TITLE: Especially the Lies
AUTHOR: Kathryn Ramage, (c) May 1997
CODES: G/B, rated PG
SUMMARY: Garak tells Bashir a few stories about the one great love of his life...but is that what he's *really* telling him?  No sex.  No violence.  No profanity.  Small amounts of an alcoholic beverage are consumed.
DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns Star Trek, DS9, and the characters.  This story was  written for personal amusement and should not be taken as intended copyright infringement or indeed anything but the product of a slightly bored mind seeking its own entertainment. 
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first of two stories from Kathryn that have recently been released from print 'zine exclusivity; the other, "The Thread of Truth," can be found in this issue of the 'zine.
 

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"You've never tried kanar?"  Garak asked as he poured out a second glass of the bright blue liquor for his guest.

"No, never."  Julian took the offered glass and sipped experimentally: the initial taste was so sharply acidic that it seemed to slice his tongue and he balked at swallowing although he didn't dare to spit on 
the floor.  But, when he did finally gulp, he found that the sharpness had already mellowed to a warm sensation that burned pleasantly down his throat.

Garak watched his struggles with a slight smile.  "It's an acquired taste," he explained.

Julian was not invited to the Cardassian's quarters very often, but he enjoyed the evenings he spent there.  After a drink or two with dinner, and a few more once they retreated to privacy, Garak was 
usually relaxed enough to let his guard slip slightly and be talkative. He told stories about himself.

_In kanar veritas_?  Well, not quite. If Julian paid attention to the details of each story, he couldn't help noticing that they didn't match.  Garak claimed one night that he had been on Romulus when he'd 
heard that the Cardassian occupational forces were withdrawing from Bajor; a week later he said it was Klaestron IV. It might be one as easily as the other. It might be neither.  He said he had been 
inducted into military service at 19--no, make that 21. In a single conversation, Garak might give him two or three alternate versions of the same event,  or else make a statement only to contradict himself in the next breath.

At this point, the doctor knew he couldn't believe a word of it.  He was not so naive as he had been when his friend had told him three different stories about his exile in as many days and he had believed each one in turn.  He had stopped expecting verifiable facts and learned to appreciate Garak's stories whether or not they were true.  Besides, he wanted to believe that his friend really was trying to reveal important things about himself but, being Garak, couldn't come right out and _tell_ him directly.  Among the elaborate weave of lies lay slender threads of truth; surely, Garak expected him to extract them and would respect him the more for solving the mystery for himself.

"Now, what were we talking about?" the tailor asked as he took his seat.  "Yes- I remember.  The romantic poetry of Lirat Magteni.  You don't believe Cardassian writers express the sentiment of love very well."

He had said that. Now he retracted slightly.  "It just seems so formal and factual, as if there's no real feeling in it.  Compare it to the poetry of Earth's Romantic period-"

"Syrupy.  Self-indulgent."

"Perhaps Cardassians simply don't experience the emotion the way humans do."

"No, I believe we do.  The modes of expression may differ, but love is love.  Emotions are universal." 

There was a pensiveness to this which intrigued the doctor. Was his friend thinking of someone in particular?

"Have you ever been in love?" he asked.

Garak came out of his reverie.  "Oh, I've had my romantic adventures," he answered with rougish relish. "Love?  Yes, once or twice.  There was one..."  He rose to refill his glass and did not look at Julian as he continued. "You might call it the great love of my life."

"Really?"

Garak glanced up at him.  "You think me incapable of caring so much for one person?"

"No," Julian answered hastily.  "No, not at all.  That is- I just wondered-  Who?"

"Shall I tell you?"  He sipped his drink and settled down. The doctor grinned in expectation of hearing a good story.

"Like all great loves, it was unrequited," Garak began. "Obtaining the object one desires is never so enthralling as longing for it.  Do you not find it so?"

Bashir shrugged.  "I suppose."

"`Suppose'?"  The tailor flashed a smile. "My young friend, you have never known an unfulfilled desire."

"I have too!" Bashir protested.

