crowdog66: (brigid stained glass)
Thought I'd throw up a public entry with a couple of passages from a very long fic I'm working on in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine universe, just because I'm very pleased with how they turned out.

Title: When the Farsei Blooms (two excerpts)
Pairing: Garak/Bashir
Rating/Warnings: R for mentions of sex and torture (not at the same time, thank goodness)
Word Count: ~1900 (the full version, at ~7500 words, is available on the Fan Fiction filter here on my journal)
Summary: Stranded on a remote Cardassian colony, Bashir and Garak must seek out a transmitter which is their only hope of rescue. In the process they enter a new stage in their relationship, one that is not meant to last.
Notes: (1) The term a'latli, as established elsewhere in the story, is a High Kardasi word which roughly translates into Terran as One who strikes sparks from me, as blade against blade, and whose gaze sheathes itself in my heart. (2) What I rather like about this fic is that it's told entirely from Bashir's point of view and, as in the original TV series, it's never really clear when Garak is lying or when he may be telling the truth. I'd advise you to keep that in mind while reading. :)

For those of you who have no idea who Julian Bashir and Elim Garak are, a short but classic scene from the DS9 episode "The Wire":


[The basic premise: Bashir and Garak end up stranded on a distant Cardassian colony, one of the we’ll-take-what-we-can-get ones where the climate is a lot colder than Cardassians would normally settle for. Their shuttle went through a spatial distortion that led to them crash-landing on this densely forested wilderness world, where the tech level is at medieval European levels. Their only chance of alerting Starfleet to where they are is to journey to a distant temple which is said to have a sacred artifact capable of talking to the "towers in the sky"; they set out cross-country in the cold of winter, and along the way Bashir takes advantage of an opportunity to initiate a sexual relationship with his friend, the mysterious tailor-who-is-quite-possibly-a-spy.

[A few days later, after various adventures and further intervals of sexual pleasure, they're lying together on one of the few full-sized beds they've been able to find on this benighted planet. Bashir, cuddled up against Garak's side with his head on the Cardassian's chest, makes a casual remark, which makes more sense if you realize that Cardassians are fundamentally reptilian:]

He ran his left hand down to curve it around Garak's hip, stroking his thumb idly over the delicate scales that patterned the hollow of his pelvis. "When we get back to Deep Space Nine, I'm going to take a great deal of pleasure in memorizing every ridge and pattern of scales on your body."

Garak was silent for a moment. “Have you ever heard the Cardassian expression, ‘when the farsei blooms’?”

“I can’t say that I have, no.” He felt perfectly contented and, for the first time in days, completely and deliciously warm. If Garak wanted to administer a lesson of their usual sort he certainly had no objection.

Garak’s voice fell into the musical lilt he adopted when he was telling a tale of the mythic past. “On the southern continent of Cardassia Prime there grows a tall and beautiful tree known as the farsei. For most of its life the farsei contents itself with putting forth silver leaves whose healing virtues are well known and greatly valued for their invigorating properties. But once every generation, when conditions are just right... ah, the simple farsei becomes a thing of wonder! It flowers, and the scent is as intoxicating as the blossoms are exquisite. For a few precious days everybody celebrates with wine and song and dances in the groves. It’s a time of pleasure and recreation, with not much thought for the morrow.”

“That doesn’t sound very Cardassian to me," Bashir murmured.

“It’s a local custom, surviving only where small groves of farsei remain in the countryside. That, however, is not the point of the story.” His arm tightened briefly around Bashir’s shoulders, silently but warmly rebuking him for the interruption. Bashir took the hint, although it made him smile. “For that short span of days the flowering trees are fully experienced and treasured, and loved even more dearly than before. But it isn’t meant to last. It cannot last. The conditions of time and weather that permitted the flowers to open come to an end; the rains return, and the petals are cast to the winds. The farsei blooms for the briefest of seasons. Only a fool would pass the opportunity by, and the memories endure for a lifetime. But when it is gone, my dear Doctor... it is gone.”

Bashir pondered the allegory for several seconds. Then he spoke quietly, not trusting his voice for anything above a whisper: “You don’t want this to continue when we get back to the station.”

“On the contrary. I would like nothing better.” The Cardassian sighed and held him closer again, caressing his shoulder with light fingertips. “For all your exaggerated sense of self-importance, I don’t believe you realize how truly enchanting you are. But there we are on opposite sides of a political divide, as much as we may enjoy each other’s company. No, it would be most unwise and quite impossible.”

Bashir closed his eyes, letting sorrow rise in his heart. Garak was right, of course: he usually was, the wily old serpent. And if that was the case...

