Work Header

The Measure of a Man

Work Text:

“You heard her. She’s a traitor.”

Her blood covers Damar’s hands, hot and slick, cakes his fingernails into black crescents. She makes the most pitiful sounds as she dies, the gurgling hiss of punctured lungs, the staccato gasps of a body on its last breath. Her moans sicken him. Although he dares not turn around to look, Damar knows that Garak and Dukat both close in on his position. He tries to run, but her blood fills the corridor, and his feet can find no purchase in what is left of her life.

At this moment, Damar does not remember that Ziyal died differently, that she died bloodlessly as her father’s mind began to fracture. He does not remember that her death was necessary, that she never deserved the honor Dukat bestowed on her by claiming her as his own. He only remembers that Ziyal is dead by his hand and that her death marks the moment when all that he so diligently dedicated his strength to preserving began to crumble around him.

Damar wakes with a jerk. The woman beside him whose name he never asked sighs in her sleep and turns onto her side. Damar reaches blindly for the kanar on his bedside table and drains the last few drops, the liquor gone cloying and foul since the time he opened the bottle. Weyoun will be calling him soon, and Damar must be able to face him with what passes now for dignity.

“Those days might be gone, but the man I served with isn't. He's still within you. Reach in and grab hold of him, Damar. Cardassia needs a leader.

“Really, Damar?” Weyoun says. “Aren’t you becoming as weary of these conversations as I am?”

Damar says, “Of that I can assure you.” He imagines crushing Weyoun’s windpipe between his hands, the satisfying crunch of brittle Vorta bones underneath his fingers.

“Then why do we continue having them?”

“Because my people are dying in droves.”

“Oh, Damar,” Weyoun says. “They’re heroes, their lives sacrificed to safeguard our alliance. What shining jewels in the crown of Cardassia these noble men and women make.”

Damar has heard this sort of speeches before, felt his blood rouse and his pride swell as he contemplated that one day he might be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice for his homeland. But those seven million shining jewels Weyoun so casually dismisses didn’t die for Cardassia; they died for the Founders, for the Vorta, for the Breen. If Damar hadn’t already numbed himself with kanar he might retch.

“Of course,” Damar grits out between clenched teeth. Somewhere deep inside him in a place that no drug or other distraction can touch, a tendril of rage unfurls—pure and incandescent, a fury no officious platitudes can appease.

“What kind of state tolerates the murder of innocent women and children? What kind of people give those orders?

Damar’s marriage was arranged by his father’s father when he was very young. On his eighth name day, Damar’s father formally presented him with the contract, and Damar accepted with the gravity such a solemn occasion merited. Damar didn’t meet Lellot until he was much older, but he received a holopicture of her annually on his name day, her image subtly (and sometimes drastically) changing from each year to the next. No one ever asked Damar if he wanted to marry Lellot, and Damar never considered refusing the alliance. Damar has always known the importance of duty.

Galmar was born in the same year that Damar was promoted to glinn, and Damar has never been able to separate his joy in one from the other; they tangle together in a magnificent confluence of pride in both family and state.

Now when Damar dreams of Lellot and Galmar, he sees only their deaths, the minutia of dying bodies catalogued so often by a soldier applied in a sickening loop to his most beloved. In Damar’s dreamscape, his dead wife often morphs into Ziyal or Kira, his son into any number of nameless Bajoran children. Most disturbingly, these thoughts are not confined to his dreams. In his waking moments, Damar finds himself dwelling on a Bajoran woman he saw dying in the first years of the Occupation. She lay face down in the dirt of her farm, her skirts rucked up around her waist, her throat slashed and seeping into the newly tilled furrows.

Of all they have taken from him and his people, Damar hates the Founders most for stripping away his righteousness.

“He was my friend. But his Cardassia's dead, and it won't be coming back.

“Do not force my hand, Rusot,” Damar thinks and can hardly believe he has become the kind of man who grimly contemplates the necessity of eliminating his oldest friend.

Damar met Rusot when they were both painfully young—before they had each married, before they had ever seen the backside of a battle, when the glory of Cardassia burned brightly in the hearts of its two newest gils. Rusot taught Damar to hold his drink, and Damar taught Rusot how to capture the attentions of the most attractive women, and they have saved each other’s lives often enough in the decades since that Damar no longer keeps a tally.

“He jeopardizes everything we’ve worked for here,” Kira says. Damar wants to be angry at her, but he can’t disagree. Rusot is a liability.

Damar says, “I will speak with him.” He will not. Damar has no words to justify to Rusot the way forward in this new reality in which former slaves are now trusted allies, in which the Occupiers have become the Occupied, in which the lives of their people must be sacrificed to save Cardassia herself.

“You never told me you had a secret mountain hideaway.”

Damar has no idea what Garak hopes to gain by touching him like this, what motivates him to slide his body beneath Damar’s blankets and his hands beneath Damar’s clothes. Garak is like a relnet puzzle, interlocking pieces jumbled together and working toward some as yet indecipherable goal. Perhaps he’s finally decided to kill Damar, or perhaps he believes that the hero of the resistance needs an illicit union to bolster his flagging spirits, or more likely, Garak feels some undeniable need to punish himself. Damar finds that he simply does not care. He will take Garak’s warmth, lick into the slick heat of his mouth, rut against his body on the hard floor of Mila’s basement while the others sleep.

“Do not think this changes anything between us,” Garak says softly, his lips dragging along Damar’s jaw, his breath hot and wet on Damar’s neck.

Damar says, “How could it?”

That night he sleeps deeply and uninterrupted by dreams, his back turned to Garak instead of the wall—a small sliver of trust, weary resignation, an unspoken invitation perhaps.

“I was going to surprise you.”

In that nanosecond before he takes his final breath, the battle slips away, and Damar finds himself standing before a cabin on a mountainside in the Opuuya Range. The air shimmers with heat. The cabin is beautiful, constructed of stone quarried nearby and rough-hewn wooden logs imported from the coast of the Morfan Sea. Damar can smell food cooking and clean mountain air and the sweetness of flowers blooming. Very faintly, he can hear laughter and music coming from behind the thick walls of the cabin.

Damar smiles for what feels like the first time in a century. Then he climbs up the path—hesitating for a moment at the door—opens it, and walks inside.