Winter Sport
By Fenris

G/B, NC-17

The mush factor on this one's higher than my usual, but, well---shit,
folks, I just *can't* write an angsty holiday story.
I'll torture them later and balance it out.

Disclaimers-
These characters belong to Paramount. I am merely taking them for some
exercise, and returning them rumpled but much less tense. Not one cent is
being made off  of this, now or ever. Adult content. Not responsible for
personal property.  No running in pool area. Not for internal use. Protected
by Lo-Jack. Our delicious coffee is served extremely hot. Moose Crossing.
Bridge freezes before road.
=================================

Once again, Garak had to wonder exactly when his last shred of common sense
had completely deserted him. That it had was the only explanation he could
give himself for having agreed to accompany Dr. Bashir on this idiotic
endeavor.

< I should know better by now. Really, all it should take is hearing Julian
say "holosuite," and I ought to be through the door before he's finished
the sentence. >

He looked at the eager smile that lit Bashir's young, mobile features as he
drew Garak through the usual early evening crowd at Quark's, and sighed
inwardly. Garak recognized a no-win situation when he saw it. He resigned
himself to the inevitable, and continued to let the human tow him along by
one elbow.

Seemingly oblivious to his companion's distinct lack of enthusiasm, Bashir
led the resigned Cardassian toward one of the holosuite doors, talking
animatedly the entire time.

"Commander Sisko has this holosuite reserved for the next week, to give
people who want to participate a chance to practice. I really think you're
going to enjoy this, Garak."

The holosuite door opened, and they stepped into an eerily white, brightly
moonlit landscape. Garak exhaled and watched his breath congeal into mist
in the cold, still air with a touch of horror.

"Oh, I don't think so, doctor." He took a step backward. "You go ahead and
let me know how it was. I'm sure you'll have a lovely time."

Delighted, Bashir took in the pristine snowy landscape, the dark shadows of
clustered evergreens dotting the gentle hillsides and the shining flat
surface of the frozen lake before them. At Garak's words, he cut the survey
short and turned to face the Cardassian, frowning.

"Garak, you promised me that you'd do this."

"I was obviously not in full possession of all the facts at that time,
doctor. Surely you aren't going to hold me to our agreement in these
circumstances? Or is it just that you'll enjoy watching me slowly freeze to
death?"

"Garak, stop trying to pick a fight. I'm not letting you out of this that
easily." Garak immediately assumed a surprised, slightly hurt expression.
Bashir gamely ignored it and continued. "No, Elim, of course I don't want
you to freeze. But you *did* promise me you would try."

Garak sighed, mentally threw in the towel and cinched his tunic's high neck
up even higher, completely covering his neck ridges. Julian slipped an arm
around the powerful waist and gave the older man an affectionate squeeze
and a brilliant smile.

"I knew you wouldn't go back on it. Come on, Garak. I promise you, you
won't even feel the cold after you've had a chance to get out on the ice
and warm up a bit."

Garak threw him a dark look and began trudging down the hill, heading for a
long wooden bench situated a few feet from the frozen lake's edge. Halfway
down the slope, he stopped and looked back over his shoulder at the
following human, grumbling,

"Remind me again, whose idea this idiotic theme party was?"

Julian slipped on an icy spot and slid into the older man, catching himself
on Garak's shoulder. As he did, the Cardassian reached out to steady him.

"Whoa--thanks. It was Commander Sisko's idea, as you very well remember. He
thought it would be fun to have some sort of event in honor of the season,
because it's winter on both Earth and Bajor right now."

"And because of a meaningless coincidence, Sisko decides he simply *must*
subject all of us to another one of his silly historical reenactments."

"The baseball game wasn't a reenactment, Garak, it was a real competition.
And winter is a significant time on both Earth and Bajor. A lot of holidays
are observed on both worlds, during winter or on the longest night of the
year. Commander Sisko wants to recreate an Old Earth style winter social.
Evidently a skating party was something that was done at those a lot, at
one time." Bashir paused, then shrugged and continued, talking faster as he
warmed up to his subject. "I think it's a marvelous idea. Sort of an early
Christmas or Solstice party for the people from Earth, and it gives the
Bajorans and the other people here a little taste of older Earth culture.
And people can dress up in costumes of the period, if they like."