“I love you, you know.” No more time. He blinked away the bright sting of tears. “As a friend, but even more than that. Looking back on things now, I realize I’ve loved you for a long time. Maybe I even loved you from the moment we met. I want more than this, but if this is the only chance we ever get... it’s enough.”

Garak listened to his confession in silence, and when he responded his voice was soft but even. “Dearest heart... you do me a far greater honor than I deserve. I’m pleased to hear that you have no regrets.”

Bashir uttered a bitter chuckle. “Oh, I have plenty of regrets. But only a fool would try to keep the petals on a farsei tree.”

Garak shifted to face him fully and took Bashir’s chin in his fingers, raising the Human’s face to his. His kiss was slow and savouring, and when it was over he whispered with barely contained fire:

“My Julian. My a’latli.”

Bashir’s heart swelled with a dizzying blend of joy and grief and pride, choking his voice in his throat. “My Elim... my a’latli...

He wound his arms around his friend and surrendered himself to the moment. It would have to be enough to last a lifetime.

[Two days later they're approaching the location of the temple, but notice many trails of smoke rising into the chill winter sky. Since the temple was supposed to stand alone in the wilderness and be inhabited only by a few priests, they decide to be cautious and check things out from a distance first. And therefore we find them leaving their riding ow'n tied to a tree and sneaking through the bushes to get a view from the top of a ridge... what they see is not encouraging. The temple is closely surrounded with tents, standards and a defensive wooden perimeter, and to the west there's an armed camp with standards of a different sort. It looks like Naievirl forces have control of the temple itself, which means that in order to get to the transmitter our intrepid heroes must get involved in a local war. They approach the Cardassian camp; Garak sweet talks their way inside, then does his usual manipulative dance to convince one of the Legates that he can find out what the Naievirl's secret battle plans are. The Legate agrees to give Garak any equipment he needs, and welcomes Bashir as well -- a doctor is always a welcome addition to an army's forces in wartime.

[Garak asks for an outfit in black with gloves, two blades, a short coil of silk rope, darts smeared with paralysis-causing compounds and a way to administer them from a distance, and then disappears into the night. Bashir paces the floor of their tent for a couple of hours, then finally goes to bed. A long time later Garak comes in, tired and cold but with a definite air of self-satisfaction. Bashir hears Garak undress behind him before joining him under the blankets. Then, bracing himself for a confrontation, the Human asks his Cardassian lover how his mission went.]

Strong arms wrapped around his waist from behind and held tight as Garak settled down against him, nuzzling into the back of his neck. The Cardassian felt like living ice. “Please, my love -- I’m cold to the bones, and deeper. For once I’m afraid I’m really not in the mood for conversation.”

“All right. We’ll wait until you’ve warmed up. And then we’ll talk.”

Garak groaned softly into Bashir's hair. “Can’t this wait until morning? Did I mention that I’m mortally exhausted as well?”

“Funny you should use the word ‘mortally’. Exactly what were you doing out there, Garak?”

“Something that’s left me deeply chilled and profoundly weary.” Now the spy sounded plaintive, but Bashir wasn't about to be put off the scent by a pretence of vulnerability.

“What did you do to whoever you got that information out of?” he demanded.

“I assure you,” Garak said with considerably more impatience, “there was scarcely a mark upon the good General when I’d finished asking her questions.””

“Her? It was a woman?”

“Evidently the Naievirl believe in full equality between the sexes.”

“You tortured a woman?” Bashir was appalled, and made no effort to hide it.

“I questioned someone who had the information we required." He uttered an aggrieved sigh. "Really, my good Doctor — in battle, would you hesitate to kill a women if she were your enemy?”

“Frankly, yes.”

“You Humans have some very strange ideas about how to conduct war, I must say.”

Bashir wasn't about to be distracted by a snippy remark either. “What did you do to her?”

“I spoke to her, mostly.”

“You spoke to her.” He let disbelief color his tone.

“You’d be surprised what a well-chosen turn of phrase can accomplish," Garak insisted.

“From you, no. But do you honestly expect me to believe that all you did was talk to her?”

"It really would be better for your peace of mind if you took that approach.”

Bashir closed his eyes and drew a deep breath to get his rising anger under control. Through gritted teeth he said again: “What. Did. You. Do. To. Her?”

After a moment Garak sighed again, this time more sharply. “I issued some very convincing threats, and promised her that if she was honest with me I would leave her broken, but alive for her troops to find and rescue.”

“And did you?”

“I’m afraid not.”

A chill infused Bashir’s flesh. “You killed her. In cold blood.”

