Of the Highest order, AU3



Don’t even think of reading this installment before the others of this series.



“There has to be a way out of here!”

“There isn’t. Julian, you’ve been searching for one for the past hour.”

“We can’t just give up, Garak!”

“Do you really believe that they would have left us an escape route? That they would’ve left any opening unclosed?? Do you actually suppose that the Obsidian Order is that sloppy???”

“So you want to just sit back and wait???” When no reply was forthcoming, he demanded, “Why did they leave us in here all this time, anyway??”

Garak regarded him somberly. “To make us think about it for a while first.”

Bashir looked back at him almost accusingly. “And are you? Thinking about it?”

“I’ve thought of nothing else.”

“And are you enjoying thinking about it?”


“Well it’s what you do, isn’t it? This is your real job, isn’t it??”

Garak’s glum expression was answer enough.

“And you’re telling me that you never liked doing it??”

“On the contrary,” Garak replied stiffly. “There was a time when I enjoyed it a great deal.” Then he softened. “But not with you.”

Bashir wasn’t mollified. “Why should it be any different with me?”

Garak’s expression was poignantly hurt.

Bashir watched him for a time, blatantly unrepentant. Then he asked more quietly, “What happens if you refuse?”

“Dukat, …or his obviously eager young legate, Damar, will take over, instead.”

“Not Tain, himself?”

“Too old. He’d rather watch.”

“And you?”

“I’ll be forced to watch, too.”

“And then punished, also, for your refusal?”

“Of course.”

The human sighed, a slow, long sigh of resignation. He said quietly, “Then you can’t refuse.”

Seeing by that, that Bashir did still care about him, and did know in fact that Garak indeed cared about him in return, the Cardassian mellowed and put a hand on his shoulder. “You’re doing a splendid job of pretending not to be frightened. But I know that you are, and that that’s the real reason why you’re trying so hard to keep busy, and why you’re lashing out at me. But since escape is hopeless, you might as well let out your fears, my friend. You might as well use this time in a less futile pursuit.”

“What good’ll that do?”

“Prepare you better.”

Bashir eyed him for long moments. “All right, Garak. Yes, I’m afraid. In fact, I’m terrified. Now are you happy??”

“Hardly. But at least now you’re facing this more realistically.” He sat down tiredly on the only bench in their dungeon-like prison.

The other swallowed hard, and then sat down next to Garak, and visibly slumped. “Will I die?”


“Just wish I were dead.”

“More than likely.”

“They’re probably monitoring us right now.”


“We’re showing them our weakness. Playing right into their hands.”

“It won’t make one bit of difference.”

“You’re saying that the outcome is the same, one way or the other.”


“Why are they doing this?”

“Three possibilities: to obtain information from you; to exact revenge on you for something that you’ve done, or that they perceive that you have done; to punish me for any of the things that I have done, that have displeased them.”

Bashir regarded him askance. “And have you displeased them?”

“Between Tain and Dukat?? Any myriad of times!”

“Wonderful.” After a very long interval, Bashir said more softly, “Well, you’ll be all right. You’re used to this. Just do what you have to do. I would imagine that it’s routine for you by now.”

“You sound bitter.”

“Why shouldn’t I? In a very real sense, you got me into this.”

“And you underestimate your importance to me.”

“You’ll manage.”

“Julian. Let it out; stop holding back your real feelings. We could run out of time at any moment.”

After watching his friend for long moments, and letting down his guard in slow increments, the human turned and buried his face in the Cardassian’s shoulder. The sounds were barely audible, but he was finally following his friend’s advice. Garak held Bashir until they were summoned.

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