"Winter social. Hmph." Garak growled, sounding eerily like Odo for a
moment. "I still don't see why Humans and Bajorans have so many religious
holidays held during the worst part of the worst season of the year."

Julian shrugged and smiled fondly at the irritated Cardassian as they
seated themselves on the narrow bench.

"I don't think most of them are held in honor of winter itself, Garak. I
don't know about Bajor, but Christmas and Hanukah are religious, and I
think the Solstice had more to do with honoring the idea of...I don't know,
renewal, I suppose. That people could not only survive the winter, but
still have the spirit to look forward to spring and celebrate."

Garak shot him a dubious look. "Personally, I think it makes absolutely no
sense to celebrate a tradition of wasting valuable resources during a time
of hardship."

Having delivered his final word on the subject, the Cardassian began putting
on the strange footgear Julian handed to him.  < This entire arrangement is just
so typical of Sisko >, he thought. Obsessed with nostalgia for ancient Earth
history, the man seemed to assume that all of DS9's's inhabitants naturally
shared his fascination for it. He should have known that the baseball game
was only the beginning.

Bashir had wanted him to participate in that, too, joining him on Sisko's
team, but Garak had managed to wriggle out of that nightmare--barely. It
hadn't been easy. It wasn't as if he could reasonably present Julian with
some ancient baseball-related trauma from his dark past as the reason
he couldn't play on their team. No, in the end Garak had been forced to
resort to outright refusal, an embarrassingly blunt and unimaginative tactic.
The doctor had relented then, but only after extracting a solemn promise
from Garak that he would participate in the next holosuite event with Julian,
whatever it might be.

He finished lacing up the odd, bladed boots and looked up expectantly at
his companion. Julian, already finished, was standing by the lake's edge
watching him. Spreading his hands out, Garak said,

"Now what?"

Bashir smiled at him.

"Now, just watch."

Julian pushed off and skated toward the center of the lake. Garak watched,
fascinated, as the slim figure flew across the ice, gathering speed. Then
he gaped in open astonishment as Julian leaped into the air, spun
completely around and landed neatly, his arms and one leg outstretched,
swooping seamlessly into a smooth turn. It was one of the most graceful
things Garak had ever seen. He looked at his young lover with new
appreciation as the human skated back toward him.

Julian pulled up sharply a few feet away from Garak and grinned at him. The
Cardassian was sitting very still, looking at the doctor as if he'd
sprouted a third arm. After a few moments, Garak snapped out of it and
fixed him with a disbelieving look.

"You cannot be serious. You expect me to do *that*?"

Julian laughed. "No, no, no, of course not, Garak! I just wanted to see if
I could still do it, that's all. It's been a long time since I practiced."

Garak nodded, relieved. "That was really quite beautiful, Julian. I've
never seen anything like it."

Obviously pleased at the compliment, Bashir ducked his head and waved his
hand modestly.

"Oh, no, you should see someone who's really good at it. I never got beyond
being able to do a single loop, not reliably. There are people who can do
three or four--now *that* is something to see. I was interested in playing
hockey for a year or so when I was younger, and one of my instructors
taught me a few figure skating moves." He reached out and grasped the
tailor's elbow. "All right, my Cardassian friend, time to do, not watch."
With that, he towed his unsteady victim onto the ice.

------------------

"Garak, now just watch me and do what I do. Remember where your center of
balance is...watch me...no, don't bend your--whoops!" Julian grabbed
Garak's arm as the Cardassian's feet slid treacherously from under him
and managed to ease the larger man's fall to the ice. From his prone
position, Garak looked up at Julian and said,

"I have an idea. Let's pretend that I've already mastered skating and
override Sisko's ice planet with a lovely, decadent Risa program for the
next two hours."

It was a tempting idea. For a moment Julian considered it seriously. He
and Garak had only recently become lovers, and working off six years worth
of frustrated desire was still a full time job for both of them. But, he
*really* wanted Garak to skate with him at the party...

"Sorry, not until we get you moving on the ice."

He reached a hand down and carefully helped the Cardassian back to his
feet, then pulled himself tight against the sturdy body and placed his lips
against one of the silver-gray ears.

"Elim," Julian breathed against the double-ridged scales, "I promise I will
make this up to you later. It'll be worth it, don't worry."

