Figure Out Why

By Laura Schiller

Based on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Copyright: Paramount

(Author's Note: The shri'tal, a deathbed confession of secrets to a loved one, is a Cardassian custom mentioned in the fifth-season episode "Ties Of Blood And Water".)

Kira: "She loved you."
Garak: "I could never figure out why ... I guess I never will."
- "Sacrifice of Angels"

Dear Elim,

First of all, I hope you don't mind that I just addressed you by your given name. I don't suppose you'd ever give me permission, since even Julian calls you Garak, but considering the point of this letter, it just doesn't feel right to call you anything else.

I made a decision today which puts me in danger, both from the Dominion and their Cardassian allies, our so-called compatriots. I helped Quark to free Nerys, Jake, Leeta and Rom from the holding cells. Nerys is my best friend and I'm proud of helping her, but if Weyoun or Damar ever find out, I'll be arrested for treason. So, just in case something happens to me, I need to talk to you just once without you talking your way out of the subject. I need you to know what I really think of you … how I really feel.

I know you don't feel quite the same way about me as I do about you. If there were any other Cardassians on the station who were not your enemies (unlike Father and Damar and their men), you'd probably share your meals with them instead. Whenever I pay you a compliment, you brush it off with one of your elegant, sarcastic remarks. Is it because I'm a silly girl with a crush you don't want to encourage? Or because you don't think you deserve it? Or both? It's one of those things that make you almost impossible to understand. You're a never-ending mystery, Elim Garak. I shouldn't love that about you so much, but I do. You see I'm your opposite – too direct for my own good.

Father told me some terrible things about you – that you used to be a spy, assassin and torturer for the Obsidian Order under Enabran Tain, and that he recruited you because you're his illegitimate son. Father was holding out for a chance to use that information against Tain, but now Tain's dead, he told me to try and frighten me away from you. As if Skrain Dukat's daughter could ever judge someone by his parents, or fail to understand how unbreakable the connection can be. There was a point when I'd have done anything for Father's approval, no matter how dangerous or illegal.

If this is true, no wonder you get so uncomfortable when I call you a kind man. But the fact is, it's possible to have an evil past and still be kind in the present. Take my Father, for example.

You have been kind to me, my "blind adoration" notwithstanding. You say you find it "disturbing, yet flattering", and you don't understand what makes me act this way. I do love you, Elim Garak, but it's up to you to figure out why. I have far too many reasons, and all of them or none of them might be true.

It might be the thrill of the forbidden you represent – like in that Human play Julian told us about, Romeo and Juliet, where they kill themselves because their feuding families won't let them be together. You said that was the most idiotic story you'd ever heard and I agree, but if you ever asked me to "deny my father and refuse my name", I would do it. And you'd come up with a better plan than Romeo's in your sleep, you "simple tailor", couldn't you?

I could also say I love your cynicism, because it makes me want to talk you out of it. Getting you to admit to such things as inborn goodness, or unconditional love – things I have to believe in for my own sanity – is a challenge I can't resist, just as I suppose you enjoy getting Julian and me around to your point of view. A passion for debate is something both Bajorans and Cardassians can agree on, and nobody plays the game like you.

I could say I sympathize with your loneliness. You are lonely, whether you admit it or not; why else would you spend so much time with a Human Starfleet officer and an ignorant hybrid girl half your age? But yes, I do pity you … and having said that, I thank the Prophets I'll never see your reaction. You'd throw me out of the shop on my ear if you knew. I do wish you'd confide in somebody though … if not me, maybe Julian or Odo. Someone you trust, if there is such a person. If you keep those shields up too long, someday you might find it's yourself you trapped inside.

Speaking of that, maybe it's not your personality I find attractive at all, how about that? After all, you must be the most difficult man to deal with in this quadrant, if not the universe. Definitely not Nerys' or Jadzia's idea of a decent boyfriend. Did anyone ever tell you you can make "good morning" sound like a song? Or that your light blue eyes are just the color of perfect kanar? You're not really good-looking at all, you know, but with those eyes, that voice and that formidable charm, you could convince anybody otherwise.

The memory of us Cardassian exiles, curled up by the hot coals in my sauna holoprogram, remains one of the happiest of my life. Nerys showed me Bajor, but you took the side of myself I hated – the side I associated with war, hate, deception and abandonment – and showed me how beautiful it could be. In our conversations at the Replimat, you introduced me to Cardassian art, literature, history, fashion … especially fashion. Did I ever tell you how much I love the blue silk dress you made for me, or the book of paintings you lent me, or when you talked Quark into giving us the undiluted '64 kanar? When my battle-axe of a stepmother, her seven spoiled children, that brute Damar, and sometimes even Father make me ashamed of being half-Cardassion, it's you who makes me proud.

It might be one of dozens of little things. The way you can turn the phrase "my dear" into anything, from a cutting stab to the sweetest sound in the world. The way you laugh in the middle of a sentence when you're anxious and trying to hide it. The way you re-read that dreadful old Never-Ending Sacrifice like a Prophecy, defend it ferociously to Julian and me, then fall asleep with your head on the padd. The way you held me after you escaped from the Jem'Hadar camp. I admit I hugged you first, but you didn't seem entirely displeased. And you kept your promise to come back – that's all that matters.

You make me feel like I'm not alone.

This is my shri'tal, Elim. Whether I die tomorrow for letting my friends escape, or in a month as a casualty of war, or in a hundred years of old age, this is the only confession I mean to make. I only hope my life is honest enough until then that I won't acquire any more secrets. That's my Bajoran side. Try not to be disappointed.

Don't forget me.

All my love,

Tora Ziyal