A Thousand Lies (or Missing Scenes from "Inquisition") 
By: Kristin J. Johnson 
Rating: NC-17 
Strange Fits of Passion Challenge #3 

DISCLAIMER: I don't own these wonderful characters (Bashir, Garak, Sloan et al.) I simply play with them and place them in situations their original creators never thought of...but should have.  (I also gave Sloan a first name, probably not the one the writers will use.)  My thanks to Sophie Masse, Yavanna, Olivia, Terrie, Mark, Plaid Adder, Diana, Joanne et al. for opening my eyes to the possibilities.  Special thanks to Karen Colohan (Yavanna) for inspiring this story with her comments about Garak, Bashir, and Section 31.  This story contains spoilers for the excellent sixth season episodes "Inquisition" and "In the Pale Moonlight" (if you haven't seen them, shame on you.)  "Live To Tell" is sung by the ever-amazing Madonna, and the lyrics (slightly adapted for this story) were written by Madonna and Pat Leonard. 

AUTHOR'S NOTE: If "Inquisition" wasn't the perfect vehicle to bring Garak and Bashir together, I don't know what was.  Unfortunately, TPTB didn't add even one scene with Garak -odd, considering "In the Pale Moonlight" must have been in pre-production during "Inquisition," so they didn't have the excuse of 'Andy Robinson isn't available.'   Most of the sequences that follow did *not* appear in the episode.  I have added scenes where appropriate, and altered several key scenes-the moments in Bashir's quarters before O'Brien's transmission, the confrontation on the Defiant's bridge, the final showdown with Sloan.  The story is my speculation on what would have happened if Section 31 had chosen to incorporate Garak into the Kafkaesque nightmare they inflicted on Doctor Bashir.   I may do a sequel based on the sequel episode "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" if people ask nicely ;-)   

A man can tell a thousand lies 
I've learned my lesson well 
Hope I live to tell the secret I have learned 
Till then 
It will burn inside of me 

The truth is never far behind 
You kept it hidden well 
If I live to tell the secret I knew then 
Will I ever have the chance again? 
-Madonna, "Live to Tell" 

His quarters looked so normal on the surface.  But everywhere he looked, he saw Starfleet Internal Affairs rifling through his books, his furniture, his suitcase, his life, ferreting out the least scrap of evidence to use in their investigation. 

Doctor Julian Bashir sprawled on his couch and stared moodily at the upside-down PADD sitting on top of the suitcase he'd packed for the medical conference on Kasperia Prime, the medical conference he could never attend, thanks to the paranoid speculations of Starfleet Intelligence.   Even now he couldn't grasp why his crew, of all the crews in Starfleet, had been singled out.  How could Internal Affairs possibly think he, or any of his colleagues and friends, would sell out the Federation by passing information to the Dominion?  Miles, Jadzia, Worf, Sisko...they had been on the front line all these long months, seen friends and fellow officers slaughtered by the Jem'Hadar and the Cardassians.  He had killed, in direct violation of his pledge as a physician, and had even allowed others-fellow officers-to die, for the sake of the Federation and the Greater Good of the Galaxy.  He would never be the same, and even hardened war veterans like Miles O'Brien quietly bore the scars of the killing, the dying, the madness.  The idea of him, of any of them, cooperating with the enemy was ludicrous.  In her inimitable fashion, Jadzia Dax had spoken for them all with her response to Deputy Director Sloan's bombshell: "With all due respect, I think there's been some kind of mistake." 

Sloan...Julian shook his head and felt a frisson go up his spine.  The interrogation just now had been relatively easy and painless.  But there was something in the way the older officer had smiled at him, an indefinable quality that made Julian want to check to see if his blood had been drained while he wasn't looking.  It was an irrational and paranoid feeling.  Sloan wasn't sinister; he simply took his job seriously. And he had been unusually pleasant considering the circumstances.  Yet Julian had wanted to escape, or at least to look away from those light-blue eyes that looked at you with high-intensity laser-beams.  Eyes that reminded him disturbingly of Garak's.   And both their smiles made you want to tell them all your secrets...of course, Sloan's smile didn't weave a spell over him as Garak's did, even now, after almost six years... 

Julian shook his head to clear it.  Eyes and smiles aside, it was absurd to even begin to compare the two men.  Oh, they both were individuals to be reckoned with, but the similarity ended there, personality-wise.  Garak was urbane, acerbic, smooth, and evasive, while Sloan, for all his obvious perspicacity, professionalism, and decorum, seemed almost...folksy, for lack of a better term, honest, with an ability to put people at ease. <He does have a good bedside manner,> Julian thought. <Maybe it's just this whole investigation that's making me nervous.  Not to mention missing breakfast!  How they could have mixed up my scones with Worf's gagh...if they can't get that detail right, then they're probably wrong about one of us being a spy.  I pray that they are...no, I know they are...the only spy among us is Garak, and he despises the Dominion...> 

A chirp from the computer terminal on his desk ended Julian's contemplation.  He rose and swiftly crossed to the terminal.  He didn't even have to speak a word or press a button.  Garak's image immediately replaced the normal display. "Doctor.  You seem to be bearing up well under the microscope." 

"Garak, do you know what you're doing?" Julian exclaimed, his British accent becoming heavier in his anxiety.  He was alarmed for his friend's safety, and a little paranoid about his own. "I'm not supposed to be talking to anyone...if Internal Affairs traces this transmission..." 

The Cardassian smiled as blandly as he often did while nailing Julian with a point of logic over lunch. "You're forbidden to discuss the investigation with any of the senior staff, isn't that the restriction?  No one said your tailor couldn't call you and inquire after your well-being-and even if they did, I have ways of masking the carrier wave.  Please do relax, Doctor.  I'd never do anything to cause you harm." 

"If we're not to discuss the matter, how did you learn about it?" 

Garak smiled more broadly. "How refreshing to know I can still surprise you." 

Julian breathed a little more easily.  A classic Garak evasion.  It was almost like old times.  The Cardassian's face had never been a more welcome sight. <And here I thought we had grown apart, after all that bickering on the Defiant about my 'showing off' my enhanced abilities...and after Ziyal's death...he does still care...I haven't been as attentive to him as I should be...not his fault that I felt something more than friendship and was too much of a coward to act on it...it's so good of him to call.>  

"It's not harm from you that worries me, Garak.  It's these Internal Affairs people.  Honestly, can you *believe* they think any of us would help the Dominion?  You know what we've been through these last hellish months." 

