Title: Changes, Lies and Fears 
Author: kira-nerys 
Codes: DS9 G/B  
Rating: NC-17 

Disclaimer: They belong to Paramount. I just love them so much I can't leave them alone for long. I'll dust/wash them off and put them back on the shelf once I am done. No infringements on copyrights are intended and this is for non-profit. 

Author's Note. Challenge reply. Write a story around a song that inspires you.  

Feedback: I crave feedback so please don't be shy.  
Send your comments to kira-nerys@geocities.com  
 

~>)] Changes, Lies and Fears [(<~ 

Is this love that I'm feeling? 
Is this the love that I've been searching for? 
Is this love or am I dreaming? 
This must be love, cause it's really got a hold on me 

"Is this love?"  Whitesnake "Greatest hits" 1994 

~>)X(<~ 
 

1.  

Julian sighed deeply. Sitting by a table at Quark's, waiting around for Garak to show up was not what he had intended to do with this day. Yet that was exactly what he was doing with one of his precious days off. Far too many days, weeks - even months had gone by while not seeing the tailor. Sometimes Julian wondered if it was by choice on Garak's part. Or was it simply the horrors of the war, the extra burden that the translation of Cardassian transmissions was, that took up so much of the tailor's time? Did Garak actually not have the spare time to meet him for lunch or even drop by the infirmary for a quick talk? Was that indeed all there was to it? 

Julian had admitted to himself how much he missed the lunches, the talks and the mutually satisfying arguments. He missed the gentle smile on Garak's face. He missed the soft, rumbling tones of his friend's voice as he was trying to prove a point without appearing too harsh. Julian leaned back in his chair and wondered when everything had gone wrong. Was it his fault? Had the tailor revealed his long-hidden secret and decided to stay away? 

Julian looked back on the past couple of years, trying to decide when everything had changed between them. Had he done something to push Garak away? He had been so hurt when Garak had betrayed them. How could he have tried to blow up an entire planet while Julian, Sisko and Odo were still on it? Back then he had seen that as a sign that Garak didn't care about him and it had been a while before Julian had realized that it really didn't matter. Garak would have died too. He had been willing to sacrifice their lives in order to save Cardassia, Bajor and the entire Federation. In retrospect he realized that perhaps this would have been for the best. The Dominion had murdered billions of people by now... He had forgiven Garak for that, and he even found he understood why the tailor had tried to do it even if he hadn't at the time. But had he ever let Garak know that in so many words? Had he ever told his friend how much he appreciated him? So much, in fact, that he kept a very big part of himself a secret from him? 

But then there was Ziyal. Had the tailor never understood how hurt he had been when Ziyal began taking up more and more time in Garak's life? Julian winced. Perhaps it was his fault after all? He had taken a step back then, thinking that if being with Ziyal was what Garak wanted, then he - Julian - would not stand in the way of that, but had he really been that unselfish? Hadn't he really been jealous? Hadn't he hoped that Garak would come to him and ask why he didn't want to be his friend anymore? Hadn't he really acted like a jealous schoolboy trying to prove that he didn't care that his best friend played with other friends as well? And all the while he had been agonizingly, painfully jealous at finding out that there were actually others who were beginning to view Garak as a friend and an ally? Hadn't he really hated the fact that he no longer held Garak's undivided attention?  

Julian sighed deeply. He knew this was the truth, but to be quite brutal in his honesty, this was the first time he had admitted it to himself.  

"Can I get you something, Doctor?" Quark's ingratiating voice asked just behind him. Julian started at the sudden intrusion in his moody musings.  

"Yes, actually Quark," Julian answered, much to his own surprise. "I'd like a plate of rak'th and a glass of water please." 

"I'm sorry, Doctor, but the programming for rak'th was taken off the replicators last night," Quark said. "Nobody ever orders that stuff but you and Worf and it isn't good for business." 

"You shouldn't eat that distasteful Klingon food anyway, Doctor," Garak's smooth voice interrupted and Julian's head shot up reflexively. Oh, how good it was too see his friend again.  

"Garak!" he couldn't help but exclaiming with a voice that revealed all the joy he felt at seeing the tailor. He wondered if anything else could be read on his features at that moment? Could Garak see the longing? Could he see the feelings he had tried so hard to hide for so many years?  

"Why, Doctor, if I'd known you would greet me so enthusiastically, I would have shown up much sooner," Garak smiled and Julian felt his heart skip a beat. That smile. Gods, how he had missed that smile. He smiled back widely. Never before had he longed so much to kiss Garak as he did that very moment. He smiled warily. What would Garak do? 

