A Gift From the Heart
By Kim Riley a.k.a. MYSTIC
A modern version of O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi.
The Earth holiday was less than a month a way and as usual Julian Bashir was thrilled to get the celebrations started. Today was one of his rare days off and he asked Garak to help him decorate his quarters. Garak was only now reconsidering saying yes, as he now had Julian using him as a stepladder to get some decorations he put in the closet from last year.
“How much longer, Doctor?” Garak asked, trying to keep the strain out of his voice, but failing.
“Almost got it!” Bashir was stretching all the way back on the top shelf, and just as he grabbed the box in question he lost his footing on Garak’s back and sent them both tumbling down with half the stuff on the shelf with them. “My word, Garak, are you all right?”
Garak lifted himself into a sitting position and removed a few cloth items from his head. “Perhaps, my dear Doctor, next time you can’t reach something, it would be wise to borrow a real step ladder.”
Bashir couldn’t help but laugh at the sight before him, it was not funny, but laughter was his only response, for his mood was too merry. “I’ll keep that in mind, my dear Garak.” Then he got himself up and offered Garak a hand before replacing the items back on the shelf from which they fell. Garak without a word started to help and he noticed that one of the fine white cotton cloths had an item wrapped with in, and curiosity got the best of him and unwrapped it. The Item was black and silver…no steel, perhaps. The main section looked like it was made of black tubing with steel tips bending toward each other and a round unusual piece and the other end. “What’s this?” he finally asked.
Julian turned to see what Garak was referring to and when he saw what Garak was holding his smile faded into genuine concern. “My word, I hope it’s all right. I thought for sure I put that in my travel case!” He moved over and gently took the item from Garak’s hand and examined it. A sigh of relief indicated that all was well. “It’s a stethoscope.”
“ a steth-a-what?” Garak asked never hearing the term before.
“It’s a stethoscope. Doctors in the old days used these to listen to heart & lung sounds, Here let me show you. You place this part in your ears and this part on my chest here.”
Garak did as he was instructed and was pleased to hear the young mans heart, but it was still just a sound. He took the item off and handed it back to Bashir. “Interesting rhythm, but what is the point?”
“Like I said, Garak” he chucked, “It was used in the day’s of old to hear if one’s heart or lungs sounded off. Today we don’t need such things, but… one never know.” He laughed again and lovingly wrapped it back up. “Well, that’s what my Grandfather always said… ‘One never knows, young man, best to be prepared’. It was a gift from him when I first told everyone that I was going to be a doctor. He was the first one to believe in me…” a look a sadness fills Julian’s face.
“How old were you?”
“I was ten, he died the following year.” A sigh of regret fills the room as Julian finds his traveling bag, the one he has always ready when the call came to move, either to the Defiant or someday a new post. He carefully places it inside.
“Why don’t you keep it in a case or something?”
“I would, in fact I’ve seen the perfect one just the other day in that new antique shop that just opened up. I’ve been looking for years for just the right thing that would not only protect it, but also still, somehow do it justice… I’m sorry, there is no rational explanation beyond that for why I’ve never found one yet.” He gave his warm smile and was rewarded by one from Garak. “I appreciate you helping me with this, and the decorations. When were done here, I’ll help you carry that excess stock you just got from the cargo bay to your shop, sound fair?”
“Very.” Smiled Garak.
They just unloaded their second trip worth of bolts of fabric and both decided to take a break. Julian looked out and saw that the antique store was open for business. “Let me show you what I was talking about earlier.” He said to Garak, like a puppy eager to play, and pulled him across the promenade.
Inside the store, it was packed with items from as far back as the Nineteenth century and a cultural variety. Julian’s eyes were open wide like a kid in a candy store, and though Garak wanted to maintain his composure, the shine from his blue eyes was truly similar. They strolled passed clocks, mirrors, and lamps. They soon found themselves separated by the time they got to the back of the store, one on each side. The storeowner emerged from the back, an older human, heavy set, with white hare and facial beard to match. “Can I help you, Gentleman?”
