Garak felt Julian's absence before he even opened his eyes. The bed was cold; it was amazing how accustomed he'd grown to Julian's warmth in so short a time. He reached over to the emptiness beside him for a panicked moment before bolting out of bed.
Julian was sitting at the dining table, sipping a cup of tea and reading a padd. He looked up when Garak entered the room. "Good morning. I was starting to think you weren't getting up."
Garak tried not to show how relieved he was to find him still there. "What time is it?"
He sat down across from Julian. "I never sleep this late," he muttered, resting his head on his hand. The initial surge of adrenalin he'd woken up with was fading, leaving him feeling groggy and a little disoriented.
"You looked comfortable; I didn't want to wake you," Julian said. "Would you like some tea?"
Garak blinked. "How did you manage the replicator? It's protected by a security code."
"Oh, I got around it," he said vaguely as he made his way to the replicator.
"You...got around it?"
Julian only made a non-committal noise in response. He ordered the tea and handed it to Garak. "Here you are - hope Tarkalean's all right." Garak nodded absently. "I borrowed some clothes," he added, changing the subject. "Hope you don't mind."
"Yes, of course."
Julian sat back down and returned to his tea, allowing Garak a few moments to fully wake up. He didn't leave, Garak thought. He wasn't wearing the restraint, and yet he didn't leave. Surely that counted for something.
"So I've thought of a plan," Julian said once Garak had finished his tea. "You should somehow get a message to Major Kira to meet us at Quark's. We can stagger it so we don't arrive at the same time, and then meet up in one of the holosuites. Then we can discuss our next move. What do you think?"
Garak took a few moments to respond. "Yes," he said hesitantly. "Fine. That would be - fine." It would most definitely not be fine, but he couldn't think of a reason to deny him.
Julian smiled. "Excellent. It will have to wait until the evening, I suppose – it would look strange for you to be hauling me off to the holosuites in the middle of the day. I hate waiting around here all day, but I don't have much of choice, really."
Garak didn't respond. "I should get dressed," he said, rising from the table. He retreated to the bedroom. His mind raced as he pulled on his clothes. He had the rest of the day to think of a way out of it – hopefully that would be enough.
He had to go out to the living area to finish getting dressed, as his armor and weapons belt were still in a heap on the floor by the sofa. He felt a brief pang of arousal as he remembered how they ended up there; he quashed it as quickly as he could. He couldn't afford distractions. After he was suited up, he returned to the dining area. He saw the restraining device on the floor by the table where he'd left it. He picked it up.
"Perhaps you should put this back on," he said as casually as he could manage. "In case the Intendant comes for you – she can't take you if you're wearing this."
Julian pressed his lips together. "If she had planned on taking me, why did she send me back to your quarters last night? I think we're safe for the day, at least."
"You know how volatile she is. She might change her mind."
"Then I suppose you'll have to come rescue me."
"But – "
"I'm not putting that thing back on," Julian said sharply.
What else could he do? He couldn't force it on him without destroying the rapport they'd built. He tucked it away in a drawer in his bedroom. He emerged from the bedroom again. "I should go," he said.
Julian stood up and approached him. "You are going to do this, aren't you?" Julian said.
Julian gave him a searching look. Garak tried to look sincere. "All right, then," Julian said. He gave him a little smile. "You can manage it, I'm sure."
Garak knew he was probably pushing it, but he leaned in for a kiss. Julian stepped back, avoiding it. He gave Garak a pat on the arm. "Good luck," he said.
After Garak was out the door, he walked a little ways down the hall before tapping his comm badge. "Garak to Telok."
"Sir," came the reply.
"Do you still have guards stationed at Major Kira's room?"
"No. The Intendant dismissed them last night."
"Why wasn't I informed?"
"I tried, sir. You weren't responding. I assumed you must have been...busy."
Was that a touch of insolence in his voice? He decided to ignore it. "I need a guard for my room this morning."
"To watch the Terran," Telok said. It wasn't really a question.
There was a slight pause. "My men have many other duties to attend to," he said.