"Indeed I do.  Their suspicions are rather ludicrous.  Still, war can do strange things to people...and you of all people should know what it's like to be caught in the Dominion vise.  It's conceivable that someone decided he or she couldn't stand the pressure any longer.  Might I suggest your friend Chief O'Brien?" 

"That's not funny, Garak." 

"It wasn't meant to be, dear doctor." 

"I know you and Miles don't exactly get along, but he is the *last* person who would help the Dominion.  If you'll remember, he objected to me trying to cure the Jem'Hadar of their addiction to ketracel-white, and that's putting it mildly." 

"I admit on the surface he does seem an unlikely prospect." When Julian snorted, Garak continued meditatively. "Now you, on the other hand, would be an ideal one." 

"Garak, I mean it.  This conversation is *not* amusing at all." 

"Well, think about it.  You attempt to help the Jem'Hadar break their addiction, you spend five weeks with the Dominion-" 

"You know I wasn't with the Dominion.  You were inside that cell, a prisoner, just as I was." 

Garak continued as if Julian hadn't spoken. "You advocate surrendering to the Dominion on the advice of your genetically-enhanced friends, and, lest we forget, you're genetically enhanced yourself.  Created.  Engineered, just like the Jem'Hadar, or the Vorta." 

"Look, Garak, I accept that you're uncomfortable with my being the way I am, but-" 

"But nothing, Doctor.  If anything, it's you who seems to be ill at ease with who you are, all your surface bravado notwithstanding." 

Julian smiled ruefully. "Touché.  But the way you acted on board the Defiant-" 

"Review your knowledge of Cardassian behavior, Doctor.  You might be surprised." Garak smiled enigmatically. "Getting back to why I contacted you.   I overheard two of Director Sloan's adjutants, and from what I could gather, you are the most likely candidate in this game of find-the-spy.  Or should I say scapegoat?" 

"I can't believe they'd discuss that so openly," Julian said, shaking his head, not wanting to even entertain the possibility... 
 
 

"You'd be surprised what people will talk about in front of a plain and simple tailor." Garak's blue eyes seemed to pierce right through the screen. "I simply wished to warn you of the danger.  Be careful, Doctor."   

"Wait, Garak!" 

Too late.  The Cardassian's image faded, leaving Julian staring at his own dark-haired golden-skinned dark-eyed reflection.  Before he could even process what Garak had just told him, the computer chirped again and Miles O'Brien's face appeared. 
 

Four long hours later, Julian fidgeted for the hundredth time inside the holding cell.  He had tried Vulcan meditation.  He'd tried yoga.  He'd even tried prayer, but not being a religious man, wasn't able to put much heart into the endeavor.  Still, if things got much worse he might just get down on his knees-not before Sloan, never before Sloan-and pray to the Prophets or whatever deities would listen to deliver him from this hell.  Oh, he had a vague sense of faith that everything would come out right in the end, but at the moment, that faith was slim indeed. 

Charged with being a traitor to the Federation.  It was unthinkable.  

In a sense, he'd brought it on himself.  He'd asked to be formally charged, demanded it-and played right into Sloan's hands.  O'Brien and Garak had been right.  Mentally, Sloan had him tried and convicted as a Benedict Arnold before they even set foot inside a courtroom.  Sloan's aides weren't exactly sympathetic to his cause either.  Thank God for Sisko.  He'd given Sloan a dressing down that even the supercilious officer recoiled from.   And Kira...he could still remember her quiet words, full of resolve: "We'll get you out of this, Julian."   He had felt vindicated just hearing her say that.  He couldn't have a better group of people on his side.  He was going to need all the help he could get against this adversary. 

Thinking about the way Sloan had questioned him, mostly about his time in prison and his seemingly improbable escape, still made him shiver.  It wasn't the questions themselves, or even the suggestion that he might be suppressing his Dominion activities via 'engrammatic dissociation.'  It was the obsessive glint in the man's eyes, and the almost surreal calm that had held until the moment Bashir had blatantly defied him.  Sloan's acrimonious words still rang in his ears: "I've had enough of your lies, Doctor!  You think you're smarter than the rest of us, don't you?  You think you're better than the millions of brave men and women who put their lives on the line for the Federation!"   

No, I'm not better than they are, Julian had wanted to snap back.  Just better than you.  And when this is all over, Starfleet Command is damn well going to hear from me-and from Captain Sisko, I don't doubt-about the way you target innocent people in your witch-hunts!   

He'd said none of that, of course.  He'd remained impassive, not reacting at all, being subdued, even when they'd taken away his badge.  A model prisoner in all respects.  But his good behavior hadn't been rewarded.  He hadn't been released.  Sisko hadn't returned.  Nor had anyone else come to see him.  Sloan's Gestapo officers were probably keeping everyone away.   Feeling terribly alone, Julian buried his head in his arms. 

"Doctor." 

The voice was so soft Julian thought he must be dreaming.  He didn't react until it called his name again.  Only then did he look up and smile in disbelief. "Garak?  How did you-" 

"Shhh." The Cardassian moved to the forcefield.  He held a miniature device, simple in appearance (yet undoubtedly cutting-edge technologically), in his hand. "We have little time before Sloan's guard dogs realize that there is no bomb inside Odo's office." 

"Bomb?  What in God's name did you-" 

"Really, Doctor, your gratitude is overwhelming." Garak squatted and began calibrating the device with a jeweler's precision. "We haven't much time." 

"Elim." Julian rarely used his friend's first name.  If he did so too often, his friend might sense the wealth of feeling in the word.  He chose the occasions with care-and this was definitely one of those occasions. "Elim, I appreciate what you're trying to do, but I'm not going anywhere.  If I participate in this jailbreak, that's as good as announcing I'm guilty." 

"Nonsense.  No one would for a moment believe you capable of being a spy.  You lack the subtlety, not to mention the patience." 

"Oh, thank you." Despite his disgruntled tone, Julian was touched by Garak's efforts, and the faith the ex-spy had in him.  "But according to Sloan, I'm guilty of being a spy because of engrammatic dissociation.  I don't even know I'm working for the Dominion." 