Bashir was just about to give up hope when just then he spotted what he was looking for. “Here it is, Garak!” He moved over to a rectangular box made of real cherry walnut wood. The top portion had real glass with a fine etching in it to bring a distinguished look to it. The four corners of the glass top was held to the wood by what appeared to be real gold triangular facets. It had a gold metal flap that would hold the box shut. To Bashir it was the most beautiful thing in the store. Garak came up from behind him to see what struck the good Doctor with such interest, as Julian turned to the storeowner. “This box, how much is it?” His face glowed at the prospect of buying it.
“That’s a rare antique son, it goes for three thousand strips of latinum.”
Garak saw the blood rush from the good doctor’s face along with the glow, to be filled with dread and disappointment. He swallowed hard, “that’s quite a lot.” And he carefully, with surgical precision placed the box back down where he got it. “Thank you,” he said meekly and turned to exit the store.
They were half way back up front before Garak gave a gasp. Bashir turned to see if his friend was all right but found that he stood alone. It took a moment to locate Garak in the middle of the store behind a shelf, holding another rectangular box, wider than his hands. The box was made of plain dark black Moka wood, common to Cardassia, but it was the cherished item that was inside it that held Garak’s attention. The box was large enough to hold two items, one on the left, but in this box the large area where a bottle of some sort was not there, and on the right a impression where a large glass was. This was the item in question that held Garak’s true attention. Bashir looked at the glass then remembered he saw that Garak had a decanter that matched the glass in his quarters. “Garak, don’t you have a decanter that matches that?”
“How perceptive, Doctor. Indeed yes I do. It is part of a set, but I did not quite receive it that way.”
“Oh, how so?”
Garak looked at the glass, which was made of Cardassian glass that shined it’s crimson and turquoise spiral patterns beneath his fingers. The glass rim was lined in silver as well as the base rim. The fine etching just under the rim gave more proof of its unique authenticity. A fond and gentle smile came over Garak’s face, as if reminiscing. “You see, my dear Doctor. The decanter is part of an H’ardesic ceremony, rarely practiced anymore. It was a gift given to a young male when he reached man hood by his parent. The ability to handle drink was a responsibility not looked on lightly and so the gift was a symbol of recognition and respect” A deep sigh of regret fills the store.
“Who gave you yours? If you don’t mind me asking?”
“Not at all. Mila gave it to me as was customary on my day of ‘becoming of age’.” Another found smile fills Garak face. He knew what the next question would be from his good doctor and beat him to it by volunteering it. “That night, Tain came to see me and was drunk. He did his usual antics, but in the process broke the glass. He said it was a sign that I was only half a man and always would be.” It took some control for Garak to keep the pain from showing, but he didn’t realize that Bashir could see it all to clear.
“You never replaced the glass?”
“You don’t understand, Doctor, this is usually sold as a kit, they do not sell them separately and it didn’t make sense to buy an entire set just for the glass to have an extra decanter, besides, this is not something one usually buys one self…but…”
As if on cue, the storeowner came around the corner. “Just so you know, since it’s missing the decanter it’s only half price.”
“That sounds fair,” replied Garak. “How much are you charging for this fine piece of craftsmanship?”
The old man thought for a minute and then walked over to a PADD. “Ah, the whole set now a days would run Six thousand strips of latinum, so three sounds fair.”
Garak rained in his disappointment and gently closed the case. “I will keep that in mind, thank you.”
