Spoilers: Up to the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, 7x22 -- What You Leave Behind
Personal Website: http://dianamichelle.5u.com
"The relationship between Bashir and O'Brien is the best relationship... the best friendship in the history of the franchise."
Ira Steven Behr, Season Six dvd set, Crew Dossier: Julian Bashir
Star Trek is more than just a set of shows… it is, as Behr says in the above quote, a franchise. The original Star Trek was bold, very much a child of the sixties. Next Generation was more about ideals and the 'best of the best', a highly PC child of its times. And Deep Space Nine was about consequences and how sometimes the light shines out the brightest in the dark places. Because it's the darkest of the Treks (that I've seen, because I did quit Enterprise first year), it's also, in many ways, the easiest to identify with. Its characters aren't the tumblebout explorers of ST or the peaceful ones of TNG. Because they stayed in one place for their seven year stint, much of the exploration in DS9 was personal, about looking within and deciding who you really were… in times of peace and in times of trial.
In the beginning, Bashir and O'Brien seem to be very different men, but over the course of the series, their friendship builds similarity upon similarity. This relationship is one that deepens moment by moment, a relationship that's about building up trust and hope, about turning a somewhat faltering beginning into one of the deepest and strongest relationships that we ever get to see on Trek.
A. The Guys
To know Miles O'Brien, you have to start with basics. He's a good guy, a family man, someone who couldn't possibly have any deep, dark secrets. But he's much more than he seems on first glance (a common theme in DS9). He's a soldier as well as an engineer. He's done what he's had to do, and he's made himself content with what he has in his life. Miles has been through many dark nights of the soul, but his strength of will and his heart have carried him through it all.
Julian Bashir seems simple in the beginning, too -- he's the brash young doctor with too many brains and not enough sense. But as the years pass, his bravado is shown to be true bravery, and his arrogance to be as much façade as truth. He chose to be a doctor, chose to make saving lives his life's work. He chose to work not in the heart of the Federation, but on what he thought would be on the outskirts, what he assumed would be an unimportant space station. To help and to hide, those were the twin goals of Julian's life, and as time passed, they became more and more irreconcilable.
What I love about Bashir and O'Brien is that their closeness grows out of the characters and the story. We're there for every important step of that relationship. Interestingly, even from the very first, long before they played war games together in the holodecks, their relationship is defined by war -- their first exchange is O'Brien asking Bashir if he knows his history of the Border Wars and of the massacre of Selik III. We learn at some point that O'Brien was the 'hero of Setlik III', and this may be the moment when Bashir connected that O'Brien to this one and got his hero worship trigger tripped.
Another thing that probably should be mentioned is the sexual orientation question, i.e. Miles is married and Julian clearly likes the ladies. What's up with the gayness, yo? To start with the easiest one first, Julian is the most-slashed character in DS9, mostly with Garak, but also with… interesting intra-Trek crossovers. This may be in part because Julian comes across as open to anyone who'll listen to him talk. That sounded nicer in my head. He clearly has a normality thing, but since there's no big "Gosh, Gay People, they're so weird" episode, I'm going to take it as a given that people have grown past the current prejudices. In order to make room for new ones, I'm sure, but still. So, Julian isn't really a problem.
Miles, on the hand, is married with kid(s) for his entire run on DS9, and leaves DS9 (and Julian, as the show itself presents it) on his wife, Keiko's, urging. In fact, much of her on-screen time is taken up with how she doesn't fit and doesn't really belong on DS9. Eventually, a choice had to be made, and considering the O'Brien character, the choice could not be other than it was -- it was to Keiko and his children that his first loyalties must and should lie. Despite the seeming inevitability of his choice, the show itself does, at times, clearly set up a comparison between Julian and Keiko. Part of the problem is that we rarely get to see the sympathetic side of Keiko -- both Miles and Julian are main characters, so the show spends quite a bit more time on them and on their friendship and their growth. And while we often get to see Miles say that he loves Keiko, it's much rarer to hear Keiko's side of things -- most of time when she's on the show, it's because the writers are highlighting a problem or issue, so we see the O'Briens more on the outs than the ins.
And while, at first, Julian and Miles seem at first to be as different as oranges and eggs, over the years, though the banter stays, their closeness grows stronger and stronger. In the end, we can see that they are more alike then they are different, both of them caretakers first, yet fighters, too, when necessary. Each of them willing to fight for something that they believe in, two friends who can stand back to back against the any enemy. I love Bashir and O'Brien for the same reasons that I love most of my fic couples -- they tease and fight and stubbornly refuse to admit how much they care while showing their affection by their actions. They have a solid friendship with sparks of possibility. They can trust each other and lean on each other.
