Diclaimer: ST:Deep Space Nine belongs to Paramount, UPN, etc, and its producers and directors; it is not mine.
“All of this is Window Dressing” by karrenia
Ezri Dax’s approach had been tentative at first, for a handful of very good reasons, one of them the uncertainty if she will be harshly rebuffed. If there is one thing she has learned from both her training and experience: that it’s difficult, very difficult to help people who do not wish to be helped. The person who fits this into this category is none other than only Cardassian currently living and working aboard the station.
Garak, was, in a word, difficult to get to know, and once one has reached that stage, difficult to like.
He’s aloof, brash, undeniably brilliant, and gives off a veneer of knowing more about what is going than anyone else around him. However, he also had the reputation of stubbornly withholding that very same information, doling it in dribs and drabs or not at all.
She also knew that the station’s Chief Medical Officer took it upon himself to penetrate those layers with the precision, patience and understanding that he brings to his surgery.
Julian Bashir had sought her out for lunch, to talk, to tell her about the discovering of an implant, supposedly placed there by the notorious Cardassian security agency known as the Obsidian Order, and his efforts to extract from Garak’s brain, and its consequences of that action.
Ezri had listened and she had commiserated; knowing that as much as it had pained Julian to lose a measure of what he had thought was a mutual friendship between him and Garak, Julian is nothing if not resilient. She has long admired that about him, as did her predecessor, Jadzia.
In the intervening days that had passed between the lunch with Julian and now, Ezri had mulled over the decision to approach Garak in order to talk with him, and help him cope with what had happened. It was not enough to simply broach the subject outright, she’d be rebuffed almost as quickly as she could utter the words. No, what was required here was a subtler strategy. But what?
They speak of other things, minute details of the day, projects, station business, literature, do a bit of compare and contrast between Cardassian and Terran; and both are aware of a deliberate and painful brittleness that makes it impossible to raise the one topic that Garak knows that the good doctor wishes to discuss, and that’s the removal of the implant.
For a Cardassian, especially one like himself, and if he were to be honest with no one else except himself, he would not have wished what he has lived through and survived on anyone else.
The Terrans have a saying that he found most appropriate under the circumstances, it is that, had he been given the opportunity, would he wish what had happened to him on his worst enemy?
Perhaps, but as much as he loathes Skrain Dukat, for many things not the least of wish is his exile aboard the Federation-controlled station, he is not the one responsible, no that came from another source. Namely, the Obsidian Order and a man that he would lay, steal, and kill for, and he had done so.
He had explained in as much as he had been able to do so, that the device implanted in his brain was not a punishment but merely a means of withstanding interrogation by torture, the problem being that it had never been intended for prolonged usage. As he lay on that bed, an understanding, painful as might be, had been reached, along with a kind of slowly drawn out kind of forgiveness.
In his own mind, Garak wondered if he had been the one that need that solace; it had been both a humbling and a relieving moment for him.
She found him sitting at a table in the Replimat, a distant and withdrawn look on his face when Lieutenant Ezri Dax found him. She could have merely inquired of the computer of his whereabouts, but somehow doing so the old-fashioned way enabled her to muster up the resolve needed to approach Garak and work out exactly how to approach him.
“May I join you?” she asked.
Garak at first did not respond, seemingly absorbed in stirring a spoon in a mug of a beverage that had once been steaming but had now cooled off. When he at last looked up he gritted his teeth’; not the most encouraging of welcomes, but she was resolved to see this through.
“I suppose so,” he at last replied. “What do you want?”
“I just want to talk,” Ezri said as she sat down in the chair opposite of where he sat.
“Seems I’m in demand, how fortuitous for me.”
“Garak, I realize that you’re well, something of a very private man, and I respect that, and I wouldn’t to do anything to disrupt what must be a very difficult time for you.”
“If you have been apprised of anything involving the events that transpired within the last few days, Lieutenant, I would appreciate if you would in a word; allow me to sulk in solitude.”