Bashir saw and knew the pain of disappointment all too well. He knew how much his mother meant to him and what a jerk for a father could be like. He smiled only to himself, for he reflected quickly at how only a moment ago he saw Garak’s eyes all a glow; now he saw them sullen and his smile faded too. It was only a moment later before the two of them were out the door together to finish up with Garak’s excess stock from the Cargo bay.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into Christmas Eve, early morning. Bashir reported early for his shift so to get any last minute tasks out of the way. Currently he was sitting in his office going over a list he had on a PADD and he looked exhausted. The list contained names of all the people he was buying gifts for the holiday and only one name was left unchecked… Garak’s. StarFleet usually provides all the basic needs and some pay for those items that they don’t provide for, but it would never make anyone rich. He took all his free time for the last few weeks and did some extra work where ever he could get it, even knowing it was not permissible, but he wanted the extra latinum for the holidays; as always his heart was bigger than his wallet and he wouldn’t turn anyone away, whether they could pay or not… so, he was broke. He looked at the list with a deep intensity and made a decision. (Yes, my dearest Elim, you’re most definitely worth it.) And with that he exited his office with a ‘I’m-going-to-be-successful’ look on his face.
Garak was handling the last of his transactions for the day, one of the Nurses that worked in the infirmary. “Of course my dear, you can pay me after the holiday,” he said with a smile. Then watched his happy customer of a few years take her gown with a smile and exit. The smile faded into irritation. (Your are too soft!) He thought to himself. (Good thing you’re not a Ferengi or you’d be shot for all the credit you’ve extended for this holiday.) A deep sigh and he moved to the back room looking at all the wrapped gifts he was going to take to Sisko’s annual Christmas Eve party, were it was a rule that a gift for everyone should be under his tree. The good Doctor had invited him every year since Sisko started the tradition and it was in part that he no longer looked at these people as ‘them’ but he had to admit family. He looked over all the presents and a list he had sitting next to them, only one name was unchecked… Bashir’s. He had worked extra hard to provide the extra stock for the extra amount of work he was expecting for the Holiday. He even over extended himself, but with the cost of overhead, gifts for the season, and the large amount of customers that begged to pay him after the holiday, he was far from his financial goal. He looked at the list and smiled. (Yes, my dear Julian, you are most worth any price if it will bring a smile to your face.) He laid down the list and headed to the front of the store where he put up the closed for the holiday sign and exited.
Sisko’s Christmas Eve parties were always exciting. Good food, good music, and plenty of good cheer all around. Everyone was enjoying themselves as best they could, but it was not quite the same this year; for there was a last minute emergency that arrived on board one of the freighter ships and it kept Dr. Bashir busy the whole time. Garak noticed later that some of the nurses that had helped him during the unexpected medical situation finally arrive. They gave everyone Dr. Bashir’s best wishes but he would not be able to attend and that he would give everyone their present tomorrow. Jadzia suggested bringing the party to him and Garak was all for it, but Sisko squashed the idea. He said that if the situation in the infirmary wasn’t that bad then Dr. Bashir would be here. The evening ended and Garak gathered the wrapped box he had intended to give to Julian and decided to head for the infirmary himself. (After all, one person won’t be that much of a disturbance.) When he arrived, however, he found Dr. Grirrani had just came on duty twenty minutes ago. Determined to give his gift to Bashir tonight, Garak headed to Julian’s quarters. He was just about to hit the door chime when the door opened.
“Garak!” It was Bashir. He was dressed in a rich red silk shirt and white pants and was definitely heading out the door, as Garak was ready to enter. “I was just about to go look for you,” he said with a smile and a laugh at the coincidence of meeting Garak at his door.
“Well, since I’m here,” Garak smiled.
Bashir stepped back into his quarters and gestured for Garak to come in. The holiday decorations were in full gear, and the small tree Bashir had in the corner looked radiant. “Can I get you anything?”
“No thank you.” Garak actually started to feel nervous about his gift to the good Doctor. “I know I could have waited till tomorrow, but… “
“I know, Garak, I didn’t want to wait either,” Bashir smiled warmly and his eyes glowed like an expecting child.
It was just then that Garak noticed that Bashir was holding a wrapped package behind him and watched as Julian presented to him. He smiled and handed the package he had for the Doctor over as well. They both looked at their presents and their eyes shined with anticipation.
