Author's note: A response to the ficlet challenge. Give me a fandom to work in, and exactly two of the following: a pairing, a character, a setting or an object and I will write you a ficlet.
This one is for Una McCormack. Thanks to Rocky and Una for the betas.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns these characters. I just play with them.
It was just after 2300 hours and the last restaurant on the Promenade had closed for the night. Of course, Quark's would still be open for another hour, but from this end of the Promenade, for a few hours, silence would reign. Kira Nerys loved this time of night; in a past life, she would walk with Odo, hand in hand, at the end of the day, enjoying the feel of his skin against hers. But it had been six months now since Odo had returned to the Link and as acting commander of Deep Space Nine, moments to herself were few and far between.
Kira ran her hand along the railing as she strolled casually down the Promenade, stopping every now and then to admire the goods in display windows. The maintenance crew was out in full force, scrubbing down the floors and dusting the nooks and crannies. They seemed to work more swiftly as Kira passed them, but the colonel had never mistaken action for productivity.
At the end of the Promenade, she stopped, staring down at the level below. A young Starfleet lieutenant and his date, a Bajoran woman dressed in red, sat entwined in each other's arms.
"Good evening, Colonel."
Kira turned at the sound of the familiar voice. "Hello, Garak. So the rumors are indeed true. You've come back to us."
"Fortunately or unfortunately, as the case might be." Garak stood just a meter away from her. He was dressed casually in a brown tunic and loose pants, but he still carried an air of confidence and elegance. "You are a difficult woman to track down, Colonel."
"You could have asked the computer." She indicated her comm badge. "It always seems to know." Her lips curled up in a sarcastic twist. "I find it surprising that a man who used to be a member of the Obsidian Order didn't seem to think of that."
Garak dismissed her comment with a careless wave of his hand. "I do not know what I must do to convince you I was nothing more or less than a simple tailor."
Kira smiled. "How are you, Garak? I haven't seen you in -- " she tried to think how long it had been since the end of the Dominion War "-- six months now?"
"I am well. And you?"
She shrugged. "Running a space station is hard work. So is rebuilding a planet, I'm sure." She paused. "I'm sure you and the other delegates will have plenty to talk about tomorrow when the conference begins."
"Indeed we will." Garak eyed her keenly. "Will you attend the conference, Colonel?"
Kira allowed herself a small smile. "I may drop by for a moment, yes."
"I thought you might take an interest in post-war reconstruction, though I'm quite sure you're willing to let Cardassia fester in the mess of its own creation."
"That's not true, Garak."
"You don't have to pretend with me, Colonel. Personal prejudices, honed through years of hatred and distrust don't melt away so quickly." Garak placed his hand on the railing and peered over the edge. Below, it was fairly quiet with the exception of a cleaning crew or two and the couple Kira had noticed before. Garak turned his attention back to Kira. "Given your strong feelings and knowing Cardassia would be at the top of the list asking for aid, it was very kind of you to offer to host this conference here on Deep Space Nine."
"I admit to ulterior motives, Garak," Kira said. "The conference will be good for Bajor, a short-term boost to the economy. Though --" her expression softened "-- perhaps we are the lucky ones, comparatively."
"It will take years, Colonel, before we have restored Cardassia to her former glory," Garak said. He leaned against the railing. In the eight years she'd known him, Kira had never quite seen Garak this casual before. "And there are many other worlds similarly devastated."
"Not to mention the unofficial guerrilla warfare still raging on some planets," Kira said. She stared pensively down at the couple below. The lieutenant had removed the clip holding his date's hair in place; red curls fell about her shoulders. "Every day, I receive petitions from various governors requesting aid. I directed them to Admiral Jones until he told me the Federation was no longer in the business of nation-building."
"I would not have expected that attitude from the Federation."
Kira nodded. "Nor did I. The Admiral tells me that the war has stretched Federation resources thin and projects must be chosen carefully. So more aid goes to Betazed rather than to Bajor."
Garak frowned, his dark eyes widening. "So what do you do?"
"I do what I can." Kira spread her hands in a gesture of helplessness. "But in a few years, Federation support for this station will come to an end. You know as well as I do that Bajor cannot possibly participate heavily in extending foreign aid to debilitated worlds. Not when it has its own economic troubles."
