Here's the conclusion of "Sacrifice."
So... Feedback, please!
Title: Sacrifice, Part 4 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!
* * * *
On Saturday, in the late morning, he received a message from Bashir. The engineering accident victims had all been released, but a new strain of Rigelian fever had cropped up among the crew. This newest strain, like the original, still responded to Ryetalyn, but required additional compounds as well. It wasn’t anything serious, and he should be finished soon. Unfortunately, he had promised O’Brien he would join him for kayaking. But he’d like to come anyway. Would it be just as fine if he came rather later in the day? Perhaps they could have dinner.
Garak certainly wasn’t going anywhere, and he graciously offered to clear his social calendar to accommodate the doctor’s schedule. Bashir must be getting tired of these visits, Garak supposed. Guls knows, he was tired of these same rooms. But, he had always believed that a man with an active mind, having the world at his disposal, would never be bored. Another interesting example of the difference between theory and practical application.
* * * *
“Odo. Be reasonable. Surely you have more useful tasks to put your staff to, rather than having them stand here, hour after hour, outside my door.”
Odo, predictably, grunted. “You are a prisoner. You are supposed to be under guard. Otherwise, you are just a man relaxing comfortably in his lush, luxurious quarters.”
Garak looked around at the rather Spartan setting, then back at the screen.
“Odo. You know that if I really wanted to leave this, this cell, I could. Don’t you?”
Odo sighed. “And what will happen if I remove your guards,” he cooed in a mockingly sweet voice. “Are you asking me to believe that you will stay put of your own accord?”
Garak widened his eyes and wore his most earnest expression. “Yes. I will.”
Odo scowled. “You know your word means nothing. You would lie about the color of your shirt as you stood before me.”
“Odo. I am rather noticeable. You could plaster the promenade with bulletins, warning everyone to be on the lookout for the scary Cardassian escaped prisoner. You could issue a reward for my capture.”
Odo appeared unimpressed.
“Odo, I implore you. Permit me some dignity. Remove the guards.”
“They haven’t bothered you before.”
“The waste of manpower bothers me. Your valuable staff, being reduced to such an unchallenging assignment.”
Odo almost smiled.
“It’s distracting, knowing that they are right outside my door every moment. I have no privacy.”
“That’s the idea,” Odo explained earnestly. “It’s supposed to be uncomfortable. It’s a punishment.” He seemed to be enjoying himself. “Although, since they remain outside your door, it is difficult to see how they impinge on your privacy.”
Garak tried again. “Odo. As a friend –”
“A friend?! You tried to wipe out me and my people!”
Garak shrugged. “The Founders threatened my people. They would still like to eliminate us.”
Odo just glared. This was not going well, Garak realized. Perhaps he should deal with the guards in his own way. But he would only get away with that for a short time, and the repercussions would be unpleasant.
“Odo. What can I say that will convince you that I will keep to my confinement voluntarily?”
“I can’t think of a thing,” said Odo, unhelpfully.
“I swear, on the safety and well-being of my people and planet, Cardassia, that I will remain in my quarters.”
Odo looked at him. He was being quite persistent in this. No matter what words he uttered, of course, there was no trusting him.
“Plus, you can put a monitoring device on me. And a force field attuned only for Cardassians. Anything you like. You know there are plenty of options that don’t require guards.”
This was true enough. And he did have better things for his staff to be doing. Reluctantly, Odo agreed.
* * * *
He was looking forward to their dinner more than he cared to admit. He hadn’t been able to focus on any of his activities as the day oozed by. Finally, when he could cease pretending to be otherwise occupied, he treated himself to a long steam to relax. His scales had a tendency to dry out in this environment: always too cold, and never enough humidity. Then he dressed himself with particular care. What are you so worked up about, he scolded himself. Don’t even think of it. It’s just another lunch. Only it’s …later. What nonsense that was, he thought. That puerile book must have lowered his intelligence just by exposure.
So, I’m having a … response to this. Then just be aware of it, he told himself. Be alert. Be in control. Play the same game you always do. And make sure you keep yourself back. Behind the mask. This is not the time to let your guard down.
The door chimed.
Garak took a breath, approached the entrance, and pressed the open.
The door parted to reveal Bashir, his head tilted down, looking into a satchel he was carrying from one hand held loosely down by his side. His weight was on one leg, the other one slightly akimbo. Lights from the hallway were directly behind him, creating a halo effect around the tussle of dark curls. At the whoosh of the door, he looked up, his head still bowed, through his dark lashes at Garak. A small, shy-looking smile crept onto his face.
Garak’s hand groped blindly for the wall beside the door for support.
