Elim Garak was vulnerable—open to whatever attack may come. And he was to be so, voluntarily…for however long it took.
He lay on the couch, wondering how in the name of Cardassia he had agreed to this. Lying down is decidedly not
the best position to engage in, when one is not in private. He was not in the Infirmary—there were no restraints, and he was not ill. Still…it was requested of him to be vulnerable
. And regardless of the circumstances…that was not something easily acceptable, for him.
And so, he asked, “Counselor, if I may—is there a particular need for me to lie down like this?”
He could hear the slight hint of amusement in the voice of Counselor Ezri Dax. “Aren’t you comfortable, Garak?”
She is enjoying this, isn’t she? This is her concept of revenge…for my unfortunate treatment of her a week ago, isn’t it?
If so, then it was doubtless deserved. However…this girl never struck the former agent as particularly sadistic. Not intentionally, anyhow.
“Forgive me, Counselor,” Garak replied, “But you must understand…this suit is designed for comfort when one is upright
“Uh-huh. Garak, didn’t you design that suit yourself?”
“In that case, I’d say it’s your own fault.”
Garak frowned, turning his head to her in curiosity. “My fault?”
Ezri shrugged, a look of complete innocence on her face. “For not designing your own suit to work for you, whatever you were doing.”
Garak smiled. “Perhaps, Counselor, I didn’t see the need to design my public attire as though it could be used for nightwear.”
Ezri returned the smile. “I can lie down in my uniform just fine—that doesn’t mean I’ll sleep in it.”
“Perhaps. However—my work rarely requires, or even allows me to position myself this way.”
“Right. Okay, Garak—what’s the real reason?”
The girl’s smile grew. “You didn’t have a reason not
to make it comfortable for lying down. And I know for a fact that that’s it’s not the suit.”
“Do you?” Garak felt his own smile grow. “Perhaps you could explain.”
“You haven’t been fidgeting—you haven’t adjusted your posture that much, since you lay down. You’re tense—but it’s not your back.”
“Indeed? Then, perhaps you were to tell me what my true intentions are…?”
“That’s what you’re
supposed to do.”
“Counselor…why would I have reason to lie?”
Ezri shrugged again. “Practice, maybe? If you can fool a trained psychologist, you can fool anyone.”
Garak tilted his head, still smiling. “Forgive me,
Counselor…you hardly strike me as a woman of that sort of ego.”
“Oh, it’s not ego, Garak. It’s just part of my job to not let my patients off the hook.”
Ezri sighed, in what looked like amusement. “Okay: you’re not sitting up until you tell me why you need to sit up.”
“With all respect, Miss Dax—what was the purpose of my lying down in the first place?”
“What’s wrong with it, Garak?”
Garak paused for a moment. Finally…he replied, “If I may say, Counselor…you would make a wonderful interrogator.”
Ezri blinked, as if the thought momentarily unnerved her. “Come on, Garak—what’s wrong?”
Garak moved his hand, resting it on his stomach. “If you insist…I surrender to your force of will, then.”
Ezri nodded slowly. “I insist.”
Garak shook his head. “It is…difficult…for a former member of the Obsidian Order—to leave himself…”
“I am lying down, without a means of defending myself—and I am forced to be in this position when I am not alone.”
“You’ve been in the Infirmary like this.”
“But this is not
the Infirmary. There, it is the lesser evil. Here…” Garak frowned, “Counselor—do you always demand this of your patients?”
Ezri shrugged. “It depends. It’s supposed to relax them…help them ease up their mental barriers—that sort of thing.”
“I see. But I just informed you, that it has the opposite effect for me—”
, relaxation helps the patent trust me more…and be more honest with themselves. You, on the other hand…”
“Ah,” Garak nodded. “So, then, you are intentionally causing discomfort—”
“Well, that wasn’t my plan
. But you admitted it, and I saw an opportunity.”
“Indeed. May I sit up, now?”
Ezri chuckled. “Sure, Garak.”
He did—and felt his tension ease…a smile coming with it.
“Thank you, Counselor,” he said. “Now…perhaps we can continue?”
“Well, let’s see…” Ezri looked down at her padd, apparently reminding herself of the agenda for the day. At last, she looked at him, and said, “How’s your claustrophobia?”
“Oh—I barely notice it, thank you.”
Ezri held his gaze, tilting her head.
Garak looked around, his smile vanishing. “Is—is there something wrong with the walls of your office? They seem a bit closer than they were a minute or so before now.”
His smile returned, as he looked back to the girl. “No. I can assure you, Counselor—it has been under control…thanks to you.”
Ezri smiled, as she lowered her gaze. “Flattery won’t get you anywhere, Garak.”
