When It PoursbyMultiFan©
Somehow, Dukat caught word of the outrageous, endlessly ironic fact that his long-time temptation Kira and his old nemesis Garak had gone to help his dear friend Damar in his resistance movement against the Dominion. This news was so bizarre that he just had to go see for himself.
He beamed into their "underground" headquarters just in time to hear a shouting match between Kira and Rusot: Damar's right-hand man.
"Ah, Nerys!" Dukat greeted her jovially. "It would appear that in my absence, you've found a new Cardassian with whom to fight! You must've missed me!"
She spun. "Dukat?! How did you get here?! And believe it or not, everything isn't always about you!"
Dukat always so enjoyed their banter that he didn't even bother to take offense; his amused smile remained. "Curious that you should find it unusual to see me here; we are deep in Cardassian territory, after all. I find it fascinating to find you here; you get bolder with every passing year. I'm impressed. First time within our empire, I presume?"
Kira refused to let his teasing, veiled scare tactics rattle her. "Actually, no. And I'm here to help clean up the mess you made of your empire, by allying it with the Dominion, of all things!"
But not everyone reacted the same as Dukat.
Rusot took a menacing step from behind her. "You will show proper respect to your Cardassian masters!"
Kira fired over her shoulder, "Shut up, Rusot! And no one is my master!"
Damar was hesitant. "Kira, a bit more civility and diplomacy might be prudent." He was trying not to take offense, and to only caution her, but he hadn't appreciated her flippant, challenging tone, either.
Kira's gaze briefly touched on Damar, and then slid to his right to Garak.
Wordlessly, his eyes spoke volumes: BE...VERY...CAREFUL.
She closed her eyes, sighed, and tried for a more reasonable tone. "All I was saying, Rusot, before Dukat got here, was that you need to go for the target that will do the most damage to their supply lines, not the one that'll make the biggest 'boom!'"
If anything, his rage increased. "You talk to me as if you think that I'm a child, not an officer! And I still say that we should not let our strategy be planned by a Bajoran, let alone a Bajoran woman, who probably hates us, and would love to see us fail!"
Kira stared. "You think that I came all the way here...." She glanced at Dukat. "Took the great risk of coming here, merely to help you fail???"
Rusot shot back, "Of course a Bajoran would like to see us fail, so that the Dominion can do to us what we did to you, isn't that right? Isn't that your idea of poetic justice??"
She lost her temper. "All right, fine! If that's what you want to believe, I'll just go right back to DS9, and you can fail by yourselves; you don't need me for that!"
Stung by her implication that they couldn't succeed without her, Rusot sneered nastily, "Don't you mean Terok Nor?"
Dukat grinned broadly at the cheap shot, and Damar couldn't help but do the same; he and Dukat had used the exact same psychological warfare on her when they and the Dominion had retaken the station. Garak tried not to smile at the effective verbal blow, but he was clearly struggling. They all saw the hurt look in her eyes at the cruel reminder of her people's former enslavement by them.
Obviously deciding that if they could dredge up old wounds, she would take a potshot of her own, and venomously, she declared to Rusot, "If Shakaar had been as stupid a tactician as you, Rusot, we wouldn't have driven you off Bajor, even by now!!"
Unfortunately, her stab at Rusot had struck everyone else in the room as well. When she glanced all around, and saw a flash of anger even in Garak's eyes, she knew that she was in trouble. Her own rage fled in her resulting uncertainty. Bad move, Nerys, she thought nervously, you're the lone Bajoran woman in a room full of Cardassian men, and that wasn't very smart.
Dukat said coldly, "I remind you, Nerys, that your pitiful resistance did not drive us off Bajor; we left of our own accord, because we had acquired all that we'd wanted from you."
Damar nodded solemnly. "If the wormhole had been discovered during the Occupation, we would still be on Bajor now." The heartless tone of voice that he'd exhibited throughout the brief Dominion Occupation of DS9 was back full force.
Even Garak spoke out against her. "The many agents of the Obsidian Order had already efficiently dispatched many of the most influential leaders of your various resistance cells. I, personally, was in the process of setting up your precious Shakaar, even as our recall came in from Central Command. If not for that, he would have had, at most, a day or two left to live, quite probably along with the rest of his little band, including, most likely, you."
Kira swallowed hard, thoroughly unnerved by their words, their tone, and their stern, dangerous expressions. "I think maybe I misspoke."