“You first,” said Bashir.
“No, no, after you, my dear Doctor.” Replied Garak.
They both laughed. “How about we sit over by the sofa and we open them together?” asked Bashir.
Garak smiled and moved over with Julian by the sofa, but the young man was so excited that as soon as he sat he slipped down to the floor and laid the present on the coffee table in front of him. Garak decided to join Bashir on the floor and waited. He saw Julian pick up his present again and started to unwrap it like a child bursting with energy then stopped when he looked over at Garak. Elim realized that he was slowly undoing the wrapping of his gift and when Bashir noticed it he was going to wait, but he could see the pain of anticipation on the young man’s face and decided, (the paper is not ‘that’ important) and started ripping it off as well, so Julian could finish doing the same.
Two sets of eyes widen with surprise and delight. Two sets of eyes filled with moister and joy at what they saw before them. “Oh, it’s… it’s beautiful, Elim!” choked out Bashir looking down at the antique box he had desired to hold his Grandfathers stethoscope.
“This is so…touching, Julian!” whispered Garak, barley able to speak from the overwhelming joy at seeing the rare glass that would complete his H’ardesic set.
The two men looked from their gifts toward each other, and both could see that they made the other very happy with their choice of gifts. In fact, Bashir was so overwhelmed that he sprung up to his knees and hugged Garak, but before he could pull back thinking he may have offended his friend he found he was being engulfed into a big hug as well and Bashir hugged back even more. “Thank you, Elim, thank you!” he whispered with joy into Garak’s ear.
Garak pulled back just enough to look into Bashir’s eyes, for several heart beats they looked at each other as if something was passing between them, but a case of nerves got to Garak and he let go. “Why don’t you get that steth-a-scope and see how it fits?”
“Stethoscope,’ Bashir corrected, “and I can do that anytime, why don’t you get the decanter and see if it fits?” he asked, while trying to avoid Garak’s eyes with his own.
Garak cleared his throat and shifted his eyes away from Julian’s. “That’s not necessary, but I would like to see the two pieces of your gift together,” he insisted warmly.
The two of them finally met each other’s eyes and there was no hiding it, there was a problem. Garak became subconscious about his gift, “What’s wrong Doctor, don’t you like it?”
“Oh, no it’s not that. I love it! It’s the most beautiful gift I…” the guilt was overwhelming and he lowered his head. “I…I can’t put them together,” he finally stammered.
“Why not?” Garak asked confused. “Don’t you think it will fit?”
Bashir’s face flushed, “No, it’s not that… I can’t put them together because… “ He took a deep breath, he knew he had to confess. “Because I don’t have it anymore.”
“What?” Garak asked surprised. “ Did it get broken?”
“No… I… sold it.” Bashir had to turn his head he was so embarrassed.
Garak was stunned. “I would have thought that you would have never parted with that, what ever possessed you to do so?”
Bashir’s face was fully red and moist from tears, “I tried to save, and I even had forgone regulations and tried to earn some extra… you know on the side… but… I… Didn’t have any were close enough and… I…so wanted…” he choked out between sobs. “Oh, Elim, I though it would mean the world to you.” He said before covering his face with his hands.
It was then that Garak realized what Bashir had done. He had sold his stethoscope so he could purchase the missing part of his H’ardesic, just so he could have a full set and prove Tain wrong. He was so moved that he pulled Julian into his arms and hugged him again. “That is the most wonderful thing that anyone has ever done for me.” He said and hugged him even harder.
Bashir looked up into Garak’s face and saw tears flowing, he had never seen his dear friend so… emotional before, and he could feel just how happy he made Garak with his gift, that his guilt was leaving him. “So, you not upset with me?”
“Never!” he said still hugging Julian and eyes closed. Then after a moment he opened his eyes and looked down at Bashir, “I have to make a confession too.”
It was now Bashir’s turn to look confused. “You can tell me anything.”
