Disclaimer: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine belongs to Paramount, UPN etc. It is not mine.
"Navigating Among the Thorns" by karrenia
Neither of them had ever expected to be thrown into a situation where they’d be in such close proximity to one another.
Nor did they ever expect that it would come about not through choice but under duress. Keiko was more than a little confident that her husband and the station’s Chief of Operations would have the power restored to the main battery in the habitat ring in short order and such phobias as the dark or tightly enclosed spaces did not worry her.
What did worry her was the fact that the only other person who was currently sharing that tightly enclosed space with her was none other than Garak.
Perhaps it was the rumor mill currently circulating around the station, but even she was beginning to believe that there was much more to Garak than the affable, nonchalant and over-confident tailor that he passed himself off to be.
The fact that he was a Cardassian and the only one who had remained aboard were the entirety of his people and the former masters of the station, which had formerly been called Terrok Nork, had to mean something, but the station’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Julian Bashir, no one else seemed particularly interested in opening ‘that’ particular ‘can of worms’.
Keiko had to admit that she was curious about that, but she knew better than to pursue it, and she felt without being able to see why she felt so certain about it, that Garak would not welcome such personal inquiries, no matter how delicately probed.
She had leisure to study her fellow stuck-in-the dark of a non-functional turbo-lift. Garak sat on the floor as far apart from her as he possibly could on the far side of the lift, huddled in a tight ball. His lips, more bloodless than could be either healthy or normal for a Cardassian male, were tightly pursed, as if by doing so, he could the panic boiling up from within at bay.
Garak had never much cared for tightly enclosed spaces because they made him feel trapped, short of breath and his extremities clammy and numb.
The turbo lift normally large enough to hold at least a dozen humanoids quite comfortably when operational; all of sudden felt as if the four walls were closing in on him.
They were threatening to suffocate and squeeze him all at the same time. Nor did he care to over analyze his feelings on the matter, he was much more accustomed to knowing that he was in control no matter what, and losing control like this; was simply intolerable.
The spasming of his hands came to an abrupt stop when it registered on his senses that he was not alone in the inoperable turbo-lift as he had believed.
The swish of fabric against the metal floor he could identify as a light blend of orlon and pima cotton registered on his ears. The initial movement was followed in short order with the sound of someone else, moving just beyond the edges of his senses. He had been many things over the years and to many people; some of them less than pleasant, but he did o so enjoy the game of keeping everyone guessing.
Speaking of guessing, he would far rather prefer to identify the other person in the lift with him rather than speculate how they had both wound up in here when the power grid went out.
For a human, the darkness must have complete, however, not for the first time Garak thanked fortune or some other intercession that had given Cardassians a secondary nictating membrane that allowed him to see in the dark. He caught a glimpse of a slender form with skin the color of taupe silk he had once created a cocktail dress for Lieutenant Jadzia Dax, and a delicate bone-structure that could only belong to Keiko O’Brien.
“Who’s there?” he asked, more out of formality and because he wished to confirm his earlier identification.
“Mrs., O’Brien,” Garak said softly. “Don’t worry. I’m here.”
“Would it offend you, if I told you that is what worries me?” she asked with a hint of tremulous nervous laugh behind it.
“Not in the least,” he replied. “I suppose my reputation precedes me?” He had meant for it to come flippantly but his paranoia of enclosed spaces had been getting to him over the half hour or so that they’d been trapped in here; and it came out a bit more grating than he had attended.
“I’m certain that Miles will have the power restored in a matter of hours, two at the least.”
“And that’s if we don’t have contend with any more of those dratted brown-outs,” he replied.
“They are, somewhat aggravating,” agreed Keiko with another half-smile, this example much steadier than her previous attempt had been.
“I wish I had your confidence in the Chief’s expertise to restore power in the time-frame that you have outlined, but I must to a much more skeptical nature.”
“I can’t speak to that,” she replied. She edged a bit closer to her turb0-lift companion, but only she would not have to raise her voice. With a suddenness that surprised her Keiko wondered just how well anyone that was not Cardassian could truly claim to understand one of their own; especially someone as reputedly charming and roundabout as Garak allegedly was supposed to be.
She knew that Miles, back in the day when they had first met aboard the Enterprise, had held an extremely firm line about Cardassians and much that of had nothing to do with Garak but more with the various hard-liner military types he had encountered prior to his tour of duty with Captain Picard. It had taken him a long time to alter that type of negativity to the species, and while she had understood Miles’ feelings then and now, both of them had recognized that times changed, people changed, and circumstances changed. It was never good or bad; it was simply change.
What had taken her a bit by surprise that, this forced enclosure had made her recognize one thing, in a strange way, Garak was alone aboard Deep Space Nine in more ways than merely one and in recognizing this, she felt, if not genuine empathy for him, at least some compassion. He would be a difficult man to understand and this one-time proximity would not go very father towards reaching any true understanding, but at least it was a start.
Following shortly on the heels of that particular train of thought Keiko realized that the quality of the darkness had subtly altered just a bit and if she squinted her eyes she could just make out a vague outline of Garak’s figure. She looked up at the door and ceiling where the LCD lights, now darkened, now intermittently flickered.
Garak had also noticed the flickering lights and remarked. “I shall take that as an encouraging sign.”
She had just thought of a response when the roaring and grinding of massive pneumatic gears and turbines sounded and the explosion of light back into their darkened turbolift momentarily dazzled their eyes.
Keiko reared back and realized that she’d been rocking back on forth on the floor of the lift in order to get a better handle on her situation.
Garak had stood up by then and come over to stand beside her, wondering even as he did so, if it was because he needed something concrete on which to hold onto, or because he wanted to provider the reassurance of his presence to her. At the moment his feelings on the matter were rather ambivalent, however, he did not care to analyze the matter too closely.
He took his hand in hers and gave her a wordless glance, his much larger and worked-callused hand almost completely engulfed her slender hand, and she simply nodded and hung on, as the turbo-lift the lights now all green-lit and glowing indicated that they were descending, at a rapid pace, however, not alarmingly so. The descent at last came to an end and the door opened. Garak released his grip on her head and darted a glance towards her that she could not quite read, but felt that she could feel the outline of its shape in the semi-darkness. It had heft, and form, but somehow it kept eluding her whenever she felt that she was close to interpreting what it was, or what it meant.
Miles' worried face peered in and she darted towards him with outspread arms, and her grasped her and lifted her up into his arms, and then in between kisses, muttered. “Don’t ever scare me like that again.”
“Keep the brown-outs to a bare minimum, and I think we’ll be under control,” she replied, as he set her back down on her feet.
“Huh, very funny,” replied Miles.
“Are you okay, Mr. Garak?” he added.
“I am fine, thank you for asking, Chief,” replied Garak, his equanimity once more restored.