"So it seems we survived the war but it will be the peace that will kill us in the end," Garak said. "I had been hoping to bring good news to this conference, Colonel, but unfortunately, that is not the case. The Cardassian provisional government is in shambles, security is difficult to maintain as our police force is untrained and corrupt, and we have no money to fund our own reconstruction." Garak shook his head. "And I'm sure you are aware that Cardassia has made only enemies in the last fifty years."
"So you've come here to beg for help?"
"Cardassians do not 'beg', Colonel. I prefer to think of it as gentle persuasion."
"Then I wish you well." Kira gestured, pointing towards the far end of the Promenade. "Would you like to take walk? I don't get much opportunity for exercise these days so I like to seize the chance when they come."
"As you wish, if the hour is not too late for you, Colonel. I was surprised, but pleasantly so, to see you here." Garak's stride was even and Kira had no problem matching hers to his.
"Insomnia," Kira said wryly.
"Or is it something else?"
She stared at him.
"Perhaps in peace, we have time to think of the war and what it actually meant," Garak said softly. He pulled a gray bag out of his pocket and held it out to her. "If I recall correctly, Colonel, you were quite fond of jumja sticks. I'm afraid the larger ones were all gone by the time I reached the sweet shop on deck one."
Kira stared, amazed he had catalogued this detail about her; but then again, she reminded herself with a smile, this was *Garak*, who had never been, in her opinion, just a simple tailor. Gratefully she reached for one stick, clutching it delicately between her fingers.
Garak was kind enough not to look at her; there was no graceful way to consume a jumja stick. "It is good to be here, Colonel, I admit, among familiar faces and locales. In fact, the social aspect of this trip was one I was quite looking forward to."
"Unfortunately, I'm afraid your visit here coincided with Dr. Bashir and Lieutenant Dax's honeymoon," Kira said, as she took her first taste.
"Yes, I was aware of that. I sent my congratulations on their marriage a few weeks ago."
"He and Ezri seem very happy together. After they return from their honeymoon, they will spend two weeks here on the station before Lieutenant Dax takes up a new post on the USS Gallant. Bashir will join her there, assistant CMO, I believe. The change will be good for them, especially for Dax. She hasn't been allowed to discover herself fully here on DS9," Kira said. "Jadzia's shadow has always been there, so I expect the Gallant will be a good posting for her."
"I admit, I did not think much of Lieutenant Dax when we first met," Garak said, "but I believe she will be a good influence on the Doctor."
Kira licked her fingers, almost embarrassed at the speed at which she had dispatched the jumja stick. "They both have scars from the war," she said softly. Garak held out the bag and she took another stick. "They both always seemed so young to me. And now --" Garak was watching her carefully "-- I miss that youthful enthusiasm about both of them. Perhaps they will help each other."
"Dax is over three hundred years old, Nerys," Garak said.
"But Ezri, Ezri never had the confidence of the other hosts," Kira said. "You know that as well as I do."
"Yes, but even so, all people grow up and change at some point. It's no different with Ezri and Dr. Bashir."
"True." Kira bit off the now tapered end of the second jumja stick; the hard candy crunched between her teeth. "But it still makes me sad to realize *how* they grew up."
"It's no different than your story, Colonel." Garak stopped and faced Kira. "You were but a child when you joined the resistance. Yet you seem to have more sympathy for the doctor and Ezri than you do for yourself."
"It's not a question of sympathy, Garak," Kira said, trying to keep the frustration out of her voice. She was starting to slowly realize that she didn't really care to be reminded of her past in the Resistance. It wasn't that she was ashamed; on the contrary, she was very proud. But it had been a long time ago, a lot had happened since then, and these days, Kira knew she had to take each day one at a time. Stopping to remember cold, frightened days was not helpful. "It's more a question of circumstances."
"You'll forgive me then, Colonel, if I don't quite understand the difference."
Kira resumed walking, but her pace was slow and thoughtful. "Maybe I'm more sympathetic because I understand all too well," she said finally. "Because I'm aware of what I lost and regret it when I see the same loss in the two of them."
