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Title: 30-Day Cheesy Tropes Challenge - 17. Noble/Peasant AU
Fandom: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Genre: Pre-slash
Rating & Warnings: G (classism, sexism)
Words: This part 1584, ?? overall
Disclaimer: I don't own Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Summary: There is a new resident of the hamlet of Bajor--a Cardassian, they say. In spite of being warned against it, the Honourable Julian Subatoi intends to investigate these curious circumstances.
Author's Notes: I'll be honest with all of you: this is another trope that's not a favourite of mine, because, not to put too fine of a point on it, I am an old fart. Though I set this a fair bit farther forward in pseudo-history than was probably intended by the trope, the classism is still pretty intense in this and it's topped off with a sprinkling of sexism, so, well, be warned.

That said, I still had some fun with language and wordplay in this. Anybody who can tell me why Julian's home is called what it is gets a cookie (and no, it isn't named after Khan).

The Honourable Julian Subatoi once considered that to be a commoner was to be fortunate—more fortunate, in some regards, than being of noble birth. This point of view persisted for a great length of time, until he was in his twenty-seventh year.

It was, perhaps, understandable that the only son of a viscount might harbour such beliefs, particularly when he had no desire to inherit the lands and title of a man with whom he had experienced a falling-out a decade past.

But those beliefs were not destined to last.

The day that this great change was set into motion dawned stormy. Not in terms of weather—the skies held only a mild haze of cloud—but of relations within Singh Hall. Julian's father, Lord Richard of Bashir, had insisted that his son emerge from his customary retreat in the depths of the library and confront one of two duties: the selection of a suitable wife or the furthering of his understanding of Bashir lands. Neither task appealed, a fact which Julian communicated with the greatest of clarity. As always, however, Lord Richard remained firm. And so, choosing to his mind the lesser of two evils, Julian rode into the nearest hamlet of Bajor.

Though his father had sent him to examine Bajor with the eye of a future lord, Julian found much greater pleasure seeking the company of what he considered its "simple, honest folk." They never treated him with anything save the highest respect, and he in turn was certain to show them the same courtesy he would demonstrate one of his peers. He spent a comfortable afternoon visiting the innkeep, engaging in conversation with a pair of passing travellers, sampling the wares of the barkeep and baker, and generally enjoying the idyll of country life as he perceived it.

It was when he observed an unfamiliar shop that had sprung up in a side lane that his idle wanderings came to an end. It was an ordinary little place, at first sight. The only remarkable fact about it was its newness, which was remarkable indeed. Bajor was an unchanging sort of place, and to see that constancy disturbed at once piqued his curiosity.

Julian searched about and located a passing matron returning from the bakery, if the loaf-shaped parcel in her basket was any judge. He broke into a long-limbed stride, and, once he was within polite distance and she had curtsied to him, inquired, "I beg your pardon, but who tends that shop there?"

He nodded in its direction and looked back in time to watch the matron's expression close.

"That would be Mr Garak's, sir," she responded in the charming local accent that fell so fairly upon his ears. "He's a tailor." Her brows drew together. "From Cardassia."

His brows, by contrast, rose as far as they were capable. "A Cardassian? Are you certain?"

Cardassia was the name of the village located on the neighbouring land belonging to the Dukat family. It lay barely inside the border of that territory, as Bajor was just within Bashir lands. The rivalry between the Bashirs and the Dukats was ancient and bitter, and the hatred the Bajorans and Cardassians bore one another was a reflection of the attitudes of their betters. For a Cardassian to willingly choose to come to Bajor was nothing short of extraordinary.

"I am. He's not trying to hide it—which is just as well," the matron added, "for we would know in an instant exactly what he was."

"I see." Julian's gaze strayed to that unassuming little shop once more before he forced it to return to his companion (a dreadful lapse in manners on his part, truly unforgivable). "Thank you, madam. You have been most helpful."

She must have perceived his distraction, for her mouth fell slightly open. "Sir, you're never planning on paying him a visit, are you?"

"Of course I am." He smiled brilliantly. "One must be familiar with all one's tenants, of course."

"I wouldn't recommend it, sir. You're sure to regret it."

"Why?" he asked. "Is it because he is a Cardassian?"