Facing those three, she was caught off guard by Rusot, behind her. He had evidently decided that this was the best support from these highest-ranking three Cardassians that he was ever likely to get. Her legs were kicked viciously out from under her, she was on the floor, and he was on top of her, even before she could react. Her arms were quickly pinned above her head. Rusot's anger was hot, in direct contrast to the cold fury of the other three.
"You need discipline, just like a lot of Bajoran women did, during the Occupation!" Rusot hissed.
It wasn't hard to guess what he meant, just from his position on top of her. Kira released a piercing shriek.
Rusot fumed, "And judging from you insolent behavior, it was a lesson that you didn't receive often enough, back then!"
Something in Kira's eyes, just for the briefest moment, told Rusot what she didn't want him to know, and suddenly he was observing her piercingly. She whimpered when she saw him recognize it, and turned away quickly, but it was too late; he knew.
"You never suffered that particular punishment back then, did you?"
Her wild eyes fled from Garak to Damar to Dukat: imploring, embarrassed, mortified, horrified, humiliated, beseeching, awkward, even something nearing sheepish. But all three were immediately so fascinated by the revolutionary concept that Rusot had suggested, that they approached wide-eyed, as if magnetically drawn to her.
"No!!!" Kira whispered fervently, and all of them instinctively understood that that single word was less an answer to Rusot's question – although it was clearly the correct answer in any case – and more a plea to them not to let this happen to her.
"Why, Nerys!" Dukat grinned in delight. "Never?!! Really??!!" A new realization burst into his expression. "That's why you looked so panicked, as well as angry, every time that I came on to you!!" He was utterly fascinated, staring at her as if he'd just discovered a completely new, wonderful species.
In evidently the same frame of mind, Damar commented, intrigued, "I suppose that we might have somehow missed one. Although my impression was that each of us got to hundreds, maybe thousands of their women."
Kira looked almost sickened by revulsion. But somehow, she could not turn her face away, pull her eyes away, from the mesmerizing and mesmerized looks of the three towering over her.
Unfortunately, Garak, ever the brilliant, clever, insightful, analytical one, the keen expert at divining just what torture would work best on each victim, studied her eyes penetratingly, and revealed, "And it's your deepest fear! It was during the Occupation, and it still is now!" He began to look more and more thrilled by the enormity and truth of his discovery, smiling more broadly at each astonishing announcement. "Let me guess: during the Occupation, you were shot, beaten, stabbed, and none of it mattered, did it? None of it left any lasting effects. But you lived every day in terror, didn't you? Terror that one day, one of us would...!"
Kira panicked before Garak could finish. She cried out raggedly, heartrendingly, and turned her anguished face away from them, no longer able to face their reptilian presence, nor their shockingly intrigued expressions. She nearly choked on her guttural, anguished note. She blubbered, and then sobbed liberally, no longer even uselessly trying to stifle it, until she began hiccupping. Then, she could hardly catch her breath, and lay gasping with spent noise and emotion, a helpless quivering mass of despair under Rusot.
Dukat was in awe. "Damar, have you ever seen a reaction like this before, in any of the Bajoran women?"
"Never." He was shaking his head in amazement. "Oh, they cried, screamed, fought, some begged, but not like this."
Garak suggested tentatively, "Well, I guess that one cannot be fearless about absolutely everything. Perhaps this is the price that she pays for being courageous about everything else. Also, one cannot rationally explain away a phobia, and that, most assuredly, is what we're dealing with here."
By now, Kira was softly mumbling to herself, "Oh no, oh please, oh no, oh no don't, please don't, please don't...!!!"
The three bent down closely, and Dukat gently turned her face back up to theirs.
The woman's eyes went wild with panic, but she remained quiet, almost whispering, "Oh please, I promise you I'll never backtalk you again!! I'll show you respect!! Just please don't!!!"
"Amazing!" breathed Dukat.
Damar turned to him speculatively. "You know, this gives us something marvelous to hold over her."
Rusot, quiet for a while, was instantly suspicious, and snarled, "You're not thinking of letting her out of this, are you?!" He was accusing Damar.
The latter was defensive, perhaps due to not yet knowing Dukat's and Garak's minds on this issue, and therefore not wanting to commit himself too far in either direction. "I didn't say that!" he retorted firmly. "She'll still fear it, even if we've already done it!" He could now neatly go either way, and thus present a necessary united front with his two colleagues against an underling: politically sound strategy in any case.