“From a professional standpoint, fine, if that’s what you want to do. You know what the end result of bottling up everything that’s bothering you; all it ends up doing is and seething and you end up nowhere, fast.” Ezri replied folding her arms across her chest. “
“I like to seethe,” Garak replied.
“This isn’t about the events that you’ve just referred to, but they do have a bearing on the proposition I have in mind.” She uncrossed her arms and placed her hands in her lap.
“A proposition?” Garak said, finally leaving off his methodical stirring of his drink.
“Yes, and once I’ve outlined the general ideas, and you wish to go through with it, I’ve booked an hour or so in one of Quark’s holo-suites.”
“You have my undivided attention, Dax.”
She offered him a tight-lipped but encouraging smile. “I’m aware that you suffer from claustro-phobia, and I think I can help you deal with that, if you’ll let me.”
“Hmm, and just how does a holo-suite fit in with this novel treatment?”
“I plan to use it to recreate an environment that will help with that. Are you game?” Ezri asked, a bit more challenge echoing in her voice.
“Very well,” Garak replied, his interest piqued in spite of himself. “Shall we begin immediately, as you can see,” he gestured around with a wave of his hand. “I have no other pressing engagements at the present. “
“Yes,” Ezri replied.
She had recreated with as much attention to detail and realism as it was possible to a region of Cardassia Prime as she could, although with Garak’s perfectionist eye there were several details that were just off, but then they were not here to judge the scenery.
He had known Dax’s previous host and both respected and admired her, although their relationship he must say had been strictly professional or when she had come into his tailor shop for fittings. Jadzia Dax had been a remarkable and resourceful individual; that being said Garak was still withholding judgment on this Dax incarnation; if anyone knew better than to judge a book by its proverbial cover, he did.
“Well, what do you think,” Ezri asked as they sat on a ledge overlooking a desert landscape painted in hues of red, gold, brown, and black, as if the entire swath had been draped in a gigantic woolen blanket.
“It is quite, beautiful, in its way. “Although, you must understand, something, I have not lived this long or survived as much as I have without developing something of a skeptical nature. So I must inquire, why are you doing this for me?”
“For the simple reason that I want to help,” Ezri Dax replied. “Is that so hard to understand?.”
“No doubt Dr. Bashir would say the same thing,” mused Garak under his breath.
Ezri sighed. “If you’re implying that Julian put me up to this, then that’s where you wrong. I made the decision on my own.”
“Indeed, I was merely speculating.”
Either from lack of knowing what to say next or because a tacit understanding had been reached to let the silence and the ambience of the environment take its time, neither said anything for a while.
Garak leaned back against the rock wall that formed the backdrop of their ledge and closed his eyes, inhaling and exhaling deeply, calming his nerves and his racing thoughts at the same time.
For her part Ezri was content to let him do so, considering that phobias were tricky things and varied from person to person; from what little she knew about Garak, which was admittedly, very little. She did know that his was a very pronounced case, one that had been years in the making. This one session would not be sufficient, but she knew that she had had to make the effort, nonetheless.
She began to become concerned when almost a half hour had elapsed and Garak showed no signs of opening his eyes. She reached over and gently shook him, still nothing. Then she noticed sheen of sweat on his brow and shook him a bit more forcefully. “Garak! Wake up!” Wake up!”
The nictating membranes of his eyelids fluttered a few times, and the muscles in his cheeks and neck ridges twitched, but that was all. She ordered the computer to save and shut down the currently running program and then slapped her free hand to her com-badge. “This is Lt. Dax, medical emergency, hol0-suite three.”
“Damn you, Garak, you better not be doing this, just out of spite.”
His head lolled and he had sunk down to a prone position on the floor of the holo-suite. “Far from it, Lt. Although, I feel I could not muster the energy to ….” he began and trailed off for a heartbeat before at last succumbing to unconsciousness.