Garak, having finished his government work for the day and indulged in his rock-moving neurosis as long as practicable, went into his little shed to sleep.
But sleep would not take him. The wind howled outside, a thousand million voices, a thousand generations lamenting the ruin of Cardassia, reminding Garak of the ruin of his own austere life, reminding Garak of a lifetime of lamenting, of laments he had heard, had caused, had not prevented, could not prevent.
In a stupor of weariness, he dragged himself, tired, sore bones and heavy, heaved himself from his little bed with its blanket, an indulgence, threadbare as it was, and set out into the starless night and wind with no destination in mind to guide his naked feet.
The wind gave way to torrential rain, almost icy. The weather had been disrupted by all the dust and contaminants suspended in the atmosphere as a result of the Dominion attacks.
Shivering, still Garak wandered and walked, soaked and wrecked and wracked with grief and anxiety, loneliness and self-pity, and self-loathing for feeling anything at all but self-effacing duty and obligation.
Without conscious sense or thought his path meandered past glinting dark pools and rivulets, rainwater or blood or both or worse, until he found himself standing before an impermanent shelter of Federaji design, one amidst hundreds of others, all identical, like the cells of pious monks or impious prisoners, and not much different from his own little shed.
And when he announced himself to the inhabitant therein, he expected rejection and had already turned dejected to go back into the night, back to his shed, back to his friendless life. And to say he was only surprised when a warm hand dragged him inside is to lie.
And what Garak felt when those same warm hands stripped his soaked, ragged clothes away and chafed the aching cold from his bones, he had no name for. But he allowed himself to be dried and dressed in warm pyjamas. He tried to stammer a protest against the human’s request for the computer to increase the temperature, but all that came out was a rattling clatter of teeth. The rising dark in his cheeks though, said everything.
Garak found himself led to a bed in the corner still warm from where Bashir had been lying there. Gently prodded into lying he lay there trying not to feel overwhelmed by kindness. The doctor piled blanket on blanket and brought him fresh Red Leaf tea, hot and piping, and sat beside him and stroked his hair and began reciting from The Never-ending Sacrifice in soft and oddy lilting Kardasi until Garak fell asleep, realising, ‘this is what it means to be loved.’