Title: Loving In Stitches
Category: TV Shows ยป StarTrek: Deep Space Nine
Author: strangeseraph
Language: English, Rating: Rated: K+
Genre: Romance/Hurt/Comfort
Published: 08-23-11, Updated: 11-11-11
Chapters: 4, Words: 18,522


Chapter 1: Chain Stitch


~I want to trying doing some one shots and drabbles and stuff to get my writing drive going again. My problem is that I've had so many multi-part stories going all at once that I've had a huge burnout. I just can't commit to so many huge bunnies at once. I'm now committed to one story at a time. I have a few more stories to finish up before I can start a new series of any kind. But one shots are easy and will help me practice. At least I'll be writing something! (And its a lot of fun just doing these one off concepts!)

So, please enjoy this!

Chain Stitch

Under. Over. Across. Under. Over...

"What are you doing?"

"I'm sewing, of course."

"I know, but I've never seen anything like that. You're even using a real needle and thread!"

Garak smiled, and turned to look at the handsome human who had entered his shop a few minutes ago. It was lunch time, and for the third time that month Garak was late in getting his work done.

Its hard to get any work done when dreams of a beautiful human Doctor are keeping you awake all night...

"Well, normally I use my sonic stitcher when I sew, but this is different."

"How?'

"Well this is embroidery. It is meant to be decorative, so I prefer to do it by hand. It encourages my creativity."

"It must take a lot more time though."

"Yes, but its rather soothing, and I have more of a sense of pride in my work when I do it by hand."

Julian smiled, one of his naive, interested smiles, his curiosity piqued. Garak had to stifle the urge to ravish the young human right where he stood.

"You really do enjoy being a tailor, don't you?"

"It has its moments," Garak decided, finishing the floral stitch with a tidy neat little knot.

The decorative chain stitch pattern he had sewn onto Chalan Aroya's new day dress may have been much more Terran than Bajoran in origin, but he was in a Terran sort of mood.

Perhaps tomorrow when Aroya visits my shop to pick up her dress, I'll invite Constable Odo to come and meet her. Perhaps they'll strike a match. Then maybe, just maybe, she'll stop giving Julian the eye...

"Ready?"

Ready. Julian was now smirking at him in that impish little way, and he had to force himself from leading Julian into the back room to 'show him some samples of his decorative embroidery'. No. He was not ready yet. Not yet. Until all the competition was out of the way, there would be no room in Julian's happy naive little world for somebody like Garak.

And Garak would be in Julian's world. He was certain of that now.

After all, if I can scare away Jadzia Dax, then certainly Chalan Aroya, and that little vixen Dabo Girl Leeta, should be simple to deal with.

"Yes, I am ready now. To the Replimat?"

"I was thinking Quark's today. You know Leeta keeps complaining that we don't see each other enough. Quark never gives her any time off."

Garak frowned, but masked his features into a cool, sympathetic look of gentle pity.

"Well then Quark's it is! Lest the fair lady tire of you and move her pretty gaze onto someone else..."

Julian raised an amused eyebrow at him and set off, and Garak quickly followed after him, launching into an anecdote about his recent troubles with acquiring genuine Inkarian wool for his recent order of Bajoran uniforms.

"They don't like replicated uniforms because of some Religious law, but they always complain about how itchy Inkarian wool is..."

Julian laughed, a bright bubbling sound, and turned to give Garak an achingly beautiful smile. Garak's heart was both simultaneously twisting with the agony of unrequited passion and turning steely and cold with his fierce determination.

Yes, tomorrow it begins. First Aroya and Odo, then hopefully, Leeta and that silly little Ferengi who has been pining over her since Quark hired her. All it takes is patience. And time.

Just like embroidery, each stitch of his plan sewn neatly into place. It just took a little bit of patience. A little bit more time, that was all he needed. Then Julian Bashir would be his.


Chapter 2: Story Spinner


~Sequel to Chain Stitch. Decided to stick them all into one story in case I write anymore of these.

Story Spinner

With an urgent hiss the doors to Constable Odo's office parted and in rushed Doctor Julian Bashir, eyes filled concerned panic, his medical kit slung haphazardly over his shoulder, his breath coming out in a rasp.

"Medical emergency?" was all he managed to rasp out.

"Yes, though I'm not sure I would call it an emergency now," Odo got to his feet and lead Bashir to the holding cells. "At about 8 hundred hours this morning Garak breached in the security fields in the holding cells and attempted to escape. My deputy, fortunately, was on duty in the office and managed to stun him before he could finish hacking into the station's transporter system."

"You should have brought him straight to the infirmary!" Bashir said angrily.

"It was easier to just move him back into his cell until your arrival," said Odo. "It was a low stun setting, Doctor. And it was a good thing we had stopped him. He was going to beam himself into a depressurized airlock. The transport he had been planning to beam onto left this morning a little bit ahead of schedule."

They came to a secure isolation cell at the far back of the prison, where the long term prisoners were held. There was only Garak right now, but usually Odo had a few others in these cells, mostly those who had been caught smuggling stolen goods onto the station. Odo stopped in the hall for a moment where his deputy was still standing guard.

"He's awake now," said the Bajoran security guard, looking rather smug. "You can go in."

They entered the cell and Bashir stopped dead in his tracks. Odo noted the concerned look that spread across the Doctor's face as he beheld the Cardassian tailor sitting on his cot, staring at the other wall, a look in his eyes whose only emotion was fear. However when Bashir approached, pulling out and initializing his medical tricorder with the speed of a sharp shooter, the Cardassian's entire expression changed to nervous delight.

"Ah, D-Doctor, I th-thought you would n-n-never pay me a v-visit. It h-has been a m-month you know..."

The discordant stuttering voice was uncharacteristic of Garak. It unnerved Odo just a little, but he kept his composure. Maybe his Deputy had caused more damage to the man that he'd thought.

Bashir unabashedly touched Garak's face, felt his pulse through the pressure points around his eye ridges where the veins were close to the surface and easier to get to. His tricorder was screaming its harsh blip into the quiet of the cell.

"Well, I've been a bit busy with work..."

Doctor Bashir is turning into a first rate lier, Odo decided gruffly. He knows very well that Sisko has ordered his staff to stop any personal association with Garak. He's too dangerous, we know this now.

Odo watched as the Doctor rummaged though his kit, asking Garak questions about his symptoms, which the later naturally refused to answer with constable Odo in the room. Odo decided to give the Doctor privacy in order to go write his report for Sisko on the attempted escape, and left his Deputy guarding the cell. When he entered his office though, he turned on the audio feed to the cell and listened in carefully to their conversation. He didn't get his reputation as the best law enforcer in this sector by letting important information slip out from under him.

However, what he overheard that morning chilled him in his unpleasantly solid bones.


"What happened?" Bashir asked as soon as Odo left them, examining the stun wound on Garak's chest gently before cleaning it with his sterilizer and then grabbing his hypospray and gave his friend a bit of relief from the pain.

"What d-do you m-mean what hap-p-pened? I b-broke out of m-my cell of c-course. I was stunned. Nothing t-to t-t-tell really..."

Julian could hardly bare to look into Garak's desperate frightened eyes for another second. Something had been broken here. Some part of Garak's incalculably clever brain had snapped. There was little sanity to the happy but nervous voice that replied to his question, and Julian did his very best to listen, trying to keep his heart and his head in professional mode.

"I don't think Odo is listening in on us..." Bashir said gently. "He's an honorable man."

"Oh, I don't care if he is listening!" Garak said harshly, the stutter almost gone from his voice with his sudden, unexpected anger. "I don't care if the whole station hears! Let them know, and laugh at Garak's terrible horrible secret!"

"What terrible secret?" Bashir said wryly, knowing that an angry Garak was more honest than a happily passive one and wanting to keep him in this mood long enough to let some information as to his state of being slip through. "That you tried to beam into space?"

"YES!" Garak said, suddenly standing to his feet, forcing Julian to jump back and away from him, his med-kit falling to the floor. "Yes! Let them know that I've lost my mind! That Elim Garak, terrible bloodthirsty agent of the Obsidian Order, spy and tailor and would-be assassin, is claustrophobic!"

"You're not...are you?" Julian changed his comment to a question midway, picking up his fallen tricorder with a shaking hand.

"Isn't it obvious?" Garak said glumly, turning to look at Julian again, and this time his teeth were clenched, and panic was in his eyes. "Do you know how desperate I am to get out of this little confining white box! I would do anything, anything to escape!"

"Really? Anything?" Julian laughed, though inside he was calculating now the possibility that Garak really was claustrophobic. His eyes were dilated and his blood pressure was through the roof.

"Anything!" Garak agreed, and he started to pace the cell, clenching his fists, stumbling in the circular path he was taking inside the narrow room.

"All right," said Julian, pulling out his tricorder to monitor his friend's heart rate, which was far above normal. "Then tell me what you would do to get out of this cell."

"I would kiss Gul Dukat!" Garak said, and Julian had to suppress the urge to laugh hysterically at the thought. "I would sleep with Worf!"

"A bit rough in the sack, I hear," Julian said, though now he was starting to feel with sinking clarity just how desperately miserable his friend had become in just one short month.

"I'd enter the Bajoran temple, get on my knees and thank all the prophets that exist if I could just spend a day out of this cell. An hour!"

He had calmed down enough now that he had vented his feelings and Julian watched him sag back onto the cot, the same previous look of empty fear filling his eyes. Pacing the cell hadn't eased his symptoms, it had only spent his remaining energy. Now he sagged boneless where he sat and Julian couldn't handle it anymore.

It hurt. His dear friend was miserable. To heck with Sisko's orders! He climbed into the cot next to Garak and put a hand on his shoulder.

"I'm here," Julian said. "I don't know about Prophets, but If you want someone to talk to, I'll listen."

Garak smiled gently and put a hand on top of the one on his shoulder.

"You'll listen? You'll really listen? And not just accept the lies, but find the truths? Because what I'm going to tell you next is a complete and utter lie, and the greatest truth of my existence."

"Certainly, I'll listen," said Julian, knowing he was about to either hear one of the biggest tales Garak could ever spin; or something so profound that it could change their lives forever.

