V. In the sombre season or the sudden fury.
There was one thing to be said for living in a cellar: at least it was cooler than outside.
Oh, not pleasantly so – that would be too much to ask. Just enough that Nerys didn't feel like the air was sapping her strength, didn't feel like she was moving too slowly all the time, didn't feel like she was trapped. No more so than usual, anyway.
The cooler temperatures seemed to be bothering Damar more than they bothered Garak; Nerys suspected the latter had grown used to the more Bajoran-friendly environmental controls on the station, probably in spite of himself. He'd still managed to keep up the odd complaint about the chill, but it was a half-hearted attempt at best.
And then their rebellion had been obliterated before it had a chance to begin, and nobody felt much like complaining about the chill.
Damar had been quiet ever since Weyoun's transmission; Garak, on the other hand, had been talking almost ceaselessly, spinning ideas and suggestions that became more and more ridiculous as time wore on. At first, Nerys engaged with him on the more plausible ideas, argued with him, tried to make them seem feasible, even tried to draw Damar into the debate. Now she didn't bother.
When even Garak had gone quiet, she knew they were in trouble.
At some point, Mila brought them sleeping cots, but nobody felt much like sleeping. She brought them food, but nobody felt much like eating. Nerys wished she hadn't brought up the idea of spending the rest of the war in the cellar, because it was becoming more and more plausible by the minute.
Her heart raced sometimes, and she paced, feeling like the walls were caving in on her, feeling like the whole of Cardassia Prime was ready to collapse on top of her, feeling like maybe it already had. But those moments passed, leaving her as silent and lethargic as the others.
It came as some surprise, then, when it was Damar who stirred himself first one day and said, softly, "It's nearly time for the Edosian orchids to bloom, you know."
Nerys turned, caught sight of his wistful expression, and nearly laughed at the surreal non-sequitur. When she saw Garak's face, though, the smile died on her lips. He'd gone very still, and his expression was unreadable. Trust Cardassians to get stirred up over flora.
Damar sat up, though he avoided looking at them both. He seemed almost embarrassed. "My son loved Edosian orchids. This time of year, he'd always be after me to take him to the botanical gardens."
Garak smiled, mask firmly back in place. "It is rather a nice time to be on Cardassia Prime, isn't it? If it weren't for the occupying horde threatening our imminent destruction, this would nearly qualify as a pleasant holiday."
Nerys snorted. "Complete with world-class accommodations."
Garak drew a finger across the table he'd dusted earlier that day. "You can't deny the efficiency of the maid service."
Damar cast a wry look at the ceiling. "And the view needs to be seen to be believed."
They were silent for a moment after that, and with the silence came a strange, companionable feeling that reminded Nerys of nothing so much as the long nights spent with the members of her resistance cell, trading stories and hopes and dreams under an unfriendly sky. The parallel was disconcerting, to say the least.
"I'm sorry, Damar," she said, surprising herself. "About your family."
He didn't say anything for a long time, but when she darted a glance in his direction, she thought he looked a little more thoughtful than he had in some time, a little less lost. Garak, she noticed, was watching the exchange with something that was obviously meant to look like boredom.
"Thank you, Colonel," Damar said, finally.
"If you ask me," Garak said, sitting up as well, "the Dominion's getting sloppy. If it was a deliberate tactic to sap your resolve – and I believe that's what was intended – then it's clearly had the opposite effect. And that's highly suggestive." He paused, as though waiting for one or both of them to interject. Nerys and Damar exchanged glances, then shrugged in unison.
With a long-suffering sigh, Garak continued. "Well, you must see what that implies? Such appalling lack of intelligence when it comes to understanding the Cardassian family, the Cardassian sense of honor, suggests that the Vorta and the Founders have stopped even pretending to listen to whichever Cardassian is playing puppet for them now."
It was a deliberate shot at Damar, but Nerys was surprised to see him take the blow with good grace and a faint, self-deprecating smile. Undaunted by this lack of reaction, Garak straightened, warming to his subject matter. "It speaks to a certain level of discord among the ranks of our enemy, a lack of communication. Perhaps we can use that to our advantage."
"Of course," Damar said, deadpan. "Instead of going for their supply lines, we should have been ridiculing their lack of familiarity with the collected works of Preloc. How silly we were."
"No, there's something to that," Nerys said, and sat up as well; her view of the ceiling was becoming stale. "If we can use their ignorance somehow-"
"Using anything – doing anything – is out of the question as long as we're stuck down here," Damar said, and slammed his fist against his cot to punctuate the statement.
Garak's brief burst of energy seemed to have burned itself out. "There is something to be said for having resources at one's disposal."
With a wince, Nerys slumped back onto her cot. She'd been assigned to this sorry excuse for a resistance for precisely that reason – Cardassians were used to large-scale plotting, to playing games that had complicated pieces covering the board, to schemes and stratagems. Nerys was here to help them see beyond that, to point out the immense gains that could come from small-scale, simple, low-risk attacks carried out with surgical precision.
