Actions

Work Header

Left Unspoken

Chapter Text

 

              The sand was burning hot beneath her brown feet as she raced down the dunes to the water’s edge. Akkad danced in the shallows among the reeds as the sun striped her skin with long shadows. Little silver fish copied her rhythm and swam alongside her as she waded deeper, the water up to her knees and the skirt of her clean white dress floating in the tide. Birds flew overhead singing their hymn to the rising sun as the woman greeted them with her carefree smile. She paused for a moment to absorb the full glory of the river that was sacred in her heart and the cradle of her childhood.

              “Who are you?” A voice came from beneath the leaves. Akkad turned around and saw a scaly blue-green head rise from the shallows, a ridged back and winding tail trailed behind the crocodile as she floated nearer. All went quiet. There was no sound but the quiet churning of water beneath the beast’s tail. Akkad froze in terror; she was only a few feet from those menacing jaws built to crush bone.

              As she opened her mouth to scream, Akkad’s eyelids fluttered open and she sat bolt upright from underneath the sheets.

These were not her quarters. It was too hot, too humid, and much too dark. Beads of sweat rolled down Akkad’s back and she gasped for breath. As she reoriented herself, she noticed the rattling breaths coming from beside her. Someone else was in bed with her. There was only the faint blue-green glow of the emergency lights to see by as Akkad reached out a hand and felt the sleeve of his soft nightclothes and the hardened flesh beneath.

Garak.

He must have been a light sleeper as his eyes drifted open at her touch. Akkad leaned down on her side propped up on an elbow. The pair regarded each other without speaking. Akkad had another chance to appreciate the bizarre series of events that had brought them to this moment, while the memory of her dreams faded into the background.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that. It’s stupid but I just woke up and forgot where I was again.” Akkad whispered at last. Garak reached a hand out to cup her face and run his thumb over her cheek.

“A plausible theory.” He smiled at her through his drowsy haze. “But have you considered the possibility that you’re still dreaming?”

“Then I must have a very limited imagination.” Akkad chuckled as she lowered her head back down to the pillow. His eyes followed her without blinking as his fingers trailed over her neck down to her shoulder.

“Still, if I had dreamed this, I’m not sure I’d ever want to wake up again.”

              Akkad closed her eyes and felt the ghost of a touch settle on the back of her hand. She turned her palm upward and interwove her fingers with his. After a brief silence, she gripped tighter and snickered into the dark.

              “Is that amusing, doctor?” Akkad opened her eyes again and met his curious gaze.

              “No, no, it’s not about that at all, it isn’t important.”

              “What?” Garak shifted closer and pulled her into his chest.

              “It’s not worth explaining.”

              “My dear, we have all night. Explain away.” Garak bent his neck down so his nose was buried in her raven curls.

              “I just remembered something. It’s kind of ironic I guess, but well, it’s just that the last time I remember feeling the way I do now…” Akkad paused as butterflies took flight in her stomach, “Was the time I almost lost you.” She tried her best to keep her voice flat as the last few words left her. It seemed inappropriate to start gushing over her bedfellow when the two had only just begun the process of collapsing the barriers of polite discretion that had kept them at arms-length apart for years. There was no way possible however to make the raw emotion of her memories undetectable, especially not with the hyper-perceptive individual beside her.

              “I remember, while I was lying there delirious in the infirmary, I saw something in your eyes I had never noticed before. Something unbelievably human and visceral. I must say it was quite touching, doctor.”

              “Sometimes when I look at you, I can't shake this feeling that you're reading my mind," Akkad mumbled into his scaly chest.

              “I hope I’m not. It’s certainty that takes all of the fun out of the game.” Garak purred into her ear. Akkad pulled her head back and brought herself to eye-level with him.

              “Really now? I thought you had me figured out from the beginning.”

              “On the contrary, my dear doctor. You have been and will continue to be a most intriguing challenge. A puzzle that could be solved with little intellectual effort would be most disappointing.” The corners of Akkad’s mouth turned upward without her much noticing it.

              “Then I promise from now on that I will be as difficult as possible.”

              “Good, good. Moments like this will be all the more precious for it.” He pulled her back in and lightly pressed his lips to her forehead and nuzzled closer still. Clearly, he was succumbing again to the lull of sleep.

              I hope we’ll have many moments like this.

              Akkad traced the edge of the spoon-shaped indentation in Garak’s collar with a fingertip. She could tell without looking that his eyelids were closing. His grip on her relaxed and his breathing became more regular. Akkad took in every detail of him in as she felt herself beginning to drift as well.

              Her last thought came to her as she caught a glimpse of the set of tiny scars that crossed the back of her hand. She wondered briefly for the first time in years about what had ever happened to the hatchling crocodile who had bitten her as a child. He, or possibly she, had lost their mother because of her and some irrational part of Akkad’s still felt guilty from time to time.

A specter of a memory passed through the doctor’s conscience. It was her father wrapping bandages around the wound on his distraught daughter’s mangled hand while the girl was cradled in her mother’s lap.

              “I know you meant well, but don’t ever believe even for a moment that you’re safe around them. God, one mistake is all it takes. How would your mother and I ever have forgiven ourselves?”

              I guess you live and you learn, dad. That is, if you’re lucky.

Chapter Text

The smell of the smoke and cinders crept across the promenade. By the time the emergency medical team arrived, the formerly pristine shop was unrecognizable. The kaleidoscope of colored fabric had been singed to a uniform black. The ashes were still falling, and the floor was covered in broken glass and shards of metal. Against her better judgment, Akkad raced in and started to search.

            Please no, you can’t do this to me.

            Julian was at her side a moment later.

 "Naila, he's over here!" Dr. Bashir cried out as he crossed the room and knelt next to a soot-covered body lying on the floor behind a table.

            Oh god, please be alright

            Akkad was there instantly. There were a few open wounds visible around his neck and face as well as bruising. All of that was easily reparable, but the real fear was blunt force trauma or internal bleeding. She took some relief in the remarkable fact that he appeared unburned despite the state of the scene.

            The doctor pulled her tricorder out of her pocket and hovered over the victim’s body in a sweeping motion from the cranium to the feet.

            “Doctor, what a surprise.” the poor man spoke as he winced in pain.

            “Is there any sign of internal damage?” Bashir urged as Akkad completed her scan.

            “Dislocated left shoulder, some bruising along the ribcage, and an impacted fracture in the left humerus. The internal organ tissue looks alright. My guess is the injuries were the result of being thrown sideways and catching himself on his left arm.” Akkad stopped to catch her breath and looked the unfortunate soul in the eyes.

            “Garak, you’ll be alright. I’m going to beam us over to the infirmary so I can fix the breaks.” Akkad saw Garak nod with the little freedom of motion he had in his neck at the moment before she hit her combadge a little harder than necessary.

            “Akkad to infirmary. I’m beaming over a patient who was just caught in an explosion on the promenade. Prepare to receive.”

            “Acknowledged, doctor.” One of her Bajoran aides answered. Akkad turned slightly in her crouched position to face Bashir.

            “Ready?”

            “Ready.”

            “Akkad, three to transport to the infirmary.”

 

            The surgery was a relatively simple one, a matter of resetting the fractured bone so that the damage could be repaired with an osteoregenerator. Akkad’s brain listed all the steps to the treatment as she went about the process, once again she felt appreciative for the strictness of her Vulcan medical science professor regarding procedural memorization.  It took about an hour to reset all the minute pieces of bone back into place, and another hour after was spent regenerating the bone. Skeletal damage always took longer than soft tissue. But everything went according to plan, and Akkad was able to administer the reversal drug to bring Garak out of sedation once the regeneration was complete. She allowed herself to rest a moment while her Cardassian friend came to on the table beside her.

            The first thing he did was groan aloud.

            “How are you feeling? Not that that was any indication.” The doctor asked as she waved a tricorder over him again out of habit.

 "As you say, been better," Garak muttered through his teeth.

            “Well, I’d say you got off easy, the damage wasn’t serious, and we should be able to discharge you in the morning.”

            “Perhaps that is true from your perspective doctor, but frankly you were not the one who started their morning off with a bomb exploding in their face.”

            “No, I suppose not.” Akkad adjusted his hospital blanket, being mindful not to move the injured limb.

            “Look, I expect Odo will be down here any minute to ask if you’re able to answer questions. I’m thinking he should wait until tomorrow morning after you've had a chance to rest, but that’s always up to the patient as long as they’re conscious.”

            "I understand that it goes against your judgment, but I would like to speak to the constable as soon as possible.” He replied without hesitation.

            “Alright, I'll let him know," Akkad spoke softly as if he was any other patient and not someone she knew well.

            “Akkad to Odo, I- “as soon as the doctor started speaking the doors to the infirmary opened. “Never mind.”

            “I’m here. Is Mr. Garak able to give station security information at this time?” The constable entered the room with a stiff march and hands clasped behind his back with his usual air of officiality.

            “He is, you may begin if you wish," was all Akkad answered as she moved away from the hospital bed to the office chair on the other side of the room. It was generally not considered appropriate for a doctor to stand over a security officer’s shoulder while he was conducting an investigation unless of course, it was medically necessary for a physician to be with the patient at all times. The constable, however, was not particularly practiced in the art of keeping his voice down and Akkad could pick up a word of the conversation here and there.

            Akkad began writing her report on the morning’s events, which gave her time to think clearly for the first time since she and what seemed like the entire population of the station had heard the explosion coming from the tailor’s shop a few hours earlier.

            Her friend, if that was what he was to her at that point, was perfectly fine for the moment, but she would have to have been incredibly naïve to think that the near-disaster was the result of some technical failure. The whole thing seemed much too deliberate. The blow-out had only occurred in one location in the entire energy grid, and at a time when Garak was alone in the early hours of the morning. The evidence certainly seemed to suggest the precision of a killer. That was not even considering the sheer number of people there must be out in the galaxy who might have had something against the former Cardassian intelligence operative. No, it was all too coincidental.

            It was difficult to stay so objective for long though. With her responsibilities as an officer temporarily fulfilled more personal concerns began to surface. Most notably, the confusion that existed between her and the patient currently in her care. It had been about three weeks since life had decided to throw the pair a curveball via some empathic hijacking. By the end of the night, Akkad had made her somewhat-more-than-platonic affection for her friend clear. The two had spent the night together and Akkad had selfishly hoped that it would lead to something to more, but there were few explicit signs that it would be so. They were spending more time together for sure, and now and then they could steal an embrace when no one was around, but Akkad could not seem to ignore the feeling that she was waiting for Garak to say or do something.

            Seems an awful lot like you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed. He wasn’t going to be head over heels for you from moment one.

