This is my first time writing an imagine in this particular style, but I’ve really enjoyed it, so I would appreciate any feedback you can give me, if you have the time.
This is delight, this is fear, this is being trapped alone with someone you both adore and cannot stand. You don’t know a word for this. There probably isn’t one.
This planet is very likely the most beautiful place in existence.
It revolves around a small but warm yellow sun, nestled in the swirling arms of a colorful nebula that has a spectrum so vibrant that it can even be seen during the day. The atmosphere is thinner than that of most M-Class planets, but not so that the air is uncomfortably thin, and it allows for a clarity in the sky that you have never seen on any planet. The stars are thick and glimmering on the night sky, and the constellations are foreign to you, but you think you can pick out a few that you recognize from the star charts. Everything seems so close. Too close, even; right on the edge of overwhelming. Much, you think, like Julian.
It is you and him and no one else, as of today. This planet, uninhabited, unclaimed, and unscarred, had been the subject of an exploratory survey. There were ten other people who made and excellent buffer between you and Julian, but they managed to get off the planet before the transporters malfunctioned. You and Julian did not.
The good doctor doesn’t seem bothered by this development at all. You try to act like it’s not your worst fears come true.
After all, there are worse places to be stranded and worse people to be stranded with. (Like, say, Dukat.)
The sun of this planet is not nearly as bright or as harsh as Earth’s sun, but it is only your sixth day here and Julian is already sun-kissed and honey-hued. It suits him beautifully, you think, but you don’t take much time to observe. You, for the most part, stay inside the shuttle, where Julian isn’t.
He frowns at you and says that he didn’t think you were the sort to coop yourself up inside like this.
Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t, but it’s not like you want to be. Not on a planet like this, where you can practically touch the stars and where even the bugs don’t bite. Risa, eat your heart out, but this is paradise. No, you don’t want to coop yourself inside. But you’re not sure if you can stand this.
“Come on,” he says, grabbing your hand and tugging like a child, “come on.”
You can’t say no to him, not when he’s making those puppy-eyes at you, and especially not when you finally say yes and he smiles so brilliantly. How could you possibly say no when saying yes causes such a delightful reaction? So you go with him, and he pulls you out into the hazy light of a lilac sunset.
“I’ve never told anyone,” he says, softly, softly, as if not to startle you. You’re shoulder-to-shoulder with him, lying in the grass and watching the last strains of lilac drain from the sky and seeps down past the horizon line. “But I never really wanted to be a doctor. It was all my parents’ idea.”
You’re not as surprised as you should be, perhaps. You don’t really know Julian, not in the traditional sense of knowing someone. You’ve hardly spoken to him and, in fact, actively avoided having to directly interact with him. But in a non-traditional sense, you know him very well. Perhaps better than anyone else. You have seen what no one else sees and so you know what no one else knows. You have looked from all the different angles and observed Julian in those moments when he though no one could see him, and you’ve found a very different person from the one he pretends to be. He is not naïve, but wise, not clumsy, but graceful, not awkward, but calculated. His youth is a mask for an old soul and his arrogance a cover for a knowing that is in him, and understanding that you can’t quite comprehend even though you see it resting heavily on his shoulders. He is so much. You’re not sure how he is or why he hides it, but you can see it and you feel wonderfully privileged. So, no, you are not so surprised when he reveals that even his career is part of that outer shell.
It takes intelligence to be a doctor, and compassion and determination. Julian has all these things in droves, but he has so much more. No one would ever ask something so beautifully complex to be simplified, and yet, someone has done so to Julian. To be a doctor is wonderful, but as a doctor, Julian is terribly, woefully simplified, like a Van Gogh painting sapped of color.
“I get it,” you say, and he has no idea.
“Really?” he says, sounding surprised. “Overbearing parents?”
“No, I just…” You struggle to express something that you can’t possibly tell him in full truth. “I just understand. You could have been anything, and…”
You can’t finish with spoken words, but Julian nods and you know he understands you. And, judging by the small, soft smile that curves his lips, he’s very pleased.
