The Terran looked familiar.
This in and of itself was not much of a surprise; all Terrans looked alike to Garak. However, this one was so unusual that it seemed like the memory would be clearer. It wasn't so much that his physical characteristics were strange: dark hair, a tawny complexion, fine facial features that could be considered attractive, if you liked that sort of thing. What made him different was that he clean, well-groomed, and healthy. He was also wearing a strange outfit; it was blue through the neck and shoulders and black the rest of the way down. But the difference in this Terran was much deeper than the merely cosmetic, and took Garak a moment to put his finger on it: he didn't have the broken, shut-down look of most Terrans. He had dignity.
Garak watched him for a moment in the security feed of the holding cell. He sat on the bench, tapping his foot. Occasionally, he would get up and pace around the room. Most Terrans would be cowering in terror, or else hunched over in deadened acceptance of their fate. Garak found that prisoners were more pliable if given time to stew in their fear, but it didn't seem to be working on this one. If anything, he looked impatient.
He'd arrived on the station about an hour ago in a strange shuttle craft which had appeared out of nowhere. Two Klingon had beamed aboard and discovered this Terran and a woman they had mistaken for the Intendant. The mistake was soon found out when the Klingons had contacted the station and discovered that the Intendant had never left. She ordered the Klingons to deliver the strangers to the station; once they arrived, she had them put in separate holding cells until they could be questioned. Garak had been called to interrogate the Terran while the Intendant questioned the woman.
Garak took a moment to prepare himself before opening the door. He wasn't quite sure what to expect, but he could already tell that this wasn't going to be a standard interrogation. Even though he was on his guard, what happened next was something he never could have anticipated. When the Terran saw him, he didn't drop to his knees and beg for mercy, or scream, or glare at him defiantly. Instead, a look of relief passed across his face. "Elim!" he said.
Garak was stunned. He hadn't been called by his given name in years. How did this Terran know it? And how did this Terran know him? Before he could ask, the Terran threw himself into his arms and kissed him full on the lips.
"I can't tell you how happy I am to see you," he said when he broke the kiss. "The Major and I were coming back from a conference, and when we came through the wormhole, we found the station orbiting Bajor. Then these Klingons beamed aboard, and they acted like they knew Major Kira – actually, they seemed sort of afraid of her, which was odd. Anyway, they were very respectful for a little while and offered to escort us back to the station, but then they got a message and went all stony on us. Once we got here, they whisked her off and brought me to this cell, and no one's said a word to me in over an hour. Have you seen her? Is she all right?"
Garak was completely flummoxed. The Terran was pressed up against him in a very distracting manner, his arms draped over Garak's shoulders. Even more strangely, Garak found that his own hands had settled themselves on the Terran's hips; how that had happened was beyond him. "She's fine," he said eventually.
"Well, that's a relief," the Terran said. He pulled back a little. "So what's happened here? Why has the station been moved? And why are you dressed like this?" he said, poking at his uniform. "Is this armor?"
Garak still wasn't sure what to do with himself. "It's my uniform," he said haltingly.
"I've traveled to the future, haven't I?" the Terran said. "The shuttle went through a space-time anomaly, and that's why you're gaping at me like that. How long have I been gone? You don't look much older – but then again, I've always had trouble telling how old Cardassians are. It has to have been a few years at least, because everything's so different. Have the Cardassians taken control of the station again?"
Garak knew he should probably push the Terran off and start a proper interrogation. Then again, the Terran was already being very chatty. He should let the situation play itself out. At least that's what he told himself; it certainly had nothing to do with how warm the Terran felt against him. "This is Bajor's station, although Cardassia has some influence."
"The Bajorans and the Cardassians working together? I didn't think that would ever be possible – at least not in this century. Does that mean you've been un-banished? Well, that's good news, at least, although I've never understood why you wanted to go back after the way they treated you." The Terran stopped talking for a moment and peered at Garak. "Has it been that long?" he asked gently. "You're looking at me as if you've never seen me before in your life."
Before Garak could come up with an answer, the door opened and the Intendant entered the room. The Terran's face lit up again. "Major Kira! Thank goodness you're all right." He looked her up and down. "What are you doing in that godawful get-up?"