In that instant, Garak became aware of two things. With the majority of his mind, he could feel himself experiencing something very similar to what he had felt when he had one of his – attacks. Shortness of breath. Panic. Dizziness. A feeling that all the oxygen had been sucked out of the air. However, this time, the horror was accompanied simultaneously by a sharp, clear jolt of joy. One of his books had described a Terran amusement park, and the character had gone on a roller-glider, or some such nonsense. He imagined that this was the feeling. Both terrifying and thrilling.
With the small bit of his mind that was left, he could feel himself sending a fevered prayer of thanks to his childhood teachers, who produced adults with that renowned photographic Cardassian memory. He knew that this image would be forever seared into his brain, for him to look at and re-visit at his leisure.
All this passed in a moment, and then Bashir was walking inside, almost hesitantly, as if he had not been spending all those lunches here recently. Garak had arranged a proper eating environment: an actual dining table and chairs were ready to receive his guest.
“I figured you must be getting pretty tired of only eating personal replicator fare, so I took the liberty of scouring the local bistros and procuring some gourmet, hand-cooked delights,” said Bashir, with a mockingly-dramatic tone. He began removing containers from the satchel and setting them on the table. “Osso Bucco, from the Terran Café. Pasta with Bajoran Shrimp, from Chez Bajor. Sem’hal Stew, or an approximation of it, courtesy of Quark’s. Lest we not forget our vegetables, Roasted Andorian Tuber Roots with Pinenuts, and Spinach and Cranberry Salad: Quark’s, as well. And for dessert: delicious, ripe klavaatu and moba fruit salad.” He removed lids, shoved the satchel, which seemed to still have something in it, aside, then took a seat.
Garak chose a bottle from a shelf, uncorked it and poured for them both. When he saw the spread, he raised his eyeridges.
“Why, doctor, you must have brought enough food for the Fifth Regiment,” he commented, taking his seat.
“Oh, not really. See, these are all small portions, and I didn’t know what you would like, so it seemed a good idea to get a variety. Besides, I’m hungry.” He began helping himself to the osso bucco.
“What a surprise,” murmured Garak with a smile. He took a small portion of salad. His stomach still seemed to be engaged in pursuits that had nothing to do with food, and his mind was elsewhere, as well.
Seeing Bashir sitting across from him seemed different tonight, somehow. He seemed impossibly beautiful, putting centuries of artwork to shame. How could cold stone and metal compare to the warmth and glow of this creature? The smooth, raktajino-with-milk colored skin, the mercurial eyes, now sparkling, now hidden behind lowered lids? He struggled to keep up his end of the conversation.
“… ethical relativism can only take you so far. Context isn’t everything.” Bashir was saying as he devoured his food.
“But you simply cannot understand the Cardassian civilization without an understanding of its history, doctor,” argued Garak.
“I understand that you had times of great famine and scarcity, Garak. As have most worlds,” countered Bashir, abandoning his utensils, picking up his shank bone and regarding it with pleasure. “That still doesn’t” – he began gnawing at the bone – “excuse what you did to the Bajorans.” He turned his attention to the bone, determined to conquer every bit of meat possible.
Garak opened his mouth to continue the debate, then stopped, transfixed at the sight of Bashir attending to the bone. His teeth were scraping and nibbling at it, and his lips did their work, as well. Garak stared as Bashir turned the bone this way and that, until finally he turned it on its edge and began to fight for the interior.
“Hmmm, even has marrow…” he mumbled and tried sucking and dipping his tongue inside before resorting to the knife.
“… Garak? Is something wrong?” Bashir was asking. Garak tore his eyes from the vanquished shank, and met Bashir’s concerned gaze. Garak looked quite pale, Bashir noted, and there was a very strange expression on his face. Garak look a breath, swallowed and leaned back. He missed a tiny smile which flew across Bashir’s face in an instant.
“Well, I think I’m done,” said Bashir, setting the bone down with a clink and pushing his plate back.
“”Thank goodness,” whispered Garak.
“What was that?” Bashir asked, his eyes wide.
Garak’s eyes narrowed for an instant, then he shrugged. “I said, Thank you for such a feast, doctor.”
It didn’t take long to dispose of the leftover food and dishes in the replicator. Bashir turned to the satchel he had set aside while Garak refilled their glasses.
I know you’re going to love this, Garak,” as he placed some sort of game on the table. “Chess!” He began setting up the board. “Have you ever played?”
“Hhmm. A poor cousin to kotra, doctor.”
Bashir sighed. “Yes, I know. Everything Cardassian is superior to anything else.” He continued putting pieces in their places. “You know the rules, then? You’ve played? Do you need a little refresher course, maybe?”
Garak simply raised his eye-ridge. Bashir smiled. “All right. No mercy then. Choose.” He held out his fists. Garak chose. Black.
Garak lifted his glass, and they began to play.
“The thing about chess,” said Bashir, studying the board some time later, “is that it isn’t just a matter of pure, brute intelligence. That is, it’s not just a question of calculating every move and finding the ‘right’ one. Humans used to regularly beat computers because of their creativity. Cunning. Unexpected moves. Original strategies.”
