“Yadik, tell me about the time Daddy shot you.”
“Oh, here we go!” Bashir gives Parmak a knowing look from the kitchen area of the main living space in the home he shares with Garak and their six-year-old daughter, Mila. “This story strays further from reality each time he re-tells it.”
Parmak settles back on the sofa, smiling.
“Well,” Garak begins, lifting Mila onto his lap, “A long time ago, your Dad used to be a spy.”
Bashir abandons the clearing-up from their meal and carries a fresh pot of tea through to the seating area. He joins Parmak on the sofa.
“It wasn’t that long ago, and I was pretending to be a spy. It was in a holosuite.” He remarks, pouring the tea.
Garak shoots him a disapproving glance. “You see, one of the things about having been a spy is you can never say you were a spy, even to your own family.”
Mila stares at Garak, enthralled. Bashir ignores the bait, handing a mug of tea to Parmak then pouring one for himself.
“Your Daddy was always going on dangerous missions to glamorous places,” Garak continues, “And one time he invited me along. He said he needed a sidekick.”
Bashir opens his mouth to protest that this is not how it was at all, but closes it again when Mila asks—
“Did you love Daddy when he was a spy?”
“Oh yes!” Garak enthuses. “He was smart and funny and terribly handsome. He was kind too. Very kind, actually... Yes... He had strange tastes in literature, but he could defend the works he loved and through his argument I saw the value of them even when I disagreed with his points. He was an incorrigible flirt and—oh!—his smile! It made my heart race every time I saw it.”
Parmak gives Bashir a nudge with his elbow. “Julian, Did you know he felt that way about you?” He whispers.
“No, I was totally oblivious. This is news to me.” Bashir sips his tea.
“He asked me to meet him at a very fancy hotel, all paid for by his spy masters,” Garak goes on, “And on the evening I arrived he was right in the middle of the action! Did you know, he knocked a man out with a well-aimed champagne cork just as I walked through the door?”
“Really?” Mila turns to stare open-mouthed at Bashir.
“Ok, that is true.” Bashir concedes.
“He was so delighted to see me, weren’t you dear?” Garak smirks in Bashir’s direction.
Garak steamrollers ahead, cutting Bashir off. “We hadn’t been able to have our customary lunches together in the weeks before, what with one thing and another—“ He gives Bashir a pointed look. “—So naturally, Daddy greeted me enthusiastically, but we had to get out of there quickly, before the man he hit with the cork woke up.”
“Is that how you remember it?” Parmak mutters to Bashir.
“Shush Kelas,” Bashir scolds, “I want to see if he mentions the very attractive woman I’d planned on sharing the champagne with, who he managed to scare off.”
“Was the man Daddy knocked out a bad man?” Mila asks.
“Yes, very. Your Daddy was exceptionally heroic.”
Parmak rolls his eyes and Bashir nearly chokes on his tea.
“Heroic?!” He sputters. “I was just blowing off some steam in a game for a couple of hours before my shift at the infirmary.”
“This was before Daddy’s cover was blown, you see?” Garak intones. “Everyone thought he was just a regular Human back then; it was only later that his super powers were revealed, but that’s another story. That’s why his government was so generous to him. They couldn’t take the chance that he might defect to the enemy. A man with his talents could be a dangerous asset in the wrong hands.”
“You mean his enhancements?” Mila asks.
“I told you he wouldn’t mention the girl.” Bashir whispers.
“Well, he was in love with you.” Parmak notes. “He’s probably trying not to think about her.”
“I think I might have behaved a little insensitively.” Bashir concedes.
“That apartment!“ Garak continues. “Oh, it was hideous! It was in a place called Hong Kong, on Earth.”
“Earth is where Daddy’s from.” Mila interjects.
“Yes, that’s right.” Garak smoothes a hand over the child’s hair. “The décor was terrible! All gaudy colours, and a totally impractical bar which rotated to reveal a bed on the other side. Highly unnecessary, but all provided by his spymasters as part of his cover as a rich playboy. No doubt the opulence was necessary to keep him loyal.”