"Maybe you would like to join me for lunch?" Julian said hopefully, and he was ashamed to hear his voice tremble at the invitation. Garak's steady blue gaze was trained on him intently and Julian felt his heart sink at the negative response he saw there before the tailor even opened his mouth.  

"I am sorry, Doctor, but I have a previous engagement. I will have to take a - rain check?" Garak lifted his eyebrow at that last statement as if seeking reassurance that he had used the phrase correctly.  

"Sure, Garak, how about tomorrow?" Julian asked, trying not to show his disappointment. The longing in his chest withered away and turned to ashes as he stood there. That hope was in vain. How could he have forgotten that?  

Again Garak's face looked somber, and he shook his head. "I'm afraid, Doctor, that I have a busy schedule before me. Let me get back to you on this." 

Julian sighed deeply and nodded. There was nothing he could do about it. Garak was busy, and he didn't seem too eager to rearrange his schedule to make it possible for them to meet either. Julian bit his lip as he watched Garak's sturdy form leave him and move to another table further into Quark's. He couldn't help but stare curiously at Garak's dinner companion and felt his heart shrink at the sight of the Cardassian leaning forward to kiss a young human on the cheek. Garak's hand rested lightly on his dinner companion's hand in a very intimate gesture. Julian knew his eyes widened in surprise as he saw the familiarity the two displayed. It was obvious that they were more than friends. What startled Julian more than anything was the fact that the person sitting opposite Garak was a young human male. Julian rose from the table and began to walk away. He had completely forgotten Quark who was still standing patiently observing him. He was totally stunned by what he had seen, and needed to get away.  

"Doctor? Aren't you going to order?" he said.  

Julian turned around.  

"What? No, I just lost my appetite." 

The last thing he heard as he left Quark's was the sound of the Ferengi's irritated voice 

"Hu-mans!"  

~>)X(<~ 

Julian's hands were sweaty and trembled as he moved through the corridors back to his quarters. He tried to keep the thoughts at bay as he made his way there, for he did not know what he would do once he became fully aware of what had just taken place in Quark's.  

When he reached his destination, he slipped in quickly and moved to the couch where he slumped down in a tired heap. He couldn't believe this. In all this time, he had never suspected. Oh gods, why? Why hadn't he simply asked? Why hadn't he tried to find out the truth? Instead he had been walking around second-guessing the tailor for ages. Was Garak attracted to men or was he not? Was he or was he not attracted to him - Julian? And now it was too late. Garak had obviously found someone else who cared about him. Julian's chest tightened and he buried his face in his hands. Oh, god it hurts, he thought. It hurts more than I had ever imagined.  

Julian swallowed. He knew why he had never asked those questions. It was because he had been afraid, for many reasons. What if he and Garak became more than friends? What would the captain think? Julian was not so naive as to think that Captain Sisko would be bothered by the fact that he revealed he was bisexual. No, he had been afraid of what Sisko - and Starfleet - would have thought if he got involved with a Cardassian. However, Julian was honest enough to admit to himself that this wasn't the whole truth. He was scared for other reasons. He knew almost nothing about Cardassian sexuality. What he did know was the information he had gotten from the few and far between romantic or erotic scenes described in the books that Garak had forced him to read. He had tried to find more information but never came across anything really useful. And asking Garak was something he had never been able to bring himself to do. He had wanted to, oh yes, many times. And yet, this too, was only part of the truth. What he had been most afraid of was that Garak would reject him if he ever crossed that line they had set up between them. He was afraid that he had misunderstood Garak's flirting, and that it was simply the Cardassian's way. He had tried to observe his friend among others and come to the conclusion that Garak had a way of flirting with almost everyone.  

There was a subtle innuendo behind every word and phrase the tailor uttered, which made Julian decide that he wasn't special to Garak in any way. How many were the times he had felt hope flare in his chest and thought, maybe, just maybe he feels the same, only to realize in the next moment that Garak treated Ziyal the same way... that he treated Sisko the same way?  This was just the Cardassian's personality. Plus there was the unavoidable fact that Cardassia and Cardassians did not look kindly upon same-sex relationships. He had been afraid to drive the tailor away if he had told him the truth about himself. Julian swallowed, all this time it seemed Garak had the same needs and wants as Julian did. Garak's actions today spoke louder than words. Was perhaps Garak's sexuality one of the reasons for his exile? Julian sighed. He was there all along and now it was too late.  

