Julian hopes he hasn’t made a terrible mistake. “Jadzia and I rescued someone. Our – that is, your and my alternates’ – infant daughter.”

For once Garak is absolutely speechless. It’s unnerving. He looks at Julian, opens his mouth, closes it, blinks. Then he’s up and kissing Julian, tenderly, passionately, and Julian feels his tension ease because Garak is alright with his choice.

“Julian Bashir, you are a marvel.”

“I hoped you’d approve… I couldn’t just leave her there to die.” Not with alternates of himself and Garak pleading.

“Certainly not. We have discussed the importance of family to Cardassians, have we not?”

“That crossed my mind.” Along with a dozen other factors which all paled compared to instinct and emotion. “Jadzia’s watching her. I didn’t want anyone else to find out until I told you.”

“What’s her name?”

“Ava. I seems our counterparts went with a human name.”

“On the contrary, they very sensibly chose a name that is both human and Cardassian, though it is a rare name on Cardassia. I presume they gave her your family name?”

“I didn’t have time to ask.”

“That would be my preference.”

He doesn’t have the energy to argue. “Alright, if it means that much to you.”

Garak picks a blanket from his bed. “Shall we?”

“Of course.”

They’re quiet in the corridor, but in the turbolift Julian says, “She’s four months and six days old.”

“In good health, I trust?”

“Yes, though I’ll want to do a complete examination.”

Garak looks at him with emotion Julian can’t quite place. “Thank you, Julian.”

Lacking an adequate response, Julian grabs Garak’s hand and gives it a squeeze. He doesn’t let go until the turbolift stops and he releases Garak’s hand out of habit, although he think that their relationship isn’t going to be a secret much longer.

Jadzia is singing softly in Trill when they enter the lab, and since Ava was crying when Julian left he assumes that his daughter likes both Jadzia and Trill lullabies. He accepts Ava from Jadzia’s arms and Garak gets his first look at their daughter.

Her skin tone is closer to Julian’s, though a grey tint is definitely noticeable. She has soft ridges and a subtle dosset in the center of her forehead that Julian finds adorable. Her hair is black like Garak’s but similar to his own in texture, and to his great delight Ava has Garak’s piercing eyes.

“She’s precious,” says Jadzia. “I’m very happy for both of you.”

Jadzia is one of the few people who knows about their relationship and the only one who really understands how happy Julian is with Garak. Her sentimental side is out in full force today. Julian will have to talk to Garak about asking Jadzia to be Ava’s godmother. Not that any of them care about the old religious aspect, but it’s just occurred to Julian that if they don’t plan otherwise, should he and Garak die Ava would probably end up with his parents, and he has no intention of letting that be a possibility.

It’s actually hard to let her go, but worth it to put Ava in Garak’s arms. They wrap her in a blanket – he’ll have to figure out the best temperature for her, somehow – and when Garak is gazing at their daughter in wonder Julian thinks his heart has never felt so overflowing with joy before.

Garak says something in Cardassi that doesn’t translate, but Julian doesn’t need to know what the words mean. He sees everything important.

There will be complications, of course – Starfleet probably won’t appreciate this new addition and the Bajoran population is bound to be displeased, to name only two – but they pale in consideration to seeing their daughter in Garak’s arms. Julian holds a finger out and is rewarded when Ava grabs it.

“What do you want her to call you?” he asks his lover.

“Na’ul.”

“I suppose I’m going to have to learn Cardassi.”

“I will teach both of you,” declares Garak, tearing his eyes from Ava for a moment to share a fond look with Julian. “And what parental address would you prefer?”

“Daddy for now. It typically gets shortened to Dad as children get older.” He much prefers that to the stiff formality of ‘Father,’ which is anyway how he refers to his own father and that simply won’t do. “I need to bring her to the infirmary.”

“Do you want me to transport you?” offers Jadzia, and they gratefully accept.

Jabara’s jaw actually drops when they materialize. “Doctor?” she manages weakly.

“Commander Dax and I had an unplanned visit to an alternate reality, and in the process rescued that version of myself and Garak’s daughter.”

“Should I replicate a carrier?”

“That would be much appreciated.”

Ava sleeps through most of the physical. Garak takes the opportunity to scrutinize every detail of her little body. She has the daintiest little neck ridges imaginable and Julian already loves his daughter more than he would have previously thought possible. Mustn’t underestimate parental instinct, he thinks, filing that away in the clinical part of his brain.

Jabara has recovered some of her composure by the time she brings over a fully assembled carrier and a small, fluffy teddy bear. “So, what’s her name?”

“Ava.”

“I’ll, ah, let you get acquainted.” She retreats to the other side of the infirmary, and Julian puts Ava in the carrier and totes her to his office. His mostly-Bajoran medical staff will clearly need some time to adjust to his half-Cardassian daughter.

“Shut the door?”

Garak complies, worry clouding his face. “Is she ill?”

“No, no. Perfectly healthy, and her DNA is a one hundred percent match to ours.” Therein lies the problem. A one hundred percent DNA match could only mean his counterpart had been genetically engineered, and suddenly his secret doesn’t just impact him.

“There’s something I need to tell you.” Garak nods, and Julian tries to speak past the lump in his throat. “I… oh, hell, there’s no good way to put this. When I was a child I was slow. When other children were learning to read and write and use computers I was still trying to tell a dog from a cat and a tree from a house. Just before my seventh birthday my parents took me to Adigeon Prime, and my whole world began to change. Accelerated critical neural pathway formation, otherwise known as complete genetic resequencing. Mental abilities were top priority, of course, but I also have considerably better hand-eye coordination, vision, hearing, reflexes, and stamina. Entirely illegal. I’d lose my commission and my medical license if Starfleet finds out.”

Garak gives nothing away. “Why are you telling me?”

“Because you deserve to know your daughter’s genetic heritage. Because I’d like us to move to family quarters, and sooner or later parental concern is going to override years of holding myself back and I’m going to give myself away.”

Because every relationship he’s ever had was doomed by him keeping part of himself aloof and there’s so much more at stake here. Because if anyone can accept him, he’s fairly certain it will be Garak. Because he’s tired of lying all the time and his own quarters are his sanctuary, an oasis of freedom he’s not inclined to give up.

“I’ll understand if you don’t want me now that you know the truth.”

Garak reaches over to put his hands on Julian’s shoulders, and Julian dares to hope. “I am delighted that my daughter shares your genes, however they came to be, and family quarters are an excellent idea.”

The weight of relief pushes Julian’s head forward to land against Garak’s. After a moment to pull himself together, to believe that Garak accepts him, he says quietly, “You have no idea how much that means to me.”

“I will protect your secret as my own, for it becomes one of my own.”

“It’s in good hands, then.”

“I like to think so.” He pulls his head back and looks Julian directly in the eyes. “You need not worry that I share the Federation’s absurd prejudice, ss’avi.”

“Ss’avi?”

“The literal translation is ‘part of my being,’ but a more approximate translation of meaning is ‘cherished one.’” He’s slightly wary, always prepared for the worst reaction.

Julian kisses Garak, blissfully happy. “I love you too.” He can feel Garak relax into the kiss once he’s assured of Julian’s affection. They aren’t going to declare their feelings frequently, Julian knowns – it took unexpectedly sharing a child to declare their feelings at all – but that’s fine, because they know. The moment is about as perfect as moments get.

Until Ava wakes up and starts crying and they are completely unprepared to have an infant in their lives, but it was an excellent moment while it lasted.