“You see,” Bashir leans close to Parmak to whisper without being overheard, “The idea of the holoprogram was that you could have the adventure or you could have the romance with the hot girls and mix and match how much of each you wanted. That’s why the bed was there, in case... you know.” He shrugs, colour rising to his cheeks.
“And Elim thwarted your romantic plans?”
“Of course! He took a perverse delight in it.” They both laugh.
“Daddy, Uncle Kelas! Stop interrupting.” Mila complains.
“You should have seen your Dad in his morning suit.” Garak’s smile is genuine. “He was beautiful! I had to order the fabric specially. Light grey it was, and I got the cut of the jacket just right... white shirt, blue striped tie...”
“Yadik, get on with the story!” Mila fists her hand in the fabric of Garak’s tunic and tugs impatiently.
“Ok, ok. I have a holo somewhere, I’ll show you. It turned out there was someone waiting for us in Daddy’s apartment, one Colonel Komananov. She was also a spy, but she worked for a different government.”
“He hasn’t mentioned Mona.” Bashir remarks.
“Who was Mona?” Asks Parmak.
“Mona Luvsitt, my valet.”
“‘Mona Luvsitt’?! Really? That’s awful!”
“It was a trashy holonovel.” Bashir shrugs.
“Was she one of the ‘hot girls’?”
“Definitely. And Komananov was too.”
“Komananov,” Garak glares at the two men, “Must have been in her 60s. Plain-looking, hair scraped back into a tight ponytail, wearing a baggy unflattering skirt and blouse.”
“Now, that’s unfair—.” Bashir grumbles.
“And she wasn’t in the least bit interested in getting romantically entangled with any of her co-workers.” Garak smirks triumphantly.
“What an odd detail to include.” Bashir observes, smirking back.
“Anyway,” Garak turns his attention back to his daughter, “Komananov informed us there had been artificial seismic activity detected all over the planet and that it might be connected to the recent kidnapping of a leading scientist, one Hermione Beer.”
“That wasn’t her name.” Bashir protests.
“I’m certain it was.” Garak raises his eyebrows mockingly. “‘Hermione Beer’. You must have forgotten, my dear. It was a long time ago.”
“What was her actual name?” Parmak whispers.
“Honey Bare.” Bashir replies.
“That’s worse than Mona.”
“Yes. It is rather terrible.”
“Before Komananov could finish briefing us on our mission, the door burst open and there stood the man Daddy had knocked out with the champagne cork along with two others.” Garak continues. “He had a deadly old Earth weapon called a gun and he pointed it right at your Dad!”—Mila gasps—“But you know your Daddy is very brave and very clever, right?”—She nods—“Before he could fire the weapon your Dad had closed the gap between them and caught his neck in a Vulcan nerve pinch.”
“I don’t even know how to—!“ Bashir exclaims indignantly.
“And the bad man fell down—just like that!” Garak ignores the interruption. “Daddy really was an excellent spy... One of the men attacked me but Daddy fearlessly defended me and we hurried out, leaving the three of them unconscious in his apartment.”
“Were you hurt?” Mila asks, snuggling against Garak’s chest.
“Yes,” He puts his arm around her shoulders, “He hit me in the mouth and it bled a lot. I don’t know what I’d have done without your Dad there to save me.”
“He’s really over-doing it,” Bashir comments to Parmak, “But his bleeding—it wasn’t so bad—alerted us to the fact that the holosuite safety mechanisms weren’t functioning.”
“Elim can give as good as he gets, right?” Parmak says. “I’d be surprised if he needed to be rescued in a one-on-one fight, but his eagerness to portray you as his hero is quite endearing.”
“I suppose it has a certain charm, but it’s embarrassing hearing him tell it like this.”
“And then your Daddy, Komananov and I went to Paris—that’s on the other side of the planet—to investigate the earthquakes.” Garak goes on. “Daddy wore his tuxedo because we were going to a very chic nightclub. There’s a holo of that, too.”
“No more talk about clothes Yadik!” Mila whines.
