Elim Garak/Kelas Parmak

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Pairing
Pairing: Elim Garak/Kelas Parmak
Alternative name(s): Kelim, Garmak
Gender category: Slash
Fandom: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Canonical?: Debatable
Prevalence: Rare
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Elim Garak/Kelas Parmak, also known as Kelim or Garmak, is a slash pairing between Elim Garak and Kelas Parmak from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Canon

Kelas Parmak is first mentioned in passing by Enabran Tain in the episode "The Die Is Cast". In that episode, Tain asks if Garak remembers his interrogation of Doctor Parmak, where Garak simply sat and stared at Parmak for four hours until the other man confessed. The interrogation traumatized Parmak to the point where afterwards all Parmak could say was "His eyes... his eyes..."

In the novel "A Stitch In Time", it's revealed that Parmak was Tain's personal physician. Garak was assigned to interrogate Parmak as a test on Tain's behalf, to ensure his personal physician was trustworthy. Parmak spent three years in a labour camp as a result, before returning to Cardassia Prime to practice medicine again. After The Fire, Parmak and Garak happen to be assigned to the same voluntary medical unit, where initially Parmak struggles to meet his eyes. But Garak apologises for the interrogation, which Parmak forgives him for, and they form a close bond. Garak describes him as being a "charming conversationalist", with a "first rate mind". Garak and Parmak often go on long walks together and argue about politics, and Parmak is known to undertake "unannounced nocturnal visits". Through Parmak, Garak takes interest in the growing "Reunion Project", a democratic system of politics lead by Alon Ghemor, and later pledges himself to it. The two remain close through the turbulent political times in the later books, and it is Parmak who rescues Garak from the Vinculum, a metadimensional nexus where Garak had been imprisoned by his friend and Reunion Project colleague Pythas Lok.

In the novel "The Crimson Shadow", their relationship deepens, and Parmak is referred to as Garak's companion "whom he loved". As Ambassador to the Federation, Garak invites Parmak along to a dinner with Jean-Luc Picard and Beverly Crusher, and introduces him as "my good friend". The two of them bicker affectionately over a novel Garak gave as a gift to Picard. Once their guests had left, the two of them lingered in the garden, before retiring to kanar and kotra before bed. When Garak was supposedly assassinated, a letter is sent to Parmak, addressed to "my dearest Kelas". In it, Garak apologises for what he has done, and admits that Kelas is much like his conscience, and ends the note asking Kelas to look after the garden. After Garak handles the political crisis occuring after his "death", the first person he asks to see is Parmak, who upon seeing him immediately embraces him. Garak asks again for his forgiveness, and Parmak states "Oh Elim, when have I ever not forgiven you?" Later, Elim announces his candidancy for Castellan. Although at first wary, Parmak affirms and supports his decision, and is there at Garak's home when the results are announced. Parmak helped Garak work through a panic attack, and upon Garak's admission of his doubts abouth the Castellancy, "leaned in and - quickly, affectionately - pressed his lips against the other man's brow", before stating "I trust you. I forgive you.".

In Enigma Tales, it's revealed that Parmak now lives with Garak in the Castellan's residence, and that Parmak is deeply involved in Garak's life, to the extent that he chose the colours for Garak's office. Parmak's opinion is still very important to Garak, and when Parmak would say “That was well done, Elim,” Garak "would smile and be content.". Parmak accompanies Garak to a reception held in the honour of Katherine Pulaski - Pulaski's friend Alden would comment that Garak "doesn't go anywhere" without Parmak. Throughout the book, Parmak questions Garak on his actions or inaction, and is vexed when Garak tries to verbally "handle" him. Parmak is later seen as an avenue towards Garak, with Pulaski speculating on whether they're lovers or not. After Alden and Pulaski approach Parmak, he begins to lose faith in Garak, and confronts him in his office. The thought of upsetting Parmak or losing his trust triggers a panic attack for Garak, and Garak can see the confrontation is costing Parmak dearly. But Garak reassures Parmak that the events of the book are nothing to do with him, and they remain close, with Garak noting that Alden had played a "cruel trick" by approaching Parmak.

Fandom

While not as popular as Garak/Bashir, there's been a growing interest in the Kelim pairing and its sister pairing Julian Bashir/Elim Garak/Kelas Parmak (also known as Kelimian or Garashirmak). Interest in the Kelim relationship started around late 2013/ early 2014, with the publication of "The Crimson Shadow" in September 2013, and formed mainly on Tumblr, between users kelasparmak and agatharights who created art and headcanons for the ship. In late 2014 and 2015, other users such as theladyemdraws, vaiyamagic, anna-lord and i-fought-space would start providing art for the ship, while tinsnip and bmouse provided their discussions on the relationship. The first fanfic posted on AO3 focusing on Garak and Parmak's changing relationship was Forgiveness by Vaiya, while the first fics including the Kelimian pairing was Post-ASIT Parmak/Bashir/Garak, Because Why Not? by charlyobsessions and Garak and Bashir and Parmak by kelasparmak. The first fic with Kelim as its main ship was postcanon garak/parmak!!! (3 sentence fic thingy <3) by kelasparmak, while the first posted on AO3 was Scrawl and Splatter by Cân Cennau. Cân Cennau also introduced the idea of an intersex Kelas Parmak, and more Kelim fics were published in the subsequent years involving eithe a gender-nonconforming or nonbinary Parmak or an intersex Parmak.

