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The second year of the rebellion, things changed.

They'd established a more formal command structure, and somewhat to his surprise, Miles found himself promoted to captain almost right off the bat. He wasn't sure when he'd stopped being comfortable with merely lurking in the shadows, but he suspected both Professor Sisko and Bashir had been a bad influence on him, each in their own very different ways. The more time Miles spent around Bashir, the more convinced he was that somebody had to keep him in line, and he'd been rising to the challenge far more often than he liked. Anyone who opposed Bashir gained Tuvok's support, and so Miles had been finding himself with a growing pool of allies who also, inexplicably, saw themselves as subordinate to him. For her part, Professor Sisko had done a great deal to shift the balance of power away from the thugs and toward the thinkers. Miles wanted badly to measure up to her expectations, to prove to her that he was among the latter and not the former.

Bashir had also been promoted to captain recently, and the thought of it made Miles deeply uncomfortable in a way he couldn't define. His memories of the other Bashir were fading, and he was beginning to see the flaws in this universe's Bashir for what they were: the marks of a paranoid, angry, frightened man. Some days, he almost regretted that he'd ever recruited Bashir.

Other days, he regretted it very much.

Their latest mission was ambitious, no question. They were going to retake Terok Nor. The wheels had been turning, plans put in motion, spies activated, for the better part of a year, and Miles had made ruthlessly efficient use of the station schematics and access codes he'd acquired during his brief excursion into the other universe. Everything had gone almost suspiciously well, and Miles caught himself remembering the strange Cardassian on the slave transport who'd helped them and died without explanation. Whatever the source of their good fortune, reports started coming in that Professor Sisko's squad had captured the Intendant. At that news, Bashir's eyes had lit up with something wholly disturbing, and Miles had been forced to look away.

Then came the reports that the Intendant's second-in-command, the Cardassian Garak, had escaped custody, and in an unspoken agreement, Bashir and Miles had set out together to run him to ground. They passed through conduits and corridors, following the ragged trail of sightings as best they could.

"I can't wait to get my hands on the Intendant," Bashir said, conversationally, with a broad, nasty grin.

"She's a prisoner," Miles said, a little more sharply than he'd intended. "Not... well, not anything else."

"You take revenge your way," Bashir said, and Miles felt the hairs at the back of his neck stand up at the snarl in his voice. "I'll take it mine."

Before Miles could think up a retort, they rounded a corner and found themselves face-to-face with Garak.

There was a startled moment of silence. Garak reacted first, slamming his fist into Bashir's stomach.

Miles managed to pull his weapon, but Garak was fast. He was already gone around a bend in the corridor by the time Miles's shots sprayed fire across the empty wall. Miles considered pursuit, and then he noticed that Bashir hadn't straightened up, that he was slumping against the wall, that his weapon was falling from his hand with a clatter. Blood trickled between the fingers clamped over his gut, and it took Miles a confused moment to see the hilt of the dagger buried there.

"Oh, hell," Miles bit out, and caught Bashir as he crumpled the rest of the way to the ground, activating his subdermal communicator as he did so. "Medic! We need a medic here! Garak's still loose, heading down corridor thirteen."

Bashir was staring up at him. Even as Miles watched, trying to apply pressure to the wound without shifting the knife around too much, the fear always lurking behind Bashir's eyes was being replaced with a dull, groggy confusion. Miles figured that inane platitudes wouldn't be particularly well-received, so they stayed huddled in silence.

There was a medic not too far behind them, and he rushed up sooner than Miles had expected, pushing him gently out of the way and probing the wound with practiced fingers before applying a hypospray from a first aid kit of unmistakably Alliance design. Miles watched Bashir's eyes flicker shut, stumbled back as another person came rushing up, then watched as the medics set Bashir on an anti-grav pallet and spirited him off to the station's infirmary.

He felt cold. He thought about things that were broken.

The other Bashir had been a doctor.

He avoided visiting Bashir in the infirmary, but he did badger Jadzia with questions after each of her visits. She and Bashir had been growing closer since the truth about Sisko had come out, which was something of a worrying trend, but he still considered her a friend and trusted confidante, and in this case, she was his best source of information.

"They say he's going to be fine," Jadzia said, with a sigh, when he asked her for the fifth time. "Look, Smiley, if you want to check in on him, go yourself."

"I've been too busy with the building of the Defiant," Miles said, a bit weakly. "It's taken up all my time."

"Uh-huh," said Jadzia. "If it's any consolation, he hasn't exactly been asking after you, either."

Miles snorted, but some part of him was strangely disappointed.

It took them almost a week to get the internal sensors up and running – the Alliance officers had managed to sabotage a handful of systems before their capture – and at that point, Garak's escape was confirmed. He would doubtless be bringing reinforcements, and Miles didn't have a good feeling about their chances of victory without the Defiant on hand.

Bashir was back on duty, and seemed to be taking any possible opportunity to interrogate the Intendant. Miles did his best to ensure that there were always other people with him on those occasions, more thinkers than thugs, but he knew it wouldn't be long before the man snapped. Things were coming to a head on many different fronts and, much as he hated to admit it, he was beginning to think they were in need of some assistance from a familiar quarter.