The last spark of sunset winks out over the horizon.
The nights are much longer than the days on this planet. Perhaps because it is winter, or maybe some other phenomenon you aren’t familiar with. But, when you wake, you feel the bone-deep satisfaction of having slept for as long as your body needs and then some, and the stars are still bright above you. Julian is nestled at your side, his head resting against your shoulder and one arm tossed carelessly over your middle. You’re not sure how you ended up like this or how you both fell asleep out here, but you blame it on the comfort provided by the thick, soft grass.
“Better than the Cardassian beds,” you say to no one, but it draws a drowsy chuckle out of Julian.
“Isn’t everything?” he mumbles, voice thick with sleep.
He yawns and wipes at his eyes, too cute for words. When he rises in a stretch, you think he’s going to get up, but he only settles back down at your side, even closer than before.
“Is this alright?” he asks when he rests his head on your shoulder again.
You’re not really sure if it’s alright, but you say, “Yes.”
For some immeasurable stretch of time, there is only comfortable silence. You feel the softest huff of Julian’s breath against your skin; the way his arm tightens around your middle to anchor you to him. You’re not sure if it’s your proximity to Julian or the weak gravity that makes you feel so light.
“You know,” he finally ventures to say, “I thought you didn’t like me.”
You make a sound that’s somewhere between a laugh and a scoff. “I like you, Julian.”
“But you avoid me, I can tell,” he says. His tone is right on the edge of accusatory, but it isn’t angry enough for that. More hurt than angry. “I’ve never understood why.”
Busted, you think.
“I mean,” he continues, “did I say something wrong? It’s alright that you don’t like me. I understand. Most people don’t like me, not really. I know I can be difficult. But you refused treatment once just because I was on duty, and I–”
Oops. You hadn’t realized he knew about that.
You reach over and press your fingers against his mouth, effectively silencing him.
“I like you a lot, Julian,” you say before letting your hand drift away from his mouth. (His lips are so soft.)
“Oh,” he says. “Oh. Alright.”
When you first met Julian Bashir, you thought that he was just what everybody else thought he was: an arrogant, excitable young man whose nearly-genius IQ was the only thing saving him from being in way over his head. And maybe you would have kept on thinking that, except, you caught a glimpse of him when he thought no one else was looking. You’re still not sure what you saw in that moment, but it was not what he pretended to be. Not even close. So you observed from what you thought was a safe distance, watching and waiting, catching more of those vulnerable moments and discovering Julian Bashir to be a very different person. And then you realized that the distance you kept hadn’t been safe enough.
You developed the crush to end all crushes on Dr. Bashir, and you hated it.
Julian isn’t a good person to be infatuated with. There are worse people (like, say, Dukat), and if things were less serious, you might not mind, but the problem is that Julian is a shameless flirt who seems to be allergic to commitment. Or, he pretends to be. You haven’t figured that one out yet but you can’t really contest the evidence. The evidence, being a long line of beautiful women who Julian had found irresistible. And he couldn’t hold on to a single one of them. You’re not sure if that’s good or bad but it sure doesn’t make him look like Serious Significant Other material.
Now, you’re alone on a planet with this man. There are no other women, only you and him and the glorious sky, and it hurts, because you know that nothing has really changed except that your crush is no longer just a crush.
Julian abandons his Starfleet uniform for loose-fitting civvies abandoned by one of the scientists who had been on the shuttle with you before. The neutral tones and swirling patterns suit him well. Far too well. When he catches you admiring him, you save yourself by saying,
“Well, it just looks so much better than what you usually wear.”
And that’s a true statement if there ever was one. Julian’s worst flaw is his fashion sense. You have never seen someone dress as embarrassingly as he does and, honestly, you’re not sure why Garak hasn’t assassinated all of his outfits.
