Light from the Cardassian sun streamed through the window, illuminating the large black workstation set in the center of the room. Garak sat at the desk with his chair swivelled to face the garden window. His eyes were screwed shut and he breathed deeply, counting slowly to ten.
The day was only a few hours old, and already it was too far from over. Garak's eyes opened when the computer chimed to signal a message incoming, one that no doubt required his immediate attention. Garak pinched the bridge of his nose and leaned back in his chair, swerving back to face his desk.
"Yes?" Garak queried. The computer chimed again, and the screen flashed with the stamp of the Federation.
"Ah, yes," Garak spoke aloud; he felt his expression warming at the intrusion.
Garak engaged communications, and the screen flickered to show Doctor Julian Bashir. Garak's smile grew wider as he took in the image of his friend; seeing the doctor's face was like having a drink of water after being parched for a long time.
"Garak," Bashir said by way of a greeting. He, too, was smiling.
"Hello, my good doctor," Garak commented. Julian's smile became lopsided, a throwback to his seemingly ever-present youth.
"How have you been?" Julian questioned.
"I have been well, Doctor. Though I will admit, rebuilding efforts can become quite taxing at times," Garak said. When the devil admits he's tired, you know it's been a long set of days. "And how have you been faring?"
"I've been well, just working on my research, mostly. Starfleet Medical became very interested in a few of my theories lately, so I've been given a bit more leeway with my staff." Julian leaned closer, and the light of passion was bright in his eyes. "I hope to make a breakthrough in just a few weeks, if things hold up."
"Why, that's wonderful news, indeed," Garak replied.
Julian continued on to explain a bit about the nature of his research, the flora and fauna that inspired him, and so on. Garak listened and filed and the gears of his brain definitely kept any information gleaned ready for retrieval; however, if someone had pressed Garak at that moment, he surely wasn't completely present in that conversation.
After a while, Julian had more or less explained the gist of what he was excited about, and the conversation took another turn.
"Ezri and I have been talking," Julian mentioned.
'Here it is,' Garak thought to himself.
Aloud, he asked, "And how is our dear friend Dax doing?"
"She's doing well, quite well," Julian replied with a nod and a small grin. "In fact, she and I are getting married."
There it was. Garak felt his face freeze in a smile, warmth shining from his face while his heart was gripped with a chill.
"Why, congratulations, Doctor!" Garak's voice was charming and glad, a careful enactment of practice and precision. His thoughts were...stuck.
Julian smiled a little more truly now; he had been a bit leery of what Garak's reaction would be. Though Bashir was nearly certain that Garak was using cheeriness as a facade for something (after all, the doctor had discovered over the years that Garak's cheer was seldom other than a facade), Julian was content to take his friend at face value for now.
"Will you be able to attend?" Julian asked-Garak nearly chuckled, even as he wanted to knock everything on the desk to the floor. Such an innocent happiness was in the doctor's eyes, coupled with such a blindness to the wound he'd created.
"I will take care to clear my schedule for the entire week," Garak promised. "When is the ceremony to take place?"
Garak and Julian spoke a while longer, of dates and plans, of shuttles and long trips ahead.
When he sensed the conversation was nearing its end, Garak inclined his head gracefully.
"Julian?" He spoke the name softly, musically. He made it a question and a statement; Bashir could count on one hand the number of times he'd heard Garak use his first name.
"Yes, Elim?" Familiarity was met with familiarity.
Garak placed his hand directly on the view screen, fingers splayed. Julian's eyebrows winged up in shock before he mirrored the gesture; it was an old Cardassian greeting, torn in two by the distance between them and mended by modern technology.
"Thank you," Garak replied. He let his gaze and his hand drop; true familiarity was so uncomfortable for Garak that even this pallid gesture was monumental, though it only showed a fraction of the depth of Garak's emotions.
"Garak." Julian's tone was the one you didn't argue with; the tone where his cheer and verve dissappeared under the weight of his words.
Garak looked up. Julian's eyes were sincere and piercing.
"Thank you," Julian said plainly. "You've been...one of the best friends I've ever had."
Garak acknowledged this with a deep nod; they both silently ignored the question between them that forever would go unanswered.
"Well, then, if that is quite all, Doctor, I have matters here that need to be seen to," Garak spoke into the vortex of emotions between them. His tone was bright, unsuited to the moment.
"Yes, that's all," Julian uttered. He seemed defeated in some way, though he did manage to muster a smile. "Goodbye, Garak."
"Goodbye, my good doctor," Garak said. He nodded a final time and ended the communication.
Garak leaned back once more in his chair and took in the room around him.
Nothing was out of place; every padd and every file was meticulously organized. Garak wanted to send everything into chaos.
Julian was...getting married.
Garak put his face into his hands and sighed.
"It's just as well, you know," he coached himself aloud. "Sentiment is one of life's greatest weaknesses."
"But sentiment can also be a source of strength," a voice replied from the otherwise empty room.
Shock pushed Garak straight to his feet, his eyes quickly drinking in his surroundings.
"Why, hello," Garak called out into the room. His voice dripped with lush welcome, belying his dangerous intentions. He slipped his hand into his desk, retrieving a phaser.