            Maybe Akkad was expecting too much. The best-case scenario would be that this was normal in Cardassian culture, and she just had to be patient if she wanted things to go further. The worst-case scenario was that he was leading her on in case she would be useful to him later. Considering Garak’s track record, it was probably best for sanity’s sake not to consider which option was more likely.

            A shadow fell over the desk in front of the doctor.

            “Naila, I think it’s time to take a break. I can take it from here.” Bashir laid a hand on her shoulder as Akkad turned her chair to face him.

            “I don’t know, he’s still in the early stages of recovery. Maybe I should stay a little longer.”

            “He’s one patient, I think the team can manage.” As much as Bashir’s tone of voice irritated her at the moment, Akkad could not deny the physical and emotional weariness of the day and she knew he was right.

            “Okay, I’ll be back soon. If anything changes or if Odo needs help, let me know.”

Chapter Text

“So Miles, you’re saying that there is circumstantial evidence that this…merchant… triggered a micro-explosion device in the power conduit?” The doctor’s question was laden with disbelief.
“I know it’s hardly an airtight conclusion, but it’s the only lead we’ve got so far. We can safely say for sure that the explosion in the ODN line was triggered by something outside of the station’s power grid, otherwise, the damage wouldn’t have been so contained.”
“So where do we go from here?”
“As you know, all departures from the station have been delayed. I think Mr. Retaya was doing his best to keep a low-profile, but we were able to locate which ship he was on. He’s waiting in the conference room.” Odo had avoided eye contact with Akkad throughout the entire conversation.
“You’re going to interrogate him?”
“Ask questions certainly. We need to stall for time while Chief O’Brien’s team installs a tracking device on the Flaxian’s ship.”
“So the plan is to follow his ship and hope he leads us to whoever set up Garak?” Miles crossed his arms over his chest tighter and raised an eyebrow at the constable. Odo nodded and turned to face the door behind which their suspect was waiting.
“But Odo, I still don’t understand how it is I’m supposed to be contributing here. I don’t think I’ll be much help with questioning or embedding a device in the ship’s navigational system.” Akkad looked back and forth between the constable and the door.
“Remember how I said that the Flaxian was carrying the chemical ingredients for a neurotoxin?”
“Yes.”
“He has them on his person now. I need you here in case he decides to use them. I recommend that you wait outside the door. I’ll contact you if something goes wrong.” Odo turned to face the chief, “Mr. O’Brien, signal me as soon as the device is installed.”
“I will. We should only need about twenty more minutes.”
“Hmmf, very good chief. I suppose it’s time to get started.” A second later, the constable disappeared into the conference room. Akkad snorted nervously.
“And now we wait.”

 


O’Brien overestimated the amount of time the engineers needed. He had agreed with Odo to signal their completion by joining him in the room. They thought it was close enough to a normal occurrence to not tip the suspect off to the hidden plot.
The Flaxian was the first to reemerge, he was clearly eager to vacate the premises and made a beeline back to his ship. Odo and O’Brien came out a moment later.
“This is Security Chief Odo, two to beam to Runabout Pad C.” A second later the two disappeared and the Doctor was alone.
“Akkad to Sisko, I expect the ship will be leaving any minute. Shall I join you and the others?”
“Go ahead, Doctor.” A usually warm but suddenly apprehensive voice replied.
“Akkad to transporter room, beam me to briefing room one.”
When the doctor materialized, what immediately caught her attention was the crowd of officers looking out the window at a large field of wreckage drifting between the station and the entrance to the wormhole. Akkad raced over.
“What just happened?” the doctor gasped in utter shock. Dax was the only one who turned to face her friend.
“There was a chain explosion onboard the Flaxian ship. It seemed to go off right when they went into warp. All crew and passengers died instantly.”
“Odo, O’Brien, are they alright?”
“They didn’t even get a chance to leave the station.”
Akkad stepped forward and watched as pieces of scrap metal from the ship were swallowed by the wormhole.
“What the hell are dealing with here?”

 

“The Romulans killed him?” Akkad was nearly speechless. Garak’s would-be assassin had been the victim of extrajudicial execution. From there it was easy to infer that the Romulans were involved with the explosion the day before and likely killed Retaya in outrage over his failed assignment.
“Yes, Doctor. And what’s more, five current and former Cardassian intelligence operatives reportedly died yesterday, from either accidents or natural causes.” Odo’s expression was grave as he delivered the news.
“Garak, why would the Romulans target the order?”
“I assure you, I have no idea. As far as I’m aware Cardassia has done nothing to them in recent history. Well, besides the usual surveillance and intelligence-gathering, but that’s been going on for generations.”
“Now Doctor, I believe it is in the best interest of station security if this information doesn’t leave my office, but I allowed Garak to contact the former head of the Obsidian Order. Turns out he wasn’t home.” Odo circled the desk so he was now standing on the same side as Garak, who seemed appalled at the sudden divulgence of critical information.
“Yes…, it seems he left in a hurry yesterday. Odo and I are taking a runabout to go find him.” A pair of baby blue reptilian eyes narrowed and fixed on her, though that smooth voice betrayed nothing. He was lying about something. But more importantly, he wanted her to know that he was lying. Akkad desperately wished she could tell him what was on her mind.
Elim, this is not the time to play games. We’re trying to help you.
“Constable, I would like to join you.”
God, if you only knew the things I’d do for you.
Odo paused a second to formulate a response. Garak grinned at her so slightly that Akkad could have imagined it. It was all she could do to swallow her indignation.
Or maybe you know all too well.
“Doctor, I’m not sure that’s wise. I can understand wanting to be updated about the progress of the investigation, but I don’t know how I would justify involving you in a potentially dangerous mission to Commander Sisko.” Odo calmly beseeched her.
“With all due respect constable, I would consider myself already involved in this investigation. Furthermore, as a Starfleet officer, I am well aware of the potential risk, but I think Sisko and I would both agree that it would be best to have a federation representative along for this mission.”
“But-“ Odo attempted to interrupt, but Akkad put a hand up to stop him.
“And if you are going to suggest that you take an officer from security, I would remind you, as you said, of the importance of keeping any information you might reveal secure.” Odo’s mouth continued to hang open after Akkad had spoken. Garak watched them in silent but rapt attention.
“If that is your recommendation doctor, I will speak to the Commander about it. For now, I think this briefing is adjourned.”
“Thank you, Odo.” Akkad got up quickly and left the office without making eye contact with anyone. A burning heat rose in her cheeks and she fought back the tears threatening to make an appearance.
Who does he think he is? That he can be evasive about us for weeks, and then set me up to go to the briefing, knowing I would probably volunteer to go and risk my safety? It’s beyond cold.
Akkad stopped dead in her tracks.
Well like hell I’d let that go.
As she turned around, Garak was just leaving the office at a leisurely stroll. Akkad crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him as he pretended to be surprised and made his way over to her.
“Well doctor, I must say that was very thoughtful of you to- “
“Garak, we need to talk.” He tilted his head in mock confusion as he often did in conversation and stepped closer to Akkad so that they were less than a foot apart.
“About what my dear?”
“You know what. I’m going to my quarters, walk with me.” Akkad took a few steps away before looking back over her shoulder to see him still frozen in place.
“Now, Garak!” Akkad’s voice was riddled with outrage. Garak looked at her like an innocent little boy and gave a slow nod.
“If it pleases you, doctor.”

Chapter Text

As soon as they reached the door to her quarters, Akkad pulled Garak inside by the sleeve.
“What the hell was that?” The combined confusion and frustration of the last three weeks finally breached containment and dosed her bite with venom. If this was how things were going to be, if her fears were proven correct and Garak didn’t truly want to be closer to her then Akkad needed to put a stop to this now.
“Are you referring to the briefing?” Garak asked as calmly as though he had been in meditation. The audacity was unbelievable. Akkad pictured herself throttling him for a brief second as he had once tried to do to her while he was going through withdrawal the year before.
Let him be the one hurting this time.
“Don’t fucking act all innocent like that. You asked me to come because you knew I’d volunteer to go with you on the mission. Now tell me why!” Akkad got in his face and practically growled the words out. Garak opened his mouth to speak before Akkad cut him off.
“And for once in your goddamn life, just tell me the truth! I’m putting my safety on the line and taking time away from my patients for you. I need an explanation!” Akkad could not remember the last time she had gone off on anyone like that, but it felt therapeutic to finally unbottle her fury at someone.
“Doctor please, everything is all right.” Garak stepped forward and tried to touch her cheek, but Akkad jerked backward.
“Don’t touch me! And no, if you haven’t picked up on it yet, everything is not all right!” Akkad circled the room so that the couch in her quarters stood between them. Garak moved as close as he could without crossing the line she had drawn.
“I understand if you have a difficult time believing me, but I intended no deception. I asked you to come with me because I wanted to see what you’d do.”
“Well tell me then, was it everything you hoped for?” Akkad flung her arms into the air in exasperation, the raw, violent rage inside was fading quickly and leaving her with nothing but her conscience with which to make decisions
“Yes, and more.” Garak’s spoke with a gentleness he only shared with her when they were alone together. His eyes still bore into her from the shadows, daring Akkad to try to look at anything but him.
“Doctor, you are a most intriguing woman. However, I at least owe you a chance to consider what you, what we, are doing here. I haven’t been holding back from you by accident. After all, isn’t that what this is really about?”
“Then why?”
“I admit, there was a lingering concern that you would feel differently about us if you knew too much.” Garak stalked his way around the couch towards her. Akkad stayed still and let him approach.
“So your solution was to avoid the subject altogether?” He was practically standing over her now. The top of Akkad’s head only came up to his chin.
“No, but I must admit it gave me pause. However, it seems I have been given a rare opportunity to show you what I cannot explain adequately.” Garak gingerly wrapped his arms around her waist. It appeared that for now at least, the beast was sated.
“What do you mean? What’s waiting for me on the mission?” Akkad forced down the urge to melt into the security of his embrace, however much she wanted to.
“All in good time, my dear doctor. All in good time.” Garak’s voice was a rattling whisper underlaid with subtlety and suggestion. Slowly, as to give her a chance to refuse, Garak brushed her hair off one shoulder and brought his lips down to her neck in the tried and true way. Akkad’s breath caught in her throat.
“How did you do that? I was pissed off as hell when we got here.” Akkad latched on to the front of his shirt out of pure instinct as he mapped out her flesh with his teeth.
“It’s easy to learn,” he mumbled into her ear. “If you have the right teacher.” Garak pulled her in closer and traced her jawline with his tongue before slipping it into her mouth. Akkad relented and kissed him back, savoring the rare moment of intimacy before he suddenly pulled back.
“It would appear that there is one final problem that remains to be solved, doctor.” There was genuine contentment in his voice that Akkad had not heard in weeks.
“Which is?”
“How shall we spend the night?”