After a moment of stunned silence, the Intendant started laughing. "She's right – you are arrogant," she said. She addressed Garak. "You can stop questioning him – I've already figured out what happened. Although I have to admit, that's a very intriguing interrogation technique you're employing," she said with a smirk. "How's it working?"
"Interrogation?" The Terran gave Garak a confused look. "Elim – what's going on?"
The Intendant laughed again. "'Elim?' Oh, this just keeps getting more and more interesting!"
"You aren't Major Kira, are you," the Terran said, although he seemed to already know the answer.
"And he catches on! No, I'm not Major Kira Nerys. I'm Intendant Kira Nerys, and this is my second-in-command, Gul Garak. I think you might have mistaken him for someone else."
The Terran gave Garak another confused look and stepped away.
"So I'm curious," the Intendant said. "Do you know who Captain Kirk is? The other Nerys had never heard of him."
A look of understanding came across the Terran's face. "Yes, I've heard of him. Have you had any trouble with your transporters recently?"
The Intendant smiled. "We haven't, but you've got the right idea."
The transporter accident, Garak thought. Of course. The Terran was from an alternate universe – that would explain his strange notions and why he thought he knew Garak.
"Your Kirk was a great man," the Intendant said. "Because of him, the leaders of the Terran Empire embraced the ideals of freedom and equality, making it really easy to overthrow them and enslave their people."
"The Terrans are enslaved?" he said faintly.
"Yes," the Intendant said, clearly enjoying herself. "Unfortunately for you, the Alliance learned from the Terrans' mistake and had all transporters reconfigured to prevent further interference from your universe. I'm not sure how the two of you managed to slip through. I should probably have you executed; that's the standing orders if we find anyone from your universe. I'm worried that I might get into trouble with my superiors if I don't."
She allowed the Terran a moment of terror before she started laughing. "I'm just kidding – I don't give a shit what my superiors think. This is my station, so I make the rules. I'm certainly not about to execute the other Nerys; depriving our universe of such a lovely, intelligent young woman would be a crime. You, on the other hand, are disposable."
I could hide him, Garak thought. The Intendant always left the executions to him; he could simply tell her he was dead, and then keep him somewhere safe. But why would he want to? Where had that thought come from?
Before he could give the matter more thought, the Intendant spoke again. "However, the other Nerys thinks that you could benefit from some humbling, and I make it a point to never question myself." She turned to Garak. "Put him to work. Although if you want to 'interrogate' him a little more, go right ahead. You're too uptight – you should have a little fun every now and then." With that, she sauntered out of the room.
"What does that mean?" the Terran asked.
Garak found that he couldn't answer, so he left the room. Telok, his top Klingon officer, was stationed outside. "Take that one to Odo and have him put to work." Garak left quickly, but not quickly enough to avoid hearing the Terran shouting his name as he was dragged from the room. He didn't look back.
Garak avoided the ore processing section for the rest of the day, choosing instead to work on some reports in his quarters. The work was mind-numbing, which was what he needed. He didn't want to think about what had happened. It worked for a little while, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't keep his thoughts from wandering back to the strange Terran.
He'd said he was happy to see him. No one had ever said that to him before. Everyone he interacted with hated or feared him – most often a combination of the two. Even his own mother had never liked him. She was fond of telling him how the day he was born was the worst day of her life. She'd been raped by some high-ranking military official and cursed the fact that she'd been unable to end the pregnancy. Why she didn't smother him in his cradle was a mystery both to her and to Garak.
He couldn't remember the last time he'd been called by his given name, and he had certainly never heard it said with such affection and warmth. This other Elim must be very different from him. He wondered what his life was like. Was he well-loved by everyone, or just this one man? What had he done to earn such apparent devotion? He unconsciously touched his fingers to his lips. The Terran had been so soft, and so warm.
He shook himself out of it. It was useless to speculate about such things; this universe was the one he lived in, and he had clawed out a place for himself in it. That place had no room for Terran lovers, no matter how warm they were. He was not someone who indulged in that sort of decadence; that was the Intendant's weakness, and it would be her undoing eventually. Garak had ambitions that he was determined to fulfill.
By nighttime, Garak had convinced himself that he didn't care what happened to the Terran. He would probably die within the week anyway, since he didn't look like he was used to hard labor. That was probably for the best. He went to bed and did not dream; he had trained himself out of dreams a long time ago.