There was another reason he hadn't approached Garak. He had felt like they had all the time in the world. He felt like he had all the time in the world to make himself feel safe with Garak, to make sure he wouldn't be making a mistake. Sure he had suspected on more than one occasion that Garak was flirting with him, and he had flirted back, but it had never gone beyond that. Now it appeared that Garak had tired of him, both as a friend and potential partner. Perhaps Garak had never even realized that Julian was attracted to him?  

"Oh god," Julian muttered to himself. "For once I might have been really successful in hiding the truth from Garak...." Garak had now found himself someone else, someone more receptive to his advances. Julian leaned back in the couch and covered his eyes with his hands. "What a day, what a fucking horrible day!" he groaned.  
 

~>)X(<~ 

2. 

Julian kept busy the following days. He refused to give in to his desire to go see Garak, to plead with him to have lunch together. For several reasons really, he admitted to himself. One was that he was afraid he would give himself away now that he realized that he might actually have had a chance with the tailor and missed it. Also because he was afraid it would hurt too much. The realization that Garak was seeing someone else on a regular basis made Julian's thoughts go where he had never allowed them to go before.  

He found himself contemplating on more than one occasion what it would be like to be kissed by Garak. Dreams, like nothing he had ever dreamed before haunted him. He was full of remorse and regret. Why hadn't he tried harder to find out the truth about Garak before? If Garak had indeed found someone who really loved him now, Julian was sure that he would not let go easily.  

Damn you Garak! How is it that you've found someone else right under my nose and I haven't even seen it? Have you been spending your lunches with this man for a long time? How did you meet? Who is he? Are you sure that he isn't only after your knowledge of the station and the war?  

Julian laughed dryly at himself. If anyone could take care of himself it was Garak. Why did he even bother worrying about him? Garak was a former Obsidian Order agent, the son of Tain. He could take care of himself. He didn't need Julian to baby-sit him.  

I'm jealous, Julian realized. I am so jealous I could scream!  

So, Julian, are you simply going to sit here, waiting for Garak to run off with someone else without a fight? Isn't it about time you let him know how you really feel about him? Isn't it about time you stopped playing these childish games and matured? Isn't it about time you swallowed all the fears you harbor inside and went for it? No pain no gain... if you aren't willing to risk anything, you'll never win his heart.  

Julian sat up ramrod straight in the chair behind his desk in the infirmary. Who was to say that it wasn't too late already? Who was he to believe that he had anything that Garak wanted anymore? Had Garak ever wanted him? Garak had found someone that he obviously cared very much about and who was he to barge in on that, demanding attention?  

Julian felt like he really needed someone to talk to and once more pain at the loss of Jadzia Dax coursed through his veins. He hadn't cried over Jadzia, it seemed at the time like the loss of her was to great to be able to cry, and now? Now she had been gone for such a long time it no longer seemed appropriate to grieve her. Ezri Dax had come into their lives and in a way she had replaced Jadzia, and still... still he missed Jadzia so much. Julian closed his eyes and wondered if he needed to take a leave, maybe he needed to get away? He was an emotional wreck. It seemed as if the last year had been too full of happenings, leaving him unable to sort through them and Julian finally realized he had no one left to talk to about it. Garak and Jadzia had always been the ones he really confided in. Jadzia was dead and Ezri... maybe he could talk to Ezri? Julian swallowed. Was he ready to let someone else know what turmoil of emotions and insecurities his insides were?  

Miles? Could he speak to Miles? Julian shook his head before the thought formed in his mind. Miles would never understand. In some ways the Chief was very conservative and the mere thought of admitting to Miles that he wanted more than friendship from Garak - the Cardassian - made Julian wince. He watched the chronometer. It was still quite some time before his shift was over and he tried to concentrate on the calculations he was working with, but his mind kept wandering. He thought about the first meeting with Garak and the instant attraction, but also the immediate fear he had felt that first day.  

Back then he had barely been able to admit to himself that he was attracted to the tailor, much less do anything about it. Years of yearning had gone by, when he had finally admitted the truth to himself, but no one else. Now, when he was finally ready to do something about it and when he finally realized that the attraction might once have been mutual, it was too late. Julian sighed.  

~>)X(<~ 

"What should I do, Ezri?" he asked, a couple of hours later as they were sitting in his quarters, sharing dinner together. He had been very candid. He had explained to Ezri that he needed her professional help, but now that they sat there, eating, he realized that he wanted friendship as well, but the look on her face wasn't exactly friendly.  

"This is rather typical of you Julian, and I think it is very selfish. I thought you had grown up and matured over the last few years. Jadzia was very impressed with you and the way you acted." 