Chapter Text

Akkad watched the tiny specks of silver stars drift by as the runabout continued its journey toward Cardassian territory. She could hear Odo and Garak making conversation in the background, but after seven hours in open space with just the two of them debating every issue imaginable Akkad had long lost interest in what they were saying. She thought back to when she was just four years old and she would sit with her oldest brother Rahim while he recorded the positions of the planets for his homework. Looking out into the vastness of space now, it seemed inconceivable that she had ever become jaded to the miracle that is starlight.

      Isn’t it ironic how the brother who wanted to be an astronomer stayed on earth, and the sister who wanted to be a doctor now lives out among the stars?

            Garak suddenly raised his voice and Akkad snapped out of her trance.

            “Very Interesting analysis, very interesting, particularly coming from you.” Akkad turned her chair around to face them. Garak and Odo were staring each other down.

            “Oh?” Odo met the challenge. Garak stood up suddenly and balanced himself on one of the supports built into the wall of the runabout. Akkad wondered if she should ask what they were going on about but decided that inserting herself into the conversation at this point would have been premature. Instead, she observed in silence.

            “It’s been my observation…” Garak started before flashing a brief glance at Akkad, whose expression remained blank. “that you always act… from a sense of justice, or at least what you consider justice.” Suddenly the cockpit seemed much too crowded for three.

            “There’s no feeling behind what you do, no emotion beyond a certain distaste for loose ends and disorder.” Garak continued. “You don’t know what it means to care about someone, do you?”

            “Garak please, Odo’s trying to help you, it-“ Akkad jumped in before Garak laid a hand on her shoulder and met her gaze.

            “Doctor…” He gave her upper arm a light squeeze before releasing her and taking a cautious step towards Odo. Somehow, Akkad understood the favor he was asking behind that one word.

            “People are just interesting creatures to be studied and analyzed.” Garak paused, giving his opponent a chance to collect his thoughts.

            “Is there any point to this?” Odo asked, trying his best to maintain his usual guise of apathy. It did not work this time, he sat up too straight, listened too intently, and responded too quickly. Garak inhaled aloud and reached out for Odo’s chair this time.

            “Only that… I find it interesting that you ascribe feelings and motivations to me that you know nothing about.” Garak punctuated his point by leaning in closer. “Or am I wrong?” Odo held his tongue, at least metaphorically.

            “Tell me, is there one person in this universe you do care for?” Garak was practically in Odo’s face now. “…One person, who is more than just an interesting puzzle to be solved? Is there, Odo?” Still, the constable was silent.

            “Anyone?” Garak lowered his voice to a breathy whisper. There was another pause that seemed to last years before Odo smiled ever so slightly.

            “If there were, I certainly wouldn’t tell you.” Akkad could not help but internally breathe a sigh of relief. Garak straightened up, letting his pride be known in the aftermath of his victory.

            “And that would be a wise decision.” Garak pretended to straighten his shirt while he stole another look at Akkad, just to be sure she had witnessed his ultimately minor triumph. Akkad just rolled her eyes at him and turned her chair back toward the console. The sound of light footfalls faded away behind her indicating that he had deserted the room. After a moment, Akkad turned back toward the constable.

            “Odo, are you alright?” Akkad asked cautiously, so he would not feel compelled to answer if it was not his intention to.

            “Your concern is appreciated, doctor, but I am perfectly alright.” Odo did not make eye contact and pretended to be interested in the sensor readouts on the console in front of him. Akkad folded her hands in her lap and sat in awkward silence with the constable for a few minutes. Garak had not reappeared.

 

            Another three hours or so had passed in relative silence. Odo studied his criminal activities reports, Akkad fell asleep at one point, and Garak seemed content watch over them. The doctor had only been awake a few moments when the console started to beep incessantly.

            “Odo, what’s going on?” Akkad grumbled as she pulled herself upright in her chair.

            “We’re approaching the third planet of the Unefra system, but I’m detecting a sub-space energy surge directly above us, a vessel of some kind is decloaking.” Akkad tensed up in alarm and Garak raced forward from the back of the cockpit and watched the viewscreen from behind the doctor’s chair.

            Out of the dark void of space, a silhouette of a ship appeared and took form. Akkad identified it immediately and gasped in horror.

            “It’s a Romulan warbird,” Odo announced.

            “In Cardassian space?” Garak seemed more puzzled than concerned.

            “Their weapons systems aren’t charged,” the doctor decided to mention the elephant in the room, “They’re not attacking us.” The three passengers looked back and forth each other, trying to come up with what to do or say when suddenly their entire vessel rocked to the side. The red emergency lights went on and the beeping became louder and more insistent.

            “They’ve locked on to us with a tractor beam.” Odo frantically punched out commands on the console in front of him but to no avail. “I’m going to try to send out a distress signal.” Akkad already knew that Romulan vessel was most likely jamming their communications.

            “I can’t pull away. The tractor lock is too strong.” Now Garak seemed at least a little uneasy. It was times like these when Akkad cursed herself for not taking more piloting extension courses when she lived on Earth.

            “They’re jamming our transmissions,” Odo growled, but he had already realized the futility of the situation and quit trying to bring the runabout under his control.

            “Do you think one got through?” There was an unfamiliar shakiness to Akkad’s voice as she tried to find any sign of hope in the constable’s expression.

            “I don’t know, I’m going to hail them and see what they want.” As the constable reached toward the console again two shapes began materializing behind them.

            Oh, you have got to be shitting me.

            A second later a pair of armed Romulan crewmen were behind them. Garak looked back and forth between Akkad and Odo again.

            “I think we’re about to find out.”

 

 

            The two Romulan soldiers marched them through the corridors of the ship. There were no markings indicating where they were headed, so Akkad filled time by guessing where they were going. There was always a holding cell, which would not be too bad in the short term, or they might be brought to command for interrogation. A slightly less rational part of Akkad’s mind imagined being vivisected in a Romulan laboratory, but that was probably not the first thing the little bastards did with prisoners anyway. Either way, the group of five walked in silence until they were led through a doorway and stopped. Akkad could not confirm if any of her predictions were accurate, as the purpose of the space was not immediately clear.

            Garak, who had been walking alongside her the whole time took a tentative step forward, his eyes wide.

            “Tain,” was all he said.

Akkad looked in his direction and noticed the Cardassian sitting behind a desk opposite of the prisoners and her stomach dropped. She had heard that name before. Julian had told her once about his meeting with the leader of the Cardassian spy ring and how much it had unnerved him. But to think, this was the man responsible for her friend and her lover’s suffering, his exile, and the malfunctioning implant in his brain which had nearly killed him. With nothing but the smug look on Tain’s face as the group was led closer, Akkad could believe every word of Julian’s story.

“Ah, Garak, it’s good of you to come. It spares me the trouble of having to send someone else to kill you.”

You sick son of a bitch.

Tain rose from his seat and approached Garak.

“Come in, come in! It’s been a long time Elim.” Somehow hearing someone else use Garak’s first name only seemed to fan the fire of rage in Akkad’s heart. To her, that was a secret between the two of them, and hearing it from Tain’s mouth already made her feel as though her privacy had been invaded.

“And you brought guests. Let me see…” He turned to face Odo who was standing on Akkad’s other side. “Constable Odo, the founder. I’m sure with a little persuasion, he’ll be of great use to us.” Out of the corner of her eye, Akkad saw Odo clench his fists, though he said nothing. Tain shifted to face the doctor, before pausing a second. His eyes bored into her. “and you are Doctor Naila Surraya Akkad.” Tain looked her up and down lecherously before meeting her gaze again. “a prize indeed.” Akkad sneered. It took all the self-restraint she had not to spit in his face.

Elim if we survive, I’m going to have some questions.

Tain moved back to Garak and gestured at his garb “So you’re a tailor now. Is this one of your creations”

“A minor example of my work, yes.” Garak hissed back. Akkad guessed from his expression that he was probably as aggravated as she was.

“I don’t think I like the neckline.”

“Well you always did have a keen sense of fashion, but you seem to have let it go, along with your once trim figure.” Garak wasted no time in responding. Akkad had seen this game before, she and Garak had played it early on in their friendship. He had mentioned something about how a social hierarchy is established through trading insults. If they had been in any other situation the doctor would have laughed.

“But we are dancing around the real issue here, so to speak. It seems you have left your retirement far behind unless you’re on a pleasure cruise with your…” Garak looked at one of the guards, “pointed-eared friends.”

“No, this ship is part of a fleet of Romulan and Cardassian vessels, a fleet that will very soon be traveling through the wormhole into the Gamma quadrant.” Tain was demonstrating the Cardassian custom of standing uncomfortably close to the person one is speaking to.

“Obviously on a mission of peaceful exploration.” Akkad chimed in, demonstrating the human custom of responding to an adversary with snide comments.

“Not exactly.”

God, how I just want to wipe that smug grin off your self-important little-

“You’re going to attack the Dominion, aren’t you?” It was Odo’s turn to jump into the conversation. “You’re going to stage the first strike against them before they can come into the Alpha quadrant.” He was avoiding eye contact. Tain was smiling again, he had taken an unsettling interest in the constable.

“A clear and precise analysis. Commander Sisko must find you a valuable advisor.” The constable harrumphed and rolled his eyes as was his habit. To their right, Garak’s visage had brightened and his mouth hung open in apparent realization.

“Hah, and the Central Command approved that?” Akkad was beside herself. It would have been totally out of character for the Cardassian military to risk so many of their precious resources when the probability of success was so questionable.

“Who said anything about the Central Command? This a joint operation between the Obsidian Order and the Tal Shiar.” Garak threw his head upward toward ceiling rather theatrically, but Akkad was frightened to see what looked like a combination of excitement and admiration in his expression. “We’ve been building a fleet of ships in the Orios system for months now.”

“If you launch an offensive against the Dominion, they will strike back and you’ll be pulling both the Union and the Romulan Empire into war. As far as my knowledge permits me to guess, that would be a war you’re not prepared for.” Akkad struck back, unwilling to allow this ludicrous conversation to go on longer than need be. Once again, to Akkad’s chagrin, Tain moved in close enough for her to smell his sour breath.

“I like this one, humans are such spirited people aren’t they? But no doctor, I don’t think they’ll be striking back. Our intention is to wipe out the Dominion in one single blow, by eliminating the founders. Without them, the Dominion will collapse.”