“Like this one, doctor?” asked Garak mildly, taking yet another of Bashir’s pieces. The board was looking darker all the time.
“Uh – well.” He bit his lip. Garak was finding himself watching the board less and less. It was amazing, really, that he was winning. Bashir was making some mistakes that were not worthy of him. Garak wondered if he might be distracted, too. Every so often, he thought he saw a glance that might be considered… no. He was sure it was just his imagination, foolishly stoked by this confinement.
“Where did you learn to play, Garak? You’re not bad. I bet there’s a story behind it.” By this time, Bashir’s pieces were down to his queen, three pawns, a rook, and of course his king. Garak had lost some pieces as well, but the board still did not look promising for Bashir. Garak had been pursuing the queen for several moves, and was planning its demise. He now had two of his men advancing, ready to immobilize her.
“Pay attention to the game, doctor. Your queen is in jeopardy. You can’t escape capture forever.”
Bashir raised his eyes and gazed at him. Garak felt that confusing light-headedness again. To clear his mind, he broke the eye contact and looked back down at the board.
He spoke before he thought.
“Look at this.” He nodded at the board. “I’ve been chasing you for ages, Julian. If you don’t watch out, I’m going to pin you down and take you.” He reached out for his bishop.
“Is that a promise?” Bashir’s voice was husky.
Garak’s hand shook, knocking over the bishop. It clattered to the floor.
His ears must be playing tricks on him. His face grew hot. Without daring to look at Bashir and see that he was being teased, he leaned over and reached for the chess piece.
He didn’t see Bashir leaning over at the same time.
They both reached for the bishop. Their fingers touched.
“Garak?” he heard. He couldn’t draw a breath. Then he did the bravest thing he had done in a long time. He looked at Bashir.
And then he was lost. His mind started spinning, spinning. All the possibilities swirled around him. He closed his eyes…
* * * *
Garak made Julian promise to keep their new relationship secret, but he should have known better. Only two weeks later, very, very late at night, Dax happened to be passing by just at the moment when Julian was leaving his quarters. It needn’t have been a disaster, of course, if Julian hadn’t instantly turned a deep scarlet and began stammering.
Within a day and a half, the whole station knew. Many people were not surprised. After two weeks of avid gossip, no one cared anymore.
The relationship continued, outliving the gossip. Far from being a fling, it deepened. It changed everything. It changed nothing. Life continued. They were accepted as a couple.
People visited the station. Station residents went on trips. Entropy increases. News travels.
Soon enough, those who had an interest in Garak knew all about it, as well.
Even after his sentence was over, Garak seldom left the station, but Bashir? He left frequently – away missions, conferences, medical emergencies, on-site research. It had to happen, eventually.
Dukat happened to cross paths with a runabout. He recognized the doctor.
Suddenly there was a new way to hurt Garak, more effectively than had ever been possible. A way that Garak had never been trained to endure. Only to avoid. Garak had made a mistake. Now there was an opening. Now, it was time…
And, Garak realized, it was Julian who would pay for his mistake.
No. No. It can never happen. Do not allow.
* * * *
He opened his eyes. Julian’s fingers were still lightly touching his own. The bishop lay, forgotten, on the floor.
There was Julian’s face before him, radiating need, and want, and hope. He looked at Garak with the unspoken question shooting from his eyes, with all his yearning leaking from every pore. Here was Garak’s most cherished dreams, impossible or not, come true on a platter in front of him. The promise of happiness. But he must not accept it.
He sat back up, breaking the spell.
He smoothed out his face. “Dr. Bashir,” he managed to say, proud at least that his voice wasn’t breaking. “Are you feeling well? You look quite flushed.” He raised his ridges and settled on a look of polite inquiry. He leaned back. His hands reluctantly took refuge in his lap. He closed the moment.
“I – I’m fine, Garak,” Julian stumbled, looking confused, as if he had seen something for a moment that had disappeared. “I just got a little lightheaded, I suppose. It will pass.”
Garak saw all the possibilities collapse down into only the one that was left to him. He thought of Tain, and how he had always called Garak a weakness he couldn’t afford. What a typical Tain thing to say. Murky. Ambiguous. Garak had always taken it as dismissive, indicative of his own unworthiness. Now, he wasn’t sure.
Julian began talking, prattling on about The Never-Ending Sacrifice. His hands darted about nervously, and he seemed to be speaking a little too fast and too brightly. Garak thought about those heroic characters. Throwing themselves on the flames. For the good of the State.
Amateurs, he thought. They had no idea. He was throwing himself off the flames. But it had nothing to do with the State. It was the hardest thing he had ever had to do in his long and difficult life.
And worst of all, there wasn’t a Jem’Hadar in sight.
So... Feedback, please!
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