As you might imagine, seven years gives these guys quite a bit of subtext (and some actual text) to sift through. Because of the volume involved, I'm just going to point out some of the more obvious examples from each season.
Storyteller, a first season episode, is the first time that we get to have Bashir and O'Brien thrown alone together. While O'Brien tries to weasel out of it, Julian is thrilled (I wonder if Julian actually requested that Miles take him, it seems to play that way). Julian is, after all, very honest and open about liking Miles. He likes him from the first episode and goes right on liking him until the last episode.
Julian is so... almost desperate for affection at places in this episode. He asks Miles if he annoys him. In this episode, Julian asks Miles to call him Julian, because he'd 'simply prefer it' if Miles would call him by his first name. At the end of the episode, he relents, seeing that Miles isn't comfortable with it (yet). Julian acts near starved for attention, especially first season, possibly because he feels that he can't trust any attention that he does get, because it isn't for the real him. The real him wasn't good enough. And even now, he's constantly afraid that even this 'better' him isn't good enough.
Even apart from that, he's just so fascinated by people within people -- he wants to know all about Dax, not just Jadzia. He's curious about 'plain, simple' Garak, the spy-tailor.
And Miles O'Brien, who appears to be 'just' an engineer, was also the 'hero of Setlik III'. He wants to know all about them (as opposed to the women that he dates, wherein he's all about telling them about him).
At the beginning of the episode:
Bashir: "I'm really looking forward to this mission."
O'Brien: "And why is that?"
Bashir: "Well, I see it as a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know each other."
On the subject of Bashir's annoyingness:
Bashir: "The only reason I'm asking is because your opinion means a lot to me and I'm aware I have a tendency to run off at the mouth sometimes."
In Armageddon Game, in the second season, Julian and Miles are thrown alone together by an 'accident'. They spend most of the episode with just each other's company and Julian saves O'Brien's life. We also see the continuation of Julian sharing his life with Miles when he tells the story of the ballerina Palis, whom he almost chose over Starfleet.
From near the end of the episode:
Bashir: "I want you to know, I really appreciated what you said back on T'Lani Three."
O'Brien: "What did I say?"
Bashir: "That it was an honor serving with me."
O'Brien: "Oh... right."
Bashir: "I'd like to return the compliment, Chief -- it's been an honor to serve with you, too."
Explorers, a third season episode, shows how far Miles has come from his initial assessment of Julian:
O'Brien: "You're not a middle-of-the-road type of guy."
Bashir: "What do you mean?"
O'Brien: "Well, people either love you or they hate you. I mean, I hated you when I first met you."
Bashir: "I remember...and now?"
O'Brien: "I don't...hate you."
Bashir: "Thanks, Chief. That means a lot."
Hippocratic Oath, in season four of DS9, has O'Brien saying to Bashir, "I wish she (Keiko) were more like..." very obviously about to say 'you' and stopping and quickly amending it to "more like a man" which, as far as quick saves go, kinda sucks. In the end of the episode, Miles shows how highly he values Julian's continued existence.
O'Brien: "I... wish things could've been different, Julian."
Bashir: "So do I."
O'Brien: "And I'm sorry I had to destroy your work."
Bashir: "You didn't have to, Chief. You had a choice. And you chose to disobey orders, override my judgment, and condemn those men to death."
O'Brien: "Yes, I did. Because I thought it was the only way to save your life. Whatever else you make think of me and what I did -- at least understand why I did it."
Accession, another season four episode, has Julian and Miles spending some time apart after Keiko's come home. He tries to play with his kid and spend time with his wife, but they both have other things to do and it's clear that he misses spending all that time with Julian (amusing, considering that when they first started hanging out, Julian was a 'poor substitute' for spending time with Keiko). When he gets off work, he stops by Quark's Bar to see Julian.
Bashir: "Been a while, eh?"
O'Brien: "Seems like weeks."
O'Brien": I see you've found someone to play darts with. I set up a board in my quarters so Molly and I could play."
Bashir: "Morn's pretty good."
O'Brien: "So's Molly."
Bashir/O'Brien: "It's not the same."
O'Brien: "I mean, Molly's just a kid. We're playing with magnets."
Bashir: "Morn couldn't hit a Yridian Yak from five paces."
O'Brien: "You and I were evenly matched."
Bashir: "We had a good rivalry going."
