Here's Part 3 of 4:
See next entry for conclusion, Part 4 of 4
Title: Sacrifice, Part 3 of 4
PG13/R for theme
Disclaimer: I fully acknowledge that Paramount has exclusive rights to the Star Trek universe, All Rights Reserved, and that all characters and locations are the property of Paramount television. No infringement is intended. STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE is a Registered Trademark of Paramount Pictures. Paramount owns all. I own nothing but my twisted mind.
approx. 9,000 words
Comments, constructive criticism, and any other feedback are very welcome!
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“An amateur,” Garak dismissed “The Prince,” one Monday. “He merely states the obvious. For all his supposed craftiness, he displays no more subtlety than a newly-minted, rookie operative.” He took a delicate bite of his yabu stew. “How about this Henry Miller? I hear his work, ‘The Tropic of Cancer’ caused quite a stir in its day.” He looked blandly at Bashir. He had, in fact, read the entire book the night before.
Bashir choked a little on his I’danian spice pudding. “I, ah, actually never read that one. At least,” he amended, “not the whole thing.” His ears turned a charming shade of scarlet. Certain key passages had been passed around with great glee at school, as he clearly recalled. The great classics, the joke had been. As relevant today as they were centuries ago.
Garak decided that he was amused by his experiment with unorthodox reading material. The classics were truly the benchmark of an educated, literate soul, but to deeply understand a species, one had to be familiar with popular works as well, even if they were facile. He decided to try a few more genres before quitting entirely. He had noticed a category called, “Romance novels.” Those must be akin to the sweeping epics of love and sacrifice popular on his planet, he decided. He was thinking of trying one next.
He had endured a very strange day punctuated by three awkward visits from Dax, Kira and O’Brien, each looking more uncomfortable than the next. They each stayed barely five minutes, then ungraciously excused themselves. They had obviously been pressured to visit by Bashir; there was no other explanation. He made Bashir promise not to repeat the unfortunate experience.
The next day, Tuesday, brought no luncheon visit from Bashir. Just as well, as he had been inundated the day before. He accessed the library for a suitable example of the type of Terran novel classified as “Romance.” He was slightly puzzled by the different categories, “Romantic Literature” and “Romance novels.” Well, he was looking for popular culture, not classics, so he chose “novels.” He now had some familiarity with various forms of Terran culture, especially art and music. Romanticism, as he recalled, was an intellectual and artistic movement of the 19th century. No doubt these novels were from that period.
He began to read the first novel the computer library offered as being typical of the genre, sipping a glass of kanar as he read. He was a quick reader ordinarily, but as he made his way through the first chapter, his pace grew slower and slower. Without looking, he set his glass down on the table, nearly releasing it into the air. His mouth gradually fell open as he read.
It was like watching a shuttle accident in slow motion, he decided. It was absolutely, abysmally horrible, yet he somehow could not tear his eyes away. Feeling tainted, he nonetheless kept reading, page after page. It was the most magnificently awful thing he could ever remember reading. Finally, he pulled himself out of the strange trance he’d been in. He looked with disgust at the PADD in his hand. Shuddering, he deleted the novel – not that it deserved the term – and set the PADD down. He refilled his glass. Gradually the rounded, complex taste of well-aged kanar filled his senses, replacing the bad taste left behind by that monstrosity. That had truly been time ill-spent.
On Wednesday he worked on some new designs for the next seasonal line for the shop. He could add them to the catalog when he returned. Working on the drawings suddenly made him miss the sensuousness of the store. All those fabrics. The soft, slinky feel of Tholian silk. The warm, plush texture of Andorian mata-wool. The deep, deep pile of Enaran spun-flex. And the colors. Soothing life-tones, brilliant jewel shades, subtle water-hues. He surprised himself. He hadn’t thought he really enjoyed his work as a tailor, although he knew he was good at it. It was something he endured, something forced upon him. Like life on this station, this chilly desert that separated him from where he longed to be – home on Cardassia. But, as he closed his eyes and remembered running his hands along a bolt of cloth, rolling out just the right amount, and quickly and surely guiding the cutting tool straight across – he always cut his cloth by hand – he realized that there was pleasure in it, after all. Doing anything well, whether it was interrogation, deception, assassination, or, he grudgingly acknowledged, sewing – brought a satisfying sense of accomplishment.
He missed being in the shop. He missed the interactions with people, even in his subservient tailor’s role. He always used all his senses in every encounter, and frequently enjoyed playing invisible little games as his clients’ expense, as he guessed at their private business and agendas. It helped keep him sharp.
