Kira received a message at her terminal. It was from someone she didn't expect. It was Garak inviting her to his quarters. He mentioned that he had items of Ziyal's that he would like her to either claim or peruse. A lump immediately came to her throat and she almost gave the Cardassian tailor that she knew was not tailor a lame excuse. She had never stepped foot in his rooms before and had no desire to do so. She purchased clothes from him but her dealings were within his shop and she never considered herself anything more than his client.
Most days she couldn't stand the presence of any Cardassian and she especially didn't trust Garak. The heavier issue was the fact that Ziyal's death was so fresh. She had wept alone in her room long enough simply going through the hybrid girl's items she left in her own quarters before moving into Garak's when the two became more serious about their relationship. She was afraid she would have an emotional breakdown in front of Garak.
She didn't answer the message right away because she was busy in Ops. Work kept her mind sharp and focused. Her emotions were far more settled the second time she read the offer. With barely another thought, she simply accepted the invitation. She was certain it would be a matter of standing at his door and being handed a large box of items prepackaged. She was fooling herself.
"I hope you are well today, Major?" the Cardassian met her eyes when he let her in.
"I've been better but I've also been worse," was her response.
He flashed her that ridiculous grin she found irritating, "Would you care for a drink?"
"What would you offer me?" she sighed. "Kanar?"
"I know you prefer ginger tea or raktajino."
"Everyone knows that, Garak. I don't make a secret of it."
She left unsaid that she wondered what else the bastard knew about her. Dukat seemed to know her down to how many hairs were on her head, his obsession was that deep. Garak was a sneaky spy and smug snake. Elim Garak had befriended Dukat's father and betrayed him. She half expected the man to betray her or her crew mates. He hadn't so far even though he had multiple opportunities and it might have gotten him the ticket home he claimed to want to badly.
"I take it you are not thirsty then?"
"Just give me the items you wanted to dump."
At that, Garak's smile faded and the glint in his eyes seemed to go out. He gestured Kira to follow him to the closet. She reluctantly followed. There were dresses, shoes, and other paraphernalia belonging to Ziyal in there. She felt gravel in her throat again and she couldn't help but stare in silence for a moment. Garak pretended to adjust wrinkles in the bed and fluffed the pillows.
"What do you expect me to with her clothing?" Kira asked.
"You and Ziyal's measurements were not far off," he replied. "I just can't stand having them here anymore. The closet has become like a shrine to her I never planned on."
Kira glanced at him, her hard demeanor softening despite her best effort. He wasn't joking or playing light of the situation. It was him trying to avoid her eyes now. She realized it must been as hard for him to summon her here as it had been for her to accept.
"Why didn't you just throw them all in the trash compacter or donate or sell them?"
"Just throw them out or sell them?" Garak's eyes flashed with anger. "Do you think Cardassians are like Ferengi selling the ashes of those that they…"
"I also mentioned donation."
"It wouldn't be proper," he forced his anger that was not truly anger to pass. "She would have probably wanted you to wear them. You provided much of it in the first place."
"But you sewed her more."
He smiled to himself fondly remembering Ziyal in his tailor shop. She hung around clearly more interested in him than the clothing. She had appreciated that too, of course. She had been an excellent model and muse. She performed many shows for him sampling all of the beautiful dresses and skirts of all sorts of styles and fabrics. She was elegant and yet kind and patient. Matching measurements to her unique bone structure had been a pleasant challenge.
Kira entered the closet and thought she would have preferred walking into the den of a hara cat. She almost retreated as soon as she got into the thick of it. She felt her eyes burning with tears. She could smell Ziyal's perfume! She fell to her knees.
"Major, are you alright?" Garak didn't fail to notice.
"I'm grabbing a box of shoes," she lied and grabbed a box to make it truth.
Garak let her think he believed the lie. He could smell the perfume better than she could. It permeated everything and made him long for his sweet Ziyal unbearably.