"Then you're finally being truthful," Garak said, pausing as they approached the site of his former shop. He paused, almost in disbelief, at the garish display of Ferengi and Andorian products displayed in the front window. He winced and the continued to walk past the store. "There are days when I miss this slow pace of life, the few demands made on a tailor. When life concerned something other than paperwork. Results were instantly obtainable in the eyes of a satisfied customer."
Kira bit her lip. "We're not so different, are we?" It startled her that she actually said the words out-loud.
"We are still soldiers at heart, Kira," Garak said. He turned away from his shop. "I always recognized that quality in you, but you never trusted me enough to see the similarities. You burned for Bajor and I longed for a vision of Cardassia I once had." He handed her another jumja stick. "Perhaps we were young once as well."
"Like I said, it was a long time ago."
Garak studied her carefully. "How is it, Colonel, we two remain?"
She stared at him. "I'm afraid I don't understand."
"You and I, soldiers both, and in this time of peace, we turn into administrators." His lips flattened into a straight line. "We are the lone survivors, everyone else is gone in one fashion or another."
"You're gone as well," Kira said, unable to restrain herself from the note of self-pity slipping into her voice.
"Touché, Colonel. But you have to admit, our circumstances are very similar."
"Someone has to push the paper," Kira said. "Sisko used to say that." She smiled fondly. "He hated every minute of it."
"Can I be perfectly honest with you, Colonel?"
She arched an eyebrow in amusement. "Go ahead."
"I dread tomorrow's conference, Colonel." Garak leaned against the railing, surveying the floor below as Kira had done just minutes before. "I will state my case to the committee, ask help for Cardassia, and somehow overcome the barrage of suspicions that prevails simply because of who I am. We might have helped the Federation turn the tide against the Dominion, but attitudes do not change just because a treaty has been signed."
"What do you plan to do?" Kira had to admit she had a little more than just a passing interest in Garak's strategy.
"Present the facts as simply as possible and hope they listen. A stable Cardassia is in the Federation's best interests, and the best way to achieve stability is to help us rebuild our world as quickly as possible."
"I don't disagree with that." Kira's lips turned up slightly at the corners.
"And Cardassia has many resources. Once we rebuild our factories, we can reconstruct our trade routes," Garak said earnestly. "It is only a matter of time. We simply require the financial capital to rebuild the infrastructure of the planet. Not to mention being able to adequately feed and house the surviving population. Millions died in the final barrage by the Dominion forces, but more have died in recent months later of starvation and disease amidst the ruins of our world. It's an intolerable situation, Colonel."
"And how will you counteract the argument of Cardassia's violent past? How will the committee be assured that once Cardassia has rebuilt herself, it won't fall into her old habits once again?" Kira stepped slightly aside as a cleaning woman walked by her. "What guarantees can you make?"
"We were once a cultured race," Garak said, "and I assure you, Colonel, we have no intention or stomach for another conflict such as those as we've endured over the past century. And certainly, not one such as the Dominion War. The time is ripe for a renaissance of the people we once used to be."
Kira narrowed her eyes. She would never be able to feel quite safe around Cardassians or trust their motives, but she was willing to give Garak the benefit of the doubt. "And how will you guarantee this renaissance?"
"You ask many questions, Colonel, and I'm afraid I do not have all of the answers."
"We will require a complete and honest assessment from you tomorrow, Garak." She lifted her chin defiantly and met his gaze straight on.
"Then sincerity and my deep-rooted belief that Cardassia has no intention of returning to her violent past will have to suffice." He handed the bag containing the remaining jumja sticks to her. "I hope my long trip back to Deep Space Nine will not be in vain."
Kira stared at him. She'd known this man for nearly eight years now, and they had fought the end of the Dominion War together. And he was right: they were both still soldiers, still fighting. For that solidarity alone, she owed him something.
"All right," she said. "When we meet tomorrow, I will try to convince the committee to listen to you without bias."
Garak gave a little bow. "That is all I can ask, Colonel." He started to walk away, but Kira called out to him.
"You did well," she said, holding up the bag. "'Gentle' persuasion indeed."
He merely smiled. "I will see you tomorrow at the meeting, Colonel."
Kira watched until Garak was a mere speck at the end of the Promenade. She then turned and walked in the other direction, helping herself to yet another jumja stick along the way.
~ the end
Una's ficlet request: DS9, Garak and Kira, the Promenade, a jumja stick.
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