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The Cure

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Garak woke up, which was unexpected.

Oh, make no mistake, he was still in agonizing pain, but he had been in agony for years and paid no mind to it. He had simply expected, the last time he passed out from the pain, that he would not wake up again. Really, how much longer could it go on before it finally dealt him the final blow? Cursing his own stubborn indestructibility, Garak sat upright and quickly took in his current situation.

He was still at the clinic - apparently Dr. Bashir had yet to face facts and give up on his hopeless cause. A needle in the crook of his arm directed Garak's attention to the IV stand at his bedside, from which hung three plastic bags, none of which were yet connected to the tube in Garak's arm. One was filled with a clear fluid, likely saline or one of the doctor's useless pain medications, and Garak paid it no mind, for the others were far more interesting.

One was filled with blood. Human, from its scent, or nearly human, and very fresh. His fangs nearly came out involuntarily; it had been so long since he'd last had human blood the clinic hadn't been legally forced to discard because of its age. People willing to donate their blood to a vampire were few and far between, and it had been many, many years since he'd been able to simply take what he wanted.

But even this was not the most interesting bag of the three.

He would recognize the contents of that third bag anywhere. You could burn all the pretty flowers and herbs you liked, plug up his nose with cotton or cut it off entirely, and he'd still know it as his sire's blood, though it appeared no different from the dark red blood of any other vampire.

The connection between childe and sire was not well studied; humans had no interest in the cultures of their kills, and vampires themselves were primarily of an age to accept the mystical at face value. Garak was younger than many, but not nearly as interested in the science of it all as the fledgelings who'd abandoned him to this town, so even he could not say with certainty how he knew it was Tain's blood in that bag. But he knew.

The more interesting question was how Tain's blood came to be here.

As Garak pondered that, he absently focused his hearing on a series of approaching sounds. Footsteps. A handle turning. The door opening, and shutting again.

"You're up. Good."

"My dear doctor," Garak said, for it was Julian Bashir who had just spoken, "I don't dare ask how you came to possess that blood. Might I inquire why you have it?"

"You have two options," the doctor said calmly, as if Garak hadn't spoken. He pulled on a pair of thin rubber gloves. "Well, three, but I don't approve of the third option and will probably ask you to reconsider if you choose it."

Interesting. "And these three options would be related to the three bags of fluid in front of me, I presume?"

"Correct." He was truly bizarre, Garak thought. So compassionate and caring normally, so friendly to a helpless vampire. And the moment Garak could no longer hide his pain, he treated Garak so impersonally - professionalism, he supposed was the intent, but the effect was an appearance of indifference. That he continued to act so now, when he must know that Garak was aware of the enormous risk he'd taken in approaching one of the oldest vampires on the planet and demanding his assistance, spoke to his quintessential human stubbornness. Whether it was stubbornly insisting on treating all his patients the same, or stubbornly pretending he had done no great thing by approaching Tain, Garak couldn't say.

He liked that about the doctor, that he was unable to fully identify all his motives.

"One bag contains a cure for vampirism."

Garak blinked, startled. "Doctor, it was my understanding that such cures only work if the vampire in question has not fed on human blood."

"I've improved upon the cure." Dr. Bashir smirked, an attempt at his normal braggadocio, but his heart clearly wasn't in it. "If you choose that, we can perform the surgery required to remove the chip, and you will be able to reintegrate into human society."

"That would be..." Utterly unacceptable. "One option. The others?"

"One bag contains a remedy for your headaches that will have the side-effect of completely inactivating that chip of yours. You'll be able to feed on humans without pain, if you want."

Garak scoffed. "Hardly. Hunters would find me before long." That was a lie, but Garak wouldn't admit to his real reason, that he had no desire to feed from unconsenting humans anymore. He'd had the chip too long, and more importantly still had responsibilities to take care of here that murder and mayhem would interfere with.

The corners of Dr. Bashir's eyes crinkled in what nearly looked like amusement. "If you say so. The third bag is medication that will reduce the pain, but not stop its cause. Essentially, you'll be living as you are now, for however long you may live."

Could he do that? He'd lived with the pain of isolation and hunger for years, and managed that, but the faulty chip's sparks had become debilitating within a week. Conventional medicine had stopped being effective days ago, and Garak suspected there was no guarantee that this medication would last any longer.

No, he couldn't do that. And he certainly couldn't become human again. Which left him with...

"The second one, please."

Dr. Bashir grinned. "Very well then. Lie back, we'll get the bag hooked up to your IV and you should be feeling better in no time."

Slightly surprised, Garak did as requested. "Just out of curiosity, doctor - which of the options would you have rejected, had I chosen it?"

The doctor took the bag of sire's blood off its hook and held it up. "The vampirism cure."

"Whyever would you do that?"

"Because, Garak," he huffed, taking down the bag of clear fluid as well, "I don't believe that vampirism needs curing. So long as the person was turned consensually, I don't believe any transformation should be undone. And whether you asked to be sired or not, you clearly prefer being a vampire now."

"I see," Garak lied. What a refreshingly unfamiliar opinion. "And what is in that bag you're hooking me up to?"

"Oh, a couple of things. Some herbs to speed up the healing, a bit of powdered oak to invoke Perkwunos and inactivate the chip, and a little bit of heme that was about to expire. But mostly?" Dr. Bashir reached up to adjust the position of the IV bag on its hook, and his sleeve fell back to reveal a bandage wrapped around the crook of his arm. "My blood."

Garak's mouth went dry. "Oh." Oh dear.

Truly the strangest man he'd ever met.