Author's Note: It's all Liz's fault. She requested a story about this picture at the following link; this is the (somewhat silly) result. Timeline, eh, put it sometime during season 4. Thanks to Liz for looking this one over.
Disclaimer: After all these years, I think we know who actually knows these characters, and it's not me.
The reporter and photographer will be here any minute," Sisko said. He paced the length of his office, tossing the baseball from palm to palm. Dax watched with some amusement. By her calculation, he had covered the entire office area at least four times. Four times since the missive came from Starfleet Headquarters on Earth that a Starfleet Times journalist and photographer-- not a holographer, just to be clear, but a *photographer* -- would be arriving at DS9 at 1600 hours and would he please clear his calendar to sit down with them for at least an hour?
"I said, yes, of course," Sisko said, pausing momentarily to glance at his old friend. "But I was tempted to ask if they were aware that there was a *war* going on and that the Dominion had not cleared *its* calendar, but a comment like that could cost me a pip or three, and I have no intention of sitting out this thing processing paperwork for a lieutenant second grade in the Orpheus System."
Dax bit back a grin. "If I didn't know better, Benjamin, I would think you didn't want your picture taken," she said. "Come to think of it, I'm not sure there's even an extant picture of you. Why *is* that?"
He glared at her. "I don't understand why Starfleet would go through this trouble."
"You know why, Benjamin, you just don't want to accept it," Dax said. She uncrossed her legs and stretched, somewhat languidly. "You have to admit, it's rather an honor."
"Honor?" Sisko stopped for a moment, and for this, Dax was grateful. She still had a slight hangover from the previous night's marathon tongo session, and Quark had been unusually generous with the bloodwine and she hadn't held back; it was a particularly young and fresh vintage, sweet and full to the taste. Perfection, she had told Quark, as he'd handedly made off with her latinum. "'Intrusive' might be another word."
"That's a little harsh, Benjamin. We're talking about generating publicity for Starfleet and these days, we could use some positive news," Dax said.
"I didn't even *know* Starfleet had a marketing department," Sisko grumbled.
"And now you do." Dax frowned. "Honestly, Benjamin, I don't know what you're worried about. What Starfleet wants is very simple. There's a sense that the media only reports on negatively on Starfleet. How many stories of corruption have you read recently? Or ill-advised tactical battle plans, all of it of course in hindsight and by people who don't have to make decisions under a barrage of fire. It makes sense Starfleet's marketing department wants to change the tone of these stories, share with the rest of the 'fleet what's going on here at DS9, what's been accomplished here, how we've all managed to work together against a common threat to do. It's a feel-good story and you should be proud."
"There's still so much work to do and I don't mean just the war," Sisko said quietly. He gently placed the baseball on his desk. "So many more battles to fight, literally and figuratively." He glanced at Dax with some concern. "I don't want the Federation to think we've accomplished everything we set out to do here. I don't want to give the impression that we're *done*."
"No one thinks that, trust me. At least, not anyone who was affected by last week's sewage leak or even the loss of gravity in the Habitat Ring for several hours yesterday, that is."
Sisko glared at Jadzia. "Those things could happen *anywhere* and you know that, Old Man." He pointed his finger in her direction. "This is the exact type of thing I'm worried about getting out. The next thing you know, the media will be reporting that DS9 is a badly run operation, falling apart, and putting people's lives at risk. I'm worried this kind of attention, no matter how it's spun, will only cause more scrutiny in our direction and cause us to lose focus at a time when we cannot."
"Hmmm, going point. But you know, we do have some things going on at DS9 that are unparalleled in other parts of the 'fleet." Dax stood for a moment, tipping her head first to one side and then the next. She still had a kink in the muscles at the base of her neck and then extending from the middle of her back to just below her shoulder. The result of bad posture at the tongo table, she knew. She'd actually been on her way to the Infirmary when Sisko had asked her to meet him in his office as he wanted to discuss the impending arrival of the Starfleet photographer. "Name another senior staff in Starfleet that consists of--" Dax held up her right fist and started extending a finger for each name she ticked off -- "three humans, one of whom is genetically engineered, a Klingon, a Bajoran, and a Trill? It's pretty exotic combination, if you ask me."
Sisko glared in her direction. "I thought this was all about what had been accomplished on DS9."