Outwardly, Garak looked doubtful, but inwardly a warm glow of anticipation
sparked in his belly. The younger human chuckled as he saw the pupils
dilate in the vivid blue eyes as the mobile gray features arranged
themselves into a mask of skepticism.

"I don't know, doctor. I'm afraid this is going to require some extensive
making up."

Julian laughed. "I'll do my best. Come on, back to work."

------------

During the next quarter hour, Garak became much more intimately acquainted
with ice than he had ever dreamed he'd be. Fortunately for Julian, by his
eighth fall the Cardassian had begun to see it as a personal challenge.
Grimly following Julian's example, Garak lurched uncertainly along in the
human's wake, trying very hard not to think about what a ridiculous picture
he made. It didn't help that lurking at the back of his mind was the
certain knowledge that Tain, were he alive and watching, would be laughing
himself sick.

Their lesson progressed, and Garak fell less and less often. He did not
have Julian's enhanced reflexes, but he was naturally agile and quick to
learn, both traits honed to preternaturally high levels during his years in
the Order. That, coupled with his innate Cardassian ability to observe and
remember, allowed him to quickly absorb Bashir's teachings. After the first
hour, he was skating a straight line almost as swiftly as Julian, and was
making excellent progress with turns. For a while the only sounds were the
scrape of their blades against the ice, echoing faintly over the hushed
landscape.

Garak was beginning to see the charm of this sport. He flew over the ice,
feeling like a bird skimming over the water. He had to admit, now that he was
getting the hang of it, that the sensation was exhilarating.

Skating a wide, careful circle as he reached one end of the ice, he started
back toward the center of the ice. Garak concentrated on building up speed.
When he'd attained a suitable momentum, an idea struck him. Stretching
his arms out for balance, Garak closed his eyes and simply glided.

As he'd thought, it made the illusion of free flight even stronger. The
Cardassian grinned to himself, enjoying every sensation, even the cold air
rushing by his face, blowing his jet black hair into wild disorder.

------

Julian drifted along, absorbed in thinking about how interesting he
intended to make the rest of their evening. < Hmm. I'm going to have to do
something extra nice tonight, to reward him for freezing his scales off and
going along with this just to please me. Well, he always likes playing
Replimat, that sounds fun for tonight. Let's see, what type of condiments?
Mmmm---something sticky and warm---and sweet, no repeat of that yamok sauce
thing, ugh, what a disaster---oh of course, honey! First I'll take, oh, an
hour or so to lick it off his --- >

His train of thought was rudely derailed as almost half again his own
weight's worth of very solid Cardassian plowed into him, knocking him clean
off his feet. Bashir came down on his back, hard, knocking the wind out of
himself. An instant later Garak hit the ice a few feet away.

Julian rolled onto his back, blinking, the bright moonlight a silver dazzle
in his eyes. Something dark moved into his vision, cutting off the light.
He gazed stupidly up at the familiar ridged silhouette.

"Doctor! Julian, are you all right? I'm so sorry, I didn't realize you were
there, I didn't hear you."

Wind partially knocked out of him, Julian gasped for breath a few times
before wheezing,

"Didn't *hear* me! Garak, wasn't *seeing* me good enough?"

The Cardassian hesitated for a moment, then quickly said, "Ah. Well, I
must apologize for that. Some ice flew in my eyes and I was momentarily
blinded. I'm surprised you didn't see me yourself, doctor."

Bashir groaned and struggled up onto one elbow.

"I was thinking about something else, if you must--never mind. I'm all
right, just got the wind knocked out of me. Give me a minute, I'll be
fine." He paused, then groaned. "Oh, God. Trust me to collide with the only
other skater on a square mile of ice."

"Oh, don't be too hard on yourself, doctor. Sometimes the mind just
wanders, it's natural."

Julian nodded, sat up and flexed his shoulders, testing the muscles. They
felt bruised, but not strained. He really didn't feel like doing any
more skating tonight. But they still had time left in the suite. He regarded
Garak, who was sitting cross-legged a few feet away, waiting patiently.
Julian grinned and hitched himself a little closer.

Garak's eyes half-closed, and he purred softly. Evidently Doctor Bashir was
pronouncing their skating lesson over.

Purring right back, Julian snaked an arm under Garak's heavy tunic, then
pulled himself up against the broad chest, urging his lover to lie back down.
Unfortunately, as he did slipped his arm into Garak's tunic, it rode up high
enough to expose a bit of his lower back.