"He's reaching.  Grasping at straws, to borrow a Terran phrase.  Once we have you safely out of this cell and able to mount a proper defense, his case will crumble." 

"And if I leave this cell, my chances of going free will vanish." Julian stood his ground. "Elim, I'm not going to run like a coward, and I'm not going to involve you in this.  I'm going to stick it out and wait to be cleared.  And I will be cleared." 

Seeing the quietly stubborn look on the young man's face, Elim Garak sighed, rose to his feet, and made the device disappear as if it had never existed. "You fail to understand, Julian, that I'm already involved.  If there is anything I may do to help-" 

"There isn't." Sloan stepped into view.  Bashir had the unsettling thought that he'd been clandestinely observing them. "Hand over that device you just pocketed, Mr. Garak.  And don't even think of trying to deceive my officers again." Then, to Bashir: "What did you think you hoped to gain by that little show?" 

"It wasn't a show," Bashir said quietly. "I didn't know you were watching-but I should have." 

"Indeed you should have," Garak agreed, pinning the intruder to the proverbial wall with his gaze. "A man like Harlan Sloan, who would isolate you from your friends, parade you across the Promenade in irons, and attempt to bar Captain Sisko from seeing you is capable of anything." 

Harlan?  Julian mentally shook his head at Garak's talent for finding out the smallest details. 
 
 

"Captain Sisko is the prisoner's commanding officer," Sloan-Harlan, Julian reminded himself mentally, to humanize the man and make him seem less formidable-said evenly. "He has the right to be here.  You, however, do not.  Hand over that device." 

"You're welcome to look for a device," Garak challenged breezily. "I can guarantee you won't find anything-and I will not stand meekly and submit to an illegal search.  As for my right to be here, I don't recall asking your permission." 

Sloan locked eyes with him.  Garak coolly returned his gaze.  Blue steel met blue steel.  Julian was mesmerized, watching the two men cross swords. "The only other exception I could make to the 'no visitors' rule would be for conjugal visits.  Now, you might have tried to seduce Doctor Bashir when he first arrived on the station, but that hardly counts-particularly since you were following Enabran Tain's orders." 

"I beg your pardon?" The doctor was stunned.  He had to remind himself that Sloan would say anything to break down his defenses.  But honestly, Garak...trying to seduce him?  He'd thought the tailor was flirting with him, but...impossible, Tain ordering Garak to seduce him?  Would Garak have gone that far to win back his father's favor? 

"You heard me, Doctor." Sloan gave him an almost pitying look. "And he did seduce you, didn't he?  Oh, maybe not physically, but he indoctrinated you in the glamorous life of a spy with his stories about the Obsidian Order.  And then when it came time for you to surrender to the Dominion's will-" 

"Pathetic," Garak sneered. "Is that the best falsehood you can come up with?" 

"I don't quite have your expertise, I admit," Sloan said evenly. 

"You're right about that," Bashir said forcefully, "You couldn't possibly tell me any lie about Garak that would begin to match the lies he's told about himself."  He refused to let Sloan's sordid deceptions mar what he felt for Garak..  Words of an old song drifted through his mind: 

"I know where Beauty lives 
I've seen it once,  
I know the warmth he gives 
The light that you could never see, 
It shines inside, 
You can't take that from me." 

Garak inclined his head in response to his friend's defense. "Thank you, Doctor." 

"Don't mention it." Julian saw the genuine surprise and warmth in the tailor's eyes.  For a moment, they were the only two people in the room. 

Sloan was quick to shatter the spell. "You choose your friends poorly, Doctor.  Many a promising career has been destroyed that way." 

"Actually, I think I chose rather well," Julian said evenly. "You'll notice none of my friends have deserted me." 

"Really.  Then where are they?  Why isn't Chief O'Brien trying to free you, instead of Mr. Garak?  Why not Commander Dax, or Major Kira, or Constable Odo?" 

"I hear," Garak said conversationally, "that the constable has already done his good deed for the day by ferreting out your obvious conflict of interest.  Seeing you in action makes me wonder what kind of a parent you were.  You blame Doctor Bashir for your son's death, you blame the Dominion, but I think the blame lies a bit closer to home.  How far did you push your son to be a hero, Mr. Sloan?" 

"Garak," Julian warned, appalled.  Even a zealot like Sloan didn't deserve to have his son's death thrown in his face so ruthlessly. 

Still wrapped in that damnable calm, Sloan ignored Garak's baiting, as well as Julian's protests, and took a step toward the forcefield. "Doesn't it seem odd that the only other person to visit you is a former Cardassian spy-someone who has a good reason to help the Dominion?" 

"I beg your pardon?" Garak was clearly affronted. "I would never-"  

"Garak was with us on the Defiant," Julian said coldly. "You seem to think you know everything.  You should have come across that fact in your research." 

"He was also in the Dominion prison with you," Sloan said. "He watched his father die in the Dominion's grasp.  Would a man with Garak's past meekly accept imprisonment?  Or would he vow not to make the same mistake as his father?  At the time Garak was captured, Cardassia and the Dominion were forging their alliance.  Isn't it possible that-" 

Julian saw Garak's jaw clench in rage.  The ridges on the tailor's neck swelled like a cobra's hood. He interrupted hastily. "Garak loathes the Dominion.  And despite his exile he's the only true Cardassian left." Garak didn't overtly display any emotion, but in those blue orbs Julian thought he saw a flash of gratitude. "He would never put personal ambition above the good of the state.  And he would die rather than ally himself with Gul Dukat.  Surely you must have learned that Garak was interested in Gul Dukat's daughter, Ziyal-" 

"As a cover for his true feelings," Sloan interrupted smoothly. "He's never given up trying to seduce you, Doctor.  Or maybe he didn't have to try.  He chased after Ziyal, you went from one woman to another, but wasn't it all just a disguise?  I think the two of you became more than friends, perhaps during your confinement together.  You know what they say about cabin fever...and once you discovered you were on the same side...how annoyed were you, really, Mr. Garak, when the doctor 'showed off' his enhanced abilities?" 

"Not half as...annoyed...as I am now," Garak said evenly. "As you may or may not be aware, we Cardassians posture a great deal." 

Sloan pounced on that. "So you admit you were posturing." 