Garak was taken aback. Telok had never been anything buy unquestionably obedient. "I'm sure they do, but I require one to be here. Immediately."
"Understood," came the curt reply.
"And I expect you in my office this morning. Garak out."
It was a good fifteen minutes before a guard arrived. He was a very young Klingon whom Garak couldn't recall seeing before.
"Turmal, reporting for duty, sir," he said.
Garak looked him over. He was barely more than a child. He had unusually large ears and was slightly cross-eyed. "Are you new?"
"Yes, sir. Just arrived yesterday, sir."
Garak gritted his teeth and tried to repress his annoyance. "You are to guard this door. No one goes in or comes out without my authorization. Do you understand?"
Well, at least he seemed enthusiastic. Garak made his way to his office. Once he was there, he sat down at his desk and picked up a padd, scrolling through the notes Odo had left him as he always did. He couldn't concentrate, however, and he still couldn't think of a way around Julian's plan. Julian and Major Kira could not under any circumstances be allowed to speak to one another – she would tell him everything Garak didn't want him to know. Besides, it wasn't as if Kira would agree to meet with him anyway, given how their last encounter went.
However, he felt sure that Julian wouldn't respond well to any excuses, and it was becoming increasingly apparent that he would not stick around voluntarily for much longer. Julian had a number of unexpected resources: he was clever (how had he bypassed the replicator's security system?); he was determined; and he was brave to the point of foolishness, as the previos night had shown. Garak had no hope of keeping him here without use of excessive force, which would of course ruin things between them. How could he get him to stay of his own free will? Was it even possible?
At first he thought of arranging for an accident for Major Kira, but that spoiled his plans of deposing the Intendant, and as long as the Intendant was around, Julian would be in danger. On the other hand, the threat of the Intendant might be good enough to keep Julian with him, for the time being. He'd been planning on overthrowing the Intendant for a long time now; perhaps he should forget this newest plan and start working on the old ones.
As he was lost in thought, the chime on his door sounded.
Telok stepped into the room and stood at attention in front of Garak's desk. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Yes," Garak said. "I would like a complete report on what your men observed last night. Did the Major have any visitors? Did she leave her quarters at any point?"
"No on both accounts."
"When were they dismissed?"
"0100, by the Intendant herself. She was not pleased."
"Did she set up her own guards?"
"No, she insisted that the other Kira was a guest and should not be treated in such a way."
"Interesting. Thank you, you are dismissed."
Telok didn't move. "I must speak with you about something."
"Oh? And what is that?"
"Your behavior in the past few days has me concerned."
Garak looked Telok in the eye, but did not rise from his desk. "And what, pray tell, about my behavior do you find troubling?" he said.
"You know of what I speak: this Terran." Telok nearly spat the word. "You say that he's a part of your plan to overthrow the Intendant. And yet, last night, you had him on your lap. You were caressing him."
"All part of a ploy," Garak said. "The Intendant mustn't expect what we have planned."
"So you say," Telok sounded skeptical. "Why do you need a guard for your door?"
"If the Intendant catches whiff of our plan, she'll have him detained. He's too important to the plan for that to happen."
"I thought you had him restrained. She wouldn't be able to take him if that were the case."
"The situation is delicate," Garak said. "I have to have his trust."
"So what is this grand plan of yours?"
"You know all you need to know for now."
"So this Terran is a pawn to you – nothing more?"
Telok placed his hands on Garak's desk and leaned forward. "Then why can I smell him all over you?"
Curse the Klingon's and their superior sense of smell, Garak thought. He slowly rose from his desk and leaned in until they were face to face. "What I chose to do with my prisoner is none of your concern," he said, his voice low and dangerous. "I have earned his trust. That's important."
"I see. And that must be the reason that when someone tried to touch him last night, you lept to his defense like a father protecting the virtue of his virgin daughter."
"Are you accusing me of something?" Garak said.
"You didn't respond to my call last night. You were late to your duties today. You are letting this Terran whore distract you!"