“You’re going to commit genocide,” Akkad stated her accusation directly. Tain’s eyes were wandering over her again, but the doctor knew that there were far more important things to be outraged about at that moment.

“Yes, but it is a small price to pay to prevent a war, and to protect the entire Alpha quadrant.” Odo lowered his head, clearly deep in thought, and it was this cue that Tain latched on to next.

“You seem disturbed by this changeling, Why? After all, didn’t you turn your back on your people?” A heavy silence weighed on the room while they awaited the constable’s response.

“You seem to know a great deal about me and my people.” Akkad’s heart went out to him, his inner conflict had been tangible ever since the Founders were discovered.

“I know everything you know, including the location of their homeworld.” Tain’s voice had dropped to a whisper, and at that moment Akkad and Odo seemed to reach a simultaneous revelation.

“The Federation has shared its intelligence on the Dominion with the Romulans.” The constable was putting the pieces together as if he were solving a case. Akkad recalled a few months earlier when she had watched Commander Sisko debate with Admiral Necheyev across a viewscreen about the wisdom of handing over sensitive information to the Romulans. Starfleet command could be so unbelievably out of touch sometimes.

Commander, if I make it back to the station, I promise to let you know that you were right all along.

            Garak stepped forward and cut into the discussion if it could be called that.

            “You’ll forgive me if I reduce the scope of this conversation to something a little bit more personal, but why was it necessary to kill me and the rest of our former colleagues in order to embark on this excursion into the Gamma quadrant?” Garak seemed more offended than outraged as if his brush with death was as slight an inconvenience as having a ship held up for inspection. Although from what Akkad understood, death threats were common among the Cardassian elite and as such may be considered more easily forgivable than they were in human culture.

            “Because Garak, I don’t plan on going back into retirement when this is over. I plan on going back to my old job, and my old life.” Tain’s voice had softened a little, and he spoke like a teacher to a favorite student.

            “You were afraid we knew things, things that could be used against you, so you decided to have us eliminated.”

            “Like I used to say,” Tain started, “always burn your bridges behind you, you never who might be trying to follow.”

            I pity the fool who would have the guts to try to blackmail the leader of the Obsidian Order.

            “But you also used to say as well that the Tal Shiar was sloppy. You never should have relied on them to burn your bridges.”  Akkad could not help but feel a little pride at that moment.

            You tell him, Elim.

            “True,” Tain continued, “They never should have hired the Flaxian to blow up your shop.” He shook his head and tutted dismissively. Garak’s smile broadened, there must have been something he had been waiting to say.

            “Actually, I blew up my shop.” Akkad’s jaw flat-out dropped.

            “Garak!” the doctor did not even know what to say. Had it not been just the night before when she had yelled at him about feeling manipulated?

            But oh no, no, no, I didn’t even know the half of it.

Garak continued, “It was a way of maintaining the interest of the good constable here.” He nodded gratefully to Odo, and Akkad felt her heart stop when she realized Odo must have known about this for at least a few days and had not shared it with her before she decided to go on the mission.

            If I were wiser I would have expected this from Elim, but Odo how could you?

            Tain, on the other hand, seemed legitimately impressed, and he laughed aloud in what might even have been genuine mirth. “It seems that this is the first your friend the good doctor is hearing of this as well.” He patted her briefly on the arm before Akkad swatted him away. At least it was finally Tain’s turn to be surprised. “You blew up your own shop? You, my friend, are a true original. If you hadn’t betrayed me, things would have been very different.”

            “I never betrayed you!” Garak’s voice was pained. Akkad realized that as awful as Tain seemed to her, he clearly meant a lot to Garak. She had never seen him so legitimately wounded. “At least, not in my heart.” Of course, he must have been something of a father figure in Garak’s life. Despite how hurt Akkad felt, she allowed herself a bit of sadness on Garak’s behalf that this was the person he had been taught to look up to.

            “Why do you think I’m here? I came because I thought the Romulans were trying to kill you. I came here, to save you.”

            Oh Elim, maybe I’m being too hard on you.

            “I can’t believe I’m saying this Garak,” Tain moved back behind his desk and turned to face them again. “But I believe you.” He sat down in the chair and raised his arms in a friendly gesture. “You can go.”

            I don’t even know what to think at this point.

            “Excuse me?”

            “The changeling and the doctor will have to stay of course, but you are free to go. Your runabout is in launching bay three.” Garak stared at him in pure disbelief.

            “Just like that?” Akkad’s mind was as blank as the Sahara desert as she observed the exchange. Her usual wit had temporarily abandoned her.

            “Just like that.” Tain’s tone was insultingly casual. Garak had to stop and think for a moment, apparently, it was a lot to process even for him.

            “Aren’t you worried that I might warn the Central Command and Starfleet of your plans?”

            “It’s too late. Central Command will have a war on its hands whether it wants one or not, and as for Starfleet, this isn’t their fight. They won’t interfere.”

            Odo stepped forward to stand beside Garak. “This is a trick, he’s not going to let you leave after all this.”

            “He tried to have you assassinated, you can’t possibly think about trusting him now.” Akkad pleaded with him.

            He wouldn’t abandon us like that. Would he?

            “It’s not a trick, it’s a choice. You can walk out that door,” Tain pointed to the exit, “or join me.” Akkad tried to project her desperation at Garak, but he was not looking at her.

            “Join you?”

            “That is what you have been waiting for, isn’t it? To end your exile? To come back into the fold? I’m asking you to serve Cardassia again, by my side.” Another wave of shock seemed to go through Garak, and Akkad had to tense up every muscle in her body to keep from quaking in fear.

            Elim, tell him no. Please. I’m not afraid to die for what I believe in, but it can’t be because of you.

            Garak seemed to choke on his words for a moment. “You’ll pardon me if I appear a little startled, but are you saying that all is forgiven?”

            “I can’t forgive what you did, but I can try to forget, to put it aside as if it never happened.” Tain rose from behind the desk again. “So, do you want to go back to your shop and hem pants, or shall we pick up where we left off?”

Akkad was horrified to see the baffled yet elated expression on Garak’s face. She rushed forward and grabbed his arm to force him to look into her eyes. “Garak, please stop and think about this. You can still walk away. Again, he just tried to kill you!” He gently removed her hand and took a step toward the desk.

“Yes, he did. But it doesn’t matter…” Garak took Tain’s hand and Akkad felt a whirlwind of nausea go through her entire body. She shook her head and tried to find the words to express how she was feeling but felt trapped by the restrictions of spoken language.

“I am back.”

Chapter Text

 

“Put the changeling into a holding cell for now,” said Tain as one of the Romulan guards stepped forward to escort the constable. “We’ll deal with him later.”.

As the guard led him out forcibly, a powerful hand pressing heavily on his shoulder, Odo struggled uselessly and shouted, “I’ll be back doctor, don’t tell them anything!”

And all too quickly, Akkad was left alone in the snake pit.

Tain said he already knows everything that Odo knows, she thought. What’s left to deal with?

“And you Doctor,” Tain said, his gaze falling now on her.  “Let’s see, what to do about you…” . Akkad tried to find some sign of reassurance in Garak’s eyes, but they had gone stone cold.

“I think you will find the doctor to be… entertaining conversation to say the least. Personally, I think it would be a waste of her… talents… to leave her in a cell indefinitely.” Garak looked at her, appraising her, as if he were trying to determine the right price at which to sell her. Akkad could hardly believe this was the same being she once lived peacefully with on the station.  Back then she would never have imagined that he could be so cruel.

            Tain glanced at Garak with suspicion, then relented. “Very well, doctor, it seems that you have nothing to fear, at least for the time being. Come along now, we have much to discuss.” He gestured for his captive to follow, but Akkad took several steps backward toward the other exit.

            “Did you really think that I would just go along with this?” the Doctor chuckled nervously. Suddenly Akkad felt cold metal press against her spine. She turned her head to see the Romulan guard looming over her, his eyes betraying no hint of mercy.  Thankfully, his disruptor did not appear to be activated.

            “With the proper incentive, yes.”

            “Walk!” the guard half-shouted in her ear before shoving her forward, causing her to stumble and nearly fall over. As she righted herself, a hand encircled her arm.

            “Come along, my dear. I’m sure this will be a day to remember.” Garak squeezed her bicep again.  It was a familiar signal. Garak, and perhaps all Cardassians, used a number of invisible cues like that.  He had never explicitly told the doctor what it meant, but she knew. Akkad struggled to believe that the gesture came from a place of genuine warmth, but she sensed that it would do no good to push him away or fight back just now. So Akkad stepped forward, and Garak led her out of the room a deceptively gentle hand pressed against the small of her back.

            Tain led them back into the corridor and into what Akkad guessed from the large couch and center table must have been his personal quarters. It surprised her that Romulans would care enough about comfort to furnish a military vessel like this, but perhaps that was Tain’s doing.

            “Sit,” Tain said.  “I’ll get us something to drink.” The elder Cardassian stepped around a corner, and soon Akkad could hear glasses clinking.  Garak pressed more firmly against her back and she begrudgingly took a seat on the large couch.

Garak did not sit. He stood over her and cupped her chin in his hand. “Oh my dear doctor, I know you must feel at a disadvantage, but I promise you are safe with me. I’ll make sure you are well-treated here. After all, no one has reason to harm you.” It pained Akkad to hear him lie to her now in that same gentle tone of voice that had comforted her only the night before.

            “Well, you will forgive me if I have my doubts.” Akkad tried to pull away, but he grabbed onto her before she could apply any force.  “Let go of me!” Akkad whispered forcefully, but she was unable to break his vice-like grip. Garak looked in Tain’s direction as the muffled sound of a cork popping broke the silence at last, and sat down on the couch beside her, still clamping down on her wrists.

            “Listen to me! You have to trust me. If you don’t play along with this, you will only make it harder for me to protect you. I don’t want to lose you, understand?”

Akkad did not have time to respond before the distinctive whooshing sound of a replicator caught their attention.

Garak quickly released her and straightened himself.

Tain promptly returned, carrying a tray with three glasses and a pitcher containing an orange beverage. He set the tray down on a side table before pouring a glass and handing it to Akkad.

            The smell was rancid and permeating, almost like a concentrated form of vinegar.  She recognized it immediately.

            Kanar.

            Akkad had had the displeasure of trying one variety of the drink a few weeks earlier when she had shared lunch with a pair of researchers from the Cardassian Science Ministry.  Her friend Ulani had convinced her to taste it as a joke, calling it “an acquired taste.”