"I've always been claustrophobic," Garak said. "As a child my father decided that the easiest way to punish me was to lock me in a closet. My mother accepted these punishments very passively, until one time, I was no more than five or six, I'd gone just a little too far with my bad behaviour. He left me in the closet overnight. By the next morning I was a tear stained miserable screaming mess. I'd soiled myself, threw up on the floor and had slept not a wink. I could not be consoled or comforted. I was a very unhappy little boy."

Julian winced, and Garak shuffled a bit in the bed, looking around to make sure that he was still here, in a cell, not in that childhood closet, though for Garak the two things were probably one and the same.

"I'd never heard my mother yell at my father. Not once in my entire life. And not once again after that day. But her righteous temper or my behalf was enough that my father never locked me into a closet again. I remember her words, her hair, flying around her as she advanced on him. Never had she seemed deadlier. And no moment in my life could better define the fact that she was my mother. I belonged to her."

Julian nodded, feeling his eyes widen as the story wound its way into his soul. He listened, not knowing if it was true, and not caring. Garak was explaining, in his own way, how it felt to be claustrophobic.

"About a week later father took my mother and me on a trip to the country to visit her family's farm. For the first time I would be able to meet all these cousins I was told I possessed by the hundreds. Most of them were farmers, some were breeders of prized riding hounds. And father took me riding every day."

Garak's voice went quiet for a moment, as he was remembering.

"On Cardassia, nearly everything is defined by barren rock and the crush of industry. The cities are crowded with people, the few well tended public parks were reserved for the wealthy. Factories fill the skylines, the gloom of pollution hangs in the air and the oceans are dark black and lifeless. Soot clings to everything and its almost impossible to stay clean as a result.

"But the country, with its fruit orchards and well tended farmlands and riding trails was my first taste of the real wilderness, and it stretched out farther than I could see. There was no words for what I felt that weekend, exploring the vast areas of Cardassia's agricultural hinterlands, trying, and mostly failing, to ride a hound. It was freedom of the spirit. I could run for an hour and not run into anything even if I wanted to. I couldn't get lost, there were no big buildings or crowded places where I could get into trouble. And the food was fresh, not a week old from the market, or replicated. It was truly pastoral, now that I think about it.

"But the thing I remember the most was my father, taking me out riding one last time before we were due back to the city, the back of my head against his chest, and he promised that I would never be trapped again. He would see to that."

Garak's voice stop. His breath hitched. Julian put his hand to Garak's shoulder again and the man nodded, taking a deep breath. He closed his eyes.

"Not long after I was inducted into the Order war broke out between Tzenketh and Cardassia over a trade agreement. Ships were sent to blockade Tzenketh and force them into a treaty. Ground troops were sent to take out key cities in order to frighten the civilian populace.

"But the battle was longer than Cardassia had expected. Tzenkethi are truly fierce fighters, and even the civilians were relentless against us. By the time we had captured some key positions and gained the advantage, we were low on troops. There was a general rumble of mutiny amongst the lesser soldiers. There was no reason for this war, for all the death, the resources Tzenketh had weren't that valuable. Thus, the Obsidian Order was tasked to keeping the troops in line. Agents were sent to each unit to inspect them, and being rather green and new I was sent to what was supposed to be an easy mission; bring orders to Gul Sentar to scout the enemy and count their numbers. Something that a simple military clerk could have done easily, but for the fact that Sentar had reported some suspicious behaviour amongst his troops to high command. In short; he had all but asked for an agent to look into the matter."

Garak turned to look at Julian, and his eyes were filled with a sadness and bitter irony that was implacable.

"I should preface all this by saying that Tain had very little hopes for me at this point in the venture. I was one of a hundred new recruits who had been trained to eavesdrop and gather information. I'd been present for a couple of mild interrogations of civilian dissidents by my superiors but for the most part I was a paper chaser. The sort of Agent who reports back to base all his findings but doesn't do anything about it himself, leaving it to more qualified 'adults' to handle. I was a baby, as far as the full agents were concerned, and this mission was nothing more than a bit of information gathering. At least it was supposed to be.

"Gul Sentar's troops were stationed at a village called Telfar at the base of a mountain, also called Telfar. Which lead to Telfar Pass and the heavily guarded capital of Tzenketh itself. When I arrived at Telfar there was no fanfare. The troops had been basking in the glory of their victory over Telfar for weeks. They were all ready for their next battle. And so they stood line to line, toe to toe, their proud commander at the front of the line, waiting with childlike eagerness for their next mission.

"I must say, I rather liked the look that Gul Sentar gave me when I arrived. It was one first of confusion, and then slight disgust. I was probably not what he expected. Short for my age, all of eighteen years old and spar in weight, with no more muscle than a baby wompat. He did manage to mask his dislike for me with boundless enthusiasm.

"'Agent Regnar,' he said. 'We've been expecting you.'

"I nodded, my most amiable smile on my face, assessing him from head to toe as he reported the state of his platoon. He struck me at first as a real soldier. He had a reputation for bold strategies and great victories. On Cardassia Sentar was something of an unsung military hero, beloved by everyone, including his troops.

"Now, it had been reported by Sentar that there was some grumblings of mutiny in his group. This in itself was very unfortunate, for if there was anyone whose loyalty to the State and Cardassia was unmatched it was Gul Sentar and his men. So of course it would puzzle me that these men would want to turn on their victorious leader. Men who had victory at every battle, full bellies when they went to bed and enough alcohol to intoxicate a Vulcan should have been happy men.

"True to word I stayed with them for the first three days wondering why it was I was there. They seemed very happy. Their behaviour didn't change a hair in or out of my company. They were as glorious and honest in privacy as they were in public. I heard no rumblings of dissent, not for the first three days. And every night at dinner Gul Sentar regaled me with lively tales of his stirring victories."

"So it was time to stir things up a bit. And Tain agreed with me when I contacted him with my report. Sentar's orders would now change; they would hold position in the village. Nothing else. Gul Macet's troops would arrive in three weeks and they would receive further orders upon their arrival.

"The mood of the troops after that changed drastically. There was a quiet restlessness and confusion that swept over the assembly. They avoided eye contact with me as they walked passed. Gul Sentar seemed less amiable at dinner, distracted, annoyed with my presence even. Guessing that his trigger happy troops were feeling sullen about their orders, I slipped into the barracks to eavesdrop.

"Now I should stop here Doctor and say that the reason why I was inducted into the order, the reason I was picked out of hundreds of school children for a future in intelligence gathering was simply my size. I was small back then. I know, I'm rather large now, having gained so much weight in my old age. But I was a poor student from a poor family when I'd been chosen. I was underweight most of the time due to not having proper nutrition. I was also a late bloomer; by the age of eighteen other Cardassian males would have shed their scales seven times, I had done so once and so my neck ridges weren't fully formed yet. My small size, combined with my stealth training meant that I could slip into places severely undetected and listen to conversations that bulky men could not.

"So I slipped into one of the barracks undetected and listened to the troops as they complained.

"And did they ever complain!

"'We can't do this now, not with our orders. Has Sentar lost his mind?'

"'Trying to take the pass now is folly. We all know that its too well guarded. Macet's bunch gives us the bulk we need to press the matter. Right now its suicide!"

"'Sentar will go through with it, even if it is folly. Have Gul Macet take away from his glory? Not on your life!"

"'And it won't matter what this green Agent they sent us has to say about it. Once we take the pass nobody else will care. We'll be heroes!'

"'Since when do we take orders from them anyways? Wasn't Sentar saying just awhile back...''

"I listened in amusement as they went on like this for some time, some for Sentar's wild battle plan and some against it. I began to notice that the ones against the plan were the troops who were directly under the command of Sentar's first officer."

"So what was the plan?" Julian asked, it came out so quickly that his breath hitched. He hadn't spoken until then, hadn't wanted to break the thrall of Garak's words, but his curiosity had gotten the best of him.

"Oh simply put, to sneak half his troops over the mountains, while the other half drew the enemy down into the valley. However, there was a snag to that plan, and I'll come to that later. For now, I had two very big problems; one, that the Sentar's troops were divided in loyaty, just as he had said, and two, that Macet's reinforcement troops wouldn't be there for three weeks, in which time Sentar had plenty of time to carry out his futile plans. Naturally I only had one option; I contacted Tain immediately."

Garak took a deep breath and turned to look at Bashir.

"I could use a glass of water. This part is a bit difficult."

"Oh, right," Julian stammered, then went over to the replicator to make some. This replicator only had a few items on the menu; water, tea, and some basic Federation prison fare. Julian made a face; he'd have to talk to Odo about Cardassian nutritional needs later.

Garak drank deeply from the glass and sighed.

"Anyways, where was I? Oh right, Tain. Tain's order's were very specific. Take Sentar into custody immediately. Put his First Officer in command of the platoon. On no condition were Sentar's men permitted to leave the mountain village or try to take the pass. I was at odds with my orders. For one, Tain sounded rather unhappy about the state of things, and two, there was a dampening field in place to prevent the Tzenketh from leaving the planet by transport, which meant he couldn't get me off the planet if anything went wrong, or send anyone down. I'd have to wait for Macet. In the meantime, all meager five and a half feet of me was supposed to arrest an over six foot tall war hero, one whose troops were fiercely loyal and not likely to let me proceed.

"I didn't know what to do but to try and carry out my orders. I did a quick search in the compound for Sentar's location and realized quickly that he wasn't even in the compound. He was headed for the village. I followed him of course, for I had my orders. But this village had been quickly deserted during the battle to seize it and the Tzenketh prisoners installed elsewhere. Sentar had no reason to be there. So here I was wandering an empty village and feeling my doubts about my mission starting to crawl up my spine like Bolian acid ants as I tracked my prey. It was not a pleasant feeling Doctor, but the worse was yet to come. Sentar's signal lead me to an empty storage room in the back of an old hospital. It was a tiny space stacked up with about sixteen crates of Tzenketh blood leeches. And to my unbound horror, the signal I had been following through the village was now at my feet; Sentar's combadge. I heard the horrible hiss of the door closing behind me, the light fell down upon me and I realized, with the horrible weight of clarity, that I had been tricked. Sentar had been leading me right into a trap, and I had fallen right into it."

Garak's eyes closed, his mouth a grimace of disgusted memory.