The next day, he went back to his normal routine of patrolling the ore processing area. The night's rest had done him good; he was able to shake off the previous day and dismiss it as an anomaly. Terrans were disgusting, devious creatures, he reminded himself. He'd been caught off-guard, but he wouldn't let it happen again.
Or so he told himself. Around mid-afternoon, he sought out Odo to discuss some business with him. He found the supervisor enthusiastically disciplining a Terran, which was not unusual. He would normally think nothing of it, but the Terran in question was his Terran. He was lying on the floor, his clothing torn and dirty. He did not appear conscious. Odo was kicking him in the ribs.
"Stop!" Garak said. "What are you doing?"
"This one was being insolent," Odo said. "I'm teaching him obedience."
"Well, he's not likely to learn anything while he's unconscious, is he?" Garak snapped. He knelt down beside the Terran and put two fingers to his throat, feeling for a pulse. He was still alive, but badly beaten. "Why were you beating him?" he asked as he continued to examine him.
"He was lagging behind. I told him to pick up the pace and he ignored me. I thought a thrashing would convince him to be less lazy, but it appears I was wrong."
He put an arm under the Terran's shoulders and tilted him upright. His eyes appeared sunken, and his skin was very dry. "He's dehydrated, you idiot," Garak said.
"Since when have you cared about the well-being of a Terran?"
A very good question. "Since when have you talked back to your superiors?" Garak shot back. "Do you know what I spent most of yesterday doing? Going over reports about how stunningly inefficient this station is. We should be producing ore at twice our current capacity. I've been wracking my brain as to what the problem may be, and I think I may have found it. I know that you're some freak of nature with no physical needs, but actual living beings need food, water and rest. Do you understand that, or is your brain as gloppy as the rest of you?"
Odo was taken aback, which is exactly what Garak had been aiming for. "I'm sorry, sir," he said. "I assure you, I make sure they are adequately watered and fed. But this one has been insolent from the very start. You should have heard the way he spoke to me yesterday."
"What's his name?"
"He said he didn't have a designation."
"I didn't ask for his designation – I asked you for his name. Can you answer a simple question, or are you even more dangerously incompetent than I thought?"
"No, sir," Odo said.
"No, you're not incompetent; or no, you can't answer a simple question?"
"I'm not incompetent," Odo said, scrambling. "His name – yes, I remember. Julian Bashir."
"Julian," Garak echoed. At that, the Terran's eyes fluttered open. They were golden brown, with flecks of green. He met Garak's gaze for a moment, and then lost consciousness again, his head lolling against Garak's chest. Garak put his other arm under his knees and lifted him off of the ground. Odo looked at him like he had lost his mind. Perhaps he had.
"Are you going to interrogate him?" Odo asked haltingly. "I can have someone assist you in moving him – "
"What I'm going to do with him is none of your business," Garak said. "You would do well to remember that you are nothing more than a pile of slime some Bajoran scientist scraped off of a piece of space debris. You're a useful tool, nothing more. Do the job you've been given, or we'll find a different tool."
That ought to leave him sufficiently terrified of speaking about this to anyone. Garak knew this would probably get back to the Intendant eventually, but he was hoping for some undisturbed time to figure out what exactly he was doing. He really had no idea why he had saved the Terran; he only knew that he could not watch him die. He looked down at the man in his arms. Julian. What a lovely name.
He took the roundabout way back to his quarters. A few Klingon officers saw him, but they were all ones loyal to him; most of the Klingons were. He brought the Terran through the door and laid him on the sofa. Fortunately, he kept a medical kit in his room; his line of work often left him with minor injuries, and he didn't trust the station's Bajoran medic. He retrieved the kit and returned to Julian's side.
A quick hypospray took care of his dehydration; his other injuries required more care. He gave him another hypospray with a sedative to keep him still while he repaired his broken ribs. He removed Julian's torn clothing in as clinical a fashion as he could muster (he was many things, but a rapist wasn't one of them). There were cuts and bruises all over his body; Garak healed each and every one of them. When the healing was finished, Garak returned to the washroom to fetch a cloth and a basin of warm water. He cleaned the dirt, blood and sweat from the Terran's skin with a tenderness he hadn't known he was capable of.