"Only in order to teach my young friend here a lesson.  I grew weary of his constant bragging about his superhuman abilities.  He has more than his share of a healthy ego-one could say an over-healthy ego." 
 

"Not by the time I'm through with him." The older officer looked at Bashir as one would at an amoeba through a microscope. "It doesn't matter what cover story you spin.  I'm going to get the truth out of the doctor-and then I'm coming after you, Garak." 

"You are more than welcome to try.  But don't start planning your victory celebration just yet." Garak dismissed Sloan with an imperious flick of his fingers, like one would use to brush away an insect. "If you don't mind, we'd like to be alone." 

"Oh, I'm sure you would." The other man's tone was ugly, making Julian feel unclean. "But we're both leaving right now.  And if you resist, just remember-one word from me and you'll be on your way to a Federation penal colony." 

"You aren't that powerful," Garak said haughtily. "But I will leave so that the doctor may get some rest." He exchanged a look with Julian.  There was something in that gaze that soothed Julian and gave him renewed strength. Sloan moved toward the exit, pointedly indicating that Garak should follow him, but the Cardassian didn't leap to obey the silent command.  He focused more deeply on Julian. "One way or another, Julian, I promise you will be free," he murmured. "What's the human expression-'Keep your chin up'?  This will all be over soon."  Garak smiled almost tenderly, then turned and followed Sloan out of the holding area.  Julian took several deep breaths and mustered his courage.  He no longer felt alone.  Garak had given him a precious gift. <I have to find a way to repay him, to be a better friend than I have been.  Later for that.  Right now, my main priority is to clear my name as soon as possible.  Relax, Jules, and remember the old chestnut: As bad as things look now, they could be a lot worse.> 
 

It was official, Julian thought, lying alone and defeated in his holding cell the next night.  Things had definitely gotten a lot worse.  And despite Garak's assurances, he bleakly began to accept that he might never see the other side of that forcefield again.  He would never be free-least of all from his own inner guilt. 

He still remembered the doubt in Sisko's eyes, the pause that signalled the captain was beginning to subscribe to the theory that Julian was, unknowingly, a Dominion agent-all because Sloan had rammed home the point that Julian had concealed his genetic enhancement even from his commanding officer, and had only come forward because his father had exposed him by unwittingly talking to a holographic simulacrum of his son.  Julian remembered thinking at the time that there wasn't much difference between himself and his holographic double.  Both were artificial, man-made, deceptive simulations.  But Julian couldn't turn himself off when things got sticky.  He had to stay and live with the consequences of his lies.   

One of those consequences was the loss of the trust he'd worked so hard to gain.  Sisko's trust now lay in tatters.  Even if, by a miracle sent by the Prophets, Julian was cleared, he would have to endure knowing that people were always watching him for any sign that he might one day betray them.  And no one's doubt hurt more than Sisko's.  In many respects Ben Sisko was like a father to Julian.  The captain's integrity, openness and compassion were traits Julian had often desperately wished for in his own father.  Julian shoved the thought of his parents out of his mind.  The idea of them living through yet another scandal was too much to bear.  Gods, this was going to be so hard on his mother, and his father...Even though he still resented his father, he wished that Richard Bashir didn't have to endure the ugly insinuations that his freak son was a traitor. 
 

But it was Sisko he felt most guilty about.  His other friends and colleagues might recover...even Miles, Nerys and Garak...but not Sisko. 

Garak.   

Wouldn't the Cardassian begin to believe Sloan's theory too?  Garak had been the most demonstrative in his discomfort with Julian's abilities, even though Cardassians didn't exactly shrink from genetic experiments.  Julian had long since come to the conclusion that Garak's disdain stemmed from his annoyance at being outmatched in keeping secrets.  Up until the revelations about Julian's past, Garak had always been the one who evaded, the one who kept Julian guessing.  Sometimes he suspected Garak had rather enjoyed his self-appointed task of initiating Julian into the darker and secret side of life, as well as enlightening him about Cardassian literature and politics.  He had assumed the role with all the eagerness of Socrates teaching the young future general Alcibiades-nephew of the great Athenian statesman Pericles-about logic, philosophy, science, dialectics, and one would assume, knowing the free-loving bisexual unhappily married Socrates, sex.    And Julian had played the role of naïve but precocious Alcibiades-well, not all of it was playacting, he genuinely was innocent of some matters.  His experience with men had been limited to a few groping encounters as a teenager and one summer romance with fellow Academy cadet and future Maquis rebel Tom Paris, now of the Starship Voyager, stuck somewhere in the Delta Quadrant.  Julian knew about men, but certainly not about older Cardassian men.  Had Garak been flirting with him?  What if he'd called the Cardassian's bluff and confessed his attraction to the tailor?  What if...no, Julian told himself, he couldn't venture there.  Put it down as the latest missed opportunity in a lifetime of regrets.  One thing was for sure, if he'd had little chance with Garak before, he had negative chances now. 

Irrational anger surged within Julian.  Who was Garak to judge him?  Tain's second-in-command, torturer and murderer of Bajorans, who still wouldn't confess what he'd done to get himself exiled from Cardassia? 

<Hold on, Jules, you don't know what Garak's thinking.  You're making assumptions about him, just as you have all along.  You assumed you understood him, you assumed he'd had a romantic past as a spy.  And you assumed he was flirting with you-that's why you withdrew from him.  Then, you decided he wasn't, and that bothered you because you'd started to have feelings for him.  So you withdrew further, and told yourself he was just after Ziyal because he wanted to annoy Dukat-and Kira, of course.  But he wanted her and didn't want you.  And you assumed he'd just accept you after everyone knew you were a fraud.  Despite his 'plain and simple' image, he has his pride, and an ego, even if it isn't as huge as Dukat's, and it probably came as a blow to know you'd been deceiving him all these years and he never even had an inkling.  So don't go leaping on your high horse, my boy.  You're damn lucky if he even speaks to you after this.  If you get out of this mess, that is.  And that, I'm afraid, is looking less and less likely, thanks to all the lies you've told and congratulated yourself for not being discovered..> 

"I was not ready for the fall, 
Too blind to see the writing on the wall. 

A man can tell a thousand lies, 
I've learned my lesson well..." 
 