"Do you know what blood leeches taste like Doctor? Or what it was like, forced to consume them, and the liquid they had been living in, in order to stay alive? Not to mention how cramped in the space was. There was no room to move. There was barely enough air to breath coming in from under the door, which I couldn't force open no matter how hard I banged on the unyielding metal. There were no access panels and no air ducts. Just my tricorder and the Gul's combadge. I cobbled the two of them together to give the combadge a bit of a boost and sent out a distress signal. And there I was, for the next three weeks, waiting for rescue, slowly losing what little mind I had as the claustrophobia took complete control of me."

Julian felt his breath suddenly hitch and come out, and Garak turned to look at him startled.

"Why Doctor, you're crying!" he said, his eyes taking for a moment a sparkling quality of joy that leapt into Julian's brain and ignited his senses. "There's really no need, this story does have a happy ending you know..."

"I..." Julian could feel that Garak was trembling now though he was smiling. His whole body was tensed in anticipation.

"Nothing to fear now Doctor. This cell is nothing compared to three weeks in a box eating blood leeches..."

"What happened?" Julian said now, feeling his heart pounding. "How did you escape?"

"I didn't escape, I was rescued, upon the arrival of Gul Macet. Now, you should probably know that Macet is almost the mirror image of his cousin Gul Dukat. It makes little difference to this story, except that Gul Macet and Gul Dukat are almost complete opposites in their character. Macet is a quiet and commanding presence. His cousin, as you know, talks constantly in the company of others. Macet cares deeply for his troops and the welfare of others. Not so his cousin. And Macet is one of those truly patriotic Cardassians, the one who would murder his own mother before betraying his planet. Gul Dukat, however...well you know him. So it makes no difference that it was his identical cousin that found me. Simply put that after three weeks of insanity I was ready to accept any rescue, from anyone, and in my fevered state, despite knowing the Dukat family reputation, I was even willing to accept Dukat, and seemingly out of nowhere there he was! When the closet door opened and light poured down on me I swear I was gibbering with grief and thanks and relief at rescue. I must have mistakenly called him Dukat, for I remember him laughing quietly and correcting me.

"'No, Gul Macet,' he said, and helped me out of the closet. 'It seems my cousin's reputation proceeds even me.'

"I must say, the look on his face when I came out into the light was one I will never forget. Pure rage.

"'How old are you?' he asked me, 'What's your name?' and suddenly I understood; he thought I was a nothing but a child!

"There was no need to disabuse him of that notion, not in the condition I was in, half mad and thankful to be breathing the fresh air of freedom! I managed to get out the entire story, and his face took on a cold look and he quickly turned me over to the care of his platoon's doctor while he tracked down Sentar and his men.

"Naturally my mission was more than just an abysmal failure. It was a nightmare beyond comprehension. If word had gotten back to Tain that I had snapped I would have been drummed right out of the Order. And so I quickly tried to pull together the threads of my sanity and self as Macet and his men quickly learned what had happened to Sentar's men.

"Those that had gone into the pass to draw the Tzenketh out of hiding had walked into a trap; the Tzenkethi troops had mined the pass, anticipating such a move. The men who had gone into the mountains had succeeded in their half of the mission; Sentar and his men had managed to survive three weeks of fighting by playing cat and mouse with the enemy and had annihilated the Tzenkethi troops. The pass was ours.

"It was bitter pill to swallow; that he had emerged victorious and I had emerged from that closet covered in my own excrement. It was the horror of my childhood all over again, but made a thousand times worse by the irony of it all.

By the time Macet and his men had returned to the village with Sentar and the other survivors in tow I was recovered enough from my experiences to be released from the hospital. I'd more or less used my Cardassian mental control to block out the frightful memories. Not healthy, but effective for the time being since I was on the front lines and I still had a job to perform; interrogate the survivors.

"My anticipation burned within me that day and everyone could see it. It was there as I walked to the mess hall to eat with Macet's troops. It was there as I paced about the barracks like a predator stalking his prey. There was a fierceness in me that nobody had expected. They backed away from me. They talked in hushed whispers. They avoided looking me in the eye. They were afraid of me.

"I was shedding for one, and a shedding Cardassian is a vengeful and frightening creature Doctor. Never come to visit me if you know I've been shedding recently.

"They also probably thought I was going mad, and they might have been right. But I needed some way to salvage my reputation and having them afraid of me helped in that regard. Tain would blame me for not taking Sentar into custody. I would be responsible for getting myself into this trap if I couldn't fix things. Also, I was all of eighteen and I didn't need reports of my claustrophobia making it back to the capital. We don't have psychiatrists offices on Cardassia Doctor. We have prisons and poorhouses. I had to prove that I was strong, that I was ready to go back to duty, and that I wasn't a complete failure, or else I'd be ruined.

"So that night I approached Macet and told him that I would conduct Sentar's interrogation myself.

"He didn't argue with me. He didn't seem to think I could handle it either, for he told me to eat something and get a good night's sleep first. No, I wanted to do it then. But food was a good idea, and he had some brought down."

Garak took a deep breath. His eyes were now on the walls again, not wanting to meet Julian's gaze. Julian took another reading with his tricorder and was happy to note that Garak's signs were closer to normal than they had been. Garak chuckled.

"No need to fear Doctor, as I said, this story has a happy ending. I entered the cell where Sentar sat, rambling on and on about his glorious victories. He was raving mad now, and every good interrogator knows that its next to impossible to get anything out of a madman. I already knew everything I needed for my report. Macet probably wouldn't have even bothered with interrogation, it was a cut and dry case of a man who had ignored orders, but had emerged victorious. Cardassia the strong. Sentar might be dismissed from the military, but nothing more. He was too well loved and had too many well placed friends and he knew it, and he was revelling in his victory.

"But I did have a plan, that had started to form in my mind the moment I set eyes on Sentar again. I started giving orders left right and center to those around me. Within minutes I had Sentar bound in a chair in a small room. We were alone.

"The first thing I did was take away his ability to talk. A simple drug that is easily countered locked his jaw shut tight and numbed his voice box. Of course, then I went a step further, and administered a stimulant, something to keep his attention on me at all times and prevent him from going to sleep.

"Then for the rest of the night I kept him that way. I ate my dinner. I read a wonderful book. I wrote some poetry and I read it to Sentar. I'm not much of a writer, but I suppose I could have tried better to make it rhyme, just a little. I then started reading other things to Sentar; A guidebook on Bolian tourist attractions. An essay on the complexly mathematical mating rituals of the people of Binar; a novel written by a Vulcan about her experiences undergoing the kolinahr. A calculus textbook. Anything I could find that had bored me to death in school. It was all very fascinating stuff. I made sure to keep his dosages regular, of course. I always kept my eyes on him if I could, smiling at him and engaging him in delightful one-sided conversation. I kept on like this for some hours, as I said, and then as dawn approached I was growing tired. So I left the cell and let the drugs I gave him wear off.

"Rumor has it that Sentar's screams could be heard all the way to the Tzenketh capital. But those were only rumors of course. The strange thing about rumors; partially true, and partially not, they could be real, or they couldn't. I do know one thing; when I went to report to Macet on what the prisoner had to say, which was all of nothing, he didn't look at me as a green young recruit anymore."

Julian swallowed hard, eyes wide, but Garak regarded him with a playful, happy smile. His hair was flopping about his head as he spoke and his manner was light hearted. But Julian's skin had broken out in a sheen of sweat and he could no longer speak; as if his jaw too, had been locked into place like Sentar's.

"When I returned to Cardassia Prime there were already parades going on; Tzenketh had capitulated and agreed to the terms of the trade agreement. Cardassia was victorious and the war was over.

"On the day of Sentar's hearing I was summoned by Tain to join him in the audience. We were to be present. I was supremely nervous of course. Tain's messages before that had been brief. I had filed a report on my mission, he had ordered me to return to Cardassia with Macet. Nothing more than that. So as I settled into my seat next to Tain, his face impassive, I put on my most congenial smile and said nothing. He said nothing. For a moment, I felt the room burning with his displeasure at what had happened on Tzenketh.

"For a moment.

"Then the prisoner was brought in. Sentar walked into the courtroom a proud man, though he was battered, his sentence was of course, discharge from the service, but he had a chance for early parole. He was a hero. He was a good Cardassian who had snagged a great victory. He wasn't a traitor. He had a lot of friends in high places it seemed.

"But none of that mattered when he caught sight of me in the audience. Our eyes locked. Mine smiling, congenial. I curved my lips ever so slightly. His lips twitched. His eyes dilated, his eyebrows shot into his hair. There was silence in the room. The Archon had asked Sentar a question. But the man's gaze was fixed on mine.

"I grinned at him. And opened my mouth as if to say something...

"'All right I did it!' he suddenly screamed. 'I disobeyed my orders! I confess! I knew about the minefield in the pass! But my first officer was up for a promotion and I'm old enough to be retired and I was desperate, so I sent him and his men into the pass! I sent them into a trap! I killed them to secure my own career!'"

"A horrible terrible mewling sound was coming from his mouth as he backed into the wall, a frightened animal, unable to break eye contact with me. The silence that followed this was terrible to behold, and everyone's eyes were suddenly on me. I frowned slightly, and turned to Tain, and shook my head sadly.

"Tain's eyes were fiery, not with anger, but with something else entirely. Ambition is the closest word to describe it. He was seeing in me in that moment everything that I could become, with just the right direction, and once, barely perceptibly, he nodded at me. Somehow, in that moment, I had turned a terrible failure into a great victory."

Garak took a deep breath, face beatific in his joy.

"The Archon called for a frantic recess and the court room fell into chaos after that. But Tain and I did not stay to find out what would result from that startling courtroom confession. We went out for lunch, and to discuss my next mission."

Garak went quiet, for a moment, and his happy smile softened into a slight frown.

"After that I knew what my calling was, what I was to become. There were whispers within a week about the newest 'Son of Tain'. Word gets around quickly, and never again was I seen as the new recruit, the child, the green one. I had found my place. But Tain had broken his promise. And he would do it again...I'm here, after all."

Julian jerked his head, suddenly thunderstruck, his heart pounding. His brain was now reeling from everything he had just learned, and he didn't know what to say.

"You can leave me now Doctor, I feel much better now. The walls here don't seem as closed in as they had before. Its not like Tzenketh, certainly this is true."

Julian nodded, unable to speak anything more than a promise to check in on him regularly before leaving the cell. His mind was numb and reeling and he stumbled out into Odo's office with his mouth dry and his stomach churning.