“I suppose you would have preferred that I’d left her alive to tell her fellow Generals that I was taking the information back?” Ah, Doctor! his inflection scolded. Surely even you, with your Federation soft-heartedness, wouldn't be that foolish!

Bashir swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. “How?”

Garak’s response was matter-of-fact, although he delivered the blow with a nod to gentleness. “I broke her neck. It was very quick, as such deaths go.”

It would have been, if done properly. He thought of the force required to dislocate a vertebral column and of the grisly snapping sounds that would have accompanied the act. He thought of how it would have felt to the person carrying out the act of murder, a method of killing both violent and disturbingly intimate. He imagined the General fighting Garak's hands, perhaps with a plea for her life on her lips. He could see her head twisted at an impossible angle as he released her to slump against her bonds, lifeless.

He knew that Garak was right: if the General had gotten word back to her fellow Naievirl that their plans had been discovered, the whole point of the exercise would have been moot. Bashir's training in strategy told him that what Garak had done had been both practical and highly effective. But the thought of it still sickened him to his soul.

[Brief missing section. Bashir protests Garak's actions, and then says with a blend of plaintiveness and anger:]

“How could you do it? How could you just kill somebody like that? I don’t —” Bashir closed his eyes in despair and confusion. “I’ll never understand it.”

A long moment of silence answered his unspoken plea.

“Let me tell you a story, Doctor.” Garak’s voice was soft in the darkness, as dark as a shadow itself. “I was seven years old when the Obsidian Order claimed me. They take children young, you see, so that the eidetic memory training and pain resistance conditioning will be most effective, among others things. I was taken from my mother in the dead of night and sent to a training facility on a Cardassian colony whose name and location I still do not know.” He fell silent for a long span of heartbeats. “I won’t try to describe what happened there, because I have no words that could accurately convey the experience. I can only offer as evidence what it did to me: it is because of those ten long years that I am what I am today.”

“And what exactly are you now, Garak?” Who, or what, am I lying with? Who, or what, have I let into my heart?

“An agent of the Union,” Garak responded without hesitation, “even in exile. An embodiment of terror, pain and death. Do you know that once I shattered a man’s will just by looking at him? That is the power the Order bestows upon its loyal adherents. We serve Cardassia by being its eyes, its ears and its protective venom. We carve out the diseased portions of the body politic. We make the weak and the useless and the dangerous disappear.”

Bashir felt as if he was sinking, being swallowed up by blinding blackness. The arms embracing him felt as merciless as cold iron, yet there seemed to be a gulf of light years between him and the assassin who held him so close. He managed to whisper: “I never knew you at all...”

“On the contrary." Garak sounded rueful. "I may wish it otherwise, but you are my a’latli — in that, my dear Doctor, for once I told you no lies. And if the Union demanded your death of me, I would formally make that claim before them to shield you from their murderous intent, for all the good it would do.” He paused. “No... rather, I would take you away, someplace where the Order couldn’t touch you. Someplace where they would never find you.”

“Against my will?” Bashir almost shivered in the night.

“If you knew what the Order is capable of," Garak assured him with cool certainty, "you’d willingly flee to the ends of the galaxy to be beyond their reach.”

The truth was inescapable, so he spoke it aloud. “But I’m here. With you.”

“I may be an agent of the Order, but I haven’t completely ceased to be made of flesh and blood.” His tone turned briefly mocking, then became infused with something as close to real emotion as Bashir had ever heard from him. “And the first time I saw you, you went straight to my heart like the most merciless blade. There was no defense against either your beauty or your aura of innocence. I should have found you callow, insipid, a mere child, or a pawn to be used in the games that never cease to be played. Instead I discovered your inherent goodness, a quality which should have been a weakness, but which was instead your greatest strength.” Those silken words effortlessly penetrated the pain and anger and outrage that filled Bashir’s mind, slipping inward to touch something deeper, binding them together with ties of subtle fire. “Julian, I truly believe that you represent the best that Humanity has to offer. You conquered my splendid isolation without even knowing what you'd done. I will never be anything other than what I am, and you will never be anything other than what you are. The petals of the farsei tree are destined to fall. But in you I briefly touch the light, just as in me you briefly touch the darkness. And somehow we both find what we need.”

He knew Garak was probably lying. He knew that he was being manipulated. Part of him railed against it, demanded that he rise and get dressed and leave this tent and never return. But still he turned in Garak’s arms to embrace the Cardassian in return. Still their lips met, and he found himself drinking in that kiss as if it conveyed some essential quality of truth.

And perhaps, against all odds, it actually did.
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October 2016

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