But Rusot took it as apparently the closest thing to permission that he might be likely to get, and began his assault. As he tore at her clothes, Kira let out a cry that sounded as if she was already in agony, as if the men were already hurting her. Two things happened instantly: Dukat seized Rusot's arm with an iron grip, powerful enough to force a slight wince from her attacker, and Garak slapped his hand over Kira's mouth, and hissed at the suddenly silenced girl, "Shush! Do you want to give away our position to the Dominion?!"
When he was satisfied with her silence, he moved his hand just enough to allow her to tearily say, "Right now I'd be happy to be rescued by the Dominion!"
As Garak muttered at what he clearly thought was supreme foolishness in that remark, Dukat growled murderously at Rusot, "Get out of here!!!"
The latter's face darkened with indignation. "You are going to let her out of this!"
Again with perfect diplomacy, now that he had at least some idea of his long time mentor's position, Damar told him, "Not you! If we decide that it will happen, we will do it, but you will not be part of it! Get off of her, and get going!! Go back with the other men!!"
Rusot obeyed, but with a simmering sullenness that made Kira shiver. When the soldier was on the other side of a closed door, the Bajoran's emotion-ravaged, tear-stained face turned to shakily thank the other three for making him go, but her words died and she was newly alarmed when she caught sight of their expressions, and saw them turn from her and each other, each absorbed in his own thoughts. She bore the agonizing suspense as long as she could, and then timidly murmured, "Now what?"
Damar turned and looked at her, and his face was grim. "Now we have a problem. A big one."
Kira trembled to the core at his ominous tone.
Garak shook his head. "She couldn't help it, Damar. As I said, it is a severe phobia. If we just hadn't let the argument get so far."
Dukat was exasperated. "Garak, we didn't know that she had something like this to hide, such a secret to protect! It isn't our fault, either!"
"What??" Kira was already nearly sobbing again.
Damar wheeled on her. "Now one of the soldiers knows exactly how to handle you!"
She paled when she took his thought one step farther, and whispered, "He'll tell all the others! I can't stay here! I can't function here like this! I've got to go back where I belong!!" She tried to struggle upward, but her head clearly swam; she almost fell.
Emotionally charged, not really meaning to seem threatening, Damar aggressively dropped and crouched in front of her. "You can't! We need you in this war! You can't let your phobia give the Alpha Quadrant to the Dominion!"
She shrank from him in renewed terror and overwhelming shame. In a very small voice, she said, "Can't you three just keep stopping them?!"
Dukat stared. "Impractical. We have a resistance movement to run; we can't be saddled with babysitting our adviser! I'll stay and help the movement anyway, yes, but even with three of us trying to keep an eye on you in addition to our other duties, something will go wrong sooner or later!"
Her voice shook. "Just order them not to, please!!!"
Damar made a rude noise. "And they'll obey until they get you separated from us for a brief moment."
"Oh Prophets! No!!"
His diplomacy completely drained, Damar fumed, "And forget your ridiculous Prophets!"
Watching Kira carefully, Garak said neutrally, "The easiest solution, of course, would be if she no longer had the problem."
Instantly comprehending, she sank in terror the rest of the way back down to the floor.
Dukat said as gently as he could manage under the frustrating circumstances, "Nerys, wouldn't that be best? No more fear and shame? And wouldn't you rather it be us, than take the chance that one or more of the soldiers might get you?"
She collapsed, hiding her face in crossed arms. "Oh you're going to; I just know it! Oh help me, someone!! Please!!!"
Garak shook his head in hopelessness, and addressed Dukat and Damar. "That's what I feared would happen. And it likely means that in her present state, we'd be more likely to worsen her phobia than to cure it."
"Then, what...?!" demanded Damar.
Dukat's brow ridges rose. "I have an idea. It should work, at least temporarily, while we continue to try to solve this. For now, let's tell Rusot and the others that we did just now break her in, and...."
None of the three failed, in consternation, to see her shudder violently, just from hearing Dukat's phrasing.
Irked, he went on, "We'll tell them, 'Hands off; she's ours.' I used that method all the time while Prefect of Terok Nor, and it worked." He looked rueful. "Only then, it actually was true; I was having the women."
Kira winced, and turned away from them.