"Do you believe any of it?" Odo said immediately, having listened to every word of it despite Julian's assurances to Garak that he wouldn't.

"I do," said Julian. "And I am going to have to request he be moved to a bigger cell due to his medical condition."

"Why?" said Odo. "Not the cell, that's a simple enough request to fulfill. And I certainly don't want him using claustrophobia as his excuse for another break out attempt. But why do you believe what he said?"

"Because he slipped," Julian said. "Garak is a master at lies, but in this story he slipped, in a very big and unrepairable way."

"How?" said Odo, face a picture of amused curiosity.

"Tain," Julian said. "He never mentioned what that promise was that Tain had broken. But if you recall, somebody had make a promise to Garak..."

"His father," said Odo, eyes suddenly wide. "You don't think...could it be...?"

"Well that's the trouble with Garak's stories," Julian said, feeling himself smiling in spite of himself. "They're all true in some fashion."

"Even the lies?" Odo huffed.

"Especially the lies," Julian replied, and he went back to sickbay to file his report.

Garak suffers from claustrophobia, he wrote firmly. He'll need regular check ups until I'm satisfied that he won't try to beam himself out of another airlock again.

He'd be going back tomorrow to check up on Garak. And every week after that. And maybe, just maybe, when Julian came to visit, Garak would spin him another story.


Chapter 3: Tangled


~Re-written. I totally changed half this chapter. MUST REREAD!

Tangled

"Counselling? I try to escape from prison, and Commander Sisko has ordered me into counselling?"

Garak's shocked and horrified expression would have been humorous to Julian Bashir, if he hadn't understood just how serious this situation was. It was so serious that Sisko had agreed to confining Garak to quarters instead of a standard cell.

"This is standard Starfleet protocol," Odo snarled gruffly. "Both Starfleet and Captain Sisko agree that a cell might not be the best thing for you, all things considered. A more rehabilitative approach might work best. The counselor is here to help transition you into becoming a law abiding citizen. If that miraculous feat can be accomplished then you can be released on early parole."

"I'm a citizen of the Federation?" Garak said in surprise. "I don't remember applying for citizenship."

"You are a citizen of BAJOR," Odo corrected hotly. "One or more years as a refugee in Bajoran space qualifies you for citizenship. And I'd say that as an exile from your home planet you would qualify as a refugee. If we can't put our trust in you Garak then we might as well send you back to Cardassia, and its tender merciful justice system. They've been requesting extradition you know."

"Yes," said Garak, smiling though his eyes were not very happy at all.

"On that note, you were tried under Federation law, as your actions took place on a Federation vessel. You have to deal with Federation statutes in this matter."

Julian almost winced. He knew exactly what Garak thought about all of that, even if the expression on his face hadn't made it so obvious.

"And what if I refuse to see this...counselor?" Garak said it in a way that suggested the counselor waiting outside was comparable in taste to a Tzenkethi blood leech.

Yep. I called it.

"Then you can forget about being confined to quarters, or an early release, and return to your cell for the next five months," Odo said with a smugly pleased sound to his voice.

"That would be a shame. After all the work Chief O'Brien is going through to making this place," he paused, searching for an appropriate word to use. "'Safe' for me."

Julian couldn't help the grin that spread across his face. Miles would be spending an entire week retrofitting the entire suite with every protection and security measure he could shove into the walls, sealing off all the access panels to prevent incursions and reprogramming the replicator to prevent him from replicating anything he could use to escape with. No PADDs in prison. But regardless of that fact it was one of the plushest prisons that a Cardassian space station had ever seen. There would be no more claustrophobic attacks.

"Then you will see the counselor?"

"Yes, I suppose I shall have to," said Garak glumly. Then a mischievous look spread across his face. "I shall give her my full cooperation."

"Now I'm warning you Garak, no half-truths and fables with her," Julian said immediately, and Garak's head snapped over to look at him in feigned shock.

"Really doctor, why would I ever do anything like that? What would a plain simple tailor have to hide from a Federation counselor?"

"I'm serious Garak," Julian said, rolling his eyes. "Counselor Troi is not only the best in her field, she's also a highly skilled empath, better than most full Betazoids. She can even read Ferengi emotions, while most other empaths can't. She'll know when you're lying."

"Ah, I see," said Garak, eyes suddenly going alert at the word 'Betazoids'. He knew what this meant. "And I suppose this is all for my benefit?"

"The point in seeing the counselor is so that you don't get into anymore trouble...And maybe she can help you deal with your claustrophobia..."

"That, or return to my confining little cell in Odo's security office?" Garak looked around. "Well, its a double edged sword isn't it my friends? Give up my wonderful Cardassian morals and values in exchange for...Bajoran ones? Federation? Or else be damned to that teensy little box again. How lovely."

Odo glared with open hostility. Bashir sighed, rolling his eyes, then decided to bring the counselor in.

Curvy and sexy, with long dark hair and an impish sparkle to her eyes, Ambassador Troi's daughter was the epitome of congenial friendliness. Julian might have been tempted by her, if he hadn't had so many secrets to keep. Getting close to an empath, even romantically, could be disaster. You just couldn't keep secrets from them! Garak was going to have one foot in hell, he was certain of that.

"Elim Garak, this is Counselor Deanna Troi. She's agreed to taking temporary assignment here on Deep Space 9 until the Enterprise E is finished being built. Deanna Troi, Elim Garak."

Counselor Troi smiled, congenially offered a handshake to the Cardassian, and to Odo, then kindly suggested that Julian skeedadle so she could get down to the counselling business. Odo moved over to the side to sit down, away from the pair. A security officer had to be present with Garak whenever he was with someone else. A necessary security precaution for the time being, until Chief O'Brien could install a proper camera system that Odo could simply monitor from his office. Julian turned to give Garak a cautionary look and was troubled by the look of nervous anticipation on Garak's face.

Would he tell the truth? To her? With Odo in the room to boot?

Julian hoped so. Garak may have been speaking in the same amiable manner, but that look, that nervous look...

It was the same look Garak had given him in his cell when he had entered it. His friend was silently crying for help and Bashir had no choice but to leave. Whatever had been broken during Garak's panic attack, it was still broken. And hopefully Counselor Troi could fix it.


"I'm concerned on two different subjects," Counselor Troi began, and looked at the man in front of her, noting the concern etched deeply in his features.

Doctor Bashir had not been happy that Odo had monitored the session. Deanna Troi didn't feel comfortable about it either, but Starfleet considered Garak to be a security threat and wanted him monitored at all times.

But this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. She knew very little about this man she was being asked to rehabilitate. Garak could have meant her harm at some point. There were times he had almost seemed dangerous in his press to keep his secrets from being revealed.

But those secrets had to come out eventually, and right now she was getting nowhere with him. The only thing he was really honest about what his friendship with the Doctor. She had sensed Bashir's upset when she had entered the suite for her first session with Garak. It only served to confirm in her mind that they were good friends, possibly more if Garak's playful confessionals concerning the doctor's 'lovely delicate hands' were anything to go by.

Julian Bashir's hands are anything but delicate. 'Well defined' is a more likely description. 'Delicate' seems more like a word a lovestruck poet would use.

"The first subject would be his aversion to telling the truth. Half the things he told me were lies. If I wasn't an empath I probably would never know whether what he was telling me was truth or fiction."

"Join the club," Julian said with a half-laugh. "If there's anything Garak is known for, it isn't the truth."

"Yes, but the more I dug, the more it seemed to me that his lying is meant to cover up something painful about his past. The only thing he was truly honest about is his friendship with you Doctor."

She watched him and could feel the tension suddenly rise. So it wasn't just her imagination; the friendship was verging on the edge of something more. Some kind of mutual understanding or trust.

And Garak betrayed that trust. Now Julian doesn't know where they stand. But there's more to it than that...Garak admitted that his friendship with Bashir was what kept him from acting against the Starfleet crew here for the last four years. That friendship could turn Garak into a rather decent person if it turned romantic.

Oh, Deanna wasn't completely naive. She had read the security and medical information on Garak provided by the command staff. Their current concern for his situation was under the flag of 'security concerns' about the tailor's past as a spy. Garak had many good reasons to lie about his past.

"Well, Garak...he," Bashir fumbled for words and almost seems to falter.

Troi quickly saved him.

"His friendship with you is definitely genuine. I'd dare say that you, Doctor, are the only person on this station that he trusts. And I wonder if he would be more honest with me if you were with me during our session instead of Constable Odo."

"Considering that he was incarcerated for attempting to destroy Odo's home world, I can certainly understand his reluctance to have him around."

But something troubled her. Underneath it all, there was something else, some deep seated worry, or fear, that was the source of the lies, the half-truths, the fables. Something caused Garak to fear the truth. She was completely determined to get at that truth, no matter what the cost. And that was the danger.

"You said there were two concerns," said Julian promptly to get her attention. "I assume there was something else you wanted to discuss?"

"Yes," said Troi, grateful that he had reminded her. "I'm worried about his physical state of mind," she clasped her hands together, weighing her words carefully. "I listened to the holo-recording Odo made of Garak's conversation with you and compared it to what I've learned about Garak during our session. And I have one thing I took from it that made everything seem clearer to me, an underlying motive for his dishonest behaviour."

Julian Bashir stiffened, anticipatory, as if waiting for some unseen truth in the tale that he had not already puzzled out on his own.

"Garak said that Cardassia doesn't have psychiatrists, and for good reason," said Deanna simply. "Cardassians can block their own memories. Mentally troubled Cardassians simply memory block themselves. I think that is what happened to Garak. He has been blocking his own memories, and for whatever reason he's lost control of that ability. His memories are coming back. The claustrophobia may actually be what caused the blocks to weaken. Which explains the breakdown and his willingness to share. He wants our help, but can't bring himself to admit there is something wrong."

Bashir pressed his hands together and tapped his nose thoughtfully.

"I think you're right," he said, in a way that suggested he was startled by the very idea that Troi had seen this, when he had not. "Yes," Bashir said, his voice slightly hoarse. "If he's gotten used to blocking his memories whenever something unpleasant happens then its no wonder he lies all the time. It must be easier to simply build a life of lies than to face the pain."

"He may be willing to see me only because he can't put up anymore blocks. He knows the only way to get over his claustrophobia now is to face the memories, and it scares him," Troi decided.