In the blink of an eye, Garak grabbed Telok by his hair and slammed his head on the desk. Another blink and his knife was at Telok's throat. "This is the last time you will speak to me in such a disrespectful manner. I am your commanding officer, and I will soon control this station. You do not question me. You obey me without hesitation. Do you understand?"
Telok nodded the best he could. Garak released him. He sat down and returned his attention to his padd. "You are dismissed."
Telok sneered at him before he turned to leave, but Garak maintained his composure. Inside, he was seething; the last thing he needed was a mutiny. He sighed; it was too bad he'd lost a dependable ally, but he'd cowed him into obedience at least. Klingons respected violence. Telok would behave himself – for now.
He had just gotten finished settling himself again when he received a summons to the Intendant's chambers. He braced himself and made his way there; whatever she wanted was bound to be unpleasant.
When Garak arrived, the Intendant was up and pacing around her opulent room. She wasn't yet dressed, still clad in a silk dressing robe. Sisko was there as well, lounging on a sofa. He, too, was not completely dressed, wearing a pair of loose trousers and a breezy silk shirt that he hadn't buttoned. "She's gone," The Intendant said as soon as Garak entered. "I sent for her an hour ago and she wasn't in her quarters. I have everyone scouring the station, but so far, nothing."
"The Major, you mean."
"Of course the Major! Who else would I be talking about?" She glared at him. "Do you know something about it?"
"Only that she was safely tucked away in her chambers last night when my guards were on duty."
"And what business did you have putting guards on her?"
"Because clearly you didn't have the sense of mind to do it! She is looking to escape, you know."
"No, she isn't! Or if she is, it's only because you and your Terran slut put ideas into her head. She was perfectly happy until that debacle last night!"
Garak scoffed. "And now who's being blind?"
The Intendant waved a hand in annoyance. "Oh, shut up. She doesn't have anywhere to go, at least. She's somewhere on this station; it's just a manner of finding her. And then maybe I will assign someone to...show her around. So she doesn't get lost. How about you, Benjamin?"
"Nothing would please me more," Sisko said in his usual languid manner. Garak caught himself staring at the man's bare chest. Sisko looked up and gave him a wink. It was so surprising that Garak took a half-step backward. Sisko's mouth stretched into a grin briefly. Garak wasn't sure if he was making fun of him, or if they had somehow shared a private joke.
The Intendant didn't notice the exchange; she was too busy pacing around the room and grumbling. "This is just great. Just what I need. Why do these things always happen to me?"
Just then, the door chimed.
"Oh, what now?" the Intendant said. "Well, what's taking you so long? Enter!"
Glinn Dukat stepped in the door. "Intendant," he said. "How glorious you're looking this morning."
"Skip the ass-kissing – I'm not in the mood," the Intendant snapped. "What do you want?"
The Glinn cleared his throat. "There's something that I thought should be brought to your attention – just a minor little glitch, really, but better safe than sorry, as I always say."
"Get on with it."
"Well." He paused, gathered up his courage, and continued. "You see, I was on the night shift at docking last night, and we've been having these glitches lately. Nothing major – our sensors go out for a minute or two, but they pop right back on-line, no harm done. I've talked several times with both Odo and the Gul here, but they are both very busy men, which I quite understand..."
"Get to the point, you sniveling ninny."
"Right," Dukat said. "As I was saying – it was a quiet night, and we weren't expecting any arrivals or departures. There was a glitch at about 0400. However, this morning I was doing inventory, and it seems that..." He cleared his throat again. "It seem that there's a shuttlecraft missing."
The Intendant became very still. "A missing shuttlecraft?" she said.
"Yes – a very small one," he said, as if the size of the vessel somehow made it understandable that it had been lost. "But perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe there was an error in the inventory – "
The Intendant grabbed whatever object was closest, which turned out to be a hand mirror, and flung it at Dukat's head. He managed to duck it. "An error in inventory? An error in inventory? Odo himself takes all the inventory and he does not make mistakes! Which means someone has escaped! On your watch!" A shoe followed the mirror; this time, she hit her mark. "You incompetent idiot! Out! Get out of my sight before I have you thrown out an airlock!" The Glinn didn't have to be told twice; he sprinted from the room.