The Cardassian yelled in shock as his bare skin touched the ice, and did
his best to levitate. It didn't work that well, but he did manage to sit
back up, bringing his startled partner along with him.

Julian realized what he'd done, and an automatic apology sprang to his
lips. Before it escaped, though, it was cut off by a more devilish impulse.
Instead of apologizing, he reached around the tailor's back, grabbed a
double handful of thick cloth and yanked the heavy tunic halfway up to the
scaled shoulders. For once caught completely unawares, Garak froze for the
precious few seconds it took Julian to throw himself against Garak's chest,
thumping him back down on the ice.

This time Garak's yell was much louder and several notes higher. He heaved
Julian off and struggled up into a sitting position, frantically pulling
his tunic back down over his chilled skin. Eyes narrowed, he gave Bashir
the same look that had made grown Bajorans (and a few grown Cardassians) cry.

Oblivious, the unrepentant human rolled on his back a few feet away,
laughing hard enough to bring tears to his eyes. The blue eyes narrowed a
little more. Reaching out, Garak swept one hand over the ice, gathering up
a generous handful of chips and shavings left behind by the repeated scoring
of their blades. Then he calmly reached out and hooked the fingers of his
other hand into Julian's high-necked collar. He pulled the stretchy material out
and dropped the handful of ice shavings into Bashir's  shirt.

Julian squirmed, yelping "Oh! You bastard!" as the melting ice slid down
his stomach and sides. Then he growled his best Klingon imitation and
launched himself at the beaming Cardassian.

They wrestled playfully, rolling each other over in turns. Garak's superior
strength was (at least in a mock combat) adequately balanced by Bashir's
wiry agility. Neither seemed to get the upper hand for long. Julian was
careful to keep an eye on the older man as they struggled. He loved it when
he got Garak to play rough and tumble like this, but he also knew that it
didn't take much to turn playful combat into genuine aggression on the
tailor's part. As long as he was careful, though, not to pin Garak for more
than a few seconds, or accidentally strike his face, the Cardassian could
keep his instincts under control.

Finally they ran out of steam and lay side by side, panting. Julian pulled
himself up to rest comfortably on the heavier Cardassian's chest. Garak
tugged at his tunic to reassure himself that he was still safely insulated
from the ice, then shuddered.

"*Now* I am freezing. What was that all about?"

Julian shrugged, not entirely sure himself.

"I thought it might warm us up. It didn't work?"

"No. It didn't work."

Frowning, Julian rested his chin on the broad chest. After a
moment, he sighed. "Well. I was hoping it wouldn't have to get this
drastic, but I'm going to have to go to Plan Two, then."

"Really? It wouldn't be this plan, would it?" Garak took him by the arms
and hauled him up for a kiss. Drawing back an inch, Julian whispered,
"That's it," and kissed him back.

After that they were quiet for a while, absorbed in simply kissing and
feeling each other's bodies through their insulated clothing. Julian let
his long fingers travel up along the darkening neck ridges. He ran his
fingertips over the ornate pewter and silver scales outlining the gray face.
The fingers proceeded along the notch between the long, elegant line of
scales leading from jaw to ear, and up into the gleaming black hair. As he
stroked Garak's face, a deft pair of hands caressed his back and sides, then
moved up to tangle in the dark curls, holding Julian's head steady as the
older man's tongue dueled with his.

Garak ran his hands over Julian's chest, searching for and finding the hard
nipples under the uniform. He ran his fingernails repeatedly over them until Julian
moaned into his mouth and began squirming against him. The younger man began
moving more purposefully against Garak's body, grinding his erection
against the echoing hardness between the Cardassian's legs.

Julian trailed his hands along the supple neck ridges, concentrating on
their sleek, springy texture, like snakeskin over roped muscle. He loved
the feel of Garak's skin. Stroking the smooth, glossy scales was not only
powerfully arousing, but also held for him something akin to the charm of
stroking the hide of an exotic wild creature. Stopping for a moment, he
lifted himself up and looked down into the older man's face, wanting to
commit the picture to memory. Above the high cheekbones, the moon struck
brilliant sparks in those marvelous eyes, washed to a pale hoarfrost blue
by the silvery light. Garak gazed back at him quietly, being oddly passive.