"Whatever it is from his past that caused his claustrophobia, its not the incident at Tzenketh." Bashir said, anxiously. "The look in his eyes as he told me that story, it was not the haunted look I saw when I first entered the cell. He was telling me that story to cover up the real source of his pain. It was probably most of it lies. It was that slip of the tongue about Tain that gets me. Is Tain his father?"

"I don't think he knows," she said finally. "He might think so, or maybe he just considers him a father figure. But he is thoroughly convinced that Mila Garak is his birth mother."

"What? He told you about his parents?" Bashir asked, incredulous.

Troi smiled. Julian was jealous! He thought that Garak had confided in her and not him!

"Mostly he lied to me about his parents. But I did a record check with the Cardassian government before our session so I knew what exactly he was lying about," she said to him gently, and he stared at her, startled. "Relax, I went through the official Federation channels. According to his public record he was born to a woman named Retta Adon, and when she died he was adopted and raised by a woman named Mila Garak."

"Mila Garak is Enabran Tain's housekeeper," Julian said, inputting that bit of information.

"Then Tain could very well be his birth father," Troi admitted. "But why would he have someone else adopt his own son?"

"Legitimacy concerns," said Julian. "Cardassian's frown on illegitimate births. And they keep detailed DNA records of every single citizen. Garak's DNA would have to match Mila Garak's if she was his birth mother and it probably doesn't. But if he's Tain's, and Tain was trying to cover up his parentage to protect himself, having Garak adopted by his housekeeper is the best bet. Then he can genuinely keep an eye on his son without having the stigma of an illegitimate child. You're right, his adoption by Mila is probably genuine."

"Wait a moment," Troi said, and she sat up suddenly, causing Julian to likewise sit up. "Something I said had really hit a nerve. Garak didn't deny that I was right about the adoption, but he was not willing to talk any further about his mother. I asked him if he had any memories of being adopted and he said he didn't, he'd always been with Mila. What if he has a memory block that he himself doesn't know about?"

"Then somebody ELSE altered his memories," Julian concluded, startled. "Because for some reason he couldn't unblock them by himself. Perhaps I should do a neural scan."

"He might not be willing to undergo a neural scan," Troi decided. "We can discuss it at our next session. I'm going to suggest you be there to monitor instead of Odo."

"Odo can have a security camera installed in the suite anytime he wanted. He just wants to eavesdrop," Julian said thickly. "But these sessions should be confidential. I'll bother Miles about getting that camera in right away."

Troi nodded, glad that they had made a firm decision on this matter and closed her eyes.

"I'm thinking," Julian said quietly, clutching his hands together on the table. "Whatever memory Garak is afraid of, it has to be worse than what happened at Tzenketh."

"I think he was being mostly honest with you about Tzenketh. He may have glamorized his role in Sentar's downfall a bit but his confession about the closet he was locked in seemed genuine. Maybe I should do some research about the Tzenketh-Cardassia conflict and see what I can learn about that."

"I'll do that," said Julian. "Garak confided that story to me and he'd be ballistic if he knew Odo had it recorded and sent to you."

Troi nodded.

"Or you could convince him to tell me the story as well..."

"That would be good. Then you could find out what was truth and what was fiction. You know counselor," he lifted his eyes to look at her, and the jealousy and ache of longing he filled practically filled the room. "I wish I was an empath sometimes. To just know if what he says is real. To know if what he's saying is true. I'll never have that. Not unless we can break him of his lying habit. Then how could I ever know for sure? Trust is so important in friendship...but..."

"He cares for you, that much is obvious," she told him, reaching out to take his trembling hands. "Right now Garak is miserable at the thought of going back to prison. And the key to this all is centered around getting him to open himself up and be truthful," she gave the squirming doctor a sympathetic look. "Maybe you should try to get him to open up a little. Spend more time with him, let him know that you're there."

"I want Garak to find some joy in life," said Bashir quietly. "I'll help whatever way I can. I don't want him to go back to jail either. The look on his face..."

"Everything I've seen of the man suggests that he does not want to go back to that cell. It terrifies him on some basic level that even he can't understand and he's ashamed of it," Troi shook her head. "He would rather die than be boxed in again. And we need to find out why. He's been opening up to us a little. We just need to keep at it."

"Then again, he could have us all in the palm of his hands right now. Telling you just enough truth with the lies to convince you that he's opening up to you. He's such a master manipulator he could probably convince the sun to rotate around the moon."

Certainly he could, Troi decided wisely. He's already got Bashir in orbit around his world.


Julian Bashir slipped into Garak's quarters quietly and was greeted to the sight of an empty room.

"Garak?"

"In here," called the Cardassian quickly from the bathroom. "One moment Doctor..."

Garak soon came out of the bathroom with wet hair and a fuzzy brown bathrobe on, looking rather upset to have been caught in this condition. Julian did his best not to stare at him. But he just couldn't help it; Garak's strong muscled legs were bare from the knee down and his thick calves were bare of any ridges, but adorned with two lines of scales from the knee down to the feet which were...webbed between the toes? He had never noticed that before. But then again, every time Garak had come to the infirmary it was due to upper body problems. Were webbed feet normal for Cardassians? Julian jerked his head back up to look at Garak, who anxiously started talking before Julian could ask about his feet.

"There's only one color in the replicator for clothes," said Garak at once, hustling over quickly to the device in question to replicate a brown pair of socks, pulling them on rather quickly before replicating pants. "Apparently the Chief couldn't restrict the function of the replicator to just replicate food when he was re-programming it, so he simply changed the parameters to only permit items that naturally come in shades of brown. Which means no metal or electronic objects to speak of."

That was certainly true. The room was filled with a whole collection of replicated items, all of them brown. A brown wooden game board of some sort (a variant of Kotra maybe?) with brown pieces identified with dark brown and light brown for the opponent. Brown sheets and comforter covered his bed, and a brown clay vase with a brown flower of some unknown origin sat on the table. Julian raised his eyebrows, trying to identify its species.

"Feel free to make yourself at home while I change. Not that it matters if I replicate clean clothes or re-wear what I wore yesterday, I can only replicate Bajoran clothing. Typical..."

Julian was trying very hard not to imagine what Garak would look like without his bathrobe on. It was a failing of his that whenever he saw people half-naked, he would imagine them without the clothes on. No matter who they were. But Garak? Troi had hinted that Garak had feelings for him. Was that true? And how did he feel about Garak?

"He did leave the food functions intact I hope?"

"Yes, but the color parameters apply there as well," Garak chuckled and pointed to the replicator. "Would you like some Tarkalean tea? Or perhaps a raktajino? Both of those will, at least, be in the menu."

Julian laughed and asked for tea, and Garak went back to the bathroom with his clothing in order to change. It gave Julian a chance to think about what he had seen.

Cardassians are not an aquatic species, and their ancestors were desert dwellers. Is the webbing a slight defect? No webbing on his fingers that I've seen...

He was firmly failing not to think about firm thighs and wet, tousled black hair. When the Cardassian in question returned he was fully dressed, hair combed back and a congenial smile set firmly on his face. He replicated some tea for himself and sat down with Bashir at the table. The brown flower in the vase looked rather pathetic, despite its pretty petal arrangement.

"Why not ask the replicator to make you something like a statue for the centerpiece? I don't think this flower is a kind that survives well in a vase, even a replicated flower needs the right environment to flourish in..."

"True, but I like floral arrangements better than statues. It is a rather sad looking thing though isn't it? Native to the Klingon home world of course."

Bashir hid his smile quickly and took a sip of his tea.

"Garak, can I ask you a question?"

"About my feet? No, you may not."

"Actually," Julian frowned, because he really had wanted to ask about his feet, but he hadn't planned on asking. "I wanted to ask you; are you okay with this? I mean, the sessions with Troi. We can always, you know, switch; I can monitor the sessions instead of Odo...Would you feel more comfortable that way?"

Garak looked up at Julian, eye ridges creasing, a sulky almost defiant look in his face.

"I spent the better part of three hours giving up my secrets to that indignantly infuriating woman and she's still not satisfied that I'm being honest?"

Julian winced pointedly.

"I'm sorry Garak, but she is the presiding counselor and she can tell when you're lying to her, no matter how comfortably you spin it for her reports. And her orders are to rehabilitate you so you can be released early. You know that can't involve any lies."

Garak sighed. And shook his head.

"Its frustrating doctor," he admitted, putting his hands on his face. "Having to confide in this stranger, charming though she is, just to stay out of that cell. I can keep my secrets if I want, and spend the next five months in four walled isolation. Or I can, as you so aptly put it, tell all."

"Its all confidential Garak. I'm the only person she discusses her information with, and you remember that you signed a disclosure form allowing her to talk with me."

"What sort of information has she shared with you?" Garak asked, sounding completely suspicious.

"Nothing that isn't already publicly known. Your birth records and adoption," Garak visibly winced and looked away. "Information about your family."

"She knows NOTHING about my family then," Garak laughed. "Tain manipulated the public records to cover up his indiscretion."

"Then Tain is your father?"

Garak frowned.

"I wish I knew. I think so. He's never openly admitted to anything. Not even Mila will tell me."

"She's not your birth mother, Garak."

The Cardassian tailor winced and looked away, a brief flash of some terrible pain filling his eyes that Julian barely caught before the man looked away.

"I don't want to talk about this right now Julian."

"What do you want to talk about then?" asked the Doctor, barely aware that Garak had called him by his first name.

"Us."

"Us?" Julian said, suddenly caught off guard.

"Yes," said Garak, looking down at his teacup. "Counselor Troi said I should be honest about my...interest in you. She said you wouldn't reject me. In fact she was entirely certain the feeling was mutual."

Julian blushed, a deep shade of red, and turned to look out the window.

"She's clearly more confident about her assessment then I am. I don't know what I feel about you Garak..."

Garak nodded, as if he was confirming some decision, and stood.

"Well if you don't want to remain here with me, I can understand. This must be so awkward for you."

Oh. Julian swallowed. Garak thought he was offended!

"Oh, its not that, its just, I've never been..." Julian swallowed again. "With a man before...and that's usually where my relationships start. I wouldn't know...how to..."