He missed evening strolls along the promenade. Guls help him, he even missed Quark’s. He had thought he lived a life of solitude before, but now he realized, there was a difference between solitude among people and solitude, well, in solitude. It was like the difference between a bed empty by choice or despite it.
A message chime rang. It was Bashir. There had been an accident, something in Engineering. The infirmary was packed with burn victims and other injuries. So sorry, lunch is impossible. Can’t talk now. Bashir was understandably distracted. Garak understood.
There was no Bashir on Thursday, either. No message. No doubt the doctor still had his hands full. Still, it would have been thoughtful if he had communicated his situation.
By Friday, he was restless. He tried to keep to his schedule, but accomplished little. His mind was wandering. For some reason, he kept thinking about a dreadful scene in that horrible piece of vole-droppings that dared call itself a novel. As was true with every sentence in that vile work, it was over-written, cloying, melodramatic and without hint of subtlety. His eidetic mind remembered it verbatim:
“They had been dining together for months, but he had never worked up the nerve to reveal to her how he really felt. He was sure that one so fair as she would never dream of entertaining affections from one as plain and coarse as he. It was enough that she deigned to allow this casual acquaintanceship. But, on that day – oh, that was the day that was to change his life forever! And it all began so simply, too. She had dropped her napkin. He and she both leaned over to retrieve it. And, then it happened! Their fingers touched! They locked eyes, and suddenly he knew beyond a doubt that his feelings were exposed for her to know. And yet, she didn’t recoil! She held his gaze, and he could see her chest heaving with unspoken passion. She felt it too! She must! They dropped the napkin, the meal forgotten, and he seized her by the waist. Her eyelids lowered and her head tilted toward him. Their lips met in a kiss such as the heavens have never known in all recorded time…”
Oh, it was horrible, and it went on like that for pages. But it was like an insidious, simplistic tune that was stuck in one’s head and could not be removed. He kept thinking of that passage.
Garak was not an particularly introspective man, but he was no fool. He knew what this was about. With his world so diminished, it was natural that what social stimulation he had should loom larger in his thoughts. And he had known, since the first time he had seen Bashir…. Yes, this young man affected him. But, while he had moved freely about the world, even this world of exile, he had been in control. He had been free to flirt, to retreat, to imply, to deny. To smile a smile so polite and yet so secretly lustful. To allow his gaze to linger just an instant too long. And to allow lovely, arousing thoughts to float freely through his mind. And to pretend that that was all it was…
But here, in his confinement, it was different. There was no place for those feelings to diffuse. They took on an artificially-heightened sense of importance. Oh, but that was a lie – what an old liar, lying even to himself, he thought ruefully. Those feelings had always been very strong and important. But it was more dangerous now. For now, he began to be tempted to act on his thoughts.
It was foolish. It was the temptation of an idiot. Here they were: his fantasies of his dear young doctor, lush fruit dangling in front of a fasting man. But it was an illusion. Use that superior intellect of yours, he warned himself. Do not let yourself get slack and careless. It is like resisting being broken by torture. True confinement, true solitary, true incarceration, harsh treatment at the hands of jailors – he had endured all that, without succumbing to softness. But that had been easier. He had had the luxury of hating those that imprisoned him. He had had the benefit of truly harsh conditions to steel himself against. It had been a challenge worthy of him, to stay strong and resolved.
But, in this soft, easy, sketch of a punishment, there was no one to taunt him, no enemy to rail against. Well, actually, there was one who taunted him. Back to him, again, I see, he sighed.
Think this out. He played out for himself all the possibilities in which he made clear his feelings. No matter what the details of how, or where, or when he revealed himself, his sharp mind predicted the response. Surprise. Shock. Embarrassment.
Disbelief. Sometimes his mind imagined laughter. Or, worst of all, pity. He tweaked the imaginary situation this way, then that. It all came out the same. The probability of a positive response was infinitesimal.
And the risk was too great. It was (and it made him grind his teeth to admit it,) just like that wretched book. How absurd. How degrading.
But, as the days passed slowly by, when the chronometer released him from his charade of a life and he finally lay on his hard mattress in the dark, he permitted himself to take out that precious, tiny possibility, and string it out in his mind. An impossible scenario, where Julian said yes. He held it up to the light of his mind and tilted it this way, and that. He sighed at the loveliness of it. He let the muscles of his body and his mind relax, the ones that stayed tight and on guard all day. Only at night. Only just before sleep. A special treat for having survived another day. As he drifted off to sleep, the napkin fell, and his fingers and Julian’s touched.
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See next entry for conclusion, Part 4 of 4
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