Wrongs Darker Still


            Not all universes were kind enough to let Kira learn the complete truth about her mother and Dukat, and some derailed her plan worse than others.

            She stood in line next to Meru as Dukat paced back and forth in front of the women, like a predator tracking his prey. In a very real sense, that was exactly what he was doing.

            He may not know it yet, but he’s stalking Kira Meru, Kira Nerys thought bitterly. As she looked at Dukat, she simply couldn’t keep the personal hatred and bitterness out of her eyes that had resulted from all of her past dealings with him. Dukat, on the other hand, knew nothing about such events; for him, they hadn’t happened yet. So he was understandably bewildered that he was so reviled by this stranger, when all of the other women were clearly intimidated or even terrified. He stopped before her.

            “Perhaps I shall choose you,” he considered experimentally.

            “Keep away from me!” Her eyes shot arrows of hate into him.

            One of his Cardassian guards stepped forward aggressively, his arm raised to strike her for her insolence. “You will show the proper respect!” he bellowed.

            Dukat put up a hand to stop him, and the guard subsided reluctantly. Dukat was clearly more curious about this unusual creature, than eager to have her disciplined. The gul didn’t even glance at the guard; he continued to study Kira, his eyes never leaving her.

            “Do I know you? Have we met before this?” he queried.

            “No,” she lied through gritted teeth. She had met him, but he hadn’t met her; in this time her former self was just a little girl.

            Dukat grinned. “Well, whatever the reason, you’re a feisty one. And I know just the Cardassian for you.”

            Her eyes shot nails into him. “Whoever he is, I won’t let him near me!”

            His smile remained, undisturbed. “Yes, indeed, he prefers women with some fight left in them; he’ll be very pleased with you.”

            Kira could do nothing but hurl ineffectual curses at him, as two of his guards dragged her from the room, and straight to the quarters of her new “master.”

            They shoved her deliberately roughly through the opened doorway, and then resealed the door from outside, leaving her alone with him.

            He was on the other side of the room with his back to her, but she noticed right away that his uniform was different from that of the others. Non-military, she realized.

            Dismissing that as irrelevant, Kira Nerys took the initiative and yelled, “Whoever you are, don’t come near me! I can fight, even in an evening gown!”

            Seemingly unruffled, he finished his task of pouring himself a drink, before turning toward her.

            Overconfident, she thought, and then she saw his face.

            “Garak!” she blurted, before she could stop herself.

            His eyes alight, he replied, “I’m pleased that you’ve heard of me. I suppose that my reputation among you Bajoran ladies is more widely known than I’d realized.”

            Kira mentally kicked herself, even as she struggled to recover from the shock. She was extremely fortunate, she knew, that he’d assumed that he already knew the reason for her recognition of him. If the brilliant master spy and torture expert had instead been suspicious, she might’ve found herself in a much worse bind than the already very uncomfortable role of  “comfort woman.” Her mind raced furiously: no wonder his uniform was different; it was Obsidian Order! And that made him probably the most dangerous Cardassian on this station, even including Dukat.

            Unfortunately, she knew that Garak could now see in her face the apprehension that all of these thoughts produced. Fortunately, however, he appeared to just attribute it to the anxiety that any young Bajoran woman would feel, when trapped alone in a room with a Cardassian male.

            He approached her slowly, casually, carrying his drink and smiling all the while. “Dukat called me while you were being dragged up here. He promised me the most feisty one he’s sent yet.” His eyes twinkled in anticipation.

            “The most feisty one yet? What happened to the others? Why isn’t one of them still here with you?”

            Garak smiled his most charming smile, his cat-ate-the-canary smile, and Kira suppressed a shudder.

            “They didn’t work out, at least not for long.”

            Something in his tone or expression gave her a very bad feeling. “What happened to them?” Her voice was barely above a whisper.

            He made a dismissive, nonchalant gesture. “Oh, I suppose that the guards returned them to Bajor.”

            Yeah. In a box. You killed them, Kira thought with certainty. She wasn’t sure how she knew, but somehow she had no doubt. She swallowed hard. Was that the natural ending to all of his trysts?

            He obviously noticed, but again seemed to chalk it up to ordinary nervousness. “Come and sit with me on the couch, my dear.” He sat down, clearly trying to demonstrate harmlessness, at least for now.

            She blinked. “I…thought…that…I…was…here…for….”

            “Sex and combat, not necessarily in that order?” Garak was both blunt and amused. “You’ll find, my dear, that I am different from other Cardassians, who would jump you the minute you entered the room. Now come, sit beside me; I don’t bite.”