"But...?" Julian said dryly and felt the pain at Ezri's blunt words. He knew she was right. He shouldn't be doing this now. It was selfish of him to want to mess with Garak's life now that he might finally have found some happiness. But he was selfish, he wanted Garak for himself.  

"... but she was always appalled at the way you treated Garak. He loved you. It was obvious in every gesture, every time he looked at you or talked to you. His passion for you was so evident to all of us, and you kept stringing him along like a puppy dog on a leash. Giving him hints of what it could be like. Now when he finally has found someone whom he can actually count on to be there for him and share his feelings, you decide to do something about it..." 

Julian felt all blood leave his face. Garak, had Garak felt that way about him? "I never realized..." he began.  

Ezri's eyes grew warmer and she reached out to take his hand in hers. "Are you telling me that you actually never saw his devotion to you? Are you trying to tell me you never felt the sparks flying in the air between the two of you whenever you were together? Are you saying that you never saw the hunger in his eyes or that you weren't aware of the feelings you have for him too? Jadzia always believed that you kept him at arm's length because you were afraid of what it would do to your career."  

Julian rose from the chair.  

"No, I never did realize he felt that way about me! I never even realized just how much I truly care about Garak until recently. Now I find that I might be losing him and I finally really understand my own feelings...." Julian began, and then he fell into a long speech about his fear of Garak's sexuality, of his fears of ruining their friendship and the fear he felt of being rejected. "I never realized that he had those strong feelings for me, Ezri, I promise you. Isn't that the way it always works? The object of affection is always the last to find out? Why didn't he ever say anything do you think? If it was so obvious to you that I loved him when I hardly knew it myself, how could he not have seen it? Because he was just as blind as I was, I would guess. " 

Ezri rose from the chair too, "You're right of course, Julian. I guess Jadzia only saw this from his viewpoint, because she knew how lonely he is. But in retrospect I realize you were just as alone..." 

"So what do I do?" 

"I think you should find out what you can about this man that Garak is seeing, try to talk to Garak and find out if this is serious or just a fling. If he does still love you, you'd better not back away when he finds out how you feel about him... that way you'll lose him forever." 

"To think how many times I've thought that I wanted to find the right woman to make a future with, failing time and time again and eventually realizing that the person I really love has been right in front of me all the time and I haven't seen it. It's quite unsettling, Ezri..." 

She nodded. "Yes, I know..." she said and gave him a long look. "It's even worse realizing you had more than one chance to do something about it and let it slip through your fingers. Jadzia never showed you how much she really loved you because she knew how you feel about Garak... She never wanted to get in the way of that. I hope that you get your second chance, Julian." 

Julian heaved a deep sigh as he saw Dax leave his quarters. He felt completely numb. He never realized...  He swallowed hard. Was he really that blind? 

"Oh Jadzia..." 

He slumped back on the couch and rested his head in his hands again. The tears finally rose in his eyes and he started crying. Ezri was a sweetheart for telling him, but the truth did hurt. Knowing that Jadzia had held back because she knew how he felt about Garak finally gave him the opportunity to mourn the woman who had been such a good friend, and whom he had loved so dearly. She had known they could never have been together because someone else had already captured his heart.  

"Oh, Jadzia, why didn't you ever tell me? Why didn't you make me see the truth?" 

But would he have believed her?  

That night Julian didn't sleep very well and he kept thinking back and forth about what to do with his life. So much had happened lately. The war, Jadzia's death, his enhancements had become public knowledge, the Section 31 business... and now this. What should he do about his feelings for Garak now that he had finally acknowledged them and the tailor seemed to have replaced him? Hearing Ezri's words inside him made him feel only slightly better.  

"Are you telling me you never saw the devotion he had for you?"  

What if it was too late? 

~>)X(<~ 

3.  

Julian was eating his lunch all alone in the Replimat when he saw Garak and his lover enter, and sit down by a table quite secluded. Garak's eyes were shining with tenderness and the human sitting right next to him leaned forward to kiss Garak squarely on the mouth. Garak kissed back quite enthusiastically and Julian felt the jealousy and arousal fight to get a firm hold over him. He closed his eyes, captivated by the sight and hurting, both at the same time. 

Julian nearly moaned. Oh, gods, he thought, if only I could be the one... feeling those gray, wonderful lips press against mine. I want to be the one producing that look on Garak's face. It was a look of pure delight, tenderness and love. Julian winced and pulled his eyes away from Garak to watch the human. He frowned. It was something familiar about that man. Julian kept staring for several minutes. The man sitting in front of Garak was rather good-looking. He was lithe, his skin had a golden hue much like his own. His hair was brown to the point of being black. He seemed to have hazel brown eyes, and his face was triangular. The more Julian looked, the more he realized that this young man was familiar because he resembled someone. The young human had a striking likeness to - himself.  

