“You heard her. She’s a traitor.”
At this moment, Damar does not remember that Ziyal died differently, that she died bloodlessly as her father’s mind began to fracture. He does not remember that her death was necessary, that she never deserved the honor Dukat bestowed on her by claiming her as his own. He only remembers that Ziyal is dead by his hand and that her death marks the moment when all that he so diligently dedicated his strength to preserving began to crumble around him.
Damar wakes with a jerk. The woman beside him whose name he never asked sighs in her sleep and turns onto her side. Damar reaches blindly for the kanar on his bedside table and drains the last few drops, the liquor gone cloying and foul since the time he opened the bottle. Weyoun will be calling him soon, and Damar must be able to face him with what passes now for dignity.
“Those days might be gone, but the man I served with isn't. He's still within you. Reach in and grab hold of him, Damar. Cardassia needs a leader.
Damar says, “Of that I can assure you.” He imagines crushing Weyoun’s windpipe between his hands, the satisfying crunch of brittle Vorta bones underneath his fingers.
“Then why do we continue having them?”
“Because my people are dying in droves.”
“Oh, Damar,” Weyoun says. “They’re heroes, their lives sacrificed to safeguard our alliance. What shining jewels in the crown of Cardassia these noble men and women make.”
Damar has heard this sort of speeches before, felt his blood rouse and his pride swell as he contemplated that one day he might be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice for his homeland. But those seven million shining jewels Weyoun so casually dismisses didn’t die for Cardassia; they died for the Founders, for the Vorta, for the Breen. If Damar hadn’t already numbed himself with kanar he might retch.
“Of course,” Damar grits out between clenched teeth. Somewhere deep inside him in a place that no drug or other distraction can touch, a tendril of rage unfurls—pure and incandescent, a fury no officious platitudes can appease.
“What kind of state tolerates the murder of innocent women and children? What kind of people give those orders?
Galmar was born in the same year that Damar was promoted to glinn, and Damar has never been able to separate his joy in one from the other; they tangle together in a magnificent confluence of pride in both family and state.
Now when Damar dreams of Lellot and Galmar, he sees only their deaths, the minutia of dying bodies catalogued so often by a soldier applied in a sickening loop to his most beloved. In Damar’s dreamscape, his dead wife often morphs into Ziyal or Kira, his son into any number of nameless Bajoran children. Most disturbingly, these thoughts are not confined to his dreams. In his waking moments, Damar finds himself dwelling on a Bajoran woman he saw dying in the first years of the Occupation. She lay face down in the dirt of her farm, her skirts rucked up around her waist, her throat slashed and seeping into the newly tilled furrows.
Of all they have taken from him and his people, Damar hates the Founders most for stripping away his righteousness.
“He was my friend. But his Cardassia's dead, and it won't be coming back.
Damar met Rusot when they were both painfully young—before they had each married, before they had ever seen the backside of a battle, when the glory of Cardassia burned brightly in the hearts of its two newest gils. Rusot taught Damar to hold his drink, and Damar taught Rusot how to capture the attentions of the most attractive women, and they have saved each other’s lives often enough in the decades since that Damar no longer keeps a tally.
“He jeopardizes everything we’ve worked for here,” Kira says. Damar wants to be angry at her, but he can’t disagree. Rusot is a liability.
Damar says, “I will speak with him.” He will not. Damar has no words to justify to Rusot the way forward in this new reality in which former slaves are now trusted allies, in which the Occupiers have become the Occupied, in which the lives of their people must be sacrificed to save Cardassia herself.
“You never told me you had a secret mountain hideaway.”
“Do not think this changes anything between us,” Garak says softly, his lips dragging along Damar’s jaw, his breath hot and wet on Damar’s neck.
Damar says, “How could it?”
That night he sleeps deeply and uninterrupted by dreams, his back turned to Garak instead of the wall—a small sliver of trust, weary resignation, an unspoken invitation perhaps.
“I was going to surprise you.”
Damar smiles for what feels like the first time in a century. Then he climbs up the path—hesitating for a moment at the door—opens it, and walks inside.