"Oh, Garak," he could tell Kira was overwhelmed. "There's too much stuff. I can't possibly take all this and it's going to take several trips to get it into my quarters."
"I will help you. Even better, why don't you call Odo and he will assist you? He's always more than willing to assist you."
"I might have to but I hate taking him from his work to be an errand boy."
"Trust me, he will find the distraction welcome."
Garak knew the company of the Changeling would comfort Major Kira a great deal.
Kira's eye was drawn to a dress of beautiful blue fabric pushed far back into the depths of the closet. It was familiar.
"Garak?" she called.
"Where did this dress come from? Please tell me you made this for her."
"This blue one."
"She had quite a few blue dresses in there."
"Garak! Don't make me describe every tiny detail! Come see it for yourself!"
He entered the tiny space with her to catch a glimpse. Kira regretted making him move so close and wished she had just described the dress instead. The pheromones of all male Cardassians were strong. She tensed and backed as far as she could away. She couldn't remember being in such proximity with Elim Garak. She had also never realized that his eyes could be so sensitive and warm. He didn't show his capability of such things often.
Garak wasn't trying to corner the Major. He didn't brush with her. He had her point to the dress. His goal wasn't to make her uncomfortable it was to identify it for her. She pointed to it and Garak nodded and then stepped out of the closet. He was claustrophobic so he was actually far more uncomfortable than her much quicker, though it didn't have anything to do with Kira. Having another person in the small space reminded him how little air there was and he felt suffocated within a span of seconds.
"That is the dress that her father gave to her."
"What?" her voice sounded bitter.
"He gave it to her at that gala he had on the station in her honor. The one that you didn't attend."
"That lying bastard!" Kira couldn't help herself.
"Who, Major? If you are referring to Dukat, the fact that he is a lying bastard isn't news to anyone," Garak said flatly.
"Dukat tried to give me that dress to wear on the exact occasion. I was so angry and disturbed by his obvious attempt at seduction that I refused it and remained in my quarters for the gala. It hurt Ziyal, I know, but I couldn't risk enticing that man further," Kira explained.
"Ah," Garak's lip twitched into a dark smile. "I wondered why the man gave her that sort of dress. It's not only expensive and rare fabric but highly inappropriate for a father to give his daughter."
"Why? The dress isn't skin tight or sexy. It is glamorous."
"It's the sort of dress for courting a woman. Every Cardassian at the gala probably assumed a lover gave the dress to her. If they asked and Ziyal gushed that her father gave it to her they would have left scratching their heads. The first time I saw the dress in her closet I asked what sort of secret admirer gave it to her. She just blushed and her blushes were always so cute I actually forgot the question. Ziyal was good at making me forget ugly things."
Kira smiled, "I know what you mean."
"I guess Dukat hated to waste his resources and knew Ziyal would conveniently accept the dress as some wonderful surprise and find questioning it unthinkable."
"I can't accept that, Garak. You know that. It doesn't matter that it became Ziyal's and she wore it and probably wore it well. The fact remains that Dukat bought it and would laugh and feel as though he won somehow if he knew."
"You are right," Garak scowled. "If I had known he offered the dress to you first I would have burned it myself."
At least they both mutually hated Gul Dukat. That was something Ziyal could never do. Kira tapped her badge to speak to Odo. As Garak predicted, he said he was delighted to take a few minutes to help her or a few hours. He was not busy. She had not asked him to do or say anything unless it was absolutely essential for a long while. She realized that now.
"Garak, is there anything you wanted to keep?" she asked softly.
He shook his head.
"Really? Not even a painting or-"
"You appreciated her work better than anyone, Major Kira. I daresay you loved her more than me."