Three people against an army. The scale didn't get much smaller than that.
When the silence became less of an interlude and more of a state of being, Nerys allowed herself to retreat back into her own thoughts, combing through her memory yet again for ways in which they might be able to fight, ways in which they might be able to turn the tables on Weyoun. She wished they could get in touch with people who believed in a new Cardassia, people who believed as Tekeny Ghemor had believed, but she suspected any hint of a dissenting group within the Cardassian populace would have been eradicated immediately. If they were going to turn public opinion against the Dominion, they'd have to do it without the benefit of any organized, pre-existing structure. That didn't bode well.
The Bajoran resistance had been born of a half-century's terror and resentment, but it had only really come into its own once it became clear that the Bajorans who collaborated with the Cardassians were merely there to pay lip service to the people, to keep a steady supply of slave labor and line their own pockets. To expect the Cardassians to rise up against the Dominion in so little time was ludicrous – unless, as Garak suggested, the Dominion were to tip its hand in some way, by showing the Cardassian people how little they mattered in this so-called alliance. Maybe it wasn't about reaching the right targets anymore. Maybe it was about reaching the right people.
Or maybe, some small part of Nerys suggested, it was about waiting for the Prophets to intervene, as they had after the minefield had come down.
Somehow she suspected that might be a long wait.
"It's a shame," Garak said, as though reading her thoughts, "that the Prophets don't seem inclined to act on our behalf."
"The Prophets helped defend us against you," Nerys said, and it came out more harshly than she'd intended, but the anger felt good, felt real, felt like stepping into a cool cellar after such terrible heat. "They're hardly likely to switch sides."
"And here I thought we were all fighting for the same thing," Garak said, with deceptive mildness. There was something in his eyes, though, that made Nerys suspect he was spoiling for a fight every bit as much as she was.
"Maybe the Emissary could put in a good word for us," Damar said, with a sneer.
Nerys sat up again, whirled to face him. "Look, Damar, if you don't have anything to contribute-"
"I wasn't aware that anyone was contributing much of anything-"
Nerys was on her feet before she knew what she was doing. "At least we're talking!"
Damar jumped up as well. "Unless I've missed something, talk doesn't seem to be getting us out of this cellar!"
There was a long moment of silence, broken only by their heavy breathing. Nerys became aware of the fact that Garak was staring at both of them, eyes wide in an exaggerated parody of surprise.
And then, with a rueful smile, Nerys slumped back onto her cot. "Listen to us. We're talking about trying to sow discord within the Dominion, and we can't even go five minutes without bickering amongst ourselves."
After a tense moment, Damar's expression softened to match hers. "Not exactly the sort of resistance people write songs and stories about."
Nerys snorted. "If we win, let's swear to falsify the songs and stories so they make our victory seem much more impressive."
"I suppose a verse about the days we spent moping in a cellar might not go over particularly well," Damar said. "There are only so many rhymes for the word 'boredom'."
"If we win," Garak said softly, "we won't need to exaggerate our victory."
They were silent again for a long time after that, until Mila came back downstairs and told them about the Man They Couldn't Kill, until they found hope again in the most unlikely of places, in a disgraced ex-politician living in a cellar.
All Nerys could think, after that, was that maybe, just maybe, the Prophets had a hand in this after all. With Damar on their side, it seemed impossible to lose. Any day, she knew, a new Cardassia would rise from the ashes of the old. Anything else would be unthinkable
And then the unthinkable happened.
The day Damar died, the day a billion Cardassians died with him, the day the Dominion began the slow, unwieldy process of surrender, Nerys found herself a quiet corner in all the commotion of important diplomats, of soldiers and civilians and the walking wounded.
There, for the first time, she cursed the Prophets.
She cursed them for not interfering when they could so easily have prevented all this, cursed them for this devastation, cursed them for the devastation that had only ended seven years earlier. The words tasted like ashes in her mouth, and she regretted them as soon as they'd been uttered, but still she cursed them for stepping in only when their own interests were threatened, for sitting idly by while so many died-
She turned, furious, but faltered when she saw Garak. He seemed curiously off-balance, and his emotions played clearly across his face: surprise, frustration, a hint of disgust, something very much like concern, and, underlying it all, a lost, devastated look that Nerys hadn't seen on anyone since the Occupation had ended. "Colonel," he said again. "I couldn't help overhearing-"
"I don't have time for your games, Garak." She pushed past him and was surprised when he didn't hold his ground.
"I only wanted to say, Colonel, that I appreciate everything you did here. Our resistance would have died in its entirety without you. The Cardassian people would be extinct."
She turned, looked back, and saw something in Garak's face she couldn't identify, something she couldn't quite make out at first because it was something she'd never seen in him before: complete candor. Honesty. Sincerity.
He hesitated a moment, then reached out and touched her arm, briefly. "If your Prophets could find no way to prevent all this, perhaps they had a hand in sending you here."
And then he moved away, melting into the commotion and noise, and Nerys was left standing alone, in a quiet place.