While having his weekly lunch with Bashir, Garak is suddenly overcome by extreme pain. It subsides just as quickly, but when the worried Bashir attempts to help him, Garak angrily refuses to go to the Infirmary and cuts short their meal. Later, Bashir is suspicious when he overhears Garak asking Quark to order a piece of merchandise for him. Bashir returns to work in the Infirmary, and soon gets a call from Quark asking for help in the bar. He arrives to find Garak, extremely drunk and obviously in pain. Bashir tries again to convince Garak to submit to an examination, but the Cardassian refuses — until the pain causes him to collapse.
An examination reveals that Garak has a small implant in his brain, and Bashir believes Quark may know something he's not telling. He and Odo monitor Quark's transmissions that evening, and they hear him attempt to order a piece of Cardassian biotechnology. However, he is unable to obtain it since the piece is classified by the Obsidian Order — the eyes and ears of the Cardassian Empire. Odo and Bashir conclude that the implant must be some sort of punishment device. Bashir leaves to confront Garak, and discovers that he has left the Infirmary.
Bashir barges into Garak's room, where he is injecting a powerful pain killer. Garak reveals he received the implant from the head of the Obsidian Order, Enabran Tain, when he was once a member, and it was designed to make him immune to pain if ever caught and tortured. Unfortunately, he has been using it to cope with the pain of his exile on Deep Space Nine, and now that he is addicted to it, the device is malfunctioning from constant use. Garak refuses Bashir's help, saying he deserves the pain for past misdeeds, including ordering a ship carrying his best friend, Elim, destroyed. Garak then loses consciousness.
Bashir turns off the implant and Garak wakes up, enraged now that his supply of pain-killing endorphins has been cut off. He rants and raves about Elim, this time saying the two of them freed Bajoran prisoners, which resulted in Elim's execution and his own exile. Garak then dismisses Bashir's words of friendship before collapsing again, near death. Bashir debates over reactivating the implant to prolong his life, but Garak wakes up and says he never wants the device turned on again. Bashir decides the only option remaining is to locate Enabran Tain.
After making the trip into Cardassian territory, Bashir finds Tain and realizes that the man has been monitoring his and Garak's every move. Tain is quickly convinced to give Bashir the information he needs to save Garak's life. As he is leaving, Bashir asks Tain what really happened to Elim, and Tain laughs and tells him that Elim is Garak's first name. Back at the station, Garak quickly recovers and resumes his weekly lunches with Bashir. Confused, Bashir asks him which of his stories of exile is true. Garak replies that they all are — especially the lies.