Garak sat back, but still not breaking the embrace and met Julian’s eyes with his own. “ I was not able to earn as much as I had hoped too this month with the holiday and all, so… I… sold the decanter.”
“You sold it!” Bashir was stunned. He was about to repeat every word that Garak had said to him when he looked over at the table and saw his present sitting there. “You sold it…for… me?” he finally whispered.
All Garak could do was nod his head yes; he had sold it to buy Julian’s gift. The two of them stared at each other, amazed just how much the other was willing to go to bring joy into their lives. Julian’s hand reached up and caressed some tears off Garak’s face. His heart was racing and he was so filled with joy he had to say what was in his heart or he knew he would burst. “Elim Garak, I love you with all my heart and soul!”
Garak’s eyes widened at hearing that the love of his life loved him back and the words he so long to say leaped from his heart out his lips, “Julian Bashir, I love you, with all my heart, soul, and every breath that I take!” He finished his declaration of love with a kiss. He felt Julian’s warm lips pressing back against his own, and Julian’s body pressing hard against his own as well. Soon he felt Julian’s mouth open so he could taste the sweetness of his love’s tongue.
The kiss seemed to last forever, but air was needed and as they broke the kiss Julian grabbed Garak even tighter. “Elim, I love you so much, would you please, make love to me?” he whispered in Garak’s ear.
Garak placed a kiss next to Julian’s ear; “I will make love to you so long as you desire it, my love, be it nights, months, or the rest of your life.” Garak then kissed Bashir again and pulled him into his arms and lifted him and took him into the bedroom.
It was very early Christmas morning and all the shops on the promenade were closed except for the antique store. A well to do Bajoran man entered and seemed to be pressed for time. He looked around the shop and saw the storeowner. The heavy set old man was sitting in a old fashion rocking chair, sweeping his long white beard out from under his chin, pursing his cherry red lips. “What can I do for you?” asked the storeowner.
The Bajoran man moved over to where the owner was sitting. My wife is coming in on a shuttle to day and I forgot to get her a… Christmas gift and you seem to be the only store open today.
The older man continued to rock in his chair, a merry look on his face. “I didn’t think Bajoran's celebrated Christmas?”
The man looked annoyed at the owner, “Well, between the Emissary and my wife being human it’s starting to catch on.” It was then that he spotted behind the old man on a counter, two items that caught his attention. He moved as close as the counter would let him and looked at the two items sitting gently into two cushioned boxes. “Hey, my wife is one of the nurses at the infirmary and she showed me a picture of one of these things once, plus that decanter would look perfect with the rest of her glass display!” He said with excitement.
“Hmm,” said the old man. “Those aren’t for sale.”
“Not for sale?” the Bajoran man turned again annoyed.
“Yep, not for sale. You see, they were gifts and I already have a home for them,” he smiled. Then he got up and gently took the man by the elbow and started leading him to the other side of the store. “You know that it is not the cost of the gift that makes it special, but how much of your heart you give with it,” he mused. He could see the Bajoran man was at a loss to his words. “Hmm, lets see what we can find for Caroline, shall we?”
“How did you know my wife’s name is Caroline?”
“Hmmm, you must have mentioned it, for how else would I know… Ah, here we go.” The older man picked up an old fashion music box with carousel ponies dancing within and opened the lid. “What do you think?”
The man listened to the tune and seemed confused, “that tune sounds familiar, what is it?”
“Perhaps you can let your wife remind you, here let me wrap this up for you,” and the old man moved swiftly to the front and packed the music box carefully and then wrapped it in the holiday spirit. “Here you go.”
“Um… what do I owe you?” asked the man.
The old human handed over a PADD to the Bajoran, “Just fill in what you think it’s worth.”
The man looked at the PADD; “This is made out to the War Orphans fund?”
“Well, it ‘is’ the time of giving, don’t you think?”