"A Ferengi and a Klingon managing to co-exist in deep space *is* an accomplishment," Jadzia answered with a knowing smile. Too many times, she'd found herself between these two personalities. "Not to mention, serving in battle with such a diverse group of personalities and cultural attitudes? Benjamin, it *is* something to be proud of--" she stopped as the doors to Sisko's open swished open.
"Captain, what is this about?" Kira stormed into the office, holding up a PADD. "The Cardassians are demanding docking concessions? And you're agreeing to this?"
"I won't tolerate this," Kira said. Kira slammed the PADD on the desk, sending the other PADD flying off the desk. It landed on the floor with a resounding thud. Kira didn't react, instead, fixed her glare directly on the Captain.
"Major," Sisko said calmly and deliberately, "they are demanding, but we don't have to grant *anything*." He reached down and very gently put the PADD back on his desk.
"The very *idea* they even requested--"
"Major," Dax broke in, "a photographer is on his -- her? -- way." She placed her hand lightly on Kira's forearm, a gesture rooted half in warning, half in understanding. "Any minute now--"
The Major turned to Sisko, her eyes narrowing in suspicion. "A photographer? You didn't say anything about this in our staff meeting this morning."
"I just found out." Sisko looked wearily at Dax. "And yes, Starfleet is sending a photographer--"
"To spy on us?"
"No. To document accomplishments on DS9," Dax said. "A reporter will be coming shortly after that. He -- she? -- is on his or her way from--" she looked at Sisko questioningly.
"New Sydney," Sisko said.
"Well, I'm sure Starfleet would *love* to hear about how the Cardassians seem to have forgotten Deep Space Nine is no longer under their control," Kira said. "The nerve of even asking for docking privileges!"
"We could use the Cardassians’ courtesy of a request as an example in how far Bajoran-Cardassian relationships have evolved. It wasn't too long ago that they would have just stormed the docking bays," Dax said, shifting position so she was standing between the Captain and the Major. "Major, this is a feel-good story for a marketing brochure--"
"For a *marketing* brochure?"
"Is there a problem, Major?" Sisko asked, his tone deadpan.
"It's actually a *recruiting* brochure," Dax said helpfully. She flashed a smile in Kira's direction. "It's a new Starfleet campaign. I think the tag line is something along the lines of 'There's a place for everyone in Starfleet.'"
"I'm not Starfleet. I'm Bajoran," Kira said. "Everyone conveniently forgets that. This world isn't just Starfleet, you know. I'll thank you, Captain, to send that message back."
"I agree," Odo said gravely. He had come up so quietly no one had realized he was standing just a meter behind Kira. Sisko pressed his hand to his forehead. "Captain, we need to discuss this photo session. I don't think it's a good idea."
"And how did you find out about this?" Sisko asked. "It's only been an hour--"
"I'm in charge of security on this station," Odo said with an air of smugness. "There's little I do not know." Jadzia tipped her head to the side, contemplated telling Odo about Quark's latest scheme to cut holodeck time by 30 seconds a customer and to raise the corresponding prices by 25 percent, but then decided to keep quiet. If Odo's intelligence was as good as he claimed, he'd find out soon enough and in the meantime, she could use that information to her own benefit at the tongo tables.
"And what is *your* objection, Constable?" Sisko asked.
"I understand the initial request was to have the entire senior staff involved in the shoot. I am not comfortable with having my picture all over the Alpha Quadrant," Odo said stiffly. He touched his somewhat malformed nose a little self-consciously.
"Oh it wouldn't just be the Alpha Quadrant," Dax said. "I'm sure Starfleet plans to recruit in the Gamma Quadrant as well, after things settle down, of course."
Sisko glared at his old friend. "You're not helping, Jadzia," he said. "Look, Major, Constable, if you don't want to be in the picture, fine. But I'm asking you for a favor. We don't have to like it but--" he swallowed hard "-- it is in support of a good cause, and Starfleet can use all the help it can get these days. We all know the Dominion is stronger than ever and we're not going to win without some help." Sisko retrieved his PADD from the floor and examined it quickly for any cracks. Finding none, he placed it on his desk. "So I would appreciate it if you--" he looked at the Major "-- could put aside your bias for one day and participate and if you--" this time directed at Odo "-- have concerns about how you might be perceived outside of Deep Space Nine, we can talk about it."
The doors to the office swished open and Dax turned to look at the new arrival.