            Tain poured a second glass and handed it to Garak, then a third.  Raising his own in a toast, he said, “To old friends and to new beginnings.” The three clinked their glasses together and took a drink. Akkad attempted to drink it while exhaling through her nose to avoid breathing in that smell but had to give up on that and gulp it down in one go.

            “Well Doctor,” Tain said, pretending that he did not see Akkad nearly spit out the Kanar in revulsion. “I must say that I am pleased to have Mr. Garak here at my disposal again. You may not know it, but he had quite the vicious streak back in his day,”.

            “I am sure he had the benefit of a good teacher.” The doctor had to use every ounce of willpower she had to put on the airs of an acceptably polite guest.

            Elim, if I die after this, I will kill you.

            “Oh no, it was his own innate ruthlessness. It made him an extraordinarily effective interrogator. Believe me, that isn’t something you can teach. I’ve tried. Garak, do you remember our friend Doctor Parmak?”

Garak’s eyes immediately lit up and he laughed fondly.

            “I hardly had to do anything.” He boasted.

            “He stared Parmak down for four solid hours.  Not a word.  Just… stared.  It was brilliant. Parmak confessed and was sent to one of the labor camps. On the way there, all he kept saying was, “His eyes, his eyes!”

Tain and Garak laughed heartily.

            “Chinese water torture,” Akkad said quietly.

            “Come again, Doctor?”

            “The Chinese water torture. It’s very similar. Physically, it’s completely harmless. Psychologically though, it is grueling.”

            “And how does one go about it?” Tain asked, refilling her glass as Akkad stole a look at Garak.  He looked pleasantly surprised.

            I must be doing something right.

            The doctor leaned back into the couch and took a sip from her glass for real. She barely even noticed the taste this time.

            “In most instances, the prisoner would be lying down and completely restrained on a board. Above him would be a bucket of some kind with a tiny hole in it. The theory was if you filled the bucket with water and allowed it to drip slowly but continuously onto the prisoner’s body long enough, they would begin to go mad. They would do anything, say anything, to end it.”

Tain nodded thoughtfully.

            “Yes, I see the similarity. Was this ‘water torture’ useful for anything more than punishment?”

Akkad looked him straight in the eyes, keeping her expression neutral.

            “You’re asking if it was an effective means of extracting information? I don’t know really.  But my ancestors had other methods that were more successful in that regard.”

            “Such as?” Garak asked, an eye ridge raised in curiosity, as Akkad turned her head to look at him.

            “Hmmm… Well, one thing that comes to mind was a device called the intestinal crank. You see, a prisoner would be tied down to a table, and an incision would be made in the abdomen, like so,” Akkad drew a line down Garak’s stomach with a finger, taking notice of what appeared to be surprise, though she could not tell if it stemmed from interest or unease. She supposed it could have been both.

            Strange, he’s not trying too hard to guard himself today.

            “Then, the intestine would be cut from the stomach and hooked to a crank, and I suppose the next part is obvious, but the device would be turned slowly until either they confessed, or the entire intestine was removed from the body. The prisoners, of course, would invariably die afterward.”  Akkad finished off her glass and looked back to Garak.

            “That is creative. But doctor, since the prisoner would be in excruciating pain and know there is no chance of survival, would they not then say anything in order to stop the torture?” Garak leaned in closer so that their shoulders were touching.

            This is sick. Keep going though Naila, got to be strong, have to be strong…

            “You would think so, but the real genius of the invention was its effectiveness at generating fear. It was common practice to force detainees to watch another die this way so that they would confess immediately as soon as they were threatened with the same.”

            “So barbaric, I didn’t think you had it in you.” Garak smiled wickedly.

            “Funny, I would think given your profession you would be well aware of what people are capable of given the proper motivation.”

Chapter Text

    “You will excuse me; we all have our moments of indiscretion.” Garak patted the back of Akkad’s hand with a feather-light touch. If Akkad had learned nothing from the past twenty-four hours, she would not have assumed an ulterior motive outside of the sweet gesture.

    “All is forgiven.” Akkad shot daggers at him with her eyes. She could hear Tain chuckling to himself in the background, but all fell silent as the doors to his quarters slid open. A Romulan officer marched into the room in front of them.

    “Ah, yes. Garak, Doctor, this is Colonel Lovok of the Tal Shiar.” Tain spoke as though he were introducing party guests instead of hostages.

    “And what is your associate’s role to be in this operation?” the colonel asked. Something about the Romulan personnel seemed off though Akkad could not pin down exactly what. They stood so straight and still, like androids waiting for a command. Lovok too seemed unusually calm and objective for a Romulan officer. Most of the Romulans that Akkad had met in her time would have made their racial or political prejudices very clear in every interaction with an outsider. However, Lovok’s tone contained no clear implication of disdain.

    “He will serve in any capacity I require of him,” was all the information Tain felt the need to give. Akkad observed how the colonel did not even look directly at Garak but stared down Tain without blinking or even appearing to breathe.

    “You will not be allowed on the bridge or any other secured space onboard this ship unescorted. If you attempt to do so, you will be killed… The fleet has recloaked,” the colonel was quick to change the subject, “and we have set course for the Founders’ homeworld at warp six.”

    “Direct, isn’t he?” Garak interjected with his usual humor.

    “I’m afraid the colonel believes in wasting little time on pleasantries or idle conversation.” Tain gave an ironic nod in acknowledgment to Lovok.

    “Personally, I’d rather my executioner be direct with his death threats rather than keep me in suspense,” Akkad muttered with unanticipated audacity at what may have been the worst possible time. Tain glared at her as if she had cheated him in a game of cards.

    Sorry for ruining your little game.

    “Thank you, my dear. I will keep that in mind.” Tain’s false smile was eerily similar to Garak’s. Lovok briefly regarded the doctor.

    “I assume this is one of the prisoners captured from the Federation vessel?”

    “She is,” Garak responded this time, and Akkad noticed that their hands were still just barely on touching on the couch cushion between them. He traced the scars on the back of her hand with his fingertips and a small part of the doctor’s mind wanted to snap his forefinger off then and there.  However, any assault on her part was not likely to go unavenged.

    “The changeling is currently in a holding cell. Why wasn’t this prisoner secured?” Lovok appeared to take note of the lack of any obvious restraints or posted guards within the room which would have been standard Romulan procedure.

    “She will join the constable shortly, I assure you.” Tain smiled again at the doctor, relishing the moment when realization dawned on her. Akkad’s stomach turned and she could taste bile. Panic set in and she searched the room for any possible escape route. The results were not encouraging.

    “And that brings us to your first assignment Garak,” Tain turned to his fellow Cardassian. “I want you to explain to Odo that it would be in everyone’s best interest, especially his and the doctor’s if he were to provide us with all the information he has on his people.”

    That’s ridiculous, Odo would never break. And If anyone can get us out of here, it’s him.

    “That might prove difficult,” for the first time that day Akkad heard Garak respond with a trace of apprehension. “The constable can be quite stubborn.”

    “Then you’ll have to find a way…” Tain paused, “of convincing him.”

    “Is the doctor to be convinced as well?” Garak offered. Tain scowled at Akkad.

    “I believe you will do whatever is necessary.”

 

    Akkad was marched out of the room between two Tal Shiar guards with her hands restrained behind her back. She could hear Garak’s footsteps behind her, though he kept quiet until after the doctor was abruptly shoved into a cell.

    “Doctor!” shouted a familiar voice.

    The constable lunged forward to catch Akkad before she could hit the floor, though not in time to spare her the pain of twisting her foot on the way down. Odo helped her stumble back to a standing position, hissing in pain, as Garak entered the room behind them.

    “Are you alright?” Odo whispered.

    “Been worse. You?” Akkad had to lean against him again as pain flared up in her leg as soon as she tried to put weight on it.

    “I’m fine. I’ve just been stuck here.”

    “Yes, about that…” Garak began. “Believe me if it had been my decision- “

    “I don’t believe you Garak! And I don’t see how you expect either of us to believe anything you say again!” He shifted so that Akkad could get a more secure grip on his shoulder.

    “Why Constable, you seem positively disappointed in me.”

    “You piece of shit! I came here for you!” Akkad tried in vain to lunge at him, but Odo held her back.

    “My dear doctor, in my defense, this is not exactly what I had in mind for you.”

    “Shut up! You chose this! You chose to go looking for Tain, you chose to take his side, and you knew that this would happen!” The doctor had murder in her eyes, and Odo struggled to hold her back despite being handcuffed and injured.

    “Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt anyone. I just need to ask the constable some questions. As long as he cooperates you have nothing to fear.”

    “Enough Garak, this is pointless. There is nothing either Akkad or I know that the Romulans don’t. Tain is using this as an excuse to test you.” The constable was demonstrating a remarkable degree of self-control given the situation.

    “Perhaps, but I don’t intend to fail.”

    “Oh but you will, maybe not today, but eventually. Living on Deep Space Nine has made you a little rusty Garak. You can’t be stupid enough to think that Tain won’t realize how guilty you feel about what you’ve done!” Garak’s innocent, wide-eyed expression made Akkad’s skin crawl.

    “You are imaginative constable, I’ll grant you that, but perhaps you should put those… creative powers to better use.” Akkad and Odo looked at each other with dread before Garak continued. “We would like for you to share any insights on the Founders that you may have.”

    “I just told you I don’t know anything, so what are you going to do Garak?” The Cardassian threw his head up in exasperation and began to circle the room.

    “You must stop reading those human crime novels Chief O’Brien gives you, it is distorting your thinking. I am not here to threaten you; I just want to talk. Surely you see that we share a common enemy, the Founders, by cooperating you will be helping us provide security for the entire alpha quadrant.”

    “The common enemy we share is Enabran Tain, the difference between you and I is that you don’t know it.” There was a long pause as Garak mulled over the situation.

    “It is clear to me that you need time to think about what I’ve said. I will be back shortly, and I hope that by then you will be prepared to be reasonable.” Garak turned around swiftly and disappeared out of the doorway. Akkad tried again to stand without Odo’s support, but her leg kept threatening to buckle underneath her.

    “Here doctor, you should sit down.” The constable guided Akkad over to a circular table in the corner of the cell that she had previously missed. When she noticed that there were three chairs at the table instead of two, the morbid thought occurred to her that Tain had planned for her to be present during the interrogation from the beginning. Akkad fell backward into her chair and groaned in pain, as another wave of ripping pain traveled up her leg.

    “How bad were you hurt?” Odo asked the doctor who delicately examined the damage. There was a massive purple bruise on the side of her ankle, but she did not feel any sign of fracture.

    “Probably just a sprain. If I had my med-kit I could fix this in five minutes.” Akkad mumbled dejectedly.

    “Well, for now, you’ll just have to stay put.”