Julian’s not offended, though. He takes it as a compliment, striking an exaggerated pose to model the clothes for you. You can’t help laughing, and you use it as an excuse to cover your blush.
“Let’s go,” Julian finally says.
“Where?” you ask.
“Forward,” he declares, and after two days of keeping so close to the shuttle, you agree.
It doesn’t really matter, anyway. You can’t possibly go so far that the rescue won’t be able to find you. Five days of scientific survey didn’t find a single poisonous plant or sharp-toothed animal. This planet might as well be baby-proof for how safe it is. What’s the harm in exploring?
“Yeah, alright,” you say. “Let’s go.”
You go. When Julian realizes that you’ve both forgotten your shoes, neither of you care.
You sink your teeth into a fruit that tastes like some strange cross between watermelon and cantaloupe but has a thin, delicate shell that crunches delightfully under your teeth. It’s the best thing you’ve tasted in a long time, far superior than anything you can get out of a replicator. Everything on this planet is better. Feels better, tastes better, smells better. A ship will be here in a day, maybe two, to pick up you and Julian, but you don’t want to go. Not ever.
When Julian looks for a place to wash the stickiness of fruit off his hands, he finds a stream full of brightly colored fish that come right up to nibble on his fingers. He drags you in to try it and the fish nibble you clean, tickling as they go. You giggle at the sensation, and you get that feeling again. You don’t want to leave.
“If they never rescue us,” Julian says, “I won’t mind very much.”
“Neither will I,” you agree, sinking yourself into the water and trying to hold in your giggles when a few fish dart into your shirt to tickle your ribs.
“Although,” he adds with a sly smile, “if they never rescue us…“
If you make a joke about being Adam and Eve, I’ll murder you, you think, but you don’t say it. You just sweep your hand back and splash water at Julian. Hard.
"Ack!” He jerks away and then immediately splashes you back, a delighted smile dimpling his cheeks.
There is no surrender. You splash each other until your hair is soaked and all the fish have swum for cover. And so begins the first war this planet has ever seen.
“I never realized you were so much fun,” Julian says, and you snort with laughter.
You’re both lying out on the grass, still damp from the splashing war. Julian’s hair is drying into handsome curls, and you wish he would let it curl like that more often. You’re tired and happy and curling your bare toes into thick moss, wondering why you ever thought spending time with Julian was a bad idea. It’s torture of a kind, yes, but it’s such gentle, pleasant torture. You’re still coming down from the giddy high being so free with him brought you to, and all your reasons for denying yourself this suddenly seem flimsy.
“No, really!” Julian exclaims.
“It’s not me,” you say, “it’s the planet. This place is amazing.”
“Well, yes, it is,” he agrees, “but I wouldn’t be having nearly such a good time without you.”
“If you say so.”
“I do.“ Julian rolls onto his side to face you even though you remain on your back. "I wish we had become friends ages ago, I really do.”
You stare at the fluttering orange leaves overhead. Most of the flora here is more green than not, much like Earth, but there are still so many more colors and they are all so deep and full, just like the sky itself and all its stars. Pale-barked trees with orange leaves that smell like citrus and jasmine are the least of the wonders to be found here. "Well, we’re friends now.”
Julian lights up with a smile. “Really? It’s not just because we’re the only ones here?”
A gentle breeze ruffles Julian’s curls. You’re jealous of the wind.
Two days pass. It occurs to you to worry about the rescue party, but you don’t bother. You don’t even worry about your shoes. You’re barefoot on an alien planet and you don’t care.
This planet is about the size and density of Mars. Meaning that the gravity is on the weaker side, and you can take gliding leaps and still land softly, if you pay attention to what you’re doing. You and Julian make a game out of it, seeing how far you can skip without stumbling or how high you can jump and still make a decent landing.
When you’re tired and panting on the thin air, though, you just walk. The grass is so soft under your feet and the heat of the day is gentled by a cool breeze. Julian trails along behind you, not as tired as you are but content to amble along as slowly as you please.