"Ah, Jake," Dax said, a little too brightly. "You're right on time." Gossip, with a little help, of course, traveled fast on this station. Noting that everyone else was standing, she took the liberty of taking one of the empty chairs in the office.
"Hi Dad," Jake said. He glanced around. "Where's the photographer?"
Sisko cleared his throat. "Jake, this is for the crew only."
Jake stopped smiling. "But then why is Quark in the photo?"
"Quark is not--"
At that moment, Worf came in, his lips pulled down in a perpetual frown. Dax couldn't help a tiny smile. Worf was cute when he frowned. Of course, she would never say so to his face, because "cute" was not an adjective one could use to describe a Klingon warrior and expect to live. Sisko held up his hand, as if to forestall any particular objection the Klingon might have.
"Worf, whatever you have to say--"
"I have nothing to say," Worf said stiffly. "I am here as ordered." He stood behind Dax's chair, his fingers gripping the back. "This should not take long, I hope, as we have other matters of greater importance to attend to."
O'Brien and Bashir showed up then, both of them slightly out of breath.
"Sorry we're late," Bashir said. "Santa Anna's men were closing in, and the air was heavy with gunpowder and we had them surrounded."
O'Brien looked a bit peeved. "Another ten minutes and we could have had them, Captain. Unfortunately, we had to cut it short to make it here in time for the photographer. Jadzia, you really should have given us more notice."
Sisko looked at Dax and she just smiled sweetly at him. So maybe she had told one or two people about the photographer on her way to his office.
Before Sisko could say anything, Dax said quickly, "You can always restart the simulation."
"Jadzia, it's one in out of a million times that we get such an outcome. In every other time, Santa Anna always wins. This was our chance to gain the upper hand and for once, come out on top, and now we've lost it forever, and shall once again be defeated," Bashir said with some passion.
"It was an honorable defeat," Worf said. "History has greatly honored the sacrifice of the men of the Alamo. There is no shame in losing in this scenario."
"I don't feel shame," Bashir said hotly. "I just want to *win*." He might be referring to a holodeck simulation of a battle long fought, but Dax understood the sentiment; war took its toll on all of them, and they badly needed some kind of victory, something to show that they were gaining ground against the Dominion. Whether it was the Battle of the Alamo or battle at the tongo tables or an argument over Cardassian docking privileges, winning had taken on a new meaning at Deep Space Nine.
"Next time," Jadzia said soothingly. "You'll win next time."
"When did you say this photographer was coming?" O'Brien asked.
"You did say 'any minute'," Kira said to Dax. "You do understand there are things that need to be done on this station? We just can't sit around and *wait* for someone to come and take pictures for their *marketing* brochure."
"Major, I know you are impatient, but I assure you, the photographer is on his or her way," Sisko said. "I appreciate your cooperation."
Kira crossed her arms against her chest and shifted from foot to foot. Odo looked equally impatient. A silence descended upon the group as they all contemplated each other. Quark came in then, wearing a pink and blue coat with a jeweled v-neck. He puffed and preened as he entered, clearly excited to have his picture included in the Starfleet recruiting materials.
"I'm here," Quark said. He touched his lobes gingerly, as if assuring himself that his best and most prominent feature was still there. "I put my idiot brother in charge of the bar. Customers will be robbing me blind, but you asked for me to be here, so I'm here. I hope you understand the sacrifice I'm making for your precious marketing brochure."
Sisko looked at Dax and she made a concentrated effort to look in another direction entirely.
"Is this your doing, Commander?" Sisko asked in a dangerous tone of voice.
She gave him her most innocent look, but she also knew Benjamin wasn't easily fooled.
"As I said, Captain," Dax said, "look at us. Look at this group. We've accomplished so much. Don't you want Starfleet to see the people--"
"I'm not a Hew-mon," Quark interjected.
"Shut up, Quark," Odo said crossly. "I have an empty brig cell with your name on it."
"I haven't done anything!"
Kira looked at Sisko. "About those Cardassians--"
"We'll never win the Battle of the Alamo now, will we?" Bashir asked plaintively.
"Another scenario then," O'Brien said comfortingly.
Worf just growled. Dax resisted the urge to tell Worf just how *arousing* she found that growl. Instead, she turned her attention to Quark, letting him know that *she* knew about the holodeck price increase and that while she understood he was governed by the first Rule of Acquisition, maybe he wanted to refund some of the latinum he'd won from her the night before?