With that finished, he searched for some clothing. He settled on some of his own night clothes. The trousers were a little too short and the shirt was much too broad in the shoulders, but it worked for now. He carried him into the bedroom and laid him on the bed. As much as he would like to remain there until he regained consciousness, he knew that it wasn't possible. He had a reputation of never failing in his duties; to skip out on them again would raise suspicions. This was already a foolish indulgence; there was no need to make it worse by broadcasting it to people who could use it against him.
In fact, perhaps he should engage in a little preemptive damage control. He tapped his badge. "Garak to Telok."
Telok responded immediately. "Yes, sir?"
"Bring a proximity restraint to my quarters."
"Right away, sir."
After a short time, Telok arrived with the restraint in hand. "As you requested, sir."
Without another word, Telok turned to leave. Garak liked Telok. He possessed a natural dearth of curiosity that he found laudable. This time, however, he needed Telok to take more interest. "Before you go, there's something I want to share with you, but I would like you to be discreet. I've brought the Terran who arrived in the shuttle craft yesterday here, and I'm going to keep him. I think that he could prove useful in securing both of our futures on this station."
There was no need to spell out what he meant; he and Telok collaborated on a regular basis on how to get rid of the Intendant once and for all. "How do you mean, sir?"
"You've heard of the famous transporter accident, I trust?"
"This Terran is from that universe, as is the woman who looks like the Intendant. We might be able to use him as leverage with the other Kira to get her to aid us."
Telok smiled; it was not a pretty sight. "I can see how that could be useful."
"Indeed. I'll keep you informed of my progress."
Telok left. What Garak had said hadn't been untrue – he did have plans to use the other Kira, and the Terran might very well prove useful. Hopefully, telling Telok of those plans would insure that no one suspected any other motivation for keeping the Terran – Julian – here.
He went back to the bedroom and placed the receiver of the restraint on one of the bed legs before putting the cuff of the restraint on Julian's ankle. He set the proximity for a few meters. The restraint would allow Julian to walk as far as the washroom, but no farther. He made sure that there was nothing in his reach that could be used to tamper with the restraint. Lastly, he replicated some bread and a glass of water and put it by the bed; Julian would probably be hungry, and he was also hoping that when he saw that food had been left for him, he'd infer that Garak meant him no harm. After a moment's thought, he decided he should make that sentiment more explicit. He grabbed a padd and wrote him a brief note: I've healed your injuries. I will return as soon as I am able. He paused briefly before signing it Elim. He felt a little thrill at that.
With that settled, Garak returned to the processing center. He found Odo speaking with a blond Terran man. He was one of the good ones – quiet, serious, and obedient, with a talent for fixing things. The Terran was explaining that one of the machine's thorium containment cells needed to be upgraded. Garak was about to order him to make the necessary repairs when Sisko, the insufferable Terran pirate that the Intendant was enamored of, burst into the station with his unruly crew. He insisted that he needed the blond Terran to fix his ship. His arrogance made Garak's teeth grind, but there was nothing he could do. When he overthrew the Intendant, his first order would be to have Sisko and his crew pushed out an airlock.
Garak hoped the rest of the day would be uneventful, but that was unfortunately not the case. Just before he was about to leave for the evening, the machine the useful Terran had warned them about exploded. A piece of flying shrapnel hit Garak in the back. His armor protected him from serious damage, but it still managed to pierce through to his skin, leaving him with a painful, bleeding cut. Several Terrans were also injured, and one was killed. It was annoying in the extreme; every dead Terran required a report, and the injured ones would seriously hurt productivity. He left Odo to clean up the mess as he retreated to his quarters.
He unclasped his armor as soon as he walked in the door. With difficulty, he reached back to touch the wound; his hand came away black. It was worse than he thought. He was so distracted that he almost forgot about the Terran in the bedroom until he walked in. He was awake and sitting on the bed.
"Ah – hello," Julian said awkwardly.
"Hello," Garak said with just as much awkwardness.
Julian's gaze fell on Garak's hand. "That's blood," he said. "Are you injured?"
"A cut on my back," Garak said. "A machine malfunctioned and I was hit with debris."
"I could look at if, if you like. I'm a doctor."