 

Julian lay awake in the cold darkened cell with only his fears, doubts and recriminations for company.  When the lights glared in his face, he was relieved.  Even facing Sloan again across the forcefield was preferable to wrestling with himself.  And at least he could have an outlet for his frustration.  He refused in no uncertain terms to sign the confession Sloan presented him with, then mechanically held out his arms for the manacles to be snapped on so he could be taken to a starbase maximum security cell.  Inwardly, he wished he'd taken Garak up on his offer of escape.  He would have been caught, but at least he'd have been able to be with the tailor just a bit longer. 

When the transporter beam came and whisked him away, he had the ephemeral, insanely optimistic thought that his wish had just been granted. 
 

Be careful what you wish for, you may get it.  Julian stumbled onto the Defiant's bridge, thanks to Worf's un-gentle handling.  Kira hadn't been easy on him either when she'd hauled him to his feet aboard Weyoun's ship.  

Weyoun...As unnerving as his conversation with Weyoun had been, it had given him the first real hope for a way out of this nightmare.  Weyoun and Sloan were collaborators.  He was certain of it.   
Julian rushed to explain his new insight to Captain Sisko and was abruptly cut off by Sisko's uncharacteristically harsh words.  Something was wrong with this picture.  Sisko could be stern and hard-headed, but he had never before completely refused to listen to Julian.  And he had never ordered Julian off the bridge. 

Julian ducked Kira's grasp and sought support in his friend Jadzia.  She had always been willing to listen to him, even when he was being a complete pest.  Thus, her cold, contemptuous words shattered him. 

"Why did you do it, Julian?" 

Dumbfounded, Julian looked to the others.  Kira, Worf and Sisko glared at him.  Then, belatedly, he noticed Garak sitting at the station adjacent to O'Brien's. 

Garak?  What was the Cardassian doing on the bridge?  Julian began to feel another flicker of hope, mixed with a cold tingle of unease.  Something was not right... 

"Garak." His voice was calm. "You of all people should know when someone is lying." 

"Not always, Doctor." The tailor was casual, emotionless. "You misled me for years about your true nature." 

"I know that, and I apologize." 

"Very good.  You've mastered the art of guile.  But next time, don't overdo the innocent, wide-eyed look.  It strains credibility." 

Julian felt icy rage and heated desperation infect his soul.  He'd been right-Garak judged him harshly. "How can you sit there and judge me after all you've done?" 

"I never sold out my own people," Garak snapped. "You and Dukat would make a fine pair." 

Ignoring Kira's murmur of assent, Julian attempted to cool Garak's anger.  The derision in his friend's eyes was slowly killing him. "I may have kept my past from you, Elim, but-" 

"I never want to hear you call me that again," Garak interrupted. "If you do, I can guarantee you that prettily pleading voice of yours will be permanently silenced.  You might have deceived me, Doctor, but it only confirms what I already believed.  From the moment I saw you I knew you weren't to be trusted.  What's the human saying? 'If it looks too good to be true, it usually is.'" Garak's eyes moved over him in a flagrantly lecherous way. "And despite everything, you look exquisite-too bad I didn't do something about it when I had the opportunity." The Cardassian turned his back on Julian. 

Lost and helpless, the young man turned to his last hope, Miles O'Brien.  Miles' rejection was brutal, although it couldn't match the agony of Garak's.  And because he was already numb, Julian suddenly noticed that the engineer had pushed him away with an ease that was impossible considering the injury he'd sustained to his shoulder last night in the holosuite. 

"Your shoulder," Julian managed finally. "It's all right." 

"Of course it's all right," O'Brien said flatly. 

"But you hurt it yesterday when..." He paused, choosing his words carefully. "When you were playing springball." 

"So?  It's better now." 

The shoe dropped.  The feeling of wrongness, of something amiss, demanded to be heard-and suddenly everything seemed crystal clear to Julian.  The pseudo-Miles' response pointed toward only one possibility. 

"You didn't hurt it playing springball.  You dislocated it kayaking."  The pseudo-Miles stared at him blankly. "You're not Miles," Julian continued, turning away. "And you're not Captain Sisko.  He'd at least have given me a chance to explain.  And you..." His eyes rested on the false Garak. "You are not the Elim Garak I know." He believed that to his core.  How could you love someone, even a man as secretive as Garak, and not know them?  It was that thought, more than Miles' shoulder, that convinced him. "This isn't real.  It can't be." 

As if by magic, the Defiant's bridge dissolved around him.  He blinked and got a vivid impression of gray holosuite walls, bright lights, a vast chamber... 

"You're right, Doctor." His vision crystallized and focused on Sloan <Harlan,> Julian kept telling himself.  The man responsible for this hellish scenario turned away from a control panel.  He had abandoned the regulation Starfleet uniform and was dressed in a black leather jumpsuit Julian had never seen before. "None of it was real.  But I am.  And this isn't over." 
 

The ordeal had all the qualities of a dream.  Falling down the rabbit hole.  And as his tormentor so ominously stated, it wasn't over. 
 
 

Bashir faced his opponent squarely.  He was exhausted, had never been so tired in his life, but anger gave him the adrenaline he needed to keep fighting.  There were so many things he wanted to say, and he got in a few good verbal licks.  Sloan took it all in stride, with an easy, cool sophistication that reminded Julian ineluctably of Garak.  The man's earlier persona had disappeared with the holosuite simulation.  He was still in control, even though Julian had exposed his charade.  And although Bashir was making progress on figuring out how the man operated-beaming him out of his quarters while he was asleep, monitoring his neuroelectric responses-he remained in the dark on several key points.  He would never have guessed, for example, that Sloan worked for the Federation, let alone Starfleet. 

He could never have imagined that a covert organization like Section 31-a branch of Starfleet intelligence, according to his mysterious tormentor-could exist, and moreover, be sanctioned by Starfleet Command. 

And despite all his pipe-dreams of being a spy, he was totally unprepared for the unexpected offer that came his way. 

"You have all the qualifications to be a very useful member of Section 31." 

A cruel joke.  It had to be.  Or another damned test. "First you accuse me of being a Dominion spy-and now you want to recruit me!" His voice seethed with anger and disbelief. 

Sloan regarded him earnestly. "Why not?  You're intelligent, resourceful.  You've always been fascinated by covert operations-why else would you spend all your time in Quark's holosuites playing spy?" He paused. "And why else would you have developed a close relationship with Elim Garak-a former Obsidian Order agent?" 