It was time to move things along, Julian realized. He raised himself up and
scooted back a bit, seating himself on the corded thighs. Reaching forward,
he thumbed open the concealed fasteners of Garak's tunic. He grinned and
slid his hands inside the garment, running them up from sternum to throat
and spreading the fabric to reveal the ornamented torso, with its smooth
skin and mosaic of scales.

The tailor murmured a faint protest as the cold air immediately began
leaching warmth from his exposed skin. The protest became a moan as slender
bronze hands reached down to massage the hard bulge at his crotch. Garak
ground his teeth together as the skillful fingers stroked his rigid member
through the heavy cloth, fighting the urge to simply grab the other man,
throw him down and jump on top of him.

"Julian, please. You could proceed at *any* time now---ahh---really, you
could. I wouldn't mind in the least."

"You wouldn't?" The fingers continued stroking in the same lazy, teasing
rhythm. Garak bore it as long as he could, then raised his head and
growled, "Doctor. I *really* wouldn't mind."

Fortunately, Julian recognized that it was the last warning Garak intended
to give. He flashed a wicked smile at the Cardassian, then the quick hands
were busy unfastening the tailor's pants.

Garak closed his eyes and uttered a soft cry as the slim fingers wrapped
around him and squeezed gently, sending a shock of pleasure up his spine.
He raised himself up and grasped the top of Julian's trousers, tearing the
waistband a bit as he hastily opened them. Far from protesting, Julian
reached down and helped, ripping the cloth a little more in the process,
moaning with relief as his own erection sprang free. Hastily, Julian
unzipped the front of his own uniform jacket and  inner shirt, then lowered
himself back down on the gray body.

Garak sighed as the warm human body settled back down. Cloth rustled as it
was shifted aside, and Garak slid his hands inside the open jacket and
trailed his fingernails lightly over the flawlessly smooth back. Panting,
Julian nuzzled into one of the soft hollows where the darker scales of
Garak's neck ridge paled and merged into the dove-gray skin of his throat.
He licked and nipped gently at the delicate skin, running his hands along
the heavily scaled outer ridges, squeezing, giving an occasional pinch.
Garak jerked and gasped as the slim, strong fingers closed on one
particular spot, and his breath coming fast and harsh.

Julian cried out as Garak pulled him up and leaned in run his tongue over
the chest. The tailor licked, then bit gently, the dark brown nipples
which were already crinkled and hard from the cold. The delicious
sensations produced by the contrast of the cold air and the warmth of his
lover's tongue sent bright sparks of pleasure travelling straight down to
Julian's groin.

Painfully hard, Julian slid a hand between them and rubbed the sensitive
abdominal ridges firmly, drawing a gasp and quick thrust of the hips from
the Cardassian. Pupils dilated wide with arousal, Garak's eyes were as dark
as Julian's own. The tailor moved his hands across the slim back and over the
hard-muscled buttocks, pressing Julian's groin tight against his own.

They moved frantically against each other, completely caught up in the
mounting pleasure. Their erections, slick with pre-ejaculate, ground
against each other, rubbing and sliding and generating a warm friction that
drew them quickly toward release. And then it was just heat and motion and
pleasure; the hot slide of skin against skin, warm golden silk gliding over
the finest silvered kidskin leather. The current of heat and pleasure became
a torrent, taking them up and over.

Julian convulsed, and felt his rigid member spasm against Garak's, spurting
hot, slick fluid over their bellies. Overwhelmed, Julian sank his teeth
into a firm neck ridge, and felt a burning sensation in his shoulders as
the tailor's hands squeezed so tightly his nails bit through the bronze
skin. Garak uttered a sharp, almost despairing cry that echoed in the
still, cold air, and followed his beloved doctor, thrusting helplessly
against the slim body in the grip of his powerful release. Julian tightened
his arms and clung fiercely to him, face buried in the hollow of Garak's
neck, riding the aftershocks until their bodies finally stilled and were
quiet.

----------

"Julian?"

Mmmm." Julian purred, acknowledging that he'd heard, then promptly went
back to dozing. After a few seconds, Garak patiently tapped him on the back
and tried again.

"Julian. I know you've heard it several times already, but this time I mean
it. I am freezing. Get off me, please." The tousled head lifted and
luminescent dark eyes regarded the tailor, blinking sleepily.

"All right, Garak. I---oh God, that means I have to move, doesn't it?"