“Flattery? Not at all!”
Ezri looked back up, growing serious. “Any more flashes of guilt?”
“Guilt, Counselor? Why—I am but a plain, simple tailor! What could I possibly feel guilty over?”
Ezri laughed, again. “You know, you’re very charming, Garak—I’ll give you that.”
Garak beamed, and inclined his head. “A trait of mine, since my youth.”
“I’m sure. But, look—you’re my patient. There’s a rule of confidentiality. If you want to keep something secret—I won’t tell a soul.”
“Ah…” Garak said, “But you see—that is something no one can truly say with assurance.”
“What do you mean?”
“Oh, simply that there are many ways to glean information from another—not necessarily involving interrogation.”
“Maybe. Now—you knew what I was talking about. You’re claustrophobia increased as a subconscious reaction to guilt over having betrayed Cardassia. You’ve been separated from your people—you’re an exile. You told me you were afraid that…well, if the Dominion were to be defeated, it’ll only mean the annihilation of your people.”
“Yes, I recall all of that, Counselor—I lived through it, as you recall.”
Ezri smiled. “So you felt alone in the universe—and that loneliness, mixed with helplessness, was personified by intense claustrophobia.”
Garak stared at her, unsure of her point.
She leaned back in her seat. “You know…I’ve got a lot of notes, about that. I think I’ll publish something—it’s not every day you discover a new syndrome.”
Garak tilted his head. “Discover?”
“I’m thinking of calling it ‘Garakosis’.”
Garak beamed again. “I’m honored, Counselor!”
“Glad to hear it.”
“Well, in answer to your question—no, I have no sudden bouts of a heavy conscience. I have accepted the possible consequences of my actions…and I will continue, regardless.”
Ezri nodded slowly…and she seemed more solemn, now.
“Counselor—if I may?”
Garak felt his voice turn solemn, as he spoke, “I must admit, I have
been nostalgic for the thought of returning to my beloved Cardassia, from the moment my exile began. However…I’ve long accepted the unfortunate fact that I may never return to the world I once knew. As it stands…if such pain is of no consequence, neither should any guilt be. Matters of conscience were never allowed to enter the equation for me, in the Order. I cannot simply lapse into them, in civilian life.”
Ezri looked a little sad for him. “Why not?”
“Should my abilities be required again…I’d best not allow them to weaken. As it were, Counselor—they are needed now, by Starfleet Intelligence. Hence…my conscience must be numbed for them, as it was for the Order.”
“Mm-hmm…” Ezri muttered, as she consulted her padd again.
After a moment, she looked back to him. “It says here that for two years, you had a cranial implant activated, which you used as a narcotic, to cope with the pain of your exile.”
“When it malfunctioned, you went through a severe period of withdrawal.”
Ezri shook her head. “Garak…I’d call the addiction—any
addiction—a weakening of your abilities.”
“Counselor…I admit, I found my exile to be initially…quite painful. However, as Dr. Bashir will attest, I recovered quite gracefully.”
Ezri snorted. “Right….”
“I assure you, Counselor…once the implant was removed, I came to discover I possessed no need for it. It was a minor inconvenience, nothing more.”
“Really? So…why did you turn it on, in the first place?”
“As I said, my initial years in exile were most unpleasant—particularly under Gul Dukat.”
“He could be quite…demanding.”
Ezri pursed her lip for a moment. “From what I’ve heard, the implant was supposed to help an agent withstand…torture. I don’t think—”
“As I said, Counselor…Gul Dukat could be quite
Ezri leaned forward. “Did…did he torture you?”
“Not in the direct sense, no.”
Garak smiled. “Counselor…I hardly think you’re unaware of the fact that the gul and I were…never on the most ideal of terms.”
“So he went out of his way to make life hard for you.”
“And that caused you to turn to a narcotic?”
“Counselor…agents of the Order were subjected to immense training, in regards to discipline. I would hardly think myself so pathetic as to find solace in a mere drug
, simply because my employer was difficult.”
“But you did.”
“I did…but Counselor, don’t assume it was merely due to Dukat’s treatment
Ezri pulled up her seat, so that she sat right near the couch.
As a rule, Cardassians have a greater sensitivity than most races to the presence of other beings…particularly when they are quite close. Garak had often wondered whether that had been a contributing factor to his claustrophobia. As it stood…the counselor’s proximity to him was not particularly unnerving. However…it was clear she was trying to provoke some sort of reaction.
“Garak,” she said, in a soft voice, “What was it?”
Garak thought for a moment. Finally, he smiled, and shrugged. “A great deal of things, Counselor. I would hardly ascribe one particular cause to my…torment.”