"Hullo," the voice replied. Garak whirled, but no one point seemed to emanate with the sound; the voice was simply everywhere.
"Might I ask, to whom am I speaking?" Garak queried. He adjusted the phaser setting quickly with the ease of practice.
"No," the voice answered.
"No?" Garak queried. He scanned the room around him, then he pressed a few buttons to initiate a full computer scan of the room.
"You may not ask my name; however, you may call me Aisling," the voice informed him. Garak's eyebrows rose.
"'Shining one'?" Garak repeated somewhat incredulously.
"Oh? You're familiar with Gaelic?"
Garak chuckled dryly at the question.
"I know many things," he replied.
"I see," the voice noted.
"Ahh, but I don't see. I don't see you, that is," Garak pressed on, hoping to convince or goad his guest into showing themselves.
A tinkling laughter filled the room; Garak found himself smiling despite the tension. The joyous sound became nearly palpable for a few moments, until the laughter died away.
Garak was still smiling. His endorphins were pumping, his mind was reeling-he hadn't had this much fun in a very long time. It was high stakes hide and seek-a game Garak intended to win. The matter of Julian slipped a little further from Garak's mind.
"And you won't see me while you're holding a weapon." The voice took a chiding tone, and Garak full-out grinned.
"Aah, but for all I know you have thirteen disruptors trained on me at this very moment. What choice do I have but to defend myself?" Garak turned to survey the room again, and he studied the available readouts from the computer's report.
Both searches gave Garak the same evidence; there was nothing and no one that his senses or the computer's sensors could detect in the room with him. He frowned.
"I don't suppose you'd like to tell me your business?" Garak asked. His tone was hopeful, though mostly for show.
"No, not particularly," the voice confirmed. "Though, I will say, you're being rather rude."
"I am being rude?" Garak was once again surprised. "I do believe you are the one breaking and entering, my dear. I, on the other hand, have been peacefully minding my own business and have had my very own home invaded!"
After this outburst was over, Garak glared into the center of the room as though he was challenging the voice to disagree.
"Aaah," the response came. "But is it not rude to inquire someone's name before introducing oneself?"
Garak inclined his head, still grinning despite himself. No one had given Garak such a verbal sparring since...Julian. Before that, it was Tain.
"Quite true, I'm afraid. How terribly rude of me," he replied. Garak lifted his hands in an old gesture of acquiescence. "I am known as Garak."
"It's very nice to meet you, Garak," the voice answered.
"Likewise...Aisling," Garak said.
At that moment, the last of the golden square of light moved from the desk to stain the floor; the sun had trekked further on its course in the sky, causing the light to shift (as it does).
Garak stood there, poised and waiting with his phaser, for several minutes before he spoke again.
"Aisling, what is it that brings you here? Are you a friend? A foe? Do you need assistance of some manner?" Garak asked.
The only sound that answered him was the chirruping and whooping of the birds from the garden outside. Garak frowned and studied the computer sensors closely. There was no evidence that anything had happened at all, much less any sort of explanation for the sudden silent treatment.
"Why are you here?" Garak tried again. Again, there was no answer.
Garak stood, unmoving, for fifteen full minutes. The only motion was the slight flare of his nostrils as he breathed and his eyes constantly wheeling around to scan the room.
After a while, Garak felt a little silly with his phaser.
"Garak," he told himself. "You're beginning to imagine things."
Garak tossed the phaser onto the desk haphazardly and sank into the chair. His thoughts returned to the communication from earlier; Julian and Ezri were to be married.
Was it any wonder that the shock of it had pushed Garak's mind to hallucinate? Years of latent attraction between Garak and Julian had bent Garak's mind; the sudden snap of reality evidently had caused him to invent someone to replace the good doctor.
Garak scowled as he pulled a padd closer to him; he began to survey the plan to purify more water from the great Cardassian rivers.
Garak worked until the stars were the only light shining in the sky, stabbing his fingers into the padds and computer screens venomously.
When his eyes were sandy and painfully dry, Garak switched his computer off.
Garak sat in his now dark office and glowered. Despite his effort, he knew he'd accomplished nothing today. Reports he'd read didn't stay in his mind, replies that he sent merely restated the matters at hand and offered no new insights or conclusions.
Garak sighed heavily and shoved away from the desk. He stood and stretched, and then he walked to the door. Garak cast one final glance around the darkened room-there was no sign of anyone, as it should be.
Garak wondered again if his mind was beginning to betray him. He shook his head and turned, slipping away to his quarters for some much needed rest.
What little sleep Garak managed to get was broken by sleepless stretches and fitful dreams. Images of his beloved doctor and the memory of strange voices floated through his mind until his alarm signalled the next day.
I END CHAPTER I
Author's Notes -Nobody:Me: What does, "FiS GO!" stand for, you ask?Nobody (again):Me: FiS GO! stands for, "Faeries in Space GO!" haha.Disclaimer: All Star Trek ideas, factions, and characters are not mine. They belong to their respective owners. Aisling and future original characters are of my own creation, and similarities to peoples real or fictional is coincidental.