And what of it? Julian asked himself and tried to fight off the hope. That only tells you that Garak is attracted to men who look a little bit like yourself. That doesn't mean he's willing to leave this man to be with you...  

Suddenly he realized that Garak was watching him, and Julian was taken aback by the look on the tailor's face. It was bland, almost indifferent, and Julian pulled his gaze away, more hurt than he would care to admit. What was he going to do? Was it best if he just tried to forget Garak? Julian swallowed. He knew that would be impossible. He lifted his hand to his head and pushed the hair out of his eyes. Then he turned his face to catch another glimpse of Garak. This time he caught an entirely different expression from the tailor's eyes just before Garak averted his gaze. This look was filled with longing and passion. He gasped. Or was he mistaken? Perhaps Garak had simply been thinking about his companion? Julian realized he had to get out of the Replimat before he would do something to embarrass himself. Never before had he realized how much he wanted to Garak to look at him exactly that way. That single look from Garak's incredible eyes had made all blood rush to his groin, rendering him hard as a rock and he was not about to show anyone what state he was in. Julian kept watching the couple for another few seconds and then he rose from the chair and left the Replimat without looking back. He returned to the infirmary well before his lunch hour was over and he slipped into the back. 

"Oh, god Garak, this is driving me insane..." he whispered to himself as he closed his eyes and sat down on one of the biobeds. He had never before felt such a strong and sudden pang of desire for the Cardassian, especially not in public, like that. Was it because he now knew that the tailor was attracted to men as well? Was it because now he could finally allow himself to think about Garak in a sexual way, something he hadn't really allowed himself to do before? Was it because of those dreams that had haunted him for several nights now? He didn't know, but he could not just forget about Garak and if the first look the tailor had given him was anything to go by he was not interested any more - if he had ever been, but if the second look had been meant for him...  

Julian felt himself harden even more at the thought of those beautiful eyes. They had sent him a look of pure lust, pure hunger... Julian moved his hand down between his legs to stroke his erection through the fabric of his clothes. He was so hard now he knew he would have to do something about it. He rose to his feet and went inside the room where he sometimes slept when he was on call, then he locked the door and pushed the coverall down. Swiftly he let his painfully hard member out of his confining briefs and it bounced into the air. Then he sat down on the spare bunk standing there.  

"Oh Garak, Elim... if you only knew..." he moaned as he moved one of his hands down to cup his balls and took a firm hold of his shaft with the other. He was harder and larger than he could remember being for a very long time. As he started touching himself, he imagined that Garak was there with him, being the one who was caressing him. Those strong, warm, gray hands moving up and down his erection. He hardly needed to touch himself, he simply imagined Garak's gray lips closing around him and that was enough to rapidly send him over the edge. "Oh, gods Garak," he almost whimpered as he came with forceful waves of pleasure coursing through his body. When he composed himself a little he finally admitted the truth aloud.  

"I love you, I want you, I want you so much." 

He felt a sudden twinge of regret. Whatever happened after this, his friendship with the tailor was over.  

~>)X(<~ 
 

4. 

"Where does that man come from?" Julian asked and Quark just stared at him.  

"Information is valuable," he said greedily and kept drying off the glasses and putting them away neatly in the slots behind the bar.  

"How much?" Julian groaned. He had made sure he brought a healthy amount of latinum, knowing that Quark would never give him the information he needed without being sufficiently 'encouraged'.  

"Oh, well, let's see how much this information is worth to you, Doctor," Quark said. "I take it you have finally admitted the truth to yourself and now you want to get rid of Garak's new love interest?" Quark smiled widely and leaned over the counter as if to say something very personal. "You know, I think love and jealousy can be quite the incentive. Four slips of latinum to tell you who this man is and what he is doing at the station." 

Julian's jaw dropped and didn't manage to reply.  

"Come on Doctor, I am a bartender, what more is - I am the bartender at the place where you and Garak have shared your meals for years. Don't insult me by insinuating that I don't have the lobes to realize what is going on." 

It appeared everyone knew what was going on except him - and possibly Garak. Julian closed his mouth and said. "I want to know where this man comes from, who he is, what he is doing here and how long he will stay here. I also want to know how long he has known Garak and the nature of their relationship and I want to know what Garak feels for him..." 

"That is another thing altogether. To be able to give you that much information I would have to do some research and talk to some of my resources. I might even have to put Garak under surveillance for a couple of days. That is no easy task I assure you. Someone highly skilled would have to be trusted with that particular endeavor. That will cost you a lot more than a few strips of latinum..." 