    “Odo, what are they going to do to you?” Akkad’s fingers were wrapped around the seat of the chair, and every muscle in her body was tense. Odo thought about what to say for a moment but opted not to answer. He sat down across the table from the doctor and rested his chin in his hands.

 

 

    Akkad tapped her fingers anxiously on the table in front of her while Odo paced the room. They had to have been waiting there in silence for hours at that point just holding their breath. The shooting pain in Akkad’s injured leg had faded to a dull throb, and despite the adrenaline rush from earlier, her eyelids were getting heavier.

    She shot straight up as the door slammed open.

    Two Tal Shiar agents entered, each carrying what the components of a mechanical device. Garak followed shortly behind them with a metal bucket.

    “I brought you something… to relax in,” The Cardassian addressed Odo before setting the bucket down in a corner. That was suspiciously considerate of him, as Odo had been holding his solid form for close to fourteen hours and would soon need rest.

    “How thoughtful.” The constable grunted. Across the room, the agents were assembling the array of parts they had brought with them, the doctor watched out of the corner of her eye while Garak spoke.

    “…But before you go for a swim, I have a few questions I’d like to ask you.” Whatever the device was, it now appeared to be fully assembled. One of the agents looked at the doctor without making eye contact and walked toward her in silence.

    “I have nothing to say.” Odo sat back in his chair with his arms crossed over his chest defiantly. The agent wrenched Akkad out of her chair and onto her feet. The pain she had felt earlier surged back in full force and she nearly pulled the Romulan down to the ground with her.

    “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!” Garak yelled at the agent. They stared each other down as Akkad forced herself back upward.

    “Separating the prisoners.”

    “I don’t recall ordering you to do so.” Garak took slow, deliberate steps in the nameless officer’s direction.

    “It is standard procedure to isolate the detainees during interrogation.” The Romulan’s voice was flat and robotic.

    “But, I am in charge of this exercise and you will do what I tell you to do and no more. The human will stay.” The agent turned to his comrade who made a gesture at the table. At that, the Romulan grabbed Akkad by the arm and shoved her back into her chair.

    “Garak, I don’t have anything to tell you either. Why am I here?”

    “Because…” Garak started as he kneeled in front of the doctor. “I may require your assistance.” He reached behind her and punched a code into the lock panel on her restraints and they fell to the floor. Akkad’s eyes widened in shock.

    “What are you talking about?”

    “That is inadvisable, I must protest-‘ the Romulan agent across from Akkad was immediately shot down.

    “I will not explain myself to you again.” Garak snapped at him before turning back to the doctor. He rose from the floor and put a hand on the arm of Akkad’s chair. “As for your question dear doctor, you have practical experience with changeling physiology, thanks to the constable here, that the other xenobiologists aboard this vessel do not.” Garak motioned toward the device on the table between Akkad and Odo, and one of the agents pressed a few buttons on the control panel. The screen turned red and the machine hummed faintly.

    “I’m not going to torture him for you.” Now that her arms were free, Akkad was once again in the position of having to contain her own fury. Garak smiled at the doctor fondly.

    “…and I am not asking you to. Quite the opposite in fact. You will monitor the molecular activity within the constable’s body as we proceed with the interrogation via this, dare I say, remarkable invention.” Akkad looked at the panel the Romulan had just activated. The device was displaying a chronological sensor readout on Odo’s biochemistry.

    “Ohhhh, you are going to torture me.” Odo huffed facetiously. “How I’ve been dreading this.”

    “He’s right. How the hell are you going to force answers out of someone who can change his molecular structure at will?” Akkad could not help feeling a bit inspired by the constable’s brazen response to their situation. Garak turned to the Romulans.

    “You can go now.” He uttered apathetically. This time they obeyed without question. “You see doctor, the Tal Shiar was kind enough to solve that problem for me. This device is currently emitting a quantum stasis field, and if it is functioning correctly, it should make it impossible for the constable to alter his biomolecular structure.” Akkad’s brief spark of confidence faltered, and the two prisoners look at each other wide-eyed.

    “Odo…” the doctor waited in trepidation; she could see her own dread reflected in the constable’s face.

    Odo pulled his arms and head into himself, but despite the obvious force he exerted, his form did not change. He growled in frustration and tried several more times before backing up against the wall in horror. Garak’s smiled widened, showing his teeth.

    “Excellent… Now we can begin.”

Chapter Text

            “We have no idea how that will affect him! Garak please, tell Tain he knows nothing. Say that you tried hard but didn’t get anything out of him, I can’t let you take that risk!” Garak put himself between her and Odo and leaned in close.

            “Naila, please. You have to trust me. If I don’t do this then both you and Odo will be handed over to the Tal Shiar and you will not survive.” It was if he had in the span of a few seconds he had transformed into an entirely different person. This was the man who had stayed up nearly all night talking to her once, whose hand she had held in his sickness, and who managed to creep into her heart over the course of years. His blue eyes were turbulent, and Akkad wanted to dive into the current of emotion behind them. She wanted to believe him, desperately wanted to understand. But her illusions were shattered, he was a liar, a coward, a traitor, and the antithesis of everything she believed in. Yet she could not look away when their eyes met.

            “I didn’t know you cared whether or not we lived or died.” Akkad’s eyes stung. She should have been furious, should have fought back and pushed him aside, she should have done something, but she was too numb to move. Garak’s mouth dropped open and he froze, dumbstruck at the accusation despite everything.

            “I could never…” His voice trailed off. Odo stood up suddenly and moved behind Akkad so that he was facing Garak again.

            “Is there something I’m missing here?” The constable was rapidly losing his patience.

            “What are we going to do?” The doctor’s voice cracked as she looked back and forth between the Cardassian and changeling.

            “Turn the device off Garak.” Odo ordered. Akkad could practically see the steam coming out of the constable’s ears.

            “I can’t, once it’s been activated it can only be powered off from a control panel on the bridge. Odo, there is no way out of this. Just tell me something, anything, lie if you have to and this will end.” Garak sounded as desperate as his prisoners, but Odo was unrelenting.

            “No.”

 

 

            Akkad kept track of the passage of time on the display screen obsessively. Half an hour passed in the cell, but there seemed to be no change in the constable’s physical state. Odo continued to pace, and glare. Garak sat beside the doctor in silence, every time he looked at her, she pretended to be checking the sensor data. The humming of the machine was the only sound in the room.

 

            Two hours passed, and Akkad started to notice red flags. Odo’s molecular density was decreasing, as was his bioelectric activity index. He had stopped pacing and was leaning against the wall.

            “How do you feel?” the doctor asked. Odo shrugged slightly.

            “Tired, that’s all.” There was a possibility that maintaining a humanoid shape for this long would just wear him out. The doctor observed as the electric impulses in his body continued to slow. At this point, assuming Odo was not putting up too much of front, the stasis field did not appear to be doing any immediate damage apart from the changeling equivalent of changing his metabolic rate. Akkad was deeply troubled, but how long could he survive in that state; hours, days, weeks?

 

            It had been four hours since the stasis field had been activated, and Odo’s physical state was rapidly deteriorating. His internal temperature had dropped twenty degrees, and in the already cold cell, the changeling shivered constantly.

            “Odo, please sit down, standing there for hours is just going to drain you faster.” Akkad winced as he only folded further into himself, his arms crossed over his chest and his head hung low. The doctor could have sworn his pigmentation was changing too, he looked a few shades darker than normal.

            “I’m fine!” the constable snapped. Akkad stole a look at Garak. He did not seem exactly sympathetic to Odo’s plight, however, he clearly did not have the same zeal for interrogation that Tain had attributed to him in reminiscence. Akkad whispered in his ear while Odo was preoccupied.

            “He’s not going to tell you anything. He’d probably die before he did.” Odo looked up at her warily and the doctor reassumed the appearance of her grave vigil, but he turned his head away again a second later. Akkad assumed he had not heard her.

            “I don’t know how to convince you that this is not a choice.” Akkad could feel Garak’s cool breath against her cheek as he spoke. “I need you to trust me this one time, even if you never have before or never will again, I’m doing what’s best for you.”

            “And what about Odo?” the doctor snapped in retort, “Is this what’s best for him?”

            “I don’t know. I don’t what they’ll do with him when this is over, but it is enough for me to know that you’re safe.” Akkad stared back at him, utterly speechless and not even concerned with whether Odo was watching.

            “I can’t believe what I’m hearing.” The doctor said at last.

            “Does it scare you, doctor? To know the true depth of my attachment? But yes, I would sacrifice the constable for you without question if the situation was so dire.”

            “Then it is a choice!”

            “Not to me.”

Akkad did not want this burden of raw emotion, not at this moment and possibly not ever. Everything he had said was selfish and shortsighted, but at the same time, Akkad felt like she could have cried tears of joy. That conversation during an interrogation in a Romulan prison cell had been the closest thing she had had in years to hearing someone say they loved her.

            “Elim…” This time, for all of her trying, the doctor could not stop a tear from falling into her lap.

            “I understand how difficult this must be.” Garak reached out and gripped the hand resting on Akkad’s leg. “But there are times in life where we find ourselves in seemingly impossible situations, and we have to be grateful for whatever positives come out of it.” Akkad betrayed herself and interwove her fingers with his, her hold was so tight that she wondered if it hurt him. If it did, he gave no sign.

 

 

            Five hours had passed, and Akkad was terrified for Odo. His voice was weak and raspy, his color had turned dark brown. The doctor watched in horror as his hair thinned and his skin began to peel away in pieces. There was so little electrical energy moving through his system that he could scarcely move other than to tremble in pain. Akkad cautiously helped him lower himself to the floor as she feared he would not be able to hold himself upright in a chair for long. She was met with no resistance.

            “What’s wrong Garak?” Odo taunted. “You don’t look like you’re enjoying yourself.”

            “There is no pleasure in this for me, constable, I assure you. I am simply doing my job.” Garak’s voice had a slight tinge of regret to it that he had managed to mask up until then. His eyes were no longer observant and alert but seemed occupied and introspective.

            “Your job? Yes.” Odo sounded almost too weak to talk. “This job you’ve been waiting for…” he had to stop for a moment to recover, “all these years in exile? And here you are, interrogating a prisoner again. It must… fill you with pride!” Garak’s hand balled up into a fist within Akkad’s own grasp.

            “Just tell me what I need to know, and this will all be over,”

Odo screamed in pain and threw his head back against the wall. Akkad could not tell what was happening from the sensor readings, but she let go of Garak and raced to the constable’s side.

            “Odo,” Akkad pleaded, “Odo, what’s wrong?” the constable did not answer. Tremors continued to pass through him in a pattern that resembled a seizure.