            That’s probably the only thing that you don’t do, she thought, fighting down panic. She’d come back in time to spy on her mother and Dukat, and now she would likely be raped and killed by her local “simple, humble tailor,” and a genuine spy himself to boot. The irony was galling and unbearable. But seeing no other course at the moment than obedience, Kira warily approached the couch, and gingerly sat down on the end farthest from him, with Garak watching and smiling tolerantly at her every move.

            Of course he prefers a “feisty one,” she thought in horror. He’s an agent; he’s been training all of his life in every manner of attack and self-defense; it’s how his life is. Naturally, he’d want combat in his sex. And I don’t know the formal techniques; I’m a freedom fighter; I fight dirty, but he’ll know every defense against that; I don’t stand a chance.

            “You’re very quiet, my dear. Where’s that belligerent young lady who walked in my door?”

            More timidly than she meant to, Kira said, “I don’t know; I think that I lost her somewhere.” Her voice shook. But in a sudden flash of insight, her words tumbled out quickly. “If you’re disappointed, maybe you should send me back to Dukat!” Part of her couldn’t believe that she’d just said that, and she bit her lower lip.

            But Garak just chuckled. “Nonsense, my dear. I think that you’ll rediscover that part of yourself when needed.” His eyes sparkled playfully.

            Yeah. When you try to rape me. And probably beat hell out of me in the process, thought Kira. In addition to being dangerous, this situation was just too bizarre. She’d gone on a few missions with this man, for crying out loud; she’d fussed at him for being in ops unauthorized. But he knew none of that. It was in his future, but it was in her past. It suddenly struck her that if she got out of this alive and returned to the future, her relationship with Garak would become unbearably awkward. Especially if he raped her, her mind added. She shivered.

            “Are you cold?” Garak inquired politely. “Would you like a wrap?”

            “No, thank you; I’m all right.” Kira certainly was not cold. Cardassians always kept it way too hot in here.

            “You’re better than all right,” he observed approvingly. “You’re lovely! Would you like to sit closer, and I’ll warm you with body heat.” He tried not to grin too suggestively.

            “Uh, no! No, thank you!” she said hastily. Unbidden, her mind conjured a frightful image of cuddling up next to a lizard sunning itself on a rock.

            “Well, then, I’ll get you a drink.” He was up and off the couch before she could say a word. For a very brief moment, Kira rashly considered making a break for the door, but she instantly knew that she’d never make it. The Garak of her time was never unarmed, and she was willing to bet that this earlier Garak was no fool either. A knife or a blaster bolt would be in her back before she’d gone but a few steps. And the guards had locked the door from the outside anyway, her memory added belatedly.

            Garak returned with the drink, and of necessity bent close as he set it on the table in front of her. His face was frighteningly near, and their eyes met. Beneath his extremely polished, sophisticated, civilized veneer, Kira saw the cold reptilian eyes of a predator. She fell back against the couch, gasping. Both Quark and Bashir had told her about the intensity of those eyes, but it wasn’t until now that she’d seen for herself.

            Garak clearly enjoyed his effect on her, and sat down closer to her, unnerving her even further. He studied her for a moment, and when she made no move to pick up her drink, he retrieved it and handed it to her.

            Her pulse thundering in her ears, she suddenly realized that she’d better calm down and gather her wits about her, and that the alcohol might help her to relax at least a bit. She took an abrupt long gulp of her drink.

            This elicited mild laughter. “Easy,” he admonished gently. “I don’t want you limp as a rag.”

            Like a lightning bolt, that simple statement struck into her how close she must be to the event that she dreaded. Kira forced herself to look deeply into his eyes again, and let her own eyes plead with him, silently but eloquently, to somehow spare her.

            All humor gone, he reached out and fondled one of her curls, and said quietly, “I know that you’re afraid. And there’s a part of me that’s genuinely sorry.” He truly looked sincere. “But the more important part of me finds you stunning, charming, and utterly irresistible.” He smoothly slid his body the rest of the way over against hers. “And that part of me is going to have you right now.”

            As fast as Kira brought up her arms, both of her wrists were in his two powerful hands. Her glass went flying over the back of the couch, crashing onto the floor. She struggled mightily, but his grip was as solid as if she’d been handcuffed. She tried to kick, but with them sitting side-by-side, the angle was impossible. Dizzyingly fast, he spun her and slammed her back against his chest, and his arms were automatically in perfect strategic position to snap her neck with a single twist.

            As quickly as if someone had thrown a switch, Kira froze.

            “Ah, so you recognize this position; you know what I can do next, if I wish.”

            Kira murmured a brief assent, and held very still, except for the uncontrollable trembling of her entire body against his. She had no doubt that he felt it.

            “Submit or die,” he said bluntly. “Choose.”

            “Submit.” Her voice was nearly a sob, as she fought back tears.