He was painfully aware now of Garak's amused eyes watching him as he fidgeted in his seat. Garak gave him a sly look, and came over to his side. Julian shifted nervously, then froze as Garak leaned down over him in order to kiss him quickly on the lips. Julian blinked. It was such a slight quick motion that he was barely sure it happened. He raised an eyebrow. Garak took the silent invitation for what it was, bending down to press a firmer kiss to Julian's trembling mouth.

The tingle in his lips and the ridged forehead pressed against his own were proof of the deed this time, and he tried to remember to breath.

"Would you like some sound advice?" Garak said, voice a soft sibilant purr against his cheek.

"Certainly," Julian said, and his voice was more of a croak.

"Never, ever tell your potential Cardassian lover you have no experience. Its quite a turn on."

Julian flushed red and Garak led him gently, but firmly, to the bed.

A little while later, sweating and satisfied, tangled together in the sheets, Julian turned to look at his new lover.

"So," he said, curling up warmly against Garak's chest. "Are you going tell me about your feet?"

"Another time," Garak said, voice rather distant. "Lets just enjoy tonight."

Julian really couldn't argue. Garak's lips were suddenly on his again and there was no more to talk about.


Chapter 4: Coming Unravelled


Coming Unravelled

Silence. For a moment. Then he felt he could perceive many noises at once. The soft humming of the ship's' systems, the sudden blip from the medical monitor above his head. The quiet intake of his breathing.

"Yes, this definitely indicates an artificial memory block is in place."

"I think he's waking up now..."

Garak turned quietly on the bed to nervously watch Julian Bashir and Councillor Troi working together at the monitor. Troi turned to look at him and winked, smiling. Then she turned back to the computer, where Julian started analyzing just how big the memory block was and what areas of his brain were effected.

"The chemical reactions in his brain as a result of his implant are definitely what triggered this effect..."

Julian didn't even look at Garak, so engrossed in his analysis of the information on his screen.

Garak wasn't annoyed by this. On the contrary, it was one of the things he loved about Julian; his complete devotion to his choice of vocation and to his patients. Sometimes medicine even came before Julian himself. Garak had learned a long time ago that this was a battle he wouldn't win if he wanted to win Julian's heart. Let him be a doctor first, and he would be happy to be your friend.

And now my lover. Who could have known that my mental breakdown is what opened him to the idea of romance! Other people would have run away screaming!

But Julian was so completely engrossed in discussing the intricacies of the brain that he hadn't noticed that Garak had awoken from his temporary slumber. And Troi was looking rather uncomfortable with Julian's constant carrying on about the cerebrum and Cardassian brain chemistry.

I never should have agreed to this. She's a complete stranger. But I need to know. Who put this memory block in place? Tain? For what purpose? And why is it causing me to have these claustrophobic attacks? And am I really going to tell that woman, and Julian, the truth, all of it? How do I even know where to start?

It was like going around in circles.

He hated the idea of anything being wrong with his brain, let alone being in sickbay to find out what was wrong. But it had been necessary for him to sleep in order for Julian to detect the memory block, so they had moved everything they needed into his bedroom.

I do hope this is all worth it! At least I'm in my own room, on my own bed...that I've been sharing for the last thre nights with my lover...such intimacy...and now I'm sharing this private space with this outsider. Though she's quickly becoming a trusted confident.

Much to his things considered he was lucky not to still be in a cell. They had bent over backwards to make this as comfortable for him as they possibly could.

So why am I so nervous?

He coughed gently to get their attention, and Troi was immediately the first to turn to look at him.

"I'm sorry Garak. I know you're feeling nervous about what could be behind the memory block."

"More restless than nervous, but yes," he said.

He could not lie to her, and she could see right through him if she had a mind. He HATED it!

"Perhaps I could replicate you some tea to help calm your nerves? This could take awhile."

Damn. It was really hard to hate this woman. She was just so likeable!

"That would be quite suitable," Garak agreed, knowing that this was probably the most progress he could expect for hours.

"An artificial memory block is very hard to remove," Julian said gently, coming over to the bed to stand next to him. "And I know so little about Cardassian brain chemistry. Only what Enabran Tain was willing to send me from Cardassia's medical database."

Julian pulled another monitor over to Garak's bed for him to see.

"You can watch the output here as well, and see exactly what we mean. We're carrying on a normal conversation, and you're paying attention to me. This pattern here indicates normal functions of a brain while being stimulated by the..."

Troi coughed pointedly. Julian could really go on a tangent if nobody interrupted him. He blushed.

"I think we're all set here," Troi said, carefully handing Garak his tea. "Tell me when you're ready to be put under hypnosis."

Garak shook his head, and looked out the window.

"Garak?" Julian said worriedly. "What is it? What's wrong?"

"If there's something you need to tell us before we start, now is the time," Troi said.

Garak glared at her. But Julian's worried brown eyes could have sent him running into a fiery volcano to rescue him, if he was honest about it, so he answered, though his response was a bit more acrid than he had intended.

"I DO NOT like the idea of hypnosis!" Garak said viciously, and he hated himself for how much he was shaking. "You could make me reveal ANYTHING! I could betray Cardassia's deepest secrets!"

Garak felt an angry burning building inside of him and he let it out with as much restrain as he could. But the look in Troi's eyes indicated she knew exactly what he felt. He hated that too!

"Garak," Julian bent down to take his hands into his own. "I promise you, this is completely confidential. Not even Admiral Ross has the authority to look at your confidential medical files."

"I don't believe that for a moment!" Garak hissed, and turned his head away.

"The only way the Admiral could legally look at even one sentence of your private medical record would require the approval of the presiding Doctor and four admirals. And then they would have to be able to prove that your personal health records pose a serious enough threat to the Federation to justify the invasion."

"Starfleet Medical Charter. Item seven, section three," Troi said, smiling at Julian, who was clearly impressed. "We take patient confidentiality very seriously, Mister Garak. You have my word, I'll only discuss subjects you are comfortable with while you are under hypnosis."

Garak could already feel a headache coming on, and the anger and helplessness he was feeling reflected a very strange pattern on the monitor. It was almost pretty.

He was suddenly disgusted with himself. How could he have agreed to this?

"Is all of this really necessary?" he asked, perturbed by the soft, almost frightened quality of his voice.

And he was frightened. More frightened than he could ever remember feeling. Why had his memory been blocked? Who was behind it? Oh he knew both the answers to those questions. But he had so many other questions he couldn't answer because of it!

But am I really going to let them hypnotize me?

"The only way I know to break through a memory block is through memory recall techniques, such as hypnosis," Troi said. "There's no artificial way to do it that doesn't risk damaging your memory even further."

"It may take two or three sessions to break the block at that," Julian commented. "And we would still need to monitor your health continually throughout."

"That's what is holding you back the most," Troi decided, crossing her legs. "All the equipment, the medical setting. You want to know what's behind the block without the fuss over your health."

"I see you've been paying attention," Garak chuckled, barely able to think anymore. "You're right. I would do this, if I could do it without requiring being monitored by the two of you. This 'medical setting', as you call it, only reminds me of an interrogation room. Being in my own bedroom helps, but only a little."

But it would be worth it, to find out what had been blocked. To unravel the secrets of his mysterious past.

"This will definitely not be an interrogation," Troi said firmly. "We can always take breaks if it gets to be too much for you, or too stressing."

"Very well," he said finally. "But under the condition that we don't dicuss anything pertaining to Cardassian military security."

"Even if it was the military that blocked your memory in the first place?" Julian said.

Garak knew that the question had needed to be asked, but neither of them had wanted to. He was glad Julian was the one to ask it. He hadn't wanted another reason to mistrust the Councillor anymore than he did, and hadn't wanted to break the subject himself.

"The Cardassian military would have had good reason to block my memory," Garak said.

Troi and Julian looked at each other, eyebrows in their hairlines. Terrans. They had no concept of the value of unwavering loyalty. Their ideal world was not his own.

"I support anything done for the protection of Cardassia," Garak continued insistently. "Even if I can't get my memory back as a result."

"We will respect that decision," Troi agreed, then she crossed her legs and looked at Julian Bashir, who bent over to place a very strange device over Garak's eyes.

It was a visor of some sort, with a screen that output random color patterns and strange shapes as he observed it. Julian then returned to his place by his own monitor to start his observations.

"Are we starting now?" Garak said, suddenly confused by the device over his eye.

"We can start anytime you like," Troi said gently. "Just watch the patterns while you are talking and the hypnosis will happen naturally."

"Well I know exactly what I want to talk about first," Garak said immediately, and reached down to pull off his socks. "Julian wanted to know more about my webbed feet, and that's a good place to start, because my earliest memory is of the Doctor at the adoption center having an argument with Tain over whether or not to perform surgery on my feet."

And then he launched into his narrative, and as he talked he felt himself lulling down into a strange sense of being separated from his own mind and travelling backwards deep into his past.


"...Because my earliest memory is of the Doctor at the adoption center having an argument with Tain over whether or not to perform surgery on my feet."

Julian listened attentively to Garak, only vaguely keeping his mind on the screen he was supposed to be monitoring. The well being of his patient seemed to be rivalling inside him with his severe need to understand more about his lover's past, and he fought a losing battle against that drive.

"You see, on Cardassia webbed feet are only found on a very small segment of the population, which evolved separately in the few natural swamplands on Cardassia Prime. They, or should I say we? 'We' are pejoratively called 'Swamp Voles' by much of Cardassian society. We're the proof that Cardassians evolved from lesser reptiles, rather than being 'touched by the finger of God' as much of the population still believes to this day. Our leaders may have been able to get rid of folk religion and witchcraft, but the belief that there is a God in charge of us is almost never argued about in public. Cardassians are supposed to be the chosen race, God's Architects building His Kingdom for Cardassian glory in the Universe. And so instead of having evolved from swamp reptiles, web footed Cardassians are treated like mutants, outcasts. We aren't accepted in normal Cardassian society.

"And here I was, this orphan, about to be adopted, and the Doctor was horrified during my examination to discover my webbed feet. He was terrified that Mila Garak would not want to adopt me!

"Of course, Tain knew. I think it was Tain that brought me to the orphanage. He certainly kept a close eye on me while I was there. And he insisted the doctor leave my feet alone."

"Do you have any memories of anyone else with webbed feet?" Troi asked gently.