As if in defeat, Sisko sighed. "Sisko to Ops."
"Any word on the photographer?"
"Yes, sir, she's on his way in. The reporter's shuttle has just been cleared to dock." There was a pause and then, "I have a message from Gul Dukat--"
Sisko held up his hand, even though there was no way the gesture could be seen. "Belay that, Lieutenant. Stall if you can, and send the photographer and reporter in." He glared at his crew. "Let's get this over with."
The group fell quiet as they waited. Kira fidgeted, Jake kept making notes in the PADD he carried expressly for that purpose, while Odo and Quark glared at each other. A fine group this is, Dax thought with some degree of affection and pride. Different as they were, at the end of the day they still managed to get the job done. They were more than crew they were --
Her thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of the photographer, a harried looking Ensign, whose had clearly come straight from her shuttle to the Captain's office.
"Is this your crew, Captain?" the Ensign asked. "Is this everyone?"
Sisko took a deliberate look around, his gaze sweeping over the group. He spent maybe a second longer on Quark than anyone else, but then he nodded.
"Great," the photographer said. "Um, just, why don't you get close together, and I'll get the camera out and when Lieutenant Sheffler gets here, he'll ask you some questions and then you all can sign the release."
Her attempts to slide in next to Worf thwarted, Dax found herself next to Bashir and behind O'Brien. She sneaked a peek at Worf, who had positioned himself (perhaps warningly) behind Quark. Sisko was flanked by the Major and Odo. Dax allowed herself a small smile of amusement. This was, she knew, going to be a great picture. She made a mental note to ask the photographer for her own copy as soon as the shoot was over.
"Say cheese," the photographer said cheerily.
"Klingons don't say 'cheese'," Worf growled.
It took all of Jadzia's willpower not to hiss "Smile!" in Worf's direction. Instead, she leaned forward, almost flirtatiously, towards the camera. When the picture was over, the photographer asked for a couple more, and then the session was over. As the crew dispersed, Dax hung back for a minute to ask the photographer for a copy.
"Oh you'll see it in the brochure," the photographer said, almost snippily.
"I'd really like my own copy," Dax said insistently. "As a keepsake."
The photographer shook her head. "I don't get it. I wouldn't want pictures of my colleagues, especially such *grumpy* ones next to my bedside. Really, does anyone ever *smile* around here? I've never photographed such a group of... grouches."
Jadzia bristled slightly at the description of her colleagues, but decided to bite back a scathing defense; after all, this woman had something she wanted and Jadzia was willing to play nice -- for now -- to get a copy of the photograph.
"Ah, but they have a lot to be grumpy about," she said, deliberately keeping her tone light. "Life in deep space, without a war going on, is difficult to begin with. You add in the war, the inevitable separation from loved ones, living in tight quarters with little release. It's a lot to handle," Dax said with a smile. "So no, we don't smile a lot at Deep Space Nine, but we're doing our best." Dax shook her head. "You're right. If they were just *colleagues*, I wouldn't want their pictures next to my bedside. But circumstances have dictated that we're more than colleagues." She glanced back over her shoulder, with some affection, at Sisko, who was seated at his desk, reviewing some PADDs, his brow furrowed in deep thought. It was a pose she'd seen from him so many times over the long period of their friendship. Thinking of the purpose of the brochure, Dax added with a bit of forced sentimentality, "We are *family*. I'm sure that's something Starfleet would want to let new recruits know. Not only is a career in Starfleet deeply rewarding, but it forms lasting relationships for life." Dax smiled brightly, as if to show the photographer that it was indeed possible.
The photographer let out a deep sigh, as if the weight of the quadrant rested on her slim shoulders. "Fine," she said. She handed over her PADD. "Here, write down your name. I'll send you one when I get them printed. Any other special requests? Any particular size you want to request? Matte finish or glossy?"
"Thanks, and to answer your questions, whatever is easiest for you," Dax said, choosing to ignore the obvious disdain in the photographer's voice. Clearly, the life of an galaxy-traveling Starfleet photographer was about as fun as last week's sewage leak. "I appreciate it." With that, she slipped out, leaving Sisko to the mercy of the impending visit from the reporter. With any luck, she might be able to corner Worf at the Replimat for a raktajino. And just maybe, just maybe, put a smile on his face.
~ the end ~
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