            Now, Garak’s ruthless side took over; he swept her up into his arms before she could even blink, stalked into the next room, and dumped her on the bed. His hands seemed everywhere at once, and her gown seemed almost to remove itself, in its haste. She dared not fight or resist; he would kill her instantly, she knew.

            She fought only herself. She waged a valiant struggle not to cry in front of him, but she lost that battle, too. She knew that her fear fed his lust every bit as much as her body did, and her shame was as relentless as her tears. Even through a haze of terror, she faced the bitter irony: throughout the Occupation, she’d managed to avoid ever being raped by the Cardassian overseers. Many other women, she knew, had not been so fortunate. It was her biggest fear, her only phobia, and she’d made all necessary effort to keep the reptilian men from knowing her one weakness, or they likely would have exploited it, or even done it to her out of spite. But then, safely past the time of the Occupation, she’d returned to it on a research mission, and this was where it had led.

            The moment that she’d dreaded most was upon her without warning, and she screamed without restraint; due to moderate anatomical interspecies differences it was as horribly painful as other women had warned her. She nearly passed out from the agony, and that was when the Bajoran Orb of Time seized hold of her, and dragged her back into the future.

            In the infinite wisdom of the Prophets, it had deposited her into her own quarters on DS9, not on Bajor, from where she had left. She collapsed onto the floor sobbing for long moments, until she saw how badly she was bleeding. Having no intention of traversing public corridors in this bedraggled state, she called to be immediately beamed directly to sickbay.

            Bashir was horrified at her condition, and kept demanding who had done this to her, but she steadfastly refused to explain, only muttering again and again, “It was my own stupid fault.”

            Now she lay alone in a quiet biobed in sickbay, where he’d insisted that she remain for observation. Alone, that is, until Bashir announced that she had a visitor.

            Garak entered, eyes downcast. He walked slowly to her bedside, and said softly, “I am so very sorry.”

            Kira was bewildered. “How did you know that it was me, after all this time?”

            To his credit, he met her eyes unwaveringly. “The moment that I saw you become second-in-command of this station, I recognized you as that girl. I’ve waited all of these years, wondering when you would go back in time, and experience what I already had.”

            “But why did you even remember that event? Apparently, you’d had so many Bajoran women back then, that I should have been just one more nondescript woman in a parade of nondescript women.”

            He looked rueful. “Your abrupt ‘vanishing act’ made that evening more memorable than most.”

            “Of course,” she whispered.

            “I knew that something very unusual had to be going on, and through the years, I was able to analyze most of what it must have been.”

            “But still, how did you know that I’d gone now, instead of a year from now, or a year ago for that matter?”

            His eyes slipped aside evasively. “Sorry, Major, I never tell everything that I know; surely Doctor Bashir has told you that by now.”

            Mildly frustrated, she let it go for the moment.

            “Speaking of the doctor, he assures me that you’ll be all right physically, but what about mentally?” He looked so forlorn, so guilt-ridden.

            But she couldn’t give him the reassurance that he desperately wanted. “I don’t know.” She proceeded to tell him about how he’d been her first Cardassian, after successful against-all-odds avoidance throughout the Occupation.

            His expression crumpled in grief, devastated at what he’d done, or actually, undone. “I am truly sorry, Nerys.” It was most unusual for him to use her given name, and his doing so now helped to illustrate the depth of his regret.

            “Let’s just not tell anyone, please! If the whole station got wind of this, I don’t think that I could still function here.” She shoved a desperate hand through her short hair, and tried not to think about the long curls that she’d had and that he’d played with, that night.

            Garak nodded mutely, and then quickly changed the subject. “I’m also sorry that you failed to solve the mystery of your mother.”

            “That’s not your fault,” she said softly. “Dukat sent me to you.” Then, her head rose abruptly. “Wait a minute! How did you know about my mother?!” Her eyes speared him.

            He sagged. It was very rare for Garak to be caught off-guard, and he was ill prepared for it. His distraction could only have been caused by his overwhelming remorse. He nodded slowly, and answered honestly. “Dukat told me.”

            “What??!!” Now her face crumbled in complete horror, and while her voice was still carefully at low volume, her hoarse whisper had developed a distinct note of hysteria.