Controversy

Kelim as a ship has generated some controversy due to both the books' portrayal of Parmak and the shared history between Parmak and Garak. Some see Parmak as a "Bashir-lite", and therefore see the Kelim ship to be an inferior version of Garak/Bashir. Others see Parmak's characterization as fairly flat and one-dimensional, and believe that there is no draw to the ship since they perceive Kelas' role to be nothing more than "nice doctor who vindicates Garak".

[thornfield13713]
The thing is, Doctor Parmak is, through no fault of his own, a prime example of one of my least favourite tropes in all of fiction: the Replacement Love Interest. It’s the same reason it took me so long to warm up to Ezri Dax, with the added downside that Parmak…really doesn‘t get to have much of an arc of his own. In everything I’ve read, he‘s appeared purely as a satellite to Garak, and while he’s perfectly likeable in his own right and I‘d probably enjoy him just fine in any other context, it does make him somewhat difficult for me to read simply because he is so obviously an off-brand Julian substitute, to the point where this is explicitly spelled out in A Stitch in Time.[1]
[thornfield13713]
And…honestly, this is the first time a rival ship has got me actively angry because it’s so blatantly a replacement for a dynamic that already existed in canon, but without a lot of the depth and history that made that pairing special to me. It’s the literary equivalent of having one’s cat die and having someone tell you ‘aww, that’s ok, you can get another cat’. No, no I fucking cannot, because it wouldn’t be my cat.[2]

There is also some concern about the history of Garak and Parmak, and how healthy such a relationship is since Parmak was a victim of torture via Garak, and is now Garak's self-proclaimed conscience.

[gen-is-gone]
Meet cute idea: Person A is a spy and interrogator working for a fascistic empire who spends four hours psychologically torturing Person B for entirely petty reasons before sending him off to a labor camp. Ten years, two interstellar wars and a reciprocal genocide later, they meet again and make sweet, sweet love in the ruined ashes of their empire.[3]
[ameerawritesstuff]
I don’t hate the ship but I do worry about how healthy it is considering Parmak literally can’t look Garak in the eye due to TORTURE.[4]
[bmouse and tinsnip (as peachsynapse)]

peachsynapse: no, i mean
peachsynapse: parmak is totallyy garak’s Morality Pet
peachsynapse: and i find that really troubling
peachsynapse: to the point of wanting to write something about it
peachsynapse: to illuminate them further
peachsynapse: what does garak give parmak?
peachsynapse: like, serously, what the fuck does he get out of it?
bmouse: I’m sensing another 'Stained’ coming on…
peachsynapse: who knows
peachsynapse: it just niggles at me, you know?
[5]

There is also criticism of perceived queerbaiting in the books, particularly "The Crimson Shadow" and "Enigma Tales". While Garak and Parmak have kissed, embraced and live in the same house, and are clearly affectionate towards each other (with Garak often stating that the other was "most beloved" and was someone "whom he loved"), Garak only ever refers to Parmak as his "truest friend", or his "dearest". It's not clear how much this is down to TPTB or if this was a conscious decision by author Una McCormack - the submission guidelines for publishers Simon and Schuster haven't been publicly available since the early 2000's. The submission guidelines from that time, however, do state that the publishers are not interested in "books that suggest anything other than friendship among any of the Enterprise crewmembers" and allow "no childhood or current sweethearts, although you can create temporary love interests". Part of this discussion can also be seen in a Watsonian vs. Doylist mindset - some have argued that Garak refers to Parmak as his "friend" in order to muddy the waters and protect Parmak from his enemies.

[kelimian]

[...] like if he’d introduced kelas as his partner, that would’ve put him in a very dangerous position and made him a far more likely target that if garak had just said they were friends

[...] by mentioning they were friends not partners, garak would be kind of subconsciously protecting kelas from risk and keeping an air of uncertainty about their relationship which means no-one besides them could pin exactly what they were to each other [6]

Fanworks

Fanfiction

  • Of Blood and Bleach by JulianObviouslyLovesToad - Kelas has always had peculiar taste - that's the way one would put it in polite company. But on Cardassia, beyond the dalliances of youth, homosexuality was forbidden. Kelas isn't holding out hope that post-occupation Cardassia will be any different in that regard. (Kelim)
  • Shiver by Cân Cennau - As Garak and Parmak are involved in yet another rescue operation, a freak accident forces them to share a bed, triggering repressed trauma, mutual desire and a conversation that was a long time coming. (Kelim)
  • Embroidery over Stains by Myrida - The first winter after the Dominion War teaches Cardassia that her losses are not yet counted. But can beauty still be found? Can Parmak and Garak create something breathtaking from the frozen rubble? (Kelim)
  • These Lifeless Things by AlphaCygni - Someone has to check in on Doctor Bashir for the eight days Castellan Garak is away. Who can care for one doctor better than another? (Kelim, with past Garashir)

Fanart

References

  1. What is your opinion on Garak/Parmak and Kelas Parmak in general? by thornfield13713 in response to an ask, on Tumblr on December 9th, 2017.
  2. i-am-a-bit-squeamish replied to your post: What is your opinion on Garak/Parmak and Kelas… by thornfield13713 via reblog on Tumblr on December 9th, 2017.
  3. Untitled by gen-is-gone, posted June 12th, 2017
  4. i-am-a-bit-squeamish replied to your post: What is your opinion on Garak/Parmak and Kelas… by ameerawritesstuff via reblog on Tumblr, posted December 8th, 2017
  5. garak, parmak, morality and bmouse by tinsnip on tumblr, posted 2014
  6. sometimes i think about garak calling..., by kelimian on Tumblr, archived and accessed on April 27th, 2019