            “But you don’t want it to end, do you Garak?” Odo rasped as if he had not heard the question, “Isn’t this what you’ve been dreaming of? Back at work…Serving Cardassia?”

            “That’s right. You have information that I need, information that it’s my duty to extract from you. It’s not personal.” The tension in Garak’s body was beginning to mirror Akkad’s. The doctor felt Odo’s forehead out of habit, it was brittle, cold, and unnatural. The constable gasped aloud as it seemed that even the slightest touch caused him pain. A few seconds later he screamed again. Akkad felt helpless. She had neither the knowledge nor the equipment to help him and it unnerved her.

            “Don’t move, holding a solid form like this must be preventing the electrical impulses inside your body from firing at the normal rate.” Akkad did not know if telling Odo this would help him or hurt him more in the end, but she needed to do something instead of just kneel beside him while he writhed in agony.

            “Odo!” Garak cried out before running over to him as well, “Tell me something, anything, lie if there’s nothing to say, just say it. Now, please!”

            “Garak, we might be losing him. He won’t be able to speak for much longer.” Akkad could tell the Odo was struggling to stay conscious, his movements were becoming weaker, his eyes were drifting, and he had given up on even crossing his arms in defiance.

            “Home! I want to go him!” the constable screamed deliriously.

            “And you will!” Garak shouted back in anguish. “as soon as this is all over, I promise I will take you back to Deep Space Nine!”

            “No!” Odo’s reaction was abnormally delayed. “Home! Not the station.” His voice faded to a hiss as another wave of pain struck him. “Home, with my people.” Garak and Akkad recoiled in shock.

            “You want to go back to the Founders? I thought you turned your back on them”

            “Garak, this is not the time!” Akkad gave him a push on the shoulder.

            “I did, but they’re still my people.” Odo thrashed from side to side, “I tried to deny it, but I can’t! They’re my people, and I want to be with them in the Great Link.” His head fell sideways against his shoulder, and Akkad tried to prop him up as gently as possible.

            “I knew there was something… that you were holding back” Garak whispered.

            “You got what you needed Garak, now tell the bridge to turn that thing off!” Akkad grabbed and shook him. Garak shot up and darted to the communications panel by the cell door.

            “Garak to bridge, the interrogation is complete. Deactivate the device.”

            “Acknowledged.” A disembodied voice came from the com panel.

Akkad waited with bated breath until the humming of the machine finally died down. Odo immediately dissolved his solid shape and fell into a gelatinous puddle on the floor.

“Thank god,” Akkad muttered. She knew there was a possibility that Odo would have lingering medical issues after the ordeal was over, but at least he would live long enough for her to search for a solution. The doctor stumbled to her feet and brought the bucket over to Odo. “Here.” She said. The constable obeyed and lethargically made his way into the container. He must have been exhausted by that point. Assured that the Odo was alright for the moment, Akkad realized that Garak had gone back to his seat at the table, holding his head in his hands. She sat down beside him.

“What are you going to tell Tain?” The doctor asked. Garak thought about it for a moment.

“I don’t think there’s much to tell.” With that, the Cardassian rose and went back to the door. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He said without looking at her as he left. Akkad’s gaze lingered on the door a little longer, before she put her head down on the table and finally shut her eyes.

Chapter Text

            The ship rocked uncontrollably, and Akkad was sent rolling across the floor as the assault caught her off guard. Odo’s bucket went sliding to the side and the doctor dove to catch it before it slammed into the opposite wall.

            “Odo!” Akkad shouted as the vessel heaved sideways again, “Something must have gone wrong, we’re under attack!” Another hit and the lights went out except for the red emergency runners along the wall, an alert klaxon blared from outside the cell.

            “Warning: main power failure.” The voice of the ship’s computer decided to announce after the fact.

            “Well, no shit!” The doctor screamed. She braced the bucket between her legs and ribcage as another wave nearly sent her rolling again. Odo was sloshing in his bucket violently, if he really had been just a lump of gelatin, he would have spilled all over the floor. A circuit blew in the control panel and sparks shot out of it.

            “We need to get out of here!” Akkad ran across the room and slammed into the door as she nearly lost her balance again. She braced herself against the doorframe, still carefully balancing the bucket, as she examined the control panel. It was an exercise in futility, as Romulans designed their prison cells to deadbolt shut in the event of power failure.

            “The force fields are down, but the door can’t be opened from here. I need your help!” Akkad prayed that the constable had enough energy in him to return to solid form. Miraculously, Odo jumped out of his bucket and reformed back into his humanoid shape beside her. Akkad threw the bucket aside and braced herself against the door frame with both hands as another barrage sent the contents of the room reeling.

            “Stand back, Doctor.” Odo’s right arm stretched absurdly and punched a hole into the ceiling. He repeated the motion several times until there was a considerable gap in the underside of the maintenance tunnel running above the cell. The constable pulled himself up through it before his head appeared again above the hole. He reached a hand back down toward Akkad. She took the hint and held onto it as he pulled her up through the ceiling and into the tunnel behind him. The ship continued to shake erratically, and Akkad almost fell back down into the cell. Odo moved a few meters down the tube in order to clear the cell wall before punching another hole int the tube, this one directly over the corridor outside.

            “The Dominion must have anticipated the attack, and I doubt that they’ll let anyone leave here alive.” He leaped down from the tunnel and onto the floor below. “Come on, we need to find an escape pod and get out of here fast.” Akkad jumped down after him and landed on all fours.

            “We won’t be able to find them in time!” Akkad had to yell to be heard over the blaring sirens, smoke filled her lungs and the air was so cloudy that she could not see more than ten meters ahead of her.

            “Allow me to help,” said a familiar voice from behind her.

            “Garak!” Akkad shouted in shock as he rushed forward from the haze carrying a Romulan disruptor he must have stolen.

            “I take it the attack on the Dominion is not going according to plan.” Odo snapped at him.

            “No it’s not, but I suggest we make our way to the runabout before-“ Another circuit blew out in the ceiling above and rained sparks down on their heads.

            “No one’s arguing!” Akkad replied as they turned to make their escape, when suddenly a Romulan officer strolled toward them out the smoke, holding out a control key in his free hand.

            “You will need this to gain access to your runabout.” Said Colonel Lovok, unphased by the current dilemma.

            “Why are you doing this?” Odo asked as Akkad took the key from the colonel’s hand. Lovok smiled ever so slightly and tipped his head toward them.

            “Because no changeling has ever harmed another.” Despite the imminent danger, Akkad, Garak, and Odo all froze in utter stupefaction.

            “You’re a Founder?” Garak stated almost more than he asked.

            “It all makes sense, the Founders must have planned the attack from the beginning, to weaken Romulus and Cardassia!” The doctor extrapolated.

            “Not exactly, the plan originated with Tain and we did everything we could to carry it forward. The Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order are both ruthless, efficient organizations, a definite threat to us.”

            “But not after today?” Odo asked, still in a state of shock.

            “After today, the only real threat to us from the alpha quadrant will be the Klingons and the Federation, and I doubt that either of them will be a threat for much longer.” The Lovok changeling finished as another volley hit the vessel and the three stumbled again. He stepped closer to Odo. “It is not too late for you, Odo. Come with me. You can still become one with the Great Link if you wish.” Garak and Akkad looked to each other and back at Odo. After his confession during the interrogation, neither felt that they could be sure of his response. All fell silent for a short while as if the Founders themselves had halted the attack to give the constable a chance to decide.

            “Thank you,” Odo said at last. “but my answer is still no.” Without a word, the changeling backed up from him as he was transported away. The barrage resumed immediately, and shrapnel flew out from the wall along the main electrical junctions.

            “Let’s go, we don’t have much time!” Akkad urged Odo and Garak forward.

            “This way!” Garak shouted as the three took off down the corridor before he stopped again suddenly. Odo and Akkad nearly ran into him. “The runabout is two decks down, section twenty-five. Both of you, wait for me there.”

            “What? Where are you going?” Odo demanded as Garak was already turning to go in the opposite direction.

            “To the bridge, to get Tain.”

            “Are you insane, you’ll never make it in time!” Akkad grabbed his arm and tried to pull him back in their direction. Garak flicked her hand away before grabbing her in a tight hug.

            “Garak, what?” He released her and stepped back.

            “Constable, if I don’t make it back in time, I’m trusting you to make sure the doctor gets out of here safely.” Garak looked at Akkad longingly. “Remember how much you meant to me.” He turned away again and disappeared.

            “No, come back!” Akkad shouted before dropping the key and taking off after him.

            “Doctor, not you too!”  Odo yelled after her, but she was already gone.

            It turned out that there were not far from the bridge, Akkad could hear Garak shouting ahead of her.

            “Tain, we have to get out!” Akkad followed his voice onto the bridge. Garak was coughing violently and hunched over the captain’s chair where Tain was sitting. Akkad thought that she could hear Tain say something as well, but at the moment she did not care. She raced down to Garak’s side and grabbed his wrist.

            “There’s no time for this! We need to leave now!” Akkad pleaded, pulling on him as hard as she could.

            “Doctor! You shouldn’t be here! You might not get to the runabout in time now!” He screamed as he held his ground.

            “I can’t leave you! Now come with me before you get us both killed!” The two struggled back and forth while Tain continued gazing out into space.

            “It seems I have underestimated the Founders. I should have seen it coming,” the old man thought aloud. “There was a time when nothing got past me, you remember?” Defeated, Akkad leapt in front of him.

            “Tain, come with us. You’ll die if you don’t!”

            “Please, we have to go!” Garak yelled in agreement.

            “Go?” Tain looked at him dismissively. “Go where? Back to Mila and my quiet retirement? I don’t think so…I must be getting old. I let my pride override my instinct, wouldn’t have played it that way in the old days-“ Akkad slapped him across the face with the back of her hand. He stared back at her, temporarily shocked out of his stupor.

            “Listen, you stupid son of a bitch! There’s no time!” Akkad grabbed him and shook as hard as she could.

            “Quite right, Doctor.” A voice came from behind her, the Akkad turned around just in time to see Odo punch Garak square in the face, sending him to the floor. “Help me get him out of here!” the constable shouted. The two of them lifted Garak onto their shoulders and dragged his semi-conscious body out of the bridge without looking back. By some divine intervention, they were able to make it to the runabout. Odo dropped Garak to the floor unceremoniously and jumped into the pilot’s chair while Akkad shut the airlock behind them.