The Intendant let out a truly frightening roar of frustration. "That lousy, ungrateful little bitch – how dare she?"
She continued ranting, but Garak barely heard her. He tried to keep a straight face, but inside he was ecstatic. She'd left without him! He couldn't have asked for a better outcome. And security would be increased for the forseeable future – there was no possible way that Julian could make an attempt to leave now. Surely he would see that.
And in the meantime, they would have every night together, every morning...Julian had been reluctant earlier, but now that the circumstances had changed he would be more agreeable, wouldn't he? And he would be devastated by the betrayal of his friend; he would need a sympathetic ear, a shoulder to lean on. He would fall into Garak's sympathetic arms; he would have no choice. He had no one else to turn to.
The Intendant whipped around to face Garak. "Where's your Terran?"
"Safe in my quarters, as of 0800," Garak said, not able to keep a bit of smugness out of his voice. "Well before the shuttlecraft vanished. I know a thing or two about keeping prisoners secure."
The Intendant narrowed her eyes at him. "And what makes you so sure he's still there?"
"I have a guard on the door," Garak said. He tapped his comm badge. "Garak to Turmal."
"Is the prisoner still secure?"
He didn't reply right away. "I assume so?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"Well – the Intendant came to get it about twenty minutes ago, so – "
"What? Did I not specifically tell you that no one was to enter or leave that room without my say-so?"
"Yes, but – it was the Intendant. I didn't think she counted in that."
Garak cut the comm line off with a snarl.
It was the Intendant's turn to look smug. "Oh yes, you certainly know a thing or two. Maybe, however, if you're going to be second-in-command, you should learn three or four things. Maybe even five."
Garak glared at her, but she just laughed. "Cheer up, Garak – this is good news! That means neither of them were on that shuttlecraft. That means they're still here, somewhere; it's just a matter of finding them. So get to it – do that thing you do best. Start asking some questions. You may be shit at security, but you are easily the most persuasive person I know."
"Believe me, I will," Garak said. He felt sick with anger, and right now, he needed an outlet. He left the Intendant's quarters, his mind already coming up with a suspect list. He felt like his heart was breaking, but he shoved that feeling aside. He didn't know what he would do once he found Julian, but find him he would. That was something he was sure of.
Aside from the Major and Julian, there were twenty Terran slaves missing. Over the past year, they'd been having problems with runaways, but it was usually only two or three at a time. This was the largest amount that had ever gone missing at once. Interestingly enough, more than half of the missing Terrans were Quark's girls. It didn't take a master detective to determine there was something odd about that, so Garak had Quark brought in for questioning.
Garak watched him through the two-way window of the interrogation room. The Ferengi sat calmly, his hands folded on the table in front of him. A little too calmly, as far as Garak was concerned; as long as Garak had known him, Quark had been a nervous little toad, serving his customers with exaggerated deference. Being dragged in for questioning should have made him a quivering puddle of nerves, and yet he seemed composed. Like a man who had given careful thought to what his story was going to be.
This questioning was only a formality. Garak knew that he was the one who was aiding the Terran's escape. He felt a cold rage as he examined the man. He was the one who made Julian's escape possible. And he was going to pay.
Garak entered the room. He didn't look at Quark at first, instead keeping his attention on his padd. Eventually, he looked up.
"So, Quark," he said, keeping his tone conversational. "You've had a bit of a rough day, haven't you? So many of your girls, gone without a trace."
"Yes, it's a great inconvenience," he said. "My profits will take a beating this week."
"You don't seem too upset by that."
"Of course I'm upset," he said. "But there's no sense in losing my head over it. I run a very profitable business; the girls I lost are easily replaced. Some of them were getting too old, anyway." He gave Garak a smile; with all of those pointy teeth, it was a gruesome sight. "Perhaps I'll get a couple of boys this time around as well."
If he thought he would win points with Garak with that little line, he was sorely mistaken. "Surely it bothers you that they were plotting an escape right under your nose," he continued.