He hesitated briefly before he went to fetch the medical kit. He handed it to Julian, then removed his shirt and sat down beside him. This was, without question, the stupidest thing he'd ever done; he was starting to seriously doubt his own sanity. He jumped when he felt Julian's gentle touch on his back.
"It doesn't seem too serious," he said. "I think it nicked an artery, though." He ran an instrument over the cut. "There. All better."
Garak turned to look at him; their gazes met briefly. Julian's eyes really were remarkably lovely. Garak turned away and stood up. "I should clean up." He walked to the washroom as quickly as possible without it looking like he was fleeing, pausing briefly to retrieve a set of leisure clothes from the bureau.
He stepped into the shower. Within a few minutes, he was clean and dressed again. He took a moment to compose himself before entering the bedroom again. His heart was beating a little faster, and his stomach felt fluttery. It was completely ridiculous – he was the second-in-command of a space station, not a lovesick school boy. He reminded himself that he was in control here, and the Terran was his to do with as his pleased.
"So," he said as he entered the bedroom. "You're awake." He mentally kicked himself – of all the stupid things to say. Of course he was awake.
Julian gave him a small smile. "Yes," he said. "My name is Julian, by the way. We didn't really have a proper introduction."
"You don't remember me bringing you here?"
He shook his head. "The last thing I remember was Odo pulling me out of line and beating me. I passed out fairly quickly. You did a good job patching me up, incidentally. I was quite the worse for wear."
Garak made a gruff, noncommittal grunt in response. He retrieved the key to the restraint from the pocket of his uniform trousers and went over to the bed. "I'm going to set the limits of the restraint for a longer distance, but you still won't be able to reach the door. It would do you no good to try to run off, anyway. You'd only be caught and brought back here, and that would put me in a very disagreeable mood. Do you understand?" Julian nodded. Satisfied, Garak reset the restraint. He was going to ask him if he was still hungry, but that was another moronic statement. He also didn't want to appear as if he was catering to him, so instead he said, "You will join me for dinner at the table."
They moved to the dining area of his quarters. After Julian sat down, Garak went to the living area and hid the key well out of Julian's reach. He then went to the replicator. What should he order? He still didn't want to seem like he cared too much about Julian's comfort, so he should probably just order what he usually ate. Then again, it wasn't as if Julian knew what his tastes were, so he could get away with ordering something Julian might also like without it seeming like he cared. Of course, he had no idea what Terrans liked in the first place...
He was starting to get a headache. Why was everything so complicated all of a sudden? He settled on a Bajoran dish. Everyone liked Bajoran food – they were ruthless bastards, but they did know their food. He retrieved a bottle of his best kanar. Julian wouldn't know that Garak could barely afford it; perhaps he would be impressed that Garak could afford to waste such a luxury on a simple meal.
He set the plates on the table along with two glasses of water and additional glasses for the kanar. Julian began eating immediately with great gusto. As he ate, his shirt slipped off of his right shoulder in a tantalizing manner. Garak tried not to stare.
After Julian cleaned his plate, he downed his water in one long gulp. Garak poured him a glass of kanar. "So tell me," Garak said. "What happened to you after you were taken to the processing area?"
Julian took the glass. "The Klingon dragged me in front of Odo. He kept asking for my designation; I had no bloody idea what that meant and I told him so, but he kept slapping me. It was terrible. He also made a very rude comment when I told him I was a doctor. The Odo on my side is not particularly genial, but he's a social butterfly compared to this one. I was thrown into work without the slightest indication of what it was I was supposed to do, and no one would talk to me at all."
Garak took a sip of his kanar to avoid smiling; Julian sounded more indignant than traumatized. Normally, he hated that sort of arrogance in a Terran, but with Julian, he found it rather adorable. "No one told you anything - not even the other Terrans?"
"No. I think they were afraid to be seen speaking with me, and who can blame them? I have never seen such appalling treatment."
Since no one had told Julian differently, Garak was free to make his own narrative. "Yes, it is appalling. I try to avoid the processing center as much as I can, but my duties often find me there. I knew when I was given this assignment it wouldn't be pleasant, but I had no idea exactly how awful this station would be. The Intendant is a cruel woman; she forbids any aid to the Terrans. I do what I can here and there, but I'm afraid it doesn't make much of a difference. She enjoys their suffering."