            “We’re pulling away!” the constable shouted as he released the docking clamps and fired the thrusters, they fled the scene of the battle on impulse power until they were a safe distance away. “Going into warp. Doctor, I suggest you hold onto something.” Akkad kneeled down beside Garak and held him down with her body weight just in time. The runabout surged forward and the reverse inertia nearly flung Garak and Akkad backward against the wall. Akkad clung to the front of his shirt until the inertial dampeners kicked in and they were able to move freely.

            “Are we clear, Constable?” The doctor asked, heart still pounding in her chest.

            “There does not appear to be anyone following us,” Odo responded, still bent over the console. Akkad breathed a long sigh of relief and let her head fall back onto Garak’s chest again, entirely wiped out from the day’s excitement. She stayed there, catching her breath until the body beneath her stirred.

            “Are we alive, doctor?” Garak asked, his voice was hoarse from inhaling too much smoke.

            “Looks like it,” Akkad answered. Garak raised a hand to his black eye, courtesy of Constable Odo, and winced.

            “Don’t touch that, you have a broken blood vessel. I’ll fix you up when we get back to the station.” She took his hand and guided it to her cheek.

            “Well, who am I to question your medical expertise?” Garak opened up his hand and cupped the side of her face. He smiled at her warmly and chuckled so that only she could hear. Akkad could not help but smile back at him for no other reason than the simple joy of being there together. Alive. Garak traced her lips with his thumb.

            “Alright, Alright.” Akkad laughed before leaning in and kissing him on his forehead crest. When she pulled back, he raised an eye ridge at her. “Is that all?” he seemed to ask without words. The doctor laughed insanely before Garak propped himself up on one arm and kissed her properly. Akkad returned it, as deeply as if it were the last one they would ever have.

            “Well if the two of you are finished,” Odo started, Akkad and Garak looked back at him, trying desperately not to start laughing again. Akkad felt the blood rush to her face “I thought you’d might like to know that the Defiant is on its way to retrieve us.” Akkad threw her arms into the air in celebration.

            “Thank you, Sisko!” the doctor shouted before her expression turned far more serious. “Constable, about what you just saw, I guess I should ask-“

            “There is no need doctor, I’m not going to tell anyone.” The constable grunted while he messed with the pilot’s controls.

            “You’re not?”

            “No, as long as it remains a purely personal matter of yours, there’s no reason for me to make an issue of it. I do ask, however, that if you continue to participate in your, how do you say it? “Courtship behaviors”, that you do so where I can’t see it,” Odo spoke as clinically as if he were narrating one of the nature documentaries Akkad used to watch back on earth. It was impossible to remain stoic at the point and Akkad erupted again into a long fit of laughter, still lying there beside Garak on the floor.

Chapter Text

Akkad rested her feet on the arm of the couch and sprawled out. It had been a long day at the infirmary spent training the latest batch of Bajoran medical students sent by the provisional government. They seemed like nice kids though and it was good to have some fresh faces on board the station. The doctor cracked her back and rolled up to a more dignified sitting position. She took a long sip from the mug of tea on the coffee table in front of her and leaned against the armrest.

            Don’t you think you’re trying a little too hard? That traitorous inner voice returned and interrupted the evening’s peace.

            You know you’re unhappy, just admit it and stop playing make-believe that everything’s all good and peachy. The doctor slammed her mug back down on the table and held her head in her hands. Her quarters were only big enough for one resident, but they suddenly seemed far too big, yawning with emptiness like a subterranean cavern. When she was busy in the infirmary, it was easier. There was so much to be done during the day that Akkad scarcely had to think about the lonely nighttime hours that awaited her.

            I’ve lived alone for over three years, why is this a problem now? Akkad asked herself, though she was able to answer her own question.

            Because, for one brief shining moment, you remembered what it felt like to have someone in your life who would always be there for you, in mind at least if not in body. It was a foolish thing to believe, that moment onboard the runabout two weeks ago would hardly mean always. It was just a happy moment, but it passed as all moments do. Yet ever since, silence had seemed too loud, and the boisterous activity of the day all too quiet. In other words, there was a void. It was as obvious as a puzzle that was one piece away from being solved.

            Akkad, Garak, and Odo had been heading back toward the alpha quadrant, and as far away from the Omarion Nebula as possible when the Defiant managed to locate them. As Akkad lay in her temporary bunk onboard the ship, overwhelmingly fatigued from the latest ordeal, the doors slid open and he walked in to see her.

            “Are you awake, doctor?” Garak peered at her from the dark.

            “Yeah, can’t sleep for some reason.” Akkad shifted onto her side so that she could face him. “Dax is in here too, but she’s asleep. What is it?” From this height, she was above his head and it was strange seeing him from that angle. Garak crept closer until he was right below her.

            “How do you feel?” A pair of blue eyes looked up at her expectantly from the dark.

            “Little worn out. I’m just glad we made it back in one piece though.” Akkad rested her chin on her hands. Garak said nothing but narrowed his eyes and shook his head. “Huh? What- Oh, I see. How do I feel?”

            “If you’re ready.” Her companion whispered into her ear.

            “I think…” Akkad agonized over what to say, as, in truth, she was not ready at all. All she was sure of was that she could not decide on the future of their relationship having just escaped a near-death situation. “Elim, I’m not saying I don’t want to be with you, but I’m going to need some time to think things over.” A knot formed in the pit of her stomach as she voiced her thoughts. The light in Garak’s eyes dimmed, but he did not appear offended or hurt by her request.

            “Of course, I understand.” Garak lingered a moment more in the shadows before he made a move to leave. “Goodnight, doctor.” His voice was unusually gentle.

            “Goodnight, Elim.”

 

            Two weeks had passed since then, and Garak had honored her wishes. They had taken a break from meeting at their usual times during the week to talk, though they still waved or acknowledged each other when they happened to cross paths. Akkad was feeling more and more guilty as the days went by, and she still had not approached him with her decision. His patience was admirable, but Akkad wanted to decide soon lest he decide to confront her about it.

            Everything was so much more complicated now than it had before they left on the mission. Akkad had known few specific details of his past, though she would have been incredibly naïve to have thought that Garak had never done any morally questionable, or borderline reprehensible things during his career as a Cardassian intelligence agent, but what she had seen on that ship had shaken her more than she would care to admit. It was one thing to imagine what he was capable of, but it was an entirely different thing to witness it with one’s own eyes. Akkad could not recall a time in her life when she had felt more betrayed than when Garak had forced her to witness Odo’s interrogation. Her heart had cried out for the changeling, and at that moment she honestly could have killed Garak.

                        They say hindsight is 20/20.

            Two weeks, however, was a lot of time to think and to reanalyze the course of events that had brought them into that cell together. Akkad had come to decide that even if not every action he took rested well with her, that on the whole, he had done the right thing. Of course, it had been a tough call, no one wants to inflict pain on their friends or loved ones, but would either her or Odo still be alive and free if it had not been for Garak’s decision to cooperate?

            Yes, Garak had hurt Odo and Akkad would never forget that, but what would have happened to the constable if he had left that duty to the Tal Shiar or another Obsidian Order agent? Odo may not have come out of the experience with his sanity intact. There was also no outright sadistic behavior during the interrogation, Akkad could accept now that he only went through with it to protect them. Odo had forgiven Garak for what happened on that ship, maybe it was time for Akkad to do the same.

            That left the issue of Tain. The Cardassian elder was one of the most repulsive people Akkad had ever met, in fact, he was probably right up there with Gul Dukat, yet Garak had genuinely seemed to admire him. To some degree it was understandable, Tain had been Garak’s mentor for years, he would he have been taught early on to look up to him just as Akkad had looked up to her mentor Doctor T’jani during her time on the Yamato. Instinct told Akkad there was more to it than that, Garak wanted Tain’s approval, to be respected by him. Her psychology training had taught her that one generally does not seek approval from an enemy, but from someone who truly means a lot to them.

            Despite what Akkad had witnessed, she was not sure if she had the right to judge him based on his attachment to Tain. She was still missing too much information to be anywhere close to understanding it. Who was to say that it would not come back to bite Akkad in the ass one day if she dropped the issue for now, but with all things considered it was the fair thing to do.

            I may be incredibly, horribly wrong, I may look back on this one day and wonder just what the fuck I was thinking, but I would rather regret the choices I made than the opportunities I didn’t take.

            Akkad picked up the cylindrical data stick that had been left on the table untouched for several weeks. It was a copy of Thoughts on a Hostile Universe by Iloja of Prim, it had been a tool of cultural exchange, as she had promised to read it if Garak agreed to read Dante’s The Divine Comedy. Akkad wondered if maybe he would want his novel back soon. It was only 2100 hours anyway.

 

            As she had hoped for, Garak was still in his shop when Akkad reached the entrance. It was closed to customers by that time of night, but it was not unusual for him to stay longer while wrapping up the day’s work. He was hunched over his a display table inspecting the new bolts of cloth that had come in that morning. Akkad had a strong sense of deja vu when she considered that the last time this scene played out it had ended with the two of them on the floor together in the dressing room.

            What is it with us and floors lately?

            “Elim,” Akkad called out as she entered the establishment. Garak turned around immediately and broke into a wide smile.

            “Ah, Doctor! To what do I owe this pleasure?” Akkad loved the way Garak’s eyes lit up when he was particularly delighted, in those moments he almost looked innocent. Akkad held the data stick out to him.

            “I thought you might want this back.”

            “Ah yes, Thoughts on a Hostile Universe, one of my personal favorites. What’s the verdict on this one?” Garak asked as he deftly tucked the data stick into a hidden pocket.

            “Probably my favorite one so far, the way the author combines poetry with theoretical physics and politics was really interesting. I don’t think we have much of an equivalent of that back on Earth unless you count H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, but I know how you feel about those.” Akkad chuckled to herself as she recalled the time she had lent him “The Color Out of Space” and he had overanalyzed and nitpicked every single detail.

            “He had an eloquent style of writing, however, the reader does have to totally suspend their sense of reason in order to appreciate it,” Garak admitted before pulling another data stick out of his trouser pocket. “And here is yours, doctor,” he offered it up to her. Akkad realized it was her copy of The Divine Comedy.

            “And what were your thoughts?” Akkad asked, twirling the stick between her fingers.

            “I thought the last chapter of Paradisio was particularly beautiful, especially that section about moving the sun and stars. However, I have a lot of questions to ask regarding Inferno.” Garak’s smile was infectious and the doctor had to laugh aloud this time.

            “Well, how about we go get a drink and I can try to make sense of it for you?” Akkad proposed. Garak needed no time to think about it.

            “An excellent idea.” A second later and Garak’s arm was wrapped protectively around Akkad’s waist. “In fact, it just so happens that I find myself with absolutely nothing else to do tonight.”