"No," she responded. "It's because he's a git—if you'll pardon my language, sir."

Julian blinked, then chuckled. "I thank you for the warning. I shall tread most cautiously." He nodded to her. "Good day."

She curtsied once more. "Good day, sir."

As soon as the matron had continued on her way, Julian crossed the remaining distance to Mr Garak's shop. He spent little time examining it from the outside; his curiosity about the man had reached truly astronomical proportions and so he was quick to enter.

The shop was small but trim and immaculately clean. Examples of the tailor's work—astonishingly, some even in simplified versions of this year's fashions—stood on wooden frames throughout the shop. Farther in, Julian could see a half-finished piece on a very old, fraying dressmaker's dummy.

He had little more opportunity to observe the interior of the tailor's, for nigh instantly, the man he could only assume was Mr Garak had approached him with a smile and, once he came to rest, a bow.

"Ah, you must be the Honourable Mr Subatoi. What a privilege it is to host you in this, my humble establishment." His eyebrows lifted, transforming his rather plain features into the very picture of sincerity. "Though I might be but a simple tailor, I hope I can be of some small service."

Julian surveyed him for a brief moment, using that time to lend order to the muddle of questions in his head. Though Mr Garak's hair was kept in the traditional Cardassian style and the cut of his garments could not have placed him anywhere else, there were several incongruities that made him a figure of great interest.

"Perhaps you could begin by explaining how you knew my identity," he settled upon as his first line of inquiry.

"It always pays to know as much as one can about the family that rules one's life," Mr Garak replied obediently. "The Bashir family have but one son, a fine young man of twenty-seven years. It required no great feat of intellect to deduce that you are he."

"Ah, but I could have been a traveller from a distant town," he pointed out, too intrigued to notice the absence of that small yet vital word, "sir."

"Perhaps . . . but your carriage, your speech, and the cut of your coat—not to mention the beautiful fabric from which it is made—all suggest nobility and not a common stranger. May I?" he abruptly asked. His pale fingers stretched out toward his sleeve; Julian was too startled by his audacity to do anything but murmur a quick, "Of course."

Mr Garak took the hem between thumb and fingers and closed his eyes. An expression came over him that most men wore whilst savouring a particularly delectable pie. It was all a bit strange and slightly offputting, but Julian's questions had yet to be fully answered.

"You do not have the accent of a tailor," he said as Mr Garak opened his eyes and let his hand drop with a sigh.

"I have the accent of a Cardassian," Mr Garak responded.

"And yet you and I sound alike," Julian countered.

It was the first aspect of the other man he had noted. While the other villagers spoke with a melodious lilt, Mr Garak seemed to have no accent at all, and that meant they, the son of a viscount and a commoner, shared the same manner of speech.

"Perhaps there is some Cardassian in your lineage," Mr Garak suggested with a sideways glance that startled a laugh from him.

"I would not let my father hear you speak so," he advised, still smiling. "He would be most displeased."

Mr Garak's smile did the most curious thing. It did not change in form, but it shifted, from the welcoming expression of a shopkeeper to something . . . conspiratorial. Without intending to do so, Julian found himself leaning in.

"And yet you are not." It was not a question, but it invited clarification.

He provided it, his own smile dimming. "My father and I do not often agree."

"A pity." Mr Garak stepped back. It was only when he did that Julian realised some sort of bond between them had been severed. He felt it as a coolness and he half-fancied he could have shivered with it. "Have I satisfied your curiosity, sir?"

It was nearly as if he were being dismissed—but that was absurd. A tailor, however fascinating, did not dismiss one such as him.

He took a step forward and sought to reestablish their connection. "Not at all. I was hoping you could tell me who taught you the latest fashions of high society when most people of your class are wearing garments a full decade out of date."

Mr Garak's expression grew suddenly alert, and once again he answered with what might have been truth and what was certainly evasion, thereby setting the tone for a visit that stretched a full three-quarters of an hour. As Julian reluctantly departed at the end of that period, he was already planning his return visit.

The villagers could say what they wished, but in Julian's opinion, the arrival of Mr Garak was the greatest piece of good fortune Bajor had experienced in years. He could only hope the others would come to share his beliefs and thereby make Mr Garak the valued member of the village he deserved to be.


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March 2016

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