            He sighed. “All right. I’ll do something that I almost never do; I’ll tell you everything, the complete truth. Let me start at the beginning. That fateful night, Dukat called me to ask how I’d liked the ‘feisty one’ that he’d sent me. I told him about your bizarre disappearance. Over the years, we worked out together that it had to be time travel. When you were assigned to this station, and I recognized you, I told Dukat that I’d finally identified our ‘mystery girl,’ who’d gone back in time to place herself in such grave danger. Instantly, everything fell into place. He realized that the only reason why you, Kira Nerys, would go back to that dangerous night would be to learn the truth about your mother and him. It therefore followed that he was going to tell you about Kira Meru at sometime in the future. He knew that you’d never be able to resist the temptation to check up on it, as ‘feisty’ as you are. He chose now to tell you because he’s grown quite sullen at your continued rejection of his advances; he told you to punish you, as much as anything; although we both knew that he had to tell you eventually anyway, since the event had already happened in our past. And yes, that’s the answer to your question that I evaded a few moments ago: right after he called you to drop his bombshell, he called me to let me know that he had done it. When I heard that you were in sickbay, it was easy to guess that your traumatic night had now finally happened. I am indeed sorry.”

            “So when he called me about my mother, he knew that he was causing this! He knew what he was doing to me!” Her outrage threatened to overwhelm them both.

            “Sshhh!” Garak reminded her. “Remember, for us it had already happened, therefore it had to happen to you, sooner or later.”

            She was not much mollified, but she looked slightly contrite that he’d had to remind her to keep quiet so soon after she’d asked him to keep this secret. “So he picked now to punish me.” Her bitterness was palpable. “Well, at least he’s consistent; Dukat never does anything without an ulterior motive. He must be laughing his butt off over this!” She shook her head, obviously agonized at the thought of how her foe must be gloating at this very moment. Her eyes implored Garak. “Well, at least please don’t tell him any more than you already have.”

            The Cardassian looked positively miserable. “He’s waiting for my call right now, so that I can hopefully assure him that you’re all right.”

            She sank in disbelief where she sat. “No! This can’t be happening!!”

            His tone pleaded for her to understand. “He really does care, Kira, despite his current resentment; he’s anxious to know.”

            “I don’t believe this!” She threw up her hands in furious, but unavoidable surrender. “He intentionally throws me into my deepest fear, and then wants to be reassured that I somehow survived it!” She sighed heavily, from the pit of her being. “Well! At least don’t tell him what I told you about you being the first…, you know.”

            Garak just closed his eyes.

            “No!” she nearly whimpered. “He can’t know that already!!!”

            “He’s been speculating about it for years,” he said glumly. “He’s awaiting my confirmation. And no, he won’t forget to ask. In his infinite ego, he’s decided that that must be the case, such that ‘fear of the unknown’ is all that’s keeping you from allowing him to seduce you.”

            Kira just gaped at him, at a loss for words, possibly for the first time in her life.

            He went on in the same tone. “He’s even convinced himself that this experience might help you to give yourself to him, since the unknown will now be the known, and you’ll have no further reason to be afraid of him. He hoped that I could ‘break you in’ for him.” He bleakly watched her for what he evidently thought would be an emotional storm.

            But her reply was ominously quiet; she seemed to have collapsed emotionally. “Can you persuade him to keep all of this quiet?” she asked dully. She appeared to already expect another negative.

            With tremendous relief, he was finally able to give her a smile, and the answer she desired. “Of course. He and I have already kept it just between the two of us for all of these years, and he has absolutely nothing to gain by telling it.”

            She looked like she almost feared to dare to hope.

            He concluded, “So now, we’ll keep it a secret among the three of us forever.”

            She nodded slowly, desperately needing to be able to cling to that.

            He asked very tentatively, “Is there anything at all that I can do for you? Would it help to be held?” He very carefully, nonthreateningly offered his arms, just a bit. “Or would that make it worse?” He looked so forlorn.

            She could see that he wanted so fervently to help her somehow, but despite his kind intentions, his offer made her visibly jittery. “Maybe later, when I’m feeling a little less skittish.” Her voice quavered.

            He backed off quickly. “I’ll visit again.” His expression turned wistful, and more than a little desolate. “You’ve seen a side of me that I haven’t let anyone see since the Occupation. A side of which I’m deeply ashamed.”

            In spite of her so recent pain and terror, Kira felt an irrational urge to console her attacker, even though she knew how ludicrous that was. On impulse, before she could change her mind, she reached out to him.

            Stunned, he ever so gently took her hand.

            “We were all different then,” she admitted diplomatically, and it was no less than the truth.

            A faint smile touched his melancholy eyes. “Thank you for even trying to forgive me. I don’t deserve it, after what I did to you.”

            “Maybe you do. At least, you bother to care.”

            Casting about for something to say, maybe even something that could cheer her up, at least a little, he offered, “That was a lovely gown that you wore that night.” His eyes held not a trace of lust, just kindness.

            “I thought so, too. They let each of us choose our own; they had that much decency, anyway. I loved that one the moment I saw it.”

            Suddenly, he smiled brightly, even joyfully. “I’ll make you another one just like it immediately! After all…, I’m a tailor now, you know.” 

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