There was something hidden in Sloan's voice that Julian forced himself not to dwell on.  He focused instead on the larger, stunning implication. "You're serious." 

And once he realized the man's intentions, he verbally rejected the offer with all the contempt it deserved.  But within him, there was a kernel of temptation.  <Me, a spy?  I wonder...>  It only made him resist Sloan harder, right up to his quiet threat, "What if I decide to expose you?" 

Sloan's expression was reminiscent of ones Julian had seen on Garak's face.  It terrified him. "Let's just say I wouldn't lose any sleep over it." 

Then, one of Sloan's black-clad aides used a hypo on him and the last thing he saw was the hazy image of the spy. 
 

Julian Bashir awoke shaking in his quarters.  God, what a vivid dream.  He had just relived the entire ordeal in excruciating detail.  He leapt from his bed and went for his usual cure-all, Tarkalean tea.  He knew there was no chance in hell he could get back to sleep, but he had to try.    

Two months later and he was still having nightmares.  He would have had them in any case, but they'd only been intensified by that damn order of Sisko's, and the plan that would enable them to bring Section 31 to justice. 
 

The captain's words refused to leave his mind: "You said Sloan tried to recruit you...He doesn't strike me as a man who takes no for an answer.  And the next time he asks you to join his little group, you will say yes." 

Then, as always, Odo's words followed close behind: "Well, congratulations, Doctor.  It looks like you're going to get to play a spy after all.  Only this time, for real." 

When Odo had said that, Julian had barely held his tongue and kept from screaming, I don't want to be a spy.  I never want to meet up with *him* again! 

After that conversation, he'd suppressed all thought of the assignment.  It wasn't an immediate concern, and if he was lucky, Sisko would turn out to be wrong.  There were more pressing matters.  The infernal war, for instance.  The Romulans' entry into the conflict as Federation allies distracted him, as did his indignation over the bio-mimetic gel Sisko had ordered him to package for transport to God knows where.  Some had dismissed his formal protest to Starfleet Medical as hypocritical-what right did a genetically enhanced human have to preach about how bio-matter should and should not be used?  His response had been, "Who could better understand the dangers of indiscriminately using bio-matter, playing God with the building blocks of life, than a human genetic experiment?" 

Sisko had never explained what had happened to the bio-mimetic gel.  And so far they hadn't spoken of the secret edict that Julian knew would change his life in ways he couldn't foresee.  As it was, the encounter with Section 31 had already altered him.   He lived with shadows in the back of his mind, wondering if Sisko would ever relent, wondering how many people knew, and who among the crowds on the Promenade might be reporting back to Sloan on his activities. 

His preoccupation had made him withdraw more from his friends, and bury himself in work.  Everyone was involved in their own lives anyway.  Dax and Worf, Kira and Odo, Miles and his family, Sisko and Kasidy Yates and Jake.  He didn't have to isolate himself from Garak, because as it was he and Garak didn't see each other anyway. 

And he kept lying to himself.  It doesn't matter that Miles is busy...the war isn't going so badly...I don't mind being alone, it's better that way...the dreams aren't so terrible...I don't feel envy every time I look at Dax and Worf, Kira and Odo...I don't miss Garak...I can handle Section 31, I'm in control...I don't miss Garak or wonder about what might have been...I think Sloan just put all that stuff about Garak in to distract me, throw me off-balance, there's no way he could know...it was just a holographic simulation and my own wishful thinking...I trust Sisko implicitly...I don't resent Sisko for giving me that order...I can stand everyone thinking I'm a freak...I'm happy with my life...I don't miss Garak. 

A thousand lies.  He had always been good at lying to himself. 

"A man can tell a thousand lies, 
I've learned my lesson well." 

Julian swore viciously and threw the cup of tea against the wall.  He had about reached his breaking point.  He was fed up with himself, tired of hiding.  He threw on his racquetball suit and marched out of his quarters without cleaning up the spilled tea.  He couldn't allow himself to hesitate, to reconsider what he was doing.  He couldn't run away any longer. 

"If I ran away 
I'd never have the strength to go very far 
How would you hear 
The beating of my heart? 
Will it grow cold, 
The secret that I hide, 
Will I grow old? 
How will you hear, 
When will you learn, 
How will you know?" 

The corridors were quiet, deserted at 0200 hours.  Only the engineering night shift was about.  Julian turned down the corridor that led to his destination.  Rom was repairing one of the power relays.  He saw the doctor and grinned toothily.  Julian smiled in return and continued on his way.   

All too soon, he stood outside the door to Garak's quarters.  He hesitated, then rang the door chime, and waited with held breath. 

The Cardassia had apparently experienced difficulty getting to sleep as well.  Garak answered the door promptly and reacted in slight surprise. "Doctor.  Isn't it an odd time to be playing racquetball?" 

"I...couldn't sleep." Julian exhaled, then took a deep breath, exhaled again. "May I come in?" 

Garak regarded him for a moment, then shrugged and stepped aside. "Enter." 

Julian nodded thanks and slipped into Garak's quarters.  Except for one or two candles, there was little illumination.  The computer terminal glowed eerily as always, and a glass of kanaar sat on the table.  Julian felt as awkward and gauche as he had when he first arrived on the station, but he steeled himself and sat down.  Garak chose a seat opposite him. "May I offer you something?" 

"No, nothing to drink, thanks." Julian wondered how he ever could have thought Sloan's eyes were anything like Garak's.  Large and blue and full of mystery were Garak's eyes.  He could drown in them.  "I need to talk to you." 

"I'm listening." 

"I...don't know what you've heard around the station, but I was abducted-" 

"Yes, I know.  For three days, all anyone could talk about was Section 31 and their absurd belief that you were a Dominion spy.  And I even heard a rumor that they tried to recruit you." Garak looked slightly amused. "You may have known how to keep a secret, Doctor, but I can't see you as a serious intelligence agent-our little holosuite adventures notwithstanding." 

"I'm going to have to be one," Julian said. "Sisko ordered me to accept if they ever made the offer again.  And he's certain they will." 

Garak's eyes were hooded. "Of course.  Sisko is always right.  And if he deems Section 31 a threat to the Federation, then it must be stopped." 