"Unless you want to spend the rest of your evening reviving a hypothermic
Cardassian, the answer is yes, I'm afraid."

Julian felt the sturdy body under his beginning to shiver in earnest, and
immediately sat up. He smiled and leaned forward to steal a quick kiss
before standing and helping Garak to his feet. As he pressed his lips to
the tailor's, a high, clear voice rang in the chilly air.

"Uncle Julian!"

"What? Oh, damn!" Bashir looked up and saw a familiar little figure running
clumsily down the snowy hillside, long black hair flying wild behind her.
He started desperately trying to zip up his uniform. Garak hissed in
annoyance.

"Molly, come back here!"

The startled couple looked up and saw Miles O'Brien catching up to his runaway
daughter as she bounded down the hill, eager to greet her Uncle Julian.
O'Brien overtook his daughter and snatched her up. Ignoring her indignant
squawk, he carried her back up the hill to where her mother was waiting.
Keiko neatly snatched her daughter's little hand and led her away, Molly
protesting loudly every step of the way. The station's Chief of Engineering
turned his attention back to the two men who were sitting on the ice,
furiously refastening their clothing.

Once they were both presentable, Julian scrambled to his feet and reached a
hand down to help Garak up. O'Brien stood, arms folded, at the lake edge and
glowered at the couple as they skated up to him.

Figuring that in this case a quick offense was indeed the best defense,
Julian snapped angrily at Miles, hoping to cut him off before he got rolling.

"Miles! You aren't supposed to be here until nineteen hundred---oh." The
doctor trailed off as Garak tapped his shoulder and held a timepiece up in
front of his face. "Ah." Julian was silent for a moment, then mumbled,
"Sorry, Miles."

O'Brien snorted.

"You two are twenty minutes past the time you were signed up for,
gentlemen. Keiko and I got tired of waiting for you to come out."

Julian flushed with embarrassment, and was at a momentary loss for words.
Garak observed this and stepped in before his flustered companion could dig
himself an even deeper hole.

"Chief O'Brien, I do apologize, it was my fault entirely. We will, of
course, cut our next reserved period short by a half hour, so you and your
charming family can have the time. It's just that we were making such good
progress with my lessons, I'm afraid the time entirely slipped away from
us. You see---"

O'Brien (who had absolutely no use for Garak and fervently wished the
Cardassians had left almost anyone else behind), cut Garak off with a
disgusted wave of his hand.

"Oh, for Christ's sake, Garak, stop, you're more painful to listen to than
a Klingon soprano." He shook his head. "What *is* it with you two? You've
both got perfectly good quarters. Where am I going to see you next, on top
of your bloody table at the Replimat?" O'Brien's eyes widened as he saw
Julian blush and flick a swift, guilty look at Garak.

O'Brien rolled his eyes and knelt down to lace up his skates, grumbling.

"You two are as bad as a couple of teenagers. Wait, what am I saying? You'd
*embarrass* a couple of teenagers." He shook his head. "Lord, what a
picture to take with me to the grave. Remind me never to eat at that table
again."
 

      *******************************
 

The snowy hills and glassy lake were beautiful under the full moon.
Lanterns strung around the shore lent warmth to the cool moonlight, and
illuminated the evergreen-wrapped railings surrounding the large new
pavilion on the lake shore. In the center of the pavilion was a raised
platform where a string quartet was playing.

It was charming, and lovely, and every bit the success Sisko had predicted.
Some people dressed as they always did, others took the opportunity to
replicate some nineteenth-century Earth apparel and play dress-up.

Sisko was resplendent in a long-tailed Victorian gentleman's coat and top
hat. Sweet-faced Ezri skated easily along at his side, looking
heartbreakingly young and fragile. As they moved by, Julian returned her
wave and smile, and briefly wondered which one of the Dax hosts had
learned to skate.

Kira and Odo moved with the assured dignity of a couple many years married,
projecting an air of quiet contentment. Just ahead of them, Rom was
struggling manfully to match pace with the tall, athletic Leeta.

Compared to the speed of their practice sessions, the pace was laughably
sedate. As they took a lazy turn, arms comfortably linked, Garak said,

"So, doctor. Did we really need to spend all those hours freezing in here
to practice for this? I learned more than enough in one lesson to allow me
to crawl around the ice at this pace."