O'Brien: "It kept us sharp."
Quark: "You're late."
O'Brien: "What are you talking about?"
Quark: "It's Thursday. I've got your usual holosuite reserved."
O'Brien: "Didn't you cancel?"
Bashir: "No… I was hoping maybe..."
O'Brien: "Can't do it. I've got to get home."
Quark: "What about you, Doctor? The Battle of Britain awaits, and you know my policy on cancellations. No refunds."
O'Brien: "Go ahead... maybe Morn is better in the cockpit of a spitfire than he is at darts."
Bashir: "Wouldn't be the same..."
O'Brien: "Yeah... Morn's probably never even heard of England..."
And something interesting to think about in light of Bashir's genetic enhancement retcon is that it means that he and Miles were never 'evenly matched' which, in retrospective, means that Julian just missed playing because it was Miles. And at the end of the episode, Keiko lets both of them know that the other is 'depressed' and in need of company, leading the two of them to go back to the holosuites together.
In the sixth season episode, Doctor Bashir, I Presume, we find out the big secret about Julian Bashir -- when he was a child, his parents had him genetically enhanced, which is illegal in Federation law. Miles is the person who hears the Bashirs reveal the secret, and he goes to Julian to hear Julian tell his side of the story and to provide him with strong and complete emotional support.
At the thought of Bashir being the model for the new holographic doctor:
O'Brien: "Think of it, Julian. If this works, you could irritate hundreds of people you've never even met."
Bashir: "If I'm going to be truly annoying, I'll have to get under their skin quickly. At age five -- I loved brussel sprouts."
O'Brien: "That's the spirit. I hate you already."
Zimmerman: "If you two can suspend your oh-so- amusing banter for the moment, I'd like to begin the optical parameter scans."
O'Brien: "Well, the truth is... he's an extraordinary person. A real sense of honor and integrity... great sense of humor... warm and caring -- you're sure he's not going to read this?"
Upon the revelation of Bashir's altered status:
Bashir: "There's no stigma attached to success, Chief. After the... treatments, I never looked back. But the truth is... I'm a fraud."
O'Brien: "You're not a fraud. I don't care what... enhancements your parents may have had done. Genetic recoding can't give you ambition or a personality or compassion or any of the things that make a person truly human."
After all the drama, the guys get back to normal:
Bashir: "Not my day."
O'Brien: "You've had a bad week."
Bashir: "You know, Chief... I haven't really had a chance to thank you for what you said when--"
O'Brien: "Uh-uh. None of that. Especially not in the middle of a game."
Bashir: "Looks like it's your game. Again."
O'Brien: "That's what... ? Five in a row?"
Bashir: "At least."
O'Brien: "Hey... you haven't been letting me win?"
Bashir: "What gives you that idea?"
O'Brien: "You said your hand-eye coordination was genetically enhanced."
Bashir: "Well... maybe I have been letting you win a bit..."
O'Brien: "I don't believe it. You don't have to patronize me. I can play at your level."
Bashir: "I never said you couldn't."
O'Brien: "Then play. Really play."
*Bashir throws three perfect dart throws*
O'Brien: "All right. From now on... you play from back here. I'll play from up there. If that doesn't work... we'll try a blindfold."
In the Season Seven episode Extreme Measures (thanks to destina and jmtorres for pointing out the essentialness of the episode and showing me a clip of it, respectively), Bashir and O'Brien bring to a head a little investigation of their own into Section 31 while searching for a cure for Odo, who is close to death.
Bashir: "Worst case scenario... I die with him. But I think the risk is manageable."
O'Brien: "I'm going with you."
O'Brien: "You heard me. And it's not open to debate. If you're determined to go on this lunatic mission into Sloan's head... then someone with an ounce of sanity has to go with you."
Bashir: "You just don't want to be here when Captain Sisko finds out what we're doing."
O'Brien: "That too."
Bashir: "Well... I guess we better get another bed."
When they think that they're about to die:
O'Brien: "[Keiko] and the kids will never understand why I had to do this."
Bashir: "She'll understand. She'll know… you did it for me."
O'Brien: "That's what'll upset her the most. She always said I… liked you more than I liked her."
Bashir: "That's ridiculous. Maybe… maybe you do. A bit more."
O'Brien: "What? Are you crazy? She's my wife. I love her!"
Bashir: "Of course, you love her. She's your wife!"
Bashir: "I'm just saying, maybe you like me a bit more, that's all."
O'Brien: "I do not."
Bashir: "You spend more time with me."
O'Brien: "We work together."
