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candid


 

frank; outspoken; open and sincere: a candid critic.
free from reservation, disguise, or subterfuge; straightforward: a candid opinion.
informal; unposed: a candid photo.

 

After Miles leaves, Julian slips in to check that all is well with his patient. Garak seems more chastened even than Julian expects, given recent events. He wants to ask, in a way - Garak is supposed to be his friend - but it's rather awkward to inquire how a person is coping after a drug-induced fit of homicide.

In the end, he plumps for an anodyne, doctorly question that can't be readily misconstrued: "How do you feel?"

"I'm fine," Garak says, unconvincingly. "Well. I've felt better. I'm... embarrassed."

Julian makes a noncommittal noise. Embarrassment isn't how he would react after reverting to a semi-feral state of murderous intent, but then, he isn't a Cardassian, nor a former member of the Obsidian Order, and doesn't feel qualified to moralise. He tells himself, as he told Miles, that the Garak who prowled Empok Nor was an entirely different individual, tries to make himself believe it, and turns away just in case; whatever confusion or judgement he can't wipe off his face is probably not something Garak needs just now. Occupying himself with the minutiae of the infirmary might make it less obvious how uncomfortable he feels.

(It's tempting to observe from a safe distance, hidden by the wall of equipment, but desertion doesn't seem much kinder than judgement.)

"I never meant for anyone to see that side of me ever again," Garak confides. He's far more subdued than usual, although in light of the circumstances, that is reasonable. "If you were Cardassians - but you aren't. And I didn't wish for any of you to see me as a murderer." There's a pause, and then he adds something too quietly for Julian to catch.

"I'm sorry, what?"

The silence turns stony. Julian may struggle with nuance and subtlety, but he's spent more than enough time with Garak to recognise when he's being wordlessly upbraided. He takes a deep breath and looks over.

Garak is frowning at him.

"What?" he asks again.

Garak purses his lips. "You know, my dear doctor, you really can't expect to get away with pretending not to hear something when your interlocutor knows you have perfect, nay, genetically enhanced hearing."

Julian bristles. "Did it never occur to you that maybe I'm somewhat distracted here, Garak?" he bites out. "Not everyone is as paranoid or as underhanded as you are. Superhuman hearing or not, I've spent the last little while concentrating on filtering out the homicidal toxins from your body, if you hadn't noticed."

For several seconds they're staring at each other, and Garak's eyes are wide with surprise in a way he rarely lets himself show. "Oh." He studies Julian for a moment longer, then sighs, face softening. "Yes, I suppose you have, haven't you? I- I'm sorry," he says. Another pause, then, much lower, "I'm sorry, Julian."

It's unlike Garak to use Julian's given name, it usually happens only when he's being as candid as he ever gets. That more than anything punctures Julian's mood. He tries to hold on to his annoyance, but it isn't in his nature not to take pity on someone expressing genuine remorse.

"Forgiven," he says at last, and if it comes out gentler and more affectionate than he intended, well, maybe that's all right.

Garak looks down at his hands. "As to what I said before, well... it's just that I didn't mean for any of you to see that side of me," he continues eventually, tone still atypically restrained. There's another much longer pause before he adds (quietly enough that Julian might still miss it if he weren't concentrating), "And- and especially not you."

Julian feels the shock on his face, knows he's staring at Garak both wide-eyed and open-mouthed. It's not even that Garak would say such a thing, although the sentiment is rather surprising, but that he'd say it without surrounding it in a maze of prevarication and verbal curlicues, without making Julian work for the sense of it. Really, it's just as well Garak still seems overly invested in inspecting his own fingernails so that he doesn't see Julian momentarily gaping at him like a complete idiot.

"You were my first friend here, after my people left me." It's as if Garak is thinking aloud as much as he's telling Julian anything. "Maybe the first friend in longer than I care to admit; a spy doesn't make friends easily, a known or suspected spy even less so." Garak flicks his eyes up, a flash of blue, then looks away again. "One cannot easily trust, when one is habitually untrustworthy."

Julian swallows hard. "Garak-"

Garak shakes his head. "I'm not asking for your pity," he says. "Simply making a statement of fact. You are - were - the first friend I had made in a very long time. Certainly the truest." He shrugs a shoulder. "And I know you enjoy the romance of espionage, the trappings of it all, I know you like to play at it, but you are not a spy. You- you would not make a good spy; don't ask me if that is a compliment or an insult, doctor, I don't know myself." He smiles, a strained, brittle smile. "You certainly wouldn't make a good assassin, and for all the same reasons, you wouldn't be friends with a murderer."

Julian doesn't know how to respond.

Yes, Garak was under the influence of a psychotropic drug that caused his behaviour, but even in his most naïve imagining of events, Julian knows that before Starfleet arrived, Garak probably did many other things that would be difficult to stomach. Until now, they've largely been part of the past, theoretical, something Julian could more or less ignore. It isn't so easy to write off when he's the one who performed the autopsies on friend and foe alike; none of it is simple to disentangle in his head, let alone out loud.

"I will understand, you know," Garak continues softly, and Julian doesn't think he's ever heard Garak so sincere. "I will understand completely. Being friends with someone like me is-" He shrugs. "It is not what you expected. All I ask is that you pretend a little while longer. Let me labour under the delusion of friendship as I recuperate. Let me imagine that tomorrow or the day after, when I go to the Replimat, I'll find you at our usual table, waiting to scold me for my culture's terrible taste in literature." He catches Julian's eye then, looking as pained as Julian's ever seen him, worse than when his implant malfunctioned. "If you would do that for me, my dear doctor, I should be terribly, terribly grateful."

Julian doesn't know how to respond. He doesn't know if all this has changed their friendship, changed how he feels about Garak. He hasn't had time to process it. He hardly knows where to begin.

In lieu of an actual answer, he nods mutely.

Garak takes in a shaky breath, and smiles again, still pained but tinged with relief. "Thank you."

At a loss, Julian nods again. Instinctively, he reaches out to touch Garak's shoulder, seeking to offer comfort, then realises what he's doing and checks the movement too late to hide it. Their eyes meet again; there's an aching pressure in Julian's chest that makes it hard to breathe.

He doesn't know what to do or say. After a moment of indecision, he gives in to temptation and turns on his heel, retreating at last. He can keep watch just as well from the monitoring station, can't he?

Through the window, Garak slumps back into the biobed as if he's used up all his equanimity. My truest friend. Julian drops his face into his hands, and tries to ignore the voice in his head calling him a coward.

~ fin ~