"That's the way I feel."  Julian ignored Garak's sarcasm and put all the sincerity he could muster into his words.  And he genuinely meant them.  His personal misgivings weren't reason enough to stand by and allow Section 31 to operate unchecked. "I'm willing to undertake this assignment.  I don't know when or where I'll meet them again, but I have to be prepared." He paused, then impulsively blurted, "I need you to teach me how to be a spy." 

"Do you." The Cardassian sat unmoving.  No emotion, no reaction. "Sorry, but I've got my hands full at the moment." 

"It would mean a lot to me," Julian pressed. 

Now a spark kindled in the ice blue eyes. "I see.  And because Julian Bashir needs something from me, I'm supposed to drop everything and accommodate him.  Not this time." 

The hard words were no more than he deserved. "Garak, I realize I haven't been as good a friend as I might have been, but-" 

The tailor cut him off and to the quick.  Now the spark became cold sapphire fire. "Don't trouble yourself about it.  Friendships aren't meant to last forever.  Just think of this as one of your numerous and meaningless affairs." 

"I haven't been involved with anyone in a year," Julian said irrelevantly, wondering idly if Garak wasn't the tiniest bit jealous. "Not even the occasional dalliance-" 

"I take it Quark's Dabo girls have all heard your medical school stories and decided they're not impressed any more." 

"Garak, I came here to apologize.  To find out what the hell went wrong with us." 

"'Us'?  There never was an us, Doctor.  We met for lunch, and that was all." 

Julian wondered how he could say what was on his mind without making a muddle of it. "There was one thing I didn't put in my official report on the encounter with Section 31." 

"Do tell.  I'm simply dying to know." 

"All right.  You were in the program.  They had you down pretty well, even the air of mystery.  You commed me to warn me about Sloan...and you came to try and break me out of the holding cell.  I refused, but you kept trying to help me.  I felt like I had stepped back in time-that the last two years had never happened.  You even hinted you weren't really that annoyed about my showing off my enhanced abilities." 

"It was an illusion, Doctor," Garak said noncommittally. 

"Yes, well, that was the only part of the illusion I wished were real.   And when the crew finally turned against me, you were there, denouncing me right along with them.  You don't know how it hurt to see you side with everyone.  I said in my report that I knew it wasn't real because the holographic Miles showed no sign of a shoulder injury.  That wasn't entirely true." Julian took a succession of deep breaths, then rushed ahead. "I knew the whole thing was an illusion because, no matter what went wrong between us, I love you, I've always loved you, and I believe you would never abandon  me when it counted." 

"Love." Garak rose and shook his head at Julian. His eyes were an inferno, and looked almost amethyst in their intensity.  "I pity you.  You think you can win me over with naïve human sentimentality and pretty speeches.  You think you can erase the last two years of neglect-" 

"It takes two to tango, Garak." Julian rose and faced the tailor.  Arguing with Garak was exhilarating, and he felt as if he'd just awakened from sleepwalking.  His own eyes were golden with fire. "And from where I stand, you pulled away from me too.  You chose Ziyal and Odo.  Why?  Was I getting too close?  I thought we had found some common ground again in the Dominion prison, but then the whole genetic-enhancement scandal ruined that too.  Or rather, your ego did.  You must have hated it, being the one who's deceived for a change, and that's why you acted the way you did." 

"You can rationalize all you want, Doctor, but you'll never come close to the truth." Garak went for the glass of kanaar and took a long gulp. 

"What is the truth?" Julian demanded. "Is it true, for example, that Tain ordered you to seduce me?  And when you couldn't, when you met up with him again, he reminded you of your failure-and you felt you had let Cardassia down.  Is that why you avoided me?  And when you encountered him in the internment camp, it was yet another reminder of your failure." 

"Did your friend Sloan tell you that?" Garak sniffed at the idea. "Pathetic." 

"That's what you said, in the simulation.  But he wouldn't quit.  He insinuated that maybe we had become lovers.  He was probably trying to keep me off balance." 

Garak smiled condescendingly. "Of course he was.  Why else would he even entertain the possibility that we could ever be intimate?" 

"Because we could have been," Julian said seriously. "You were flirting with me in the beginning, weren't you?  For three years, you teased, beguiled and made all kinds of innuendo.  You argued with me-and I happen to know from Miles' episode with that Cardassian scientist that conflict is a courting ritual on Cardassia.  And I was trying to flirt right back, because I thought you were-are-the most fanciable man I've ever laid eyes on.  And his contacts must have picked up on that undercurrent between us, even though we refused to admit it existed." 

"Really, Doctor, these boyish fantasies of yours-" 

"These evasions of  *yours* aren't going to work," Julian told him. "I want-I need-to know.  Am I right?  Did we stop talking to each other because we were both afraid of our feelings?" 

Garak started to walk toward the bedroom doorway. "I think it would be best if you left." 

"Fine.  If that's the way you want it, I won't trouble you again.  I won't darken your doorstep except to buy my suits and my holosuite costumes." His own words slowly suffocated his soul, and he made one last gamble. "If you give me some pointers about how to be a spy." 
 
 

Garak sighed in resignation and whirled around, assuming the role of lecturer. "Rule number one.  An intelligence agent has no conscience and no ego." 

"You told me that before." 

"It bears repeating.  Rule number two.  Cultivate patience.  It may be months before your prey is sufficiently vulnerable.  Those ludicrous holosuite adventures misled you on that point." 

"I understand.  Sloan must have had me under surveillance for months before he chose the right time to strike." 

"That brings us to rule number three.  Make your move when your prey least expects it." Garak was right next to Julian, their shoulders brushing.  Joy welled up within the younger man at the contact, and he imagined that Garak seemed affected as well. "Always be one step ahead, that's a corollary.  Rule number four, the ends *do* justify the means.  Torture, blackmail, assassination, sabotage, deception, feigning friendship..." 

"Seduction?" 

"Yes, in certain cases, although I've rarely used it.  It can be a two-edged sword." 

"So if you had been out to seduce me under Tain's orders, how would you have gone about it?" 

"Do you honestly expect me to tell you?" 

"I want you to show me, Elim." Julian never wavered.  It was now or never. 

Garak shook his head in amazement. "You don't know when to give up, do you, Doctor?" 