"How much?" Julian nearly growled. He had four bars of latinum to use on this, and then he would be left pretty broke.  

"Two bars of gold pressed latinum now..." Quark watched him intently and Julian did what he could not to reveal anything about how that sum made him feel. "... and two more when I give you the information I cannot give you right away." 

"Quark!" Julian said harshly. "You know that no 2 days work is worth that much. I'll give you ten strips of latinum now and ten more when you're done." 

"That is ludicrous, Doctor. We both know the information is worth a great deal more than that to you, and Garak is not an easy man to follow around... it might even be life-threatening..." Quark said with a greedy gleam in his Ferengi eyes.  

They kept bargaining for another couple of minutes until they had settled on two bars of latinum. One now and one when Quark delivered all the information Julian had requested.  

"All right," said Julian, "But you better make sure that none of this reaches Garak's ears until I am sure about what to do. Now tell me all you know about this human," and he handed over the bar of latinum for Quark, who greedily snatched it out of his hands and tucked it away in his suit.  

"All right, this man is 36 earth years old and his name is Ricardo Berlioz. He was born in a city named Madrid. He is a freighter captain and has been shipping supplies from Earth do Deep Space Nine over the last two years. He and Garak met here in my bar about three months ago. It was one of those Single's Night Out and they hit it off right away I believe. Berlioz is leaving the sector in a couple of weeks though and I doubt he'll be back for another three months." 

Julian frowned. Garak had met this man three months ago? That meant it wasn't just a one-night stand, but the beginnings of a true relationship. Julian was not surprised at the pain in his chest at that realization.  

~>)X(<~ 

The following days Julian had so much work to do with an outbreak of Chinese Influenza that he actually managed to put the thoughts of Garak and the man he was seeing to the back of his mind. Ezri dropped by to offer her sympathies and help in counseling some of the patients, who were suffering badly from the flu. It seemed this particular influenza strain had a very strong effect on Bajorans, so both Major Kira and some of Odo's deputies had to stay under continuous surveillance until they were through the worst of it. And Major Kira was not a patient that Julian was enjoying having in his infirmary.  

"Whed do I get to leave this hoddible dubp!" she spat angrily with feverish eyes and her beautiful pale skin covered with an itching rash that the flu produced only in Bajorans.  

"Not for another couple of days I'm afraid," Julian repeated patiently. It was about the tenth time today that she had asked that very same question of him. He was pretty sure she had asked others of his staff the same question, in the hopes that they would be more forthcoming. She was getting better, but he wanted to keep an eye on her for another day. 

~>)X(<~ 

A few days later, when the worst of the flu had finally passed, Julian was totally drained. He was about to ask Quark to leave him alone when the Ferengi showed up at the infirmary as he was ready to go home for some sleep.  

"What do you want, Quark?" he groaned irritably.  

"I keep my promises, Doctor," Quark insisted. "And I told you I would have the information you needed within a couple of days. Well here I am. If you do not wish to have the information anymore I don't care. You have purchased my services. I have delivered and you have to pay!"  

"Fine, fine," Julian yawned. "Would you mind walking with me? I am ready to fall asleep where I stand."  

"Whatever. Where is the latinum?" 

"That too, is in my quarters," Julian said and moved towards the corridor leading to the area of the station where he lived.  

"All right. I'll just have to trust you then," Quark said suspiciously as he followed Julian through the station.  

"Have I ever tricked you before Quark?" Julian said with a hurt look on his face. "I don't have a reputation of not holding up my end of a bargain on the station, now do I?" 

"No," Quark admitted and seemed to make a decision. "Okay, so here's what I found out.... Ricardo Berlioz is a freighter captain, that is true, but he is also an actor. He apparently takes 'real life roles' from time to time, playing characters that his customers require of him." Julian nearly stopped dead in his tracks and Quark had his undivided attention. Quark smiled and leaned closer as he whispered. "My source also tells me that Ricardo and Garak never socialize privately. It seems to me that Garak is only putting up a show for someone's benefit... I wonder who that could be?" 

Julian hardly heard the last sentence. Suddenly the tiredness that had weighed so heavily on him all but dissipated. He turned around to run to Garak's shop right away.  

"Hey, Doctor. What about my payment?" Quark shouted after him. Julian stopped running. Sure, Quark would have his money, and he would not run off to Garak's shop like a lovesick puppy dog. No, he would do this right. He had to do this right. He owed it to both himself and Garak...  

Julian returned to Quark and went into his quarters and pressed a bar of latinum in the Ferengi's hand.  