“Ok, but you have to understand your Dad was—and is—a very attractive man and I do so enjoy making clothing that shows off his best features.”
“I recall you wore your tux rather well yourself.” Bashir comments.
“Yes, I was rather suave in those days, wasn’t I? Where was I...? Oh yes, the nightclub. Komananov had information that one Hippocrates Noah may be behind the kidnapping of Ms. Beer and some other scientists who had gone missing, so Daddy came up with an ingenious cover where he would pose as a geologist jealous that the missing scientists had all received invitations to visit Noah, the club’s owner, and he had come to Paris seeking an audience. It really was very clever.”
“Except it wasn’t my plan.” Bashir butts in. “You’re giving me credit for Komananov‘s work.”
“Don’t be so modest my dear!” Garak retorts. “As I recall, it was entirely your idea.”—Bashir snorts but lets it go—“Before we could get to Noah, we had to get past his henchman, Duchamps.”
“That was Commander Worf.” Bashir whispers. “Did I say there was a transporter accident and some of the crew members got incorporated into the program?”
“No?” Parmak replies.
“One day I’ll have to tell you my version of events, when Garak’s not around.”
“Your Dad just walked right in and demanded to see Hippocrates Noah!” Garak exclaims. “Did I tell you he’s exceptionally brave? Anyway, Duchamps refused, of course, citing a fee of five million francs—that was the local currency and a lot of money—but your Dad is so very clever, do you know what he did?”
“What did he do?” Mila’s stares wide-eyed at Garak’s face.
“He challenged Duchamps to a card game and won the money. Kelas, if my dear Doctor Bashir ever invites you to play baccarat I advise you to decline.”
“I have no idea how to play baccarat.” Bashir explains. “The holosuite computer rigged the whole thing. It’s in the programming.”
“Don’t listen to him, Kelas.” Garak wags a finger. “Spies are notorious liars, they’re trained to do it habitually.”
“This is too much.” Bashir grumbles.
“Back to the story...” Garak kisses the top of Mila’s head. “...Duchamps was a devious fellow; he had some rather innovative techniques—quite admirable really. He pulled out what looked like a regular a cigar and blew smoke over us which knocked us all out!”
“What’s a ‘cigar’, Yadik?” Mila asks.
“A device for consuming some Human recreational drug, I think. Toxic, but not usually so instantly effective. Shall I go on?”—She nods—“When we came round, we found ourselves in a large and truly ghastly room furnished in clashing patterns and colours—it was awful and the light was so intolerably bright—and there was a man who introduced himself as Hippocrates Noah. We kept up our cover that your Dad was a geologist, and Noah invited him to examine some hideous lump of metal covered in various stones. Daddy, being so clever, was able to identify all the stones and deceive Noah about his true identity. Your Dad got him to reveal his plan to trigger earthquakes via giant lasers strong enough to cause a rise in sea level and drown everyone—we were on top of the tallest mountain on the planet so would be safe. But! Oh, this man had plans for us!”
“He was a proper villain! Not only was he going to destroy the planet, but—do you remember the man Daddy hit with the champagne cork?”
“Falcon.” Bashir interjects.
“An unfortunate name.” Garak waves a hand. “He was working for Noah! He showed up and dragged your Dad and I down to the basement of the building, deep inside the mountain, where the giant lasers were ready to be fired. Falcon handcuffed us both to the lasers and started the countdown.”
“And then did Daddy shoot you?”
“Wait, that bit’s coming. First we had to get free from the lasers.”
“Ah yes, Hermione Beer—isn’t that what you said her name was?—showed up to do some checks on the equipment.” Bashir says loudly, ignoring Garak’s glare. “And I used my good looks and charming personality to—.”
“You picked her pocket as she walked past and got the key to the handcuffs.” Garak sniffs haughtily.
“If you say so, my love.” Bashir smirks.
“And Daddy unlocked the handcuffs and got you out?” Mila asks.
“Yes he did.” Garak replies.
“Because he’s brave and clever and heroic?”