It seemed as if Troi was a firm believer in letting the patient lead the conversation, and pushing gently in the direction that seemed the right way to travel. She thus wasn't asking him about Tain or about the Religio-political things he had revealed, but something small. It made Julian twist with the need to shout out questions himself. He bit his tongue, and turned to look at his monitor.

"Well, come to think of it, no," Garak paused. "Nothing. Tain didn't have webbed feet that I know of. Mila definitely did not," he chuckled. "She liked to do housework barefoot. Most Cardassian women do. I don't understand it myself. But unless she had her feet altered, then no. No webbed feet."

Troi paused, assessing for a moment, then nodded and asked the question that Julian had wanted her to ask.

"Why do you think Tain didn't want you to have your feet changed?"

With her previous question she had sought to pique Garak's own curiosity about his feet, so that she could slip in some candid questions here and there while he was in a mood the sort things out. It was rather brilliant, in fact, and Julian was envious of her conversational skill.

"I hardly know," Garak said, sounding surprised with himself. "Tain is a traditional Cardassian in many respects and would not have wanted it made public. But maybe he thought it would be useful someday. Cardassians with webbed feet have more natural buoyancy, are more flexible and have better agility, which is why we're the only Cardassians that can swim. Maybe that's why we're so hated by other Cardassians. They are jealous of that ability."

"Do you like swimming?" Troi asked casually. "Do you swim often?"

Julian he had to admire her professionalism. Her patience. What made her a good Councillor would have made him a terrible doctor. The willingness to let the patient have his way, yet still lead him in the right direction. A good doctor always asked the uncomfortable questions about his patient's health, and didn't let them get away with covering up their symptoms. He was a detective, getting to the heart of a mystery, uncovering illnesses and looking for clues. But a good councillor found ways for the patient to reveal things within their own comfort zone. The patient became the detective, wanting to find the clues themselves.

"Yes, I do like swimming, but I haven't in a long...while..."

Suddenly, something started happening on Julian's moniter and he jerked his head over to look at Troi, pointing to his console. This was the silent signal they had agreed upon to indicate that the area of his brain with the memory block was being simulated and that she should keep questioning him on whatever subject had stimulated this reaction.

"What is your earliest memory of swimming?" was therefore her next question and it was clearly a good one.

Garak's voice, when he responded, was no longer the light, easy, passive voice he had been using. He was struggling here now, and Julian turned to examine his heart rate, which had increased a small percent.

"I think...I...I think I was quite small. Yes, I was small," Garak's voice struggled, and he had become very uncertain. "I was struggling in the water, I had to have been very small, it wasn't very deep. I could touch the buttom, could feel the mud under my toes. I was struggling to stay up."

"Were you, perhaps, learning how to swim?" Troi suggested gently.

"Yes," said Garak, and the monitor Julian was watching came alive with activity. "A woman, she was helping me swim. I was so small. She was on her knees in the water...and she was holding me with her hand under my belly. I was...I was a baby. I was a baby."

Garak's voice was startled by this realization. Most Cardassians could remember very far back into their childhoods. This very early memory must have been startling enough, but to have a memory that far back must have almost been frightening.

Garak was shaking, just a little. The block was starting to wear down a tiny faction, and he started talking again in a more energized manner.

"Yes, I remember now. Swamp Cardassians learn how to swim very soon after birth. There's a tradition of giving birth within the water itself, as a way to separate and define ourselves as different from Cardassians who are born in a sterile hospital. We become more connected to who we are...but...I had only ever read about this tradition before...Could it be true? Could I swim from birth?"

Garak was smiling now. Smiling in a way Julian had never seen before. He was delighted.

"I can remember it as if I were still there. The cold of the water. The smell of the trees. The swamps...the woman holding me as I kicked and struggle to stay upright. I remember it."

"Who do you think she was, this woman?"

Such a quiet, gentle, question, but filled with an obvious answer that sucked all the air from the room and had Julian holding his breath as if for dear life.

"She was my mother."

Such awe. Garak's voice was filled with realization and fear, a fear of the things not yet seen or heard but somehow known. A voice that transcended surprise in every sense of the word. Julian barely recognised his awestruck friend. Barely knew him at all.

"Of course she was my mother," Garak said, voice suddenly fierce with loathing and hate. Not for the woman, but for himself. "How could I ever forget her?" he was shaking now, a quiet rage that showed in the creases on his forehead, the clenching of his fists. "How could I have forgotten my mother?"

"Tell me about your mother, Garak," Troi said, quickly.

Garak's voice and face were somehow transformed, somehow sad and yet happy at the same time.

"She was beautiful, my mother. So beautiful. Rhetta. Her name was Rhetta...Adon. Rhetta Adon. And I was her Elim. I was her little sweet baby," he laughed. "That's what she would say. And she had Long dark hair that I liked to grab. And blue scales, as pale as the stars, and deep black eyes that were somehow warm and vibrant all at once. She was beautiful. And her voice," Garak's own voice caught in sudden memory. "Deep and rich, a laughing voice. Full of zest for life. And she sang, I remember her singing..."

The monitor was suddenly making a sound and Julian quickly turned off the beeping and observed silently the radical changes now happening in Garak's brain. The block was coming down. He turned to indicate to Troi what was happening with his hands clasped together, then parted. She nodded.

Garak, for his part, had not noticed the beeping of the monitor. He was trapped now in a memory of his mother singing and his voice hitched with his sudden tears.

"She sang so beautifully. And she sang everywhere. In the forest where we went swimming. Where they harvested the regova eggs. That's what they make us Swamp Voles do for them, harvest the eggs that can only be reached by swimming. The rare rare eggs we were never paid for, but gave the government its only reason for letting our mutation pass under the radar. Rare rare eggs that were delicious and coveted on and off world. And Enabran Tain was our landlord."

Julian's eyes darted towards Garak in sudden shock at this revelation, but Troi had a finger to her mouth immediately. The unspoken comment was obvious; let Garak finish.

"In fact, I think he was more than our landlord. I think he was in love with her," Garak's mouth was a grimace. "I remember he made her sing for him. The entire time he came to visit us, and inspect the farm. It was just mother and me, in our house. Our little farm was cut off from the others. And the swamp was disconnected from the cities by a system of stone walls. There are checkpoints you have to go through to get to the swamp. Perhaps to keep anyone from stealing the eggs. Or maybe to keep us from organizing a revolt," he snorted. "Like we would ever leave the swamp. It was the only home where we were welcome. But Tain would come to the farm, inspect the eggs, and she would cook for him and sang as she did. He was our only visitor."

Garak didn't say anything for a piece, and Troi looked like she might ask a question. But then he continued quickly, almost angrily.

"I don't think he cared for me one way for another, Tain. He'd sit in a chair by the fireplace and I would toddle over, my ragged wompet doll in my hands. We didn't have money for a real pet, and small animals couldn't survive well in the Swamp. The regovas are large and nasty when they become adults, roosting in the tree tops ready to swoop down and try to latch onto anything that moved. That's why you had to swim to get anywhere near their eggs, because if you weren't underwater when they spotted you, it would be very painful," he grimaced. "I remember mother had scars from regova bites all over her arms, from reaching into their nests to grab the eggs. I'm sure they would have eaten up any wompet they could get, that's for sure. So I only had dolls, even though I was a boy."

"Its all right for boys to have dolls," Troi said.

"I supposed its true. But on Cardassia boys would stop playing with dolls once they learned how to talk. They were for girls," Garak grimaced a little. "I remember he said something about the doll once, when mother was peeling eggs for him.

"'Isn't he a bit old for that?' is what he said. I remember that."

"How old were you?"

"Four maybe? Four I think. I remember because our house was up on stilts to keep it from flooding and the year I turned four was the last year I had that doll. It sometimes stormed in the swamp, the wind was sometimes so strong...and the house, sometimes it would lean a bit in the wind...and that year I lost the doll during one of the storms..."

More activity on the console. Julian turned around and stared in dawning realization. The block was gone now, and all the neurons were firing in the previously blocked areas of Garak's cerebrum at once. This was bad...this was very bad. Garak was going to...

"Oh...I'm feeling a little...I think I'm...going to..."

Julian actually got to his feet as Garak started wretching, brown and green vomit coming up out of his nose and mouth. It was so sudden that neither of them had time to react before Garak wrenched the visor from his face and fled from his bed, running with his hands over his mouth for the bathroom.

"Garak!"

The sound of wretching quickly followed, and Julian practically flung himself into the bathroom to grab Garak by the shoulders.

"Hold on then, its all right, let it out."

Garak continued to vomit until his belly was empty, his shoulders heaving as Julian held on tight to him.

"Troi, bring my medical kit, I should have an anti-nausea hypo in there."

The hypo was soon had and Julian gave it to Garak quickly. The Cardassian tailor was quivering and shaking his head, tears were now pouring down his face, and he dry heaved again into the toilet. He trapped lost in whatever memories had broken free and completely incoherent.

Luckily for Julian there was an empath in the room.

"He's terrified," Troi said. "Something has frightened him terribly and he'd terrified to go back to it."

"We should take a break now," Julian said firmly, holding Garak around his shoulders.

"No!" Garak said, suddenly. "I have to talk about it now, or I won't ever. It was just...it was so unexpected..."

Troi nodded, and helped Garak to his feet before leaving the bathroom pointedly to give him some dignity. Julian grabbed a towel and helped Garak clean himself. He helped the man remove his vomit soiled shirt and then grabbed a bathrobe from the peg near the door.

When they left the bathroom they found Troi was waiting in her chair, the strong smell of herbal tea floating in the air from the three cups on the coffee table beside her.

"No more hypnosis," Troi said immediately as Garak sat back down on the bed. "You've made a breakthrough, and using devices at this point would just negate what has happened."

"What has happened?" Julian asked, rather upset that Troi knew before he did. "The block is gone...but..."

"The block is gone, yes, but not only that, he remembers why he is claustrophobic, and why his memory was blocked."

"Yes," Garak said, and he struggled to hold the cup of tea, his hands were shaking so badly. "And its not pretty."

"Five minute break," Troi said. "Your nerves are not ready for this conversation yet."

Garak nodded, and Julian left him only reluctantly to return to his computers. Troi grabbed a fresh blanket for Garak from the replicator and helped him change the vomit stained bed cover. Which left Julian to power down his monitors and computers, put away his medical equipment, and only kept out his tricorder and medical kit. Troi rather quietly started writing notes, and Garak sat with his back to the room, leaning against his pillow, staring out of the window to the stars.