Bashir shrugged and looked a bit embarrassed. "I know. Well, to be honest,
I was rather hoping you'd like skating enough to want to keep doing it. You
seemed to enjoy it---skating, I mean, not just the intermissions."

Garak thought for a moment before answering.

"Well. I suppose you could probably persuade me to endure it once in a
while, just to make you happy."

"And in his native tongue, that translates to 'I liked it very much,
Julian, but I'm just beginning to explore the potential of milking the
situation to my greatest advantage'," intoned Bashir, russet and amber eyes
sparkling. Garak scowled, but Julian caught the light of approval in the
severe blue eyes and smiled.

----------

After the ice promenade ended, the skaters joined the other partygoers on
the pavilion, gratefully accepting warm beverages and food. As they sipped
glasses of hot spiced wine, Bashir and Garak watched Commander Sisko
step up on the small central platform and motion the string ensemble to be
quiet.

"I smell an inspirational speech from the Prophet on the wind," whispered
Garak in Julian's ear. "Perhaps this might be a good time for us to retire."

Bashir shushed him firmly, subduing the pleasant shiver that ran down his
spine as the warm breath tickled his ear, and turned to face the central
stage. He leaned back comfortably against the sturdy body and relaxed,
resting his full weight against the unprotesting Cardassian.

Sisko's deep, rich voice echoed in the still winter air.

"My dear friends, it's wonderful to see so many of you here tonight. We
hold this celebration at the height of winter, on the longest night of the
year, to remind ourselves that, although the dark season may be cruel, and
some of us will not see the light return---it does end. Spring does return,
new life grows, and the cycle begins again. New faces come to stand in the
place of ones who are gone."

Sisko continued his speech, pointing out the common threads between the
customs of Earth and Bajor. As Garak yawned audibly behind him for the
fourth time, Julian shifted restlessly, torn between laughing and ramming
an elbow back into the Cardassian's ribs.

"Sisko's love for the sound of his own voice has increased exponentially
over the last year or two, don't you think?" Garak murmured in his ear.
Julian turned his head and shot him a black look, but refused to rise to
the bait and get sucked into a debate. Instead he leaned back against the
broad chest and reached down, catching one of the broad hands resting on
his waist up in one of his own. He brought the hand up to his mouth and
held it there, pressing his lips against the smooth gray skin.
 
"Elim," he murmured, and dropped another gentle kiss into the warm palm. He
heard a faint hiss behind him and felt the Cardassian shudder lightly
against his back. Julian lowered the tailor's hand, still grasped in his,
and held it tight against his chest. Garak was silent after that, and there
was a hint of smugness in the young human's smile as he listened to the
rest of the commander's speech.

As Sisko ended, he flashed one of his sudden, brilliant smiles, always
startling to see on the dark, serious face, and said,

"All right, enough pontification. Drink, eat and dance, and that *is* an
order, my friends." A skirl of genuinely warm applause spread through the
crowd. The string ensemble started up again. People spread out and most
began dancing. Bashir and Garak made their way to the refreshment table and
got two glasses of mulled wine, then moved off to a less crowded part of
the pavilion.

Julian regarded his lover with dark, troubled eyes. Sisko's words repeated
themselves in his mind, making him think about the war and the uncertainty
of the days ahead. So much lost during the past year, and so much more that
would be lost.

Garak studied his lover, puzzled by his suddenly subdued demeanor. Julian
glanced over to where Sisko was standing, and looked even more depressed.
Comprehension dawned in the Cardassian's deep-set eyes.

Garak touched his glass gently to Julian's, getting the human's attention.
Julian started, then looked at Garak, murmuring "What?" Instead of answering,
Garak moved to stand directly in front of him, the blue moonstone eyes
suddenly serious over the crystal wineglasses' rim. Julian went very still and
returned the unwavering gaze, his eyes kindling with some fierce emotion. Garak took a
sip of wine and leaned in, closing his lips over Julian's.

They kissed intensely for a long, drawn-out moment, tongues gently
exploring each other's mouths, savoring the tang of the mulled wine. The
kiss finally ended and they regarded each other, Julian's eyes suddenly
very bright. Garak leaned in and whispered against the lush human mouth,
his breath redolent with warm spice.

"Ah, well. Solstice, Festival, Christmas, whatever you care to call it, my
dearest. To new life, out of the long darkness."
 

End

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