"Not where love is concerned.  Not like this."  And Garak told his story:

"It was long ago, at least 20 years.  I was an instructor at the Kardasi Institute of Intellectual Enlightenment--a small but prestigious educational facility.  She was one of my students. A 
brilliant girl.  So young, but such an inquisitive mind!  She was a delight to instruct--to see her eyes opened to the possibilities of the universe around her."

"What did you teach?" asked Julian.

"Literature," Garak told him after a moment's consideration. "Cardassian writings of a socially improving nature.  I gave her works not assigned in the curriculum.  You would have liked her, 
Doctor--she too was bored by _The Neverending Sacrifice_."  He smiled indulgently at Bashir's laugh.

"And-?"

"And?"

"What happened?"

"Nothing." Garak took another sip.  "I never spoke one word to her of a personal nature.  It would have been inappropriate.  She was so much younger than I.  A child in experience.  She was the daughter of a highly-placed and powerful family--they were extremely protective of her and they would have found me...unsuitable.  And, of course, I had no reason to believe she returned my affection. I was her mentor, perhaps a father-surrogate--although it disturbs me to imagine what sort of father she must have had to consider _me_ in such a light!  She enjoyed our conversations, but it was quite clear she did not derive the same pleasure from my company as I did from hers."

"What happened to her?"

"Oh, she went on to an illustrious career in the Central Command. She has a seat in the Detapa Council now, I believe."

Julian frowned.  He didn't want to be easily deceived; Garak had claimed so many things about where he had been and what he had done twenty years ago that they couldn't all possibly fit into his history. And it seemed highly improbable that Garak had ever been anything as innocuous as a professor of literature.  Nevertheless, there was a wistful note to his voice, as if he were truly sad at an opportunity lost.  "Did this really happen?"

Garak hesitated.  "No," he admitted.  "Not quite as I've told it to you.  There _was_ a woman, but she was an agent of the Obsidian Order. We were colleagues.  I was a junior officer in those days, a filing 
clerk on a dreary little outpost on Milinga III."

"You were never a filing clerk."

"Very well," Garak amended his story:  "I was a junior officer, the personal aide to Enabran Tain.  Is that more to your liking, Doctor?"

He was not usually this compliant when Bashir challenged his version of events; there was normally some token of innocent indignation when the doctor accused him of lying, and he would insist that he was telling the truth exactly as it had happened until he changed his story.

"Tamar was an associate of mine.  A brilliant woman. I had a part in her training, and we did share a taste for literature. It was one of the things that brought us together. I was very proud of her:  I saw 
her grow from a naive, socially awkward girl into an outstanding officer.  Her integrity, her bravery, her dedication to the service--all were remarkable."

"You never told her how you felt?"

"Oh, we exchanged a little flirtation, but I could see that it made her uncomfortable when she realized I wasn't joking.  I did not wish to undermine our friendship by suggesting that we pursue something 
more intimate."  Once again, he sounded almost wistful. "And so I remained content with her companionship, such as it was, for some time."

"And then?"

"And then, she betrayed the Order."  His tone turned darker.  "It was discovered that Tamar had connections to a certain dissident group.  She was stationed on Bajor at the time, and I was assigned to escort her back to Cardassia to stand trial."

"You couldn't have done it," Julian protested, drawn into the story in spite of himself.  "Not if you loved her."

"Oh, I did," Garak assured him.  "But I acted for the good of the state.  If Tamar had been the outstanding officer I imagined her to be, she would have performed the same duty."

Did she? Bashir wondered.  Perhaps Garak was trying to tell him the real reason for his exile, and this _was_ the true story, turned around.  Had _he_ been the one with connections to a dissident group 
and this women he spoke of been assigned to escort him to his trial?

"What was her sentence?" he asked.  "She wasn't executed, was she?"

"No, Doctor.  She was the daughter of a highly-placed and powerful family, remember.  The entire incident was hushed up. She spent a few months in prison."

"You didn't let her go?"

Garak looked surprised.  "Of course I did.  I allowed her to escape in transit.  She lives on Klaestron IV now--an exile, like myself.  It was the ruin of my career, Doctor.  Imagine, _me_ making such a 
sacrifice for love! To display such sentimental weakness for a woman who had been a long-standing enemy of my people.  It was a disgrace to everything Cardassians hold dear."