"You were so good to her-"
"Was I?" he interrupted. "I found her very enjoyable. What man wouldn't? Her hybrid features never bothered me but I am far more open minded than my peers. Her personality could have won over the most conservative and racist monsters. Her father was one of them! I did take a perverse pleasure in the fact that he couldn't stand the thought of me with his daughter in my arms at night! I would have gloated about it to his face if I had been granted a moment alone with him. I would have told him details to make him squirm! What better revenge could I ask for? His precious little girl actually loved me! Me! The man that betrayed and tortured her grandfather!"
"Garak, please stop saying these things!"
"Unlike Ziyal, I thought that you never skirted the truth, Major!"
"I don't, but I hate it when you lie and twist truths!"
"Oh, Major, I am airing out the truth right now! I would have hurt that girl. I wouldn't have meant to do it. It's just my nature. I am a muckraker, a manipulator, and I just can't stop lying! I can't help but hurt people. I was a torturer and I was good at it! Tain himself had to admire that about me. Of all the things he could have been proud of me for he decided that it was my ability to inflict fear and pain that were my best qualities!"
"You never once said an unkind word to her! I was more certain than anyone else you would just take advantage of her and ruin her. Instead you made that girl incredibly happy!"
"I said I wouldn't have done it intentionally. All that needed to happen was for her to open her eyes and truly see me! Dukat's delusions are about his grandeur and he thinks his motives are always pure and just. They were turned completely inward. Ziyal's delusions were the exact opposite. She believed I was redeemable! She believed the world around her was inherently just and good if only people would simply allow it to be! She believed in those Prophets and paghs. She was a little moth that would have been crushed under the weight of reality randomly one morning when she realized what an ugly black spider I was."
"Any shred of kindness shown to that girl was like a shining beacon she was sucked into. I am a snake and it takes only another snake to truly understand me and love me. All of me, Major. Ziyal loved the better part of my nature but she could never see the dark parts. The light side is but a sliver of me! She was young and naïve. That wouldn't have lasted forever. But at least if she were alive she would have been able to find someone better! She's dead and gone, Major. Please take her things. They don't belong here and they never did. I didn't deserve her as a lover any more than Dukat deserved her as a father."
Kira had a sudden impulse to throw her arms around this tormented man. She wanted to hold him and cry with him. She wanted to pray to the Prophets for mercy for him. It was so obvious he was airing out his version of truth. He was self loathing and utterly grieved. Garak saw her entire expression and body language change and felt mixed feelings about that. He desperately craved contact of any kind but this was Major Kira. He had no right, as a Cardassian man, to accept even friendly and compassionate contact from her.
Luckily Constable Odo entered the room at that moment. He had folded boxes with him and began to construct one immediately. He kept his eyes low but his tone toward the Major was gentle and tremulous.
"Are we taking everything in this walk in closet?" he asked. "I can fold the dresses neatly and I can carry a box of just about any weight. I'm not a fragile human anymore. Changelings are incredibly strong so you needn't worry about taxing me in that regard."
"Yes, Odo," Garak said before Kira could interject. "Everything in that closet except for that blue dress in the very back. That is going to be destroyed."
"But it's lovely! Why?"
"Dukat," Garak and Kira said together.
"Ah, very well then."
He began to fold each article of clothing rapidly but sill perfectly and place them in the box. Kira couldn't help but glance at him fondly which Garak couldn't help but notice. Then she stepped into the closet so that she could hand the Constable the clothes and be useful. Garak watched them from his place with some mild pleasure. He had noticed them going out of their way to avoid each other. Now they were able to make small conversation about the items.
"I am not going to need new clothes for a long while," Kira said.
"If they need adjusting, you know which shop to go to," Garak reminded her.
"I do know how to use pins and strings now."
"Pins? Pins!" Garak was insulted. "You are not going to torture those clothes! I forbid it! You will have me adjust them properly, Major!"
"You ought to listen to the tailor," Odo grumbled.
"Thank you! Make her promise it!"
"Nerys?" that was the first time Odo had used her first name in a while but no one mentioned it.
"Alright, Garak, I promise!"