A look of relief came over Julian's face. Garak took another sip of his kanar to hide his pleasure at Julian's willingness to believe him. "How awful," Julian said. "I can't get over the strangeness of things here; the Kira in my universe is a wonderful person. It's difficult to think of any incarnation of her as someone as terrible as your Intendant seems."
"Am I much different from your Elim?" Garak asked in what he hoped was a casual manner.
It was Julian's turn to stall with a sip of kanar. "I'm not sure yet," he said after a moment.
"You and he are lovers, aren't you?"
"Yes," Julian said. He seemed to notice his bare shoulder suddenly and adjusted his shirt to cover it. "So is there another Julian Bashir running around this station?" he said, very obviously changing the subject.
"Not that I'm aware."
"Good. I don't think I could handle meeting another me – I've had enough strangeness for one day."
Neither of them said anything for a few moments. Julian was the one to break the silence. "I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but I'm curious as to why you saved me."
Garak decided that declaring his attraction would not go over well, so he stuck with his other story. "I have a proposal for you," Garak said. "I assume that you want to return to your own universe, yes?"
"And I would like nothing more than to dispose the Intendant. I think that we might be able to help each other. Do you think your Kira would be willing to help us as well?"
"You want her to take the Intendant's place," Julian said.
"You catch on quickly. I've been trying to knock her off her throne for years, but she's annoyingly resilient. And even if I were to succeed, the power struggle afterward would be unpleasant to say the least. However, if the reigns of power were willingly handed over to me..."
"I see," Julian said. "And you'd help us leave after that."
"This plan would involve killing her, wouldn't it," Julian said.
"Is that a problem?"
"I'm a doctor. My business is to heal people, not kill them."
Garak wasn't sure what to say at first. A reverence for life was not something that he encountered very often. "If you don't help me stop her, she'll continue hurting and killing countless more Terrans."
"I realize that. It's still not a decision I'd make lightly."
"Of course," Garak said. "Think on it for a bit. But don't take too long."
Julian finished his kanar. "So what happens now?" he asked.
"I'm sure you're tired. You should get some rest."
"Where? In your bed?"
"Your virtue is safe with me, if that's what you're worried about."
That got a laugh out of him. Garak would have to figure out how to make that happen again. "That's awfully trusting of you. How do you know I won't try to hurt you in an escape attempt?"
"You'll notice that I haven't offered to remove your restraint. Harming me wouldn't get you very far. And I'm your best chance to get home. Why would you jeopardize that?"
"And how do I know you won't harm me?"
"Because you're my best chance of overthrowing the Intendant. I've been waiting a very long time for an opportunity like this, and I need your cooperation. Besides, why would I go to the trouble of healing you if I was only going to hurt you again?"
Julian considered him for a moment. "I believe you," he finally decided. He stood up and walked to the bedroom door. "I think I'll take a shower if that's all right with you."
Julian entered the bedroom and closed the door. A few moments later, Garak heard the water running. He decided he should work on some of those mind-numbing reports – anything to distract him from thoughts of a wet, naked Julian in the next room. Julian used about twenty minutes worth of hot water, which took up his ration for the week; Garak was surprised to find that he didn't mind in the slightest. He waited another half an hour before entering the bedroom. Julian was laid out on the bed on his stomach, fast asleep. His shirt was slightly raised, exposing a sliver of skin along his back. His hair was still damp.
Garak was struck with a surge of arousal so strong he had to steady himself against the wall. He went to the washroom and turned on the shower. All that was left was cold water, which was fine since that's what he needed. It still wasn't enough to thwart his desire, so he relieved himself with a few quick strokes of his hand.
After putting on his night clothes, he went to retrieve the restraint key. He reset the proximity for a smaller distance, then hid the key again. He returned to the bedroom. Julian was monopolizing most of the bed, but Garak managed to squeeze himself onto one side. He watched Julian sleep for awhile; it amazed him that it had been so easy to gain his trust. The universe he came from must be a much brighter place, where trust was a given rather than something rarely earned.
He reached out and stroked a finger lightly along his cheek; he couldn't help himself. Julian sighed and turned his head, but did not wake up. Garak rolled over so that his back was facing Julian, lest he be tempted to go further. Garak would have him, and he would make sure Julian was willing; he didn't know how he was going to accomplish that, but he'd find a way.