Ezri reached over, and took his arm, in a gentle grasp. “Garak…you can tell me. Tell me everything….”
Garak felt his smile grow. For a non-Cardassian, this girl was quite cunning…using an “innocent” personality to her advantage—conveying an image of trustworthiness.
“As I said, Counselor,” he said, “You are quite
an interrogator. I could easily picture a session where you smile gently at the suspect, hold his hand…speak softly to him—and in little time, he will submit to your every whim.”
“Garak,” Ezri’s gaze hardened with her tone, “I’m not joking.”
“Neither am I.”
“This is important, Mister. We need to make sure you won’t do something like that, again. We need to know the limits of what you can handle. Obviously, something
caused you to break. Whether it was the pressure of a lot of different things, or one specific event that made you just…give up on yourself—we have to find out.”
Garak chuckled silently…and lay his free hand on hers, where she held his arm. “And I feel confident we will
, Counselor,” he said. “In time. As of this moment, however—I doubt I could help you on that…or you, me.”
Ezri sighed…and let him go. “Fine…fair enough.”
Garak frowned. “We’re done, Counselor?”
“For today. See you tomorrow.”
Garak rose to his feet, and nodded, his smile returning. “I look forward to it, Miss Dax.”
Ezri looked up at him, and returned the smile…but to Garak, she clearly looked quite deep in thought.
Interesting…how she is still trying to understand me. When I told her once that it was impossible…she responded with, “I’d like to try.” Either she didn’t believe me—or she simple enjoys the challenge of a complicated soul like mine.
It was probably the latter. Such was something Garak respected…although her efforts probably would leave her with nothing.
“Good day, Miss Dax,” Garak said. And he turned, and left the counselor’s office.
Tailoring had long since been a means of relaxation for Elim Garak. As he had told the good counselor Dax, before his…most unfortunate outburst…throwing himself into this work—trivial though it was, in the grand scheme of events—tended to be sufficient to distract him from whatever pressures affected him.
Of course…he had no particular need for distraction, as of now. He was not so sensitive that a session with Counselor Dax would, as humans would say, “send him over the edge”. Not any longer, as it were.
As of now, he was at last attending to those costumes Dr. Bashir and Chief O’Brien insisted on wearing to the holosuite—what was it, again? The “Alamo”?
At any rate, Garak did not understand in the slightest their fascination with the so-called “honorable defeat” the program was said to entail. Honorable or not, a defeat was a defeat. Surely better to bide one’s time—live to fight another day—then to pay for one’s stubbornness with one’s life…dying for no purpose whatsoever. Defense? Gather your forces until you can strike in a strategic manner! Honor? What good will that do, when you are dead
? Renown by your people? Surely your senseless death merely costs them of what they truly require of you—your service
Humans can be most bewildering
Garak looked up with his “customer service” smile. “Ah—Plain, Simple, Garak
will do. How can I be of service?”
The young man—a Bajoran, of apparently modest means, if his clothing was any indication—returned the smile. He was carrying a set of trousers. “Well—I’ve been told you could fix…?”
“Ah, yes—say no more!” Garak’s smile grew. “I am always delighted to be given an assignment requiring my…considerable
And so it stands. Amid an all-to-necessary betrayal of my own people…I remain so low, as to mend the region of clothing with which my clients sit. All in all, quite tolerable, considering my alternatives.
He took the trousers, and looked over the split seam. And it was quite
Garak looked at the client in amusement. “If I may ask…what in Oralius’s name possessed you to impose damage like this
Indeed. Now I’m invoking that forbidden religion. Am I reveling in my rebellion, now?
The man chuckled nervously…as if embarrassed by a memory. “A…long story.”
“I see!” Garak nodded. “Well—this shouldn’t take too long. I have an order or two to finish, first—but by the end of today, I should have this mended. Perhaps if I were to have your name…?”
“Oh—my name’s Taren Mal.”
Garak felt himself internally freeze. Fortunately, he was not so careless as to allow it to show externally.
“Taren”…I know that name…
He kept his smile. “Well, Mr. Taren…when I finish your order—I’ll contact you. Expect a message…tomorrow morning, at the latest
“Oh—of course! How much?”
“Oh, a seam mend—not too expensive; standard rate should suffice.”
The man nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Garak—”
Garak raised a finger, “Ah-ah-ah! Plain, Simple
The man nodded, “Yes—Garak. Thank you….”
Garak nodded, beaming. “I am glad to be of service.”
As the youth left…Garak returned to his work, his mind filled with a single train of thought: Where had he heard that name, before…?
“Taren”…doubtless someone who made an impression on me. Not
him, per se—a parent, perhaps…?