It was the first time the Bajoran man finally realized the meaning of the holiday and filled out the PADD, generously and handed it back to the old man.
The old man looked at it, “Why thank you! That is a very generous amount.”
“No, no, thank you,” he said softly with a smile then headed out to meet his wife.
The old man walked to the entrance of his shop and looked around, the deck seemed so empty for most everyone by now on DS9 was either resting in or spending time with their loved ones. He pulled his door closed and turned off the ‘open’ sign. He moved back over to the counter were the two precious items laid snug in their boxes…
Bashir stretched his body out in pure delight, especially knowing that with each stretch he was touching the skin of his love right next to him. It was still early, and if there was no medical emergencies, he had the day off. He rolled over to see Garak staring at him, a huge smile on his face. He leaned over and kissed the Cardassian, when suddenly there was a noise from the living room.
“Did you hear that?” Bashir asked in nervous concern.
“Yes.” Garak replied in a whisper and placed a finger over Bashir’s mouth to keep him quiet.
Julian saw just how protective Garak was going to be over him, and for a moment almost forgot the intruder, for he was so touched, he kissed the figures over his lips.
Garak smiled, “Stay here and I will go investigate,” he whispered.
“Elim, I’m a StarFleet Officer, I can take care of myself,” and moved from the bed the same time Garak did. Julian tossed a robe over to Garak and pulled out a nightshirt from a draw near by. Together they moved to the bedroom door and let it open. The lights from the decorations were still on and greeted their eyes. They both blinked to adjust their eyes, then proceeded into the living room slowly. They looked around, but nothing seemed to be disturbed, everything was as it should be, but “Elim look!”
Bashir pointed to the tiny tree. There underneath it was two wrapped presents that had not been there earlier. Slowly they moved over to examine the two boxes and saw one was address to Julian Bashir and the other Elim Garak.
“Who would have gone to such trouble to force their way into your quarters to deliver presents, much less figure out that I would be here?”
“I don’t know, but there is only one way to find out, and that’s open them, plus, there’s a card.”
As Bashir decided to open his present Garak decided to open the card that was attached and read it out loud. “It says, To Elim, For taking the risk and opening your heart and finding all the gifts inside. May you continue to do so, Merry Christmas, signed…”
“Oh, Elim, look!”
Garak looked up from the note to see that Bashir was holding the Stethoscope that his Grandfather had given him when he was ten.
“Elim, open yours!” he exclaimed. As he watched Garak start to peel off the wrapping he opened his card and read it out loud, “It says, Dear Julian, a good boy as always,” he chuckled. “Your open heart and flowing generosity is the greatest gift you could give to anyone, may you never change. Merry Christmas signed…”
“Julian, it’s the decanter!”
“Oh my word!”
The two men glowed with excitement at the sudden return of their treasures. It was only a second before both of them moved from the tree, items in hand to the coffee table where their gifts from last night still sat. They both placed their perspective treasure with their gift and looked at them together, for the first time.
“Wow, I can’t believe this,” exclaimed Julian.
“I must concur,” Garak smiled then kissed Bashir. “But what I don’t understand it, who is ‘Santa Clause’?”
“You remember that old Earth legend I told you about a few years ago?”
“I thought you said his name was Saint Nick or Kris Kringle?”
“Well, he also goes by Santa Clause.” Julian chuckled.
“ It would seem that your backwards rouge has many aliases,” smiled Garak.
“You know, I stopped believing in him a long time ago, but after tonight…”
“I tend to agree with you, Jahkim.”
“Oh, Elim,” he purred and kissed Garak deeply.
It was only a few moment before Garak once again picked Bashir up into his arm and was heading back to the bedroom, when they stopped again and both looked up and around, then at each other, “Sleigh bells?” they asked in unions… “Nah, that’s too much, “ they chucked and entered the bedroom.
The metallic jingle quietly echoed through out the station followed by a hardy, “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas and to all a good night!”
(Someone needs to check their watch! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!)