Professor Sisko had the same thought, during one of their evening chats. "We need Ben," she said, bluntly. "I can get him, convince him to come over to help us. He can get the Defiant up and running faster than any of us."

Miles sighed. "You're right, of course, but I'm not sure he'll help. Why should he?"

Professor Sisko folded her arms on the table, quirked a smile. "It's not Ben Sisko we need to lure over here. It's his son."

Miles stopped in, once, to see the Intendant, mostly just to convince himself that she really had been captured. She stared at him, unperturbed by the guards surrounding her, a coy smile playing across her lips. "Well, well," she said. "Smiley."

"How the mighty have fallen," he said, a bit inanely, trying to shake the deep uneasiness welling up within him.

"Funny," she said, and smiled, leaning back against her prison bunk like it was a divan. "I was going to say the same thing."

Miles had always thought of the other universe as a sort of paradise, a place where people didn't want for anything, where Terrans were free to fight and live and love the way they pleased. For the first time, seeing Sisko agree to help them after they'd effectively held his son hostage, he began to see that freedom as a weakness. In this universe, Miles had nobody who could be used against him; anyone who attacked him would have to come at him from the front, not from behind. Surely, he consoled himself, that counted for something.

He didn't have much time to ruminate on mirror images this time around, though. Almost before he knew it, their work was complete.

The Defiant was a beautiful ship. He'd spent most of his life in space, as a slave, and his recent command posting with the rebels had accustomed him to sitting in the captain's chair. But when the ship first left dock, with Miles at the helm, under enemy fire, he swore he was seeing the stars for the first time.

The ship was eminently maneuverable, like nothing he'd ever encountered. His piloting skills – renowned among the rebels for their precision and careful strategy – seemed inadequate to the gentle delicacy of touch the ship's sleek lines commanded. When Sisko took the helm for their last, near-suicidal rush, Miles had to blink rapidly to focus on his weapons console. Something about this was so right, so perfect it ached: the captain and his ship, imbued with training and experience and privilege... but still Terran, underneath it all. Still Terran.

It would be a good death, Miles thought, watching as warning lights blinked out their imminent destruction. To have lived to see this, to have done so much with so little, to disappear in a blaze of beauty and grace. It would be a good death.

The bird of prey that had targeted their dying shields disappeared from his tac display, and he stared in disbelief as a new ship corkscrewed into view, weaving in a beautiful, effortless dance around the Defiant as the two vessels bore down on their target. Miles barely managed to keep a straight face as Bashir crowed victory across the comm.

They fired together on the behemoth, weaving in easy, comfortable rhythm. Miles had known Bashir was a passable pilot, but something about Sisko's maneuvers, combined with the Defiant's grace and power, seemed to be bringing out the best in him.

The cruiser retreated into warp under the onslaught. The rest of the Alliance ships followed. Miles stared, dumbfounded, at his console, and willed his hands to keep from shaking. They'd done it. They'd held. They'd won.

"You sound surprised," Sisko said, grinning.

In that moment, more than any other, Miles knew just how different the two universes were.

They were laughing and joking as they exited the airlocks, joining a crowd of cheering rebels. Miles felt giddy in a way he'd never known, full of hope and happiness at what they'd accomplished, together. From somewhere across the room, he saw Bashir in the midst of a passionate embrace with Jadzia, and they exchanged a brief smile, Bashir's cocky, Miles's hesitant.

A medtech touched Miles's arm, breaking the moment, and the look on her face made the laughter die in Miles's throat. She leaned up to whisper into his ear, then melted back into the hubbub. His head was spinning as he scanned the crowd, and when he finally met Sisko's eyes, the message, the bewildered sorrow, must have communicated even across the distance.

"Jennifer," Sisko mouthed, and ran.

Miles watched Sisko and his son disappear back to the other universe, and found himself wondering what it would be like, to lose someone like Professor Sisko twice. For the first time, he decided that maybe he didn't envy Sisko, after all.

He didn't let himself think too much about it after that, busied himself in repairs of the Defiant. Bashir must have noticed, because he'd taken to baiting him, making snide remarks about Professor Sisko. Miles tried to ignore him, telling himself it was some sort of screwed-up Bashir way of compensating for the fact that Miles had seen him when he was bleeding and vulnerable, but it only seemed to make matters worse. Generally, he managed to avoid committing violence over those particular disagreements. Generally.

"I don't see why you're still so obsessed with her," Bashir drawled, one day, under the guise of handing him a spanner. "I mean, even if you were fucking her-"

Miles whirled and slammed his fist into Bashir's gut, exactly where he knew the half-healed stab wound to be. Bashir dropped like a stone, wheezing, cursing under his breath.

"Professor Sisko," Miles said, slowly and softly into the silence that fell around them, "was a good person. There are few enough of them around this damned place that we should mourn the passing of every single one." Without looking back at Bashir's prone form, he stalked away, back to his quarters, where he paced up and down the room and tried to stop his hands from shaking.

Bashir never spoke ill of Jennifer Sisko again.

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