"I think I'm ready now," Garak said and they all sat down. Julian returned to his chair and accepted the cup of tea that was waiting for him.

"All right," Troi began. "So why don't you begin as we did before. With something you want to talk about, and we can work our way back to whatever you remembered that caused the memory block to break down."

"Well, to start it was Tain who had my memory blocked," Garak said. "It was for my own good, at the time. I think I'm getting a bit ahead of the story though."

"That's all right, go in whatever order you like," Troi said calmly.

Garak nodded.

"My mother," Garak said, and his voice hitched. "Was indeed Tain's lover. She was living in isolation for her own protection. Tain was afraid that his enemies would find out he had a woman and child and go after them. So we were hidden away in a quiet place where nobody would know about us. Where it would be safe for him to visit us.

"And mother didn't mind," Garak shook his head. "We Swamp Cardassians are a hearty bunch, she could have been happy in a hammock in the trees just as long as she had the water. Swimming in the deep river Gyra, amongst the algae, and diving down beneath the water to find the eggs between the roots of trees where regovas hid them, was her world. So she accepted our exile from the rest of the Cardassia without complaint.

"But the inevitable happened..." Garak trailed off, and looked to Julian for help, with aching eyes that could not get out what he wanted to say.

"Tain's enemies found out," Julian said quietly, taking Garak's hand comfortingly into his own.

Garak nodded, tears starting to form in his eyes again.

"The only time anyone ever got the best of Tain. He wasn't head of the Order yet, so he was off on a mission somewhere, who knows where, and didn't have a clue that an assassin was after his wife and child."

Julian tried not to wince; Garak was clutching his hand so tightly he was cutting off circulation.

"It was a rainy night," Garak said, his voice quietly fierce. "There was a storm. The winds howled. The floorboards were creaking. And I woke in my bed to hear the sounds of voices in the kitchen. I climbed out of bed, all four years of me, and grabbed my wompet doll and went downstairs to investigate. We didn't get visitors often at our house, only Tain, and I was such a curious little boy. Such a curious curious little boy..."

Garak's voice broke, and he started sobbing again as he spoke, and his eyes looked out ahead of him at some unseen horror.

"I c-came into the k-kitchen and saw a strange m-man. He was holding my m-mother from b-behind, and h-had a knife to her throat and...and...the next thing I knew..."

Garak could barely get out anything more between his desperate sobs of despair.

"It happened so fast. There was blood everywhere, and then she was on the floor, dead, blood gushing out of her, throat and then the man was after me! Me! I ran out into the storm!"

Garak stopped speaking. He was shaking from head to toe, face pale and hollow, voice hoarse from his crying. Julian turned to stare in profound horror at Troi, whose mouth was likewise agape. It was all too much, too horrible to contemplate. And yet Garak went on!

"I didn't know which way to go. I was only four. But the man was not a swimmer so that's where I went, into the water. It was so cold. I was terrified. I lost the doll somewhere in the water, because I couldn't hold it and swim at the same time. And the man was still following me, up to his chest in the deep deep water. I went father, farther, and farther, until I lost him finally in the deepest waters of the swamp.

"And then I came to the pumping station at the center of the swamp. Its purpose was to keep the water clean, and I climbed inside the main sump pump, and i fell, it must have been ten feet, into darkness and sewage muck up to my waist. I was now trapped and alone."

So this was the source of Garak's fear of small spaces. Not just the small spaces themselves, but the tramatic events that had lead to his becoming trapped in one.

And every time he was in an enclosed area the trauma of the events would return, the memory block would weaken and the feelings of fear and panic would fill him!

It made a great deal of sense. Julian wanted to tell Garak this, but the tailor wasn't done his story. He shook his head, tears pouring down his face and Julian took him in his arms as he poured out the rest of his story.

"I was stuck, but I didn't want to leave. I was so scared. I spent the whole night inside the empty water pump, in darkness, crying and frightened of the man with the knife. I didn't escape until the next day when the water levels rose enough to lift me up out of the hole. I was eventually found there by the men who maintained the repairs to the pump. And taken by them to the nearest village. Eventually Tain came around and got me. And took me to the hospital."

Garak was done with crying. He was looking rather embarrassed now, and rubbing his eyes.

"Well," Garak swallowed, and looked down. "Cardassia doesn't have psychiatrists. When a Cardassian cannot function they go into an asylum. I couldn't function," Garak swallowed. "But the asylum I was sent to was frantic about me. They had never seen anything like me before. I would have fits of crying and screaming that they couldn't stop. I lived with the constant horror of my bleeding mother, and the fear of the man with the knife coming to get me. And I was too young to block my own memories. I hadn't learned how yet. I hadn't even learned how to create a memory library."

"Memory library?" Julian said, a little confused.

"We Cardassians learn various skills and techniques that allow us to access our thoughts as if we were going over shelves of books," Garak explained. "It requires great mental discipline but its very useful. Its one of the reasons we have such perfect memory recall. But I couldn't do it yet, nor could I even block things out, and my mind was taken up by the horror of what happened, I couldn't help myself, barely was able to feed myself most days, was constantly crying and wandering around in a despair. So one time, when Tain was visiting me in the asylum, they told him that it would be easier to block my memories until I was able to handle them."

Troi frowned. It went against everything that Federation doctors and psychiatrists were taught about the brain. It was healthy to confront the past, it was an imporant part of healing. Maybe blocking his memories had given Garak the tools to take care of himself. But blocking them had caused so much trouble for the adult Garak as a result!

"After the block I forgot everything," Garak continued. "My mother, the swamp, all of it. I was an orphan that Tain had found somewhere, and he knew a woman who was looking to adopt. Who just happened to be his housekeeper. So...it was all gone. Erased. And Mila helped me to start over from scratch. I was once again a productive member of Cardassian society, and that is all that our medical community cares about. But mother was gone. My mother no longer existed in my memory. Not just mother, my entire childhood up until I went to the adoption center. Gone."

Julian felt such deep sympathy and despair. He didn't know now how to help his lover. He couldn't comprehend such a deep and horrible experience at such a young age. He didn't know how to comfort Garak. All he could do was hold him.

Fortunately, they did have somebody there who did know how to help.

"It sounds as if they did what they felt was the right thing at the time to help you recover," Troi said quitely. "I promise I won't go into detail about what the Federation would have done better. But now that the block is gone, now that you've confronted the past, you can heal and I'd be happy to help you with that process."

"Thank you," Garak said, bowing his head. "But now that the memories are back, I'm not sure I really need help going over them."

"That is true," Troi agreed. "You can return to these memories without losing yourself the way you did as a child. And they are no longer blocked to you, no longer a mystery. But you have the answers to questions you didn't have before and you'll be confronted with feelings you may need help in dealing with."

"That's certainly true," Garak said. "There was no funeral for my mother. I don't know what happened to her body or where she was laid to rest. How do I mourn her?"

"You can start by remembering who she was in life, not how she was in death."

"Yes," Garak said fervently. "I remember her now. And nobody can take her from me again."

Troi nodded, then turned to look as Julian, and frowned.

"Are you all right Doctor?"

Julian was surprised to find that he was crying.

"I..." he swallowed. "I don't know what to say, about any of it," he shook his head, unable to find the appropriate words.

"Crying again for me my dear?" Garak said, and pulled Julian warmly into his arms. "My darling, you are such a dear and sentimental creature. I'm feeling so much better now. Cardassians don't hang onto their pain the way other races do."

"Now now, no covering anything up or memory blocking," Troi said at once, standing to her feet. "I don't care if it is a natural ability for Cardassians, it can't be psychologically healthy for you."

"No, you're right," Garak said with a sigh. "As always Councillor. But when I'm ready to heal, I can take the blocks down any time I want to."

"Good," Troi said firmly. "Which brings us to scheduling our next session. We've made huge progress tonight, but we're all tired and need rest, so I'm going to stop our session here and give us all a little time to breath," she reached for her schedule PADD and Julian chuckled.

"I think I'm going to like having her here on the station."

"You would," Garak said with a huff, though there was no malice in his teasing.

His eyes were rather bloodshot and tired, and he looked ready to fall right into bed. Troi was right. Now that it was all out, he could talk about it with more depth and discussion another day.

Once Troi was gone and they were alone Garak dragged Julian into his arm, kissing him and clinging to him tightly.

"There was so much I wanted to tell you," Garak said. "But she was here."

"Garak..." Julian started, but Garak hushed him.

"The reason why Tain continues to pretend I'm not his son is because the killer was never found," Garak shook his head in tears. "He became the head of the Order in order to have the resourced to track him down, but he has never found him. He has an unseen enemy out there who he cannot catch, who knows I'm his son. I wasn't just exiled after the occupation, but all of my life. I went to school in a city far away from where Tain lived. I was treated badly in public. I was sent away from Cardassia to Tzenekth as soon as I was old enough. He's been sending me away all his life not because of anything I have done, but to make it seem to his enemy, and to the rest of the world, that he doesn't care about me at all. That he hates me. He exiled me to protect me."

"I see," Julian said. "I won't let anything happen to you Garak..."

"No no no! You don't understand!" Garak said. "What if something happened to you? What if my enemies come after you to get to me? We can't let anybody know about us Julian! Troi won't tell anybody, I'm sure, and you can't mind-probe a Betazed. But somebody else could . I couldn't bare to lose you the same way I lost...her..."

Garak's face was a mask of aching despair and loss. Cardassians were very much bonded to their parents, and to their children, and their mates. Cardassian society was based upon the strong instinct for family groups in Cardassian DNA. And here was Garak, mourning a mother he hadn't realized he'd lost and devastated by it. He was reacting to his fears.

"I know hon," Julian said, thinking that 'hon' suited Garak almost entirely too well. "I want to tell the world about us. I want us to be a couple. But if it helps you feel safe then we'll keep quiet about it."

"Julian, I love you," Garak said, and kissed his head. "I couldn't stand to lose you now that I finally have you."

Julian felt his heart aching deeply and kissed his lover back.

"I think I love you to, no..." Julian paused. "I know I love you, and I want to keep loving you without you having to be afraid all the time for my safety," Julian put his arms around his lover's neck and kissed him. "And I think I can live with the lies now," he chuckled. "Its worth it."

It really was.