"Now, if you'll excuse me... " Julian said and all but pushed Quark out of his quarters.  

"Hey, Doctor. I have something you might find useful..." the Ferengi began and pulled something out of his suit.  

"Quark, leave me alone." 

"Fine, If you don't need this information I won't bother you. I suppose there is someone else on the station who might find facts on Cardassian sexuality and courtship practices more useful." Quark turned his back on Julian and began walking away. Julian's hand shot out reflexively and grabbed a hold of the short bartender. Quark was swiftly pulled back into Julian's quarters.  

"Where did you get this?" he asked. "Why didn't you tell me this before?" 

"I just found it. I have my contacts and I thought that this might be worth something to you." 
Quark held the padd away from him and pressed his palm against Julian's chest as he tried to reach it.  

"Ah-ah!" Quark said and wiggled his finger at him. "How much is this worth to you? I am sure you might find it useful in the infirmary as well.... You see, there is more information than simply on sexuality here. It is a complete database about Cardassian medical problems and their physiology and some cultural information as well... How much might that be worth to you? Another two bars of latinum perhaps?" 

Julian stared at Quark. This greedy Ferengi was going to make him utterly and totally broke if he kept this up.  

"One bar of gold pressed latinum!" Julian said.  

"I am afraid that the price on this item is non-negotiable... " Quark said. "It's two bars or no deal." 

Damn, Julian thought. That vicious little Ferengi had seen the other two bars he had in his cupboard when he handed him the other latinum. Julian frowned. Okay. He had been prepared to use all his money on the information Quark had to give him, so he supposed this was worth it too.  

"All right, you have a deal." 

Ten minutes later Quark left Julian's quarters, humming happily while Julian walked into his quarters with the padd in his hands. Now that he had it, he really didn't know what to do with it. Would he read it through and try to court Garak in a Cardassian manner or would he avoid reading it? Did he really want to know all there was to know about Garak right away - or did he want to learn all about Garak and his sexuality - with Garak? 

Yes and no, Julian thought. He admitted that he would love to explore this with Garak, but he also wanted to know what he was getting himself into.  

I've jumped both feet into so many things before, only to end up in trouble or ending up hurt. I want this to be right. I don't want to misunderstand Garak in any way. So... I'd better read this before I set my plans in motion.  

~>)X(<~ 

5. 

Julian watched the padd and the image of a naked Cardassian male displayed on the monitor.  
The thought of Garak standing naked before him made Julian's heart beat faster and once again he felt the stirrings of arousal. The simplest thought of the tailor could make him hard these days. A slight hope played in his chest, as he replayed Quark's information. Was this Ricardo Berlioz only a ruse? Was Garak putting up a show, for his benefit?  

"Oh, Garak, Garak... you didn't have to..."  

But maybe he had after all? If Julian was to be honest with himself he might never have had the guts to admit the truth to himself if he hadn't become so insanely jealous of this Ricardo person. He returned his gaze to the padd and shook away the thoughts. If Garak was only half as beautiful as the man portrayed there, he would have nothing - nothing at all, to be ashamed of. But Julian didn't really care about the way Garak looked. What he wanted to know was if they were... compatible so to speak. If Garak's way of having sex was so monumentally different from his own that they wouldn't be a good match in any way. But as he kept reading he realized he had been worrying too much.  

I should have known, he thought to himself.  

He knew that Bajorans and Humans were very much alike physically, and that Bajorans and Cardassians could mate without problem. Ziyal had been the perfect evidence of that. Julian heaved a deep sigh of relief and decided to forego the physicalities. All he needed to know was right there. Garak would not hurt him if they wanted to be together, that was all he really needed to know.  

So he pressed a few buttons and got more information on the screen. The only thing he really knew was that fighting and arguing was often considered flirting for Cardassians. Suddenly images of Garak spouting fire at him at the bridge of the Defiant almost a year ago came before him. Similar incidents replayed in his mind and now, for the first time he realized that maybe Garak had been trying to tell him something, but as usual he was totally oblivious to subtext and underlying tensions. After so many years of knowing Garak he still saw only the superficial sometimes. That Garak was insulting him, trying to hurt him. And he tried to defend himself, getting really hurt by what Garak said.  

So, how should I have reacted? Julian thought. If Garak came on to me again by insulting me, how should I react? Or if I try to insult Garak, how will I know if he's interested in me? How will he react if we're flirting the Cardassian way? Julian scrolled down the text. It appeared that the information he had in his hands was part of a medical interspecies encyclopedia a Vulcan had been working on for several years. It contained more information about Cardassian diseases, cultural habits, sexual preferences and social behaviors than anything else that Julian had seen since he joined Starfleet. He started reading and finally he came to a paragraph that gave him the insight he so desperately craved.  