“Indeed.” Garak pets her head. “Very heroic, your Dad, and very good at espionage.”
“You’re really enjoying this too much.” Bashir protests, Parmak shaking in silent laughter beside him.
“It’s a good anecdote.” Garak fixes him with a closed-lipped smile.
“It’s a good fiction.”
“There’s always a little embellishment in the telling of a tale, dear.”
“A little?!” Bashir throws up his arms in resignation. “Go on, I’m invested in your version now. I want to find out why I shot you.”
“Oh, I know why, dear: I underestimated you, and you had to stop me from doing something very foolish. You see, Mila,” He turns back to the child, “I found a way out of the underground cave and I insisted we should save ourselves instead of sticking around to try and deactivate the lasers.”
“So, there were crew members trapped in the program, remember?” Bashir murmurs to Parmak, who nods. “Garak was about to shut off the program and that would have killed them. Our colleagues were working to restore the Station’s power and get their transporter patterns out of the computer.”
“And Daddy wanted to save everyone?” Asks Mila.
“Yes, he’s generous like that. Doesn’t like standing by while people die. It’s a Human thing.” Garak replies, catching Julian’s eye-roll out of the corner of his vision. “So he pulled out his gun and shot me.”
“In the neck, here.” He takes the child’s hand in his and lifts it to his neck ridge. “Can you feel the scales are still scarred?”
“Yes.” She strokes his ridge tenderly. “Did it hurt?”
“Terribly! Guns were horribly uncivilised weapons. They fired a small metal projectile called a bullet. It’s a messy way to die.”
“But you didn’t die Yadik. Why not?”
“Because your Dad is very clever and among his many talents is knowing how to shoot someone without causing life-threatening injury.”
“Is that because of his super powers?”
Garak gives Bashir a look. “Is it?” He asks.
“Yes, ok. My genetic enhancements vastly improved my hand-eye coordination and my cognitive abilities, allowing me to train as a doctor and learn about humanoid anatomy, so I could aim knowing exactly where I could safely hit Yadik without seriously harming him in the certainty I wouldn’t miss.” Bashir shrugs sheepishly.
“Yet you led me to believe you’d shot to kill.” Garak needles.
“Well, you were a smug git who thought nothing of throwing our friends’ lives away. I wanted you to think twice before questioning my judgement again.”
“Were you friends with everyone who lived on Earth, Daddy?” Mila asks.
“No... well, sort of.” Bashir sighs. “Seeing as Yadik’s telling the story, then yes, I suppose I was.” She gives him a puzzled look. “And then we disarmed the lasers before the countdown ended and we didn’t drown in the cave and the planet was saved, right?”
“Right.” Says Garak. “And all it took to save the world was for your Daddy to shoot me.”
“Somehow Julian, I think your version of events will be less interesting.” Parmak digs Bashir playfully in the ribs with his elbow.
“I admit Garak does tell it better.” Bashir concedes.
“And do you know?” Garak hugs Mila tight to his chest. “Your Daddy still looked devastatingly attractive in his tuxedo even after that ordeal?”
Mila yawns. “Can I see the holo?”
“Tomorrow.” Garak lifts her onto the floor. “It’s past your bedtime. Say goodnight to Uncle Kelas and I’ll tuck you in.”
Bashir turns to Parmak. “Actually, I destroyed the world.”
“That wasn’t very heroic of you.”
“That’s not how I remember it, dear!” Garak calls from the doorway.
Bashir shrugs and grins.
After they’ve said their goodbyes to Parmak Bashir creeps into Mila’s bedroom. She stirs.
“You’re not asleep yet?” He crouches by the bed and kisses her cheek.
“No, I was waiting for you to come and kiss me goodnight.”
“Well, I’m here now.” He kisses his daughter again and she circles her arms round his neck.
“Daddy, were you really a spy?”
“Well, Yadik said I was.”
“But were you really?”
“A real spy can’t tell anyone. Goodnight Mila.” He stands. “Lights off.” Bashir instructs the household computer as he leaves.