Bashir found some of this statement puzzling.  "You're not talking about a Cardassian woman, are you?" he guessed. 

The tailor sighed and swirled the blue liquid left in his glass. "No."

"What was she, Garak?  This `long-standing enemy of your people'? Bajoran?" 

"Bajoran," Garak echoed.  "Not a dissident--a member of the Resistance. I was assigned to escort her to Cardassia for interrogation."

"You couldn't question her on Bajor?"

"Oh, no. She was...too valuable a prisoner.  She had been the mistress of a highly placed offical of the Occupational government-"

"A member of a powerful family," Bashir interjected playfully. He was beginning to disbelieve in any version of this great love.  The women Garak spoke of might have been real acquaintances he had chosen tonight to claim affection for even though he had been completely indifferent to them when he had known them.  Or they might never have existed at all.

But surely there was _something_ in these rapidly changing stories that Garak meant him to know.

"He was suspected of pro-Bajoran sympathies," Garak answered, gently chiding.  "She served as a conduit for relaying information between her lover and her friends in the underground.  She remained in my custody for some time--my first extended, personal contact with one of her species."  He sipped his drink. "I had always viewed Bajorans as an inferior race, the enemies of all things sacred to the Cardassian way of life.  I first looked to her weaknesses to exploit them, but she proved surprisingly strong.  She was from a world I knew nothing about--our societies, our customs, our fundamental moral beliefs were all so different.  It amused me to hear her expound her rather naive opinions on justice, duty, right and wrong, but I was also sincerely impressed by her earnestness.  I could not agree with her, of course, but I found our discussions stimulating.  She challenged my every 
statement, as if she never realized that, among Cardassians, that sort of argumentative behavior is considered flirtatious--or perhaps she did understand? I wonder.  She had the most extraordinary eyes." 

At that moment, he happened to be gazing into Bashir's eyes; the doctor sat back in his chair, suddenly feeling strangely uncomfortable.

He took a sip of his drink.  "Did- did you ever tell her how you felt?"

"No, Doctor.  She would never have reciprocated.  The kind of love I had to offer would have seemed too alien to her. Forbidden.  Some might even call it unnatural."

"Garak," Bashir hesitated, then asked:  "This person you're talking about--this `Tamar' or whatever--it's not a woman at all, is it?"

"No, Doctor."  Garak watched him speculatively.  "Does that shock you?"

"Uh- no."  He gulped down the rest of his drink at once, coughed and sputtered.

The tailor observed this reaction with amusement as he continued: "He was a charming Bajoran boy.  I took him into my protection with an eye toward training him to serve as an operative for the Obsidian Order. I _was_  his teacher for a few years:  I instructed him on surveillance techniques. I exposed him to the most edifying works of Cardassian literature--which he rarely appreciated, by the way. I opened his eyes to the possibilities of the universe around him. And he did serve as an inofficial means of conveying information. I considered seducing him, just for fun, but-"

"No."  Julian interrupted this latest version of the story. "He isn't Bajoran."

"No, not Bajoran," Garak agreed easily.

"And this didn't happen years and years ago."

"No, Doctor.  My acquaintance with this person is much more recent."

No, _that_ couldn't be what Garak was trying to tell him. Could it?  Surely, Garak was playing with him.  Teasing him for prying into personal matters which were really none of his business.

Bashir left his chair, certain he was making a fool of himself. "Garak, I ought to go now."

The tailor was also rising, surprised.  "So soon?"

"It's getting late. I have to be up for a senior-staff meeting at 0700."

"You're not unwell?"  Garak stepped toward him with a note of solicitous concern.  "You looked flushed." He touched Julian's cheek with the backs of his fingers, and the doctor flinched away.

"I've had a little too much to drink.  I'm not used to kanar--that's all." He was stepping back.  "I'll be fine."

"You're trembling."

"I'm fine.  Uh- thank you.  It's been a lovely evening."

Garak gave up and saw him to the door.

"Good night, Doctor."

After the door slid shut, he stood in the corridor and hugged himself, still baffled by the thread he had extracted from the pattern of lies, wondering if Garak really meant it, and wondering if he should just 
go home or if he were brave enough to ring the doorchime and ask to be let back in.

~*\~end~/*~