Bashir: "We have more in common."
O'Brien: "Julian, you are beginning to annoy me."
Bashir: "Darts, racquetball, Vic's Lounge, the Alamo… need I go on?"
O'Brien: "I love my wife."
Bashir: "And I love Ezri, passionately."
O'Brien: "You do?"
O'Brien: "Have you told her?"
Bashir: "Not yet, but I will. "
O'Brien: "Oh, yeah? When?"
Bashir: "When I'm ready. It's just that I like you… a bit more. See, there, I've admitted it."
O'Brien: "Yeah, well, I love my wife."
Closing the episode:
O'Brien: "Let me ask you something... if you'd had time to read more of the data in Sloan's mind... you really think we could've brought down Section Thirty-one?"
Bashir: "We'll never know, will we? One thing's for sure -- Sloan knew it was the perfect bait... that I wouldn't be able to resist it. Luckily he failed to consider one thing..."
O'Brien: "What's that?"
Bashir: "You. To Miles Edward O'Brien."
O'Brien: "To friendship."
Bashir: "One more?"
O'Brien: "Maybe just one."
Bashir: "To friendship."
O'Brien: "We already did that."
Bashir: "Let's do it again."
O'Brien: "I've got to get home. Keiko's holding dinner for me."
Bashir: "This late?"
O'Brien: "She's a helluva woman."
Bashir: "That's why you love her."
O'Brien: "That's right. That's why I love her."
O'Brien: "You wanna come?"
Finally, in What You Leave Behind, some things remain just for the two of them:
Ezri: "Actually, I was thinking about the Alamo."
Bashir: "We can't go there."
Ezri: "Why not?"
Bashir: "That was something Miles and I did."
C. The Bottom Line
In the end, of course, O'Brien chooses Keiko and his family over DS9 and Julian, but the fact that his leaving is couched in terms of first telling Julian that he's leaving and then in terms of leaving Julian speaks volumes. In the beginning of the final episode, both of the guys open by talking to their significant others about the other man. Julian and Ezri have slept together for the first time and she's certain that he'll go off and tell O'Brien about it because 'you tell him everything', something that Bashir admits to, though he says that Ezri will be the exception. And O'Brien's first scene is Keiko telling him that he needs to tell Julian that he's accepted the position on Earth. At the end of the episode, they part with a promise that Julian will come and visit, and they'll see the Alamo in person. When Miles is about to leave and has his 'good-bye DS9' flashback sequence, his entire flashback revolves around Julian and his friendship with Julian.
The relationship doesn't have to romanticized in order to be effective, so why do I feel the urge to do that? Personally, part of it is symbolic -- the symbolism of connecting and joining through sex, through skin and touch and want, it appeals to me. It's a bit of a thought exercise as well -- they act so close now, so what would happen if the closeness were tweaked just a little. It's about turning a relationship over and over, examining from every angle and seeing what makes it tick, what makes it appeal.
Archetype-wise, Bashir and O'Brien would be a classic Best Friends to Lovers scenario, similar to other pairings that I love, such as Buffy and Xander (Buffy the Vampire Slayer); Jack and Daniel (Stargate SG-1), Benton Fraser and Ray Kowalski (due South), Lois and Clark (DC Universe; Lois and Clark), Joey and Pacey (Dawson's Creek), and even John and Chiana (Farscape). It's about being able to find joy in each other even when the world is falling apart around you.
D. Fanfiction Links
Sadly, there isn't too much out there to be found. And if you happen to know of any stories, archives, etc. I would be thrilled to know, of course. There used to be more on the net (there used to be more of all kinds of ST fic on the net), but time has caused many of those older authors to take down their sites. This is why easy-to-access central archives are more of a must than a want, for any fandom, at least if you want stories to last beyond the original interest of the authors. Right, and I'll stop preaching now.
The Champagne Glass has some Bashir/O'Brien (some with Jadzia/Keiko on the side, some as a threesome with Keiko), but you have to highlight the page to read the summaries. The fic itself is black on white, thank god. There's at least one story there with a broken link, and you can find those in the Better Living Through Trek archive, under Blue Champagne.
Kathryn's DS9 Fanfiction has some Bashir/O'Brien; Bashir/Garak triangle fic that's located under the pure B/G fic.
Nostalgia for an age yet to come (author is nostalgia_lj) has some bitter/bittersweet Bashir/O'Brien.
homoneurotica also has some Bashir/O'Brien mixed in with various other DS9 and Enterprise stories on the Trek fanfic page.