"Kira." Garak called her attention back to him. "We should try what he said, at least for now; it's the only way to safeguard you and the movement from a potential disaster due to this ludicrous, extraneous issue. But understand: it may only be a stopgap measure. And it will mean that we will absolutely have to sleep in the same room with you, not only to guard you, but for appearances. They won't believe that we're sharing you if they never see an opportunity for us to do so."
She was trembling bone-shakingly, but managed a convulsive nod. She knew a desperate, last-ditch effort when she heard one. She'd either agree to this, or the three just might be likely to throw her to the wolves yet, or even rape her themselves, after all of this trouble that she'd caused.
But he wasn't finished frightening her. "And I repeat, this is a temporary solution, more than likely. Just because I acknowledged that it's a phobia – and as you know I have one, too, claustrophobia – that doesn't mean that we shouldn't face up to our fears. Sometimes circumstances conspire to force us to do so. I had to, while in the Jem'Hadar prison with Bashir, Worf, Martok, and Tain. I had to crawl into a tiny space to change communications connections, to get the runabout to beam up all of us. If I hadn't, we would all still be there, or dead by now. I am not saying that a phobic person should be helped to avoid his or her phobia. Instead, he or she should be helped to face it."
Many hours later, an exhausted Kira gingerly followed Dukat, Damar, and Garak into a room spacious enough to accommodate the four for the night. She warily lowered herself to the cot that was farthest from the other three, tugging it a bit farther in the process.
Dukat watched grimly. "Nerys, we have to talk about this."
Intentionally misunderstanding him, she said, "I truly am sorry about those things that I said; I never meant to offend you three; I have no reason to do so at all. What I said was aimed at Rusot; he makes me so angry...."
Dukat's eyes were closed and he stood in a long-suffering pose. "Nerys! I don't mean the argument."
She looked away self-consciously, clearly feeling uncomfortably vulnerable.
Unnecessarily, Dukat clarified, "I mean where it led."
Kira shook her head mournfully. "It shouldn't've come up at all. Why did Rusot do that?? The quarrel wasn't about that!"
"But it did come up, and now we have to deal with the result," he said pragmatically.
She insisted stubbornly, desperately, "They all agreed to obey you about this."
"Very sullenly," said Damar. "And what would you have expected them to say, right to our faces?"
Uncertainly, she asked, "Can't you three protect me?"
Garak answered pointedly, "If you didn't have this problem, you wouldn't need our protection."
In clear trepidation, she asked in a small voice, "Do you really expect me to voluntarily just...just...?" She was obviously unsure whether she really wanted the answer to her question.
Damar said gruffly, "It would be the best thing for the movement; we have enough strikes against us, as it is."
"Unfair." Her face filled with resentment. "Shall we also lock Garak into a closet, until he gets over his claustrophobia?"
He turned on her. "I don't let it keep me from doing my job, at least, not for long."
"And another thing, Kira: you can't show fear if we're a little affectionate in front of the others; it'll be expected, if they're going to believe us," warned Damar.
"I completely agree," remarked Dukat. "We always did that during the Occupation; it demonstrated 'ownership of slave.' The men won't be fooled otherwise."
On full alert again, she asked timidly, "Define: 'a little'."
Dukat went close, and sat beside her; he slipped an arm around her, and pulled her close to him. She squirmed at first, but managed to tolerate it, when she saw that he wasn't trying to go any farther.
But watching, Damar shook his head in dissatisfaction. "You've got to get used to it; you can't look miserable like that."
Garak commented, "You obviously need more practice."
Woefully, she asked, "But why can't the men just assume that I still don't like it, whether it happened or not?"
Bitingly, Garak responded, "Because you aren't exhibiting dislike; you're still exuding fear, and if we can see it, so can they."
His words and tone intimidated her, and she was silenced. But at least, Dukat had gotten up and returned to the area of his cot. Shyly, Kira lowered herself into a fetal position on her cot, facing them, watchful.
Ruefully, Damar asked, "You sleep in your clothes???"
"I do now," she replied defensively, bitterly.
All three Cardassians shook their heads at her, grinning humorlessly.
"You don't honestly think that I'm going to undress...!"
"Well, we are," Damar said brusquely. All three were beginning to tug at their armor.
Hastily, Kira rolled away from them and faced the wall, trying not to hear the egotistical chuckles behind her.