“When we get back to Deep Space Nine,” he calls up to you, "I was thinking we could get dinner. Well, multiple dinners. Or lunches, if that’s more convenient, but dinner sometime.”
“That’d be nice,” you say, looking over your shoulder at him. “Like you and Garak?”
It would be nice. Dinner or lunch or whatever, every now and then. Now that you know you can handle being around Julian, it seems like a great idea.
Julian makes a face. “Well, I… that’s not exactly what I meant, no.”
You stop and turn to fully face him. He stands there with an odd expression on his face, that mild slump of discomfort in his posture, and you realize what you’ve missed.
“Oh…” Your gut clenches uncomfortably and you make some vague, meaningless gesture in an effort to expel nervous energy through your hands. “Julian, if you’re asking me if… I don’t, um… I don’t do casual.”
He frowns. It’s not angry, though, you can tell. It’s confused. He’s puzzled at your response. If he expected a rejection, this wasn’t it. “You don’t do casual?”
“Not the way you do,” you clarify. You hope that he gets it; that he’s aware of how his many ‘relationships’ must look from the outside. You don’t want to have to explain in real, spoken words that you couldn’t stand to be another name on a long, long list of girls.
“I wasn’t suggesting…” He trails off, frown creasing his face with lines too deep for his age.
You wait for him to say something else, but he doesn’t, so neither do you.
Night comes quickly and you don’t know how far you’ve walked without a word said between you, but it is more than far enough.
There’s a lake, or, you think it’s a lake. It’s freshwater, anyway. It stretches on and on, all the way to the horizon. It’s shallow for a long ways, barely halfway up your calves, but then it suddenly gets much deeper. The water is clear, so clear that you can see to the very bottom, and it’s almost just as frightening as not being able to see anything at all. But you don’t have to look – the lake reflects the sky so perfectly that you find yourself dizzy with stars; unable to tell up from down.
Any tension between you and Julian melts away in the face of such unspeakable beauty. It sparks a giddiness in your lungs; an indominable euphoria. You run across the shallow stretch of lake and until it is too deep, and then you dive. The sky is both above and below and you feel like you’re flying, mingling with the stars. And Julian, oh, Julian, he is beautiful. He has thrown away all pretenses and lets himself be truly graceful, as you know he is, and he looks inhuman. There is starlight kissing his skin; sweeping through his hair.
You dance together in the deep until you can’t hold your breath any longer. Together, you rise for air. His hands com to your waist to support you and you grab his shoulders for balance, buoying yourself upwards, and he dips his head down to meet you.
Lips. His lips are so soft and you always thought they would be, but this is more. He clings to you and you cling to him because the world is spinning and if you let go, you don’t know what will happen. You might go flying off into space. You might get lost in the stars, or in him. So you don’t let go.
You break for air only to surge back together again. This is less soft and more like the crashing of waves. You rush into each other, cresting and falling and crashing and then starting all over again with barely a pause for breath. You think Julian says something, hisses out a scrape of sounds against your lips, and it sounds something like “Yes, please, please.” You raise one hand to thread your fingers through his hair; to tug gently and coax out a soft moan. He’s holding you up in the water, hands at your back to keep you close enough to kiss, and you can feel his fingers curl against the line of your spine.
When you part, he does not let you down or allow for any distance to be put between you. You breathe each other’s air. His eyes are still closed, his brows furrowed, and you take in the glorious sight of him. The blush on his cheeks, the water droplets making his dark skin shine, the slight quiver of his lips as he takes in each ragged breath. When he drops his head forward, you find yourself cheek-to-cheek, and your only disappointment is that you can’t see his eyes when he opens them.
“I wasn’t suggesting casual,” he murmurs against your ear.
A breathy laugh catches in your throat and emerges as nothing but a happy sigh.
“I think I just figured that out,” you say.
And that’s how it starts. In a field of stars.