"I was too lenient, it's true. I'll be more careful in the future."
"I'm curious – why didn't you report them missing right away? The shuttlecraft left at around 0400, and yet we were the ones who had to tell you they were gone."
"I let my girls sleep in," Quark said. "They work late nights. And truth be told, I sleep late, too. There's not much to do in the mornings." He stood up. "Are we finished here? I have a lot to do if I want to get my business up and running again."
"Just a few more questions," Garak said. "Have a seat, please."
He sank reluctantly to his chair. Garak turned his attention back to his padd and scrolled through it. "I took the liberty of looking through some of your shipments for the past six months. I hope you don't mind."
The Ferengi shrugged, but Garak noticed that he had started to sweat a little. "I don't see how that relates to the matter at hand, but if it pleases you. I have nothing to hide."
"I see a lot of shipments for food – for the restaurant portion of your business, I imagine."
"Naturally. People come to Quark's for a taste of the exotic that can't be provided by the replicators."
"But among the shipments are several large orders for field rations. That seems strange – why would a restaurant need field rations?"
It took Quark a moment to respond. "This station never struck me as particularly stable. Something could go wrong. What if there's a problem with the replicators? I'm a businessman, as I've said – I like to prepare for all eventualities. A station without access to replicators, with me controlling the only source of nourishment? That would be extremely profitable."
"I see." Garak returned his attention to the padd. He wasn't really reading it anymore, but he let Quark stew for several minutes. "I also see orders for clothing."
"For my girls. I have to keep them well-dressed. It's good for business."
"Yes, I see in the inventory many fine dresses. But you also ordered other kinds of clothing – quite plain, more suited to workers."
"My girls do have off hours, you know."
"Do they spend them in men's trousers?"
Quark said nothing in response. Garak continued. "Were you aware that we've been having a runaway problem? Every few weeks, a couple of our Terran workers go missing. We think they're stowing away on ships leaving the station."
"I'd heard rumors. Didn't have a lot to do with me so I never gave them much thought."
"It's been very vexing. Often, those slaves will disappear days before any ship comes into port, which means they have to be hiding somewhere in the station. But where could they be hiding?"
Quark swallowed. "I wouldn't know."
"Do you know what I think?" Garak asked. Quark shook his head. "I think that you are the one helping these Terrans get away."
Quark did not deny it. He also didn't confess. He said nothing at all, staring straight at the wall in front of him.
Garak gave an elaborate sigh. "We are going to need to talk about this, Quark. Would you care to start? Perhaps get something off your chest?"
Quark continued to say nothing.
"Then I guess we're going to have to do this the hard way."
Garak worked on Quark on and off for the rest of the day, hitting him hard and then leaving him to stew in his misery before hitting him hard again. He was proving surprisingly difficult to break, but no matter. He would break eventually. They always did.
He returned after dinner and took a survery of the Ferengi's condition; he was a sorry sight. Garak had beaten his face first – he was curious if it were possible to make it uglier. It turned out it was. His nose had swollen even larger than normal. He'd lost several of his sharp little teeth. One of his lobes was torn. He had screamed mightily when Garak had sliced it with his knife; Garak had always heard that the lobes of Ferengi's were especially sensitive.
Garak had bolted his hands to the table after that. They were almost completely ruined at this point. He didn't bother greeting him again as he entered the room. He simply walked over and snapped the last of the his fingers. Quark didn't have much energy left to scream, but he gave it his best effort. "Stop," he pleaded. "please, stop..."
"I would love to stop," Garak said. "Believe me, I would. But you keep insisting that you know nothing. Now we both know that's not true, is it?"
The Ferengi's head lolled forward. Garak gave him a light slap on the face. "No passing out now, Quark. We haven't finished our conversation. And quite frankly, I'm getting a little annoyed that you're wasting my time."
The Ferengi looked at him through his swollen eyes. "Time," he said. "Yes, the time...what is the time?"
Garak didn't see any reason not to answer. "Around 1700, I think."