(The Cardassian mating rituals are aggressive and would be misunderstood by most species in the Alpha Quadrant. When aroused or attracted to another, Cardassians argue vehemently and the subtleties behind the interplay might be very difficult to comprehend for a non-Cardassian.  

From the information gathered it is evident that the aggressor, the one initiating the mating, whether it is a male or a female, has to be brutal in their insults and keep the insults to the person he or she is interested in. If directed at others in the person's family it will not be viewed as an introduction to mating.  

If subjected to a Cardassian's flirting there is a number of ways to respond. If the subject being pursued is interested in turn he or she has to make this clear by not responding to the insults by defending themselves or getting hurt.  

Instead they should get back at the aggressor with equal passion and equally strong insults directed at the potential mate. This way, both know that the attraction is mutual.  

If the attraction is not mutual however...) 

Oh, gods, Julian thought. I never reacted the right way. I always started defending myself instead of responding the way Garak wanted me to. I wonder if he realized that I had no idea. Did he think that just because I am a doctor I would know more about Cardassians than most? Did he think I turned him down? Is that why he pulled away from me? Well I did turn him down, didn't I? But I didn't know that was what I was doing! 

He'd have to rectify this though. How would he start this? Would he just go over to the Cardassian and start insulting him? Wouldn't he laugh if he did that? Or would he start crying? Insulting Garak was the last thing he felt like doing right now. He wanted to fall on his hands and knees and beg his forgiveness for being such an idiot. But if he wanted to do this right he had to walk over to Garak and insult the tailor - big time, as Jake would have put it. 

Julian frowned. How about physical contact or physical proximity? Was he supposed to stand far away or come close to the Cardassian? Was he supposed to touch him in any way or keep his hands off him? Oh, Gods, no matter how much I read I will never get the hang of this! Julian rose from the couch and made a decision. He would have a good nights sleep now and tomorrow he would seek out the tailor. After being on call with the influenza patients, tomorrow was another day off for him. For once he was going to make use of it. Normally he wouldn't bother, especially not after having been off duty so recently. Now, however, he had things to attend to...  

~>)X(<~ 

Nervous like a schoolboy on his first date, Julian made his way to Garak's shop, and entered with shaky legs. There he was, standing behind the counter, working with some padd. He looked like he was deep in thought and didn't even lift his head as Julian came inside.  

"You are a sorry excuse for a friend!" Julian burst out nearly before he entered the shop. Garak looked up, baffled and then opened his mouth to respond, but Julian wanted to make sure that Garak knew exactly what was going on before allowing him to reply. "You damn Cardassian, with your poor sense of loyalty! I should have known that a man like you could never be trusted in any way, shape or form." 

Julian silenced, for a brief moment. Would Garak really interpret that as an insult? Gods, why hadn't he prepared himself for this better? What would Garak really find insulting? What would bruise his ego? Julian quickly drew another breath before he continued, and interrupted Garak once more before he had the chance to say anything. Garak seemed a little flustered, as if he was indeed beginning to grow irritated. Good! 

"You're sloppy and unintelligent!"  

Julian winced, how unimaginative. He had to come up with something more interesting than that or they would both start laughing.  

"Really, Doctor," Garak's eyes were shining with amusement and a slight curiosity. "If you're trying to... insult me, you must be able to do better than that?" 

"Your clothes aren't fit for a tailor's boutique, they should be on the sale's rack of a Bajoran clothier's shop."  

Now Garak's blue eyes flashed with the first hint of anger. "Julian, you little schoolboy, you wouldn't know good clothing if it jumped up and bit you in the face!" 

"And you would? Look at that. That tunic looks like something only a colorblind Klingon would wear!" Julian said and pointed at the clothes Garak was wearing, all the while he moved closer to his friend. Now he was getting warmed up and he knew exactly how to get Garak so angry and aroused he would lose his temper....  

For the first time a true hint of understanding showed in Garak's eyes and Julian's breathing quickened. He had never thought such a stupid thing as this would make him aroused, but when he saw the desire awaken in Garak's sky blue eyes, blood coursed through his veins in a heightened pace and his mouth dried up. He stared Garak straight into the eyes and the tailor burst into another stream of words.  

"Doctor, you have no idea what you are talking about," he spat. "You're so naive and your taste in clothes leaves a lot to be desired!" The words may not have been much of an insult but the way they were presented made Julian feel worthless at the same time a