The Ferengi started to laugh weakly. "Then you're too late! They're gone – gone for good."
"My girls," he slurred. It was hard to understand him; maybe Garak shouldn't have hit him around the mouth so much, but knocking out those disgusting pointy teeth had been too tempting. "They took the shuttlecraft, met one of my suppliers...and now they're light-years away. And you'll never be able to find them." He laughed again. A little blood dribbled out of the corner of his mouth.
"You're wrong," Garak lied. "I just heard – the ship was captured. Your girls are being brought back here as we speak."
At that, Quark began to howl. It was one of the worst sounds Garak had ever heard – high-pitched and grating. He clapped his hands over his ears. "Stop it!" he shouted, but Quark only wailed louder. Garak grabbed him by the shoulder with one hand and slapped him with the other. "Stop it and listen – their lives can be spared, but you must listen."
Quark stopped his wailing, but he continued to sob pitifully, his shoulders slumped and his head sagging in defeat. It was what Garak had been waiting for; the man was officially broken. He put a hand on Quark's chin and lifted it until he could look him in the eye. "Shhh," he said kindly. "Stop crying. It's all right. It's over now – I won't hurt you anymore. You've been very brave – "
"No," Quark said, laughing again. "No, I haven't. I'm a coward, always a coward for all these years, watching what they did to them – to my girls. Every night what they did to them, how they suffered and I did nothing. Patched them up and sent them back. Closed my door so I couldn't hear them cry. My girls, my girls..." His face was wet with tears and blood.
"There, there," Garak said. "It's all right."
But Quark was somewhere else now, a dreamy look on his ruined face. "Katy was so clever – things were always breaking and we never got any help. It didn't matter, though – she could fix anything if she put her mind to it. And Jodie could cook – she learned it as a slave for some Bajorn businessman; he squandered everything and sold her to pay some gambling debt. She was only fourteen. I didn't know that when I bought her, I swear it. And Keiko – oh Keiko." He closed his eyes. "She was my favorite. She always kept something green around – I don't know how she kept anything alive in this hell hole, but she always managed. She's going to have a baby. She says it's with another Terran, although I don't know how she knows. She says she'll name it after me if it's a boy." He laughed again. "I hope it's a girl."
"You just wanted to help them," Garak said soothingly. "And you can help them again now. Just tell me what you know about the ones from the other universe – Julian and Major Kira. They came to you for help, didn't they?"
Even at this point, Quark paused before answering. "Yes," he said finally. "Kira came to me."
"She was too late for the shuttlecraft, wasn't she?"
"Yes, it had already left."
"But you told her you would help her."
"I gave her field rations, some clothes that would help her blend in. There's a hidden room along the maintenance shafts in the habitat ring. I keep extra supplies there. I told her they could hide there until I could arrange for them to get away..." He started to weep again. "Is that enough to save my girls?"
"Yes," Garak said. "Yes, that will do."
Garak turned to leave, but just before he went through the door, Quark spoke again. "Will you kill him?"
Garak turned around, surprised. "What?"
"I just want to know," Quark said, his voice still slurred and raw from screaming. "Do you plan to kill him?"
Garak paused. "No," he said.
"Then why don't you just let him go?"
"That's a rather impertinent question."
Quark laughed weakly. "What do I have to lose? I know I'm a dead man. If you care about him, you will let him go. He will never love you, not after this. You know that."
Garak didn't know what to say. He left the room without a backward glance. He ordered an underling to have Quark cleaned up and locked in a holding cell. As an afterthought, he ordered some medical care for him as well. The Intendant would most likely order him executed, but not until they found their runaways.
Garak should have been pleased. He'd won. He'd broken the man who had stolen his Julian, and now it was only a matter of time before Julian was back where he belonged. But that toad was right – Julian would hate him for this. He already hated him; Garak could only imagine what sort of poisonous truths the other Kira had told him to make him flee so quickly. Things would never be the same.
Still, it didn't matter. No matter how much Julian loathed him, it was better than him disappearing forever. He would still be his. That would have to be enough.