"I'm not leaving until you show me, and the name is Julian." His eyes were so wide that for a moment he looked the way he had when he first came to the station. 

Unexpectedly, Garak moved.  His arms snaked around Julian and pulled the lithe young body against him. "You truly want it like this, Julian?" 

"If it's all I can get, yes, Elim." He thought he would feel a bleakness of the soul at Garak's businesslike manner, but right now all he could think about was the muscular body, the arms that held him with surprising gentleness, the musky scent that emanated from the tailor.  It was an entirely natural smell.  Pheromones.  Julian's desire burst into full flower. "I dare you to show me what you can do." 

"Little fool." The words were a growl, and Julian realized with bemused joy that the blaze in Garak's eyes was passion.  An all-consuming hunger.  Julian groaned in anticipation and sought Garak's grey lips with his own. 

Garak's huge hand abruptly tangled in his dark hair and halted his head's forward motion. "Ah, ah, Julian.  This seduction proceeds on my terms.  Do you understand?" 

"Yes." Julian nodded, feeling the shivers in his bones. 

"And my terms are as follows.  You obey my every desire without question." 

"Yes, Elim." 

"No holding back.  No trying to impress me with whatever tricks you may have used on your Dabo girls.  You have no inkling of what passion truly is." 

"No," Julian agreed wholeheartedly. "But Elim...there haven't been that many.  Tricks, I mean, or Dabo girls.  In fact, I-" 

Garak's mouth swallowed his words, and Julian thought he would die from the erotic pressure of those cool yet warm lips on his. <Oh, God, yes, at last...> Garak's tongue probed past his lips, then slid between his teeth to explore the honeyed depths of his mouth.  Julian did some probing of his own, tasting the fiery kanaar and the natural tang he knew was Garak's own.  It was a kiss sans pareil, unlike any he'd ever experienced. 

"And the most cardinal rule of all," Garak murmured against his mouth, the warm breath doing crazy things to Julian's insides. "Absolutely no talking that isn't related to the business at hand.  On the plus side, screaming out in rapture is allowed, encouraged, actually.  That voice of yours is exquisite, but there are better uses for it than idle prattle and arrogant posturing.  The same goes for your luscious lips." 

"Yes." Julian couldn't agree more at the moment.  He sighed in bliss as Garak's mouth covered his again.  The kiss went to Julian's head like Saurian brandy and he swooned in his lover's arms.  Garak took advantage of his overwhelmed and defenseless state to scoop the slender long-limbed body-finally his to do with as he desired-into the cradle formed by his arms.  He continued kissing Julian even as he started to move with ease toward the bedroom. 

"I'm taking you to my bed," Garak whispered, with that low sensual intonation that made Julian come to life again. "Where you should have been the moment I met you." The other man made a low purr of assent and curled up against the broad chest.  He rested his head trustingly on the solid warm shoulder.  Garak's hold tightened possessively as he carried Julian through the archway into the darkened bedroom.  The ornate Cardassian architecture deepened the shadows, and the stars glittering through the viewport did little to pierce the midnight-or the sensual dark spell that wove itself around Julian and Garak. 

The Cardassian came to a halt beside the bed and slowly allowed Julian to slide down his body.  Garak groaned as he felt every delightful curve and every muscled inch of Julian's physique against his through the tight racquetball suit. "Answer me truthfully," he panted. "You weren't playing racquetball at all, were you?" 

Julian shook his head fervently while peering seductively at Garak through long black lashes. 

The Cardassian pressed his lips to the tempting bronze neck and flicked his tongue over the silky skin. "There's hope for you yet-Julian." The old teasing phrase made Julian shiver as much as the warm lips caressing his face. "You had to know the merest glimpse of you in that clingy fabric heats my blood as nothing on this station can-that's why I always make the stitches a little tighter than they need to be.  Perhaps you will make a promising spy." 
 

The look in Julian's eyes, hopeful and hungry, shot right past Garak's defenses, which in truth were already in shambles.  The Cardassian produced a small dagger with a casual motion and smiled at Julian's surprised expression.  "However, let's dispense with the wrapping and see to the tantalizing secrets underneath, shall we?"  

The dagger point penetrated the fabric and slid downward, leaving a neat, even incision in the cloth as it traveled downward.  When it reached Julian's already swollen groin, the dagger disappeared.  Garak pushed the fabric away with Julian's willing assistance.  In mere minutes, the young human stood naked in the darkness and starlight.  Garak made a deep rumble of appreciation at the sight of the golden flesh and elegant body.  He began a slow visual inspection, lingering on the not-overly muscled yet still appealing chest, the trim hips, tapered legs. "Beautiful." He gazed at the column of Julian's neck, the narrow but solid shoulders, the flat planes of the stomach, the slender but impressive manhood jutting from the apex of the golden thighs. "I knew you would be.  I don't care if that is the enhancements or nature, whoever created you knew what they were doing." 

Even the mention of his past did nothing to mar Julian's pleasure.  He reached for the fasteners of Garak's clothing (tasteful as usual even at 0200 hours.)  Garak shook his head and wrapped his arms around his beguiling doctor. "So impatient," he murmured, his breath tickling Julian's cheek. "A proper seduction takes time...and I do want to take my time with you.  The rest of the night, as a matter of fact.  You don't have to be in the Infirmary early, do you?" 

"I...oh..." Julian gasped as the talented lips nuzzled his ear, his neck, dipped into the hollow of his throat, moved on to the sensitive juncture of his neck and shoulder. "I...can arrange...a later duty shift...my nurse owes me one...oooh." 

"A simple yes or no would have sufficed." Garak bit the sensitive spot, and Julian threw his head back on a moan.  The sensation was painfully erotic-or should that be erotically painful?  The Cardassian smiled and let his strong teeth graze the soft skin again. "That was a warning, Julian.  But it seems you liked that.  So I'll have to think up something else for your next infraction."  He subtly maneuvered his willing captive toward the bed.  He would just have to compensate for its Cardassian hardness by enveloping his human in luxurious sensation.  Gently he pressed Julian down onto the bed.  Before the human could even draw a breath, Garak commanded softly, "Hands above your head.  No, my dear, I'm not going to restrain you physically.  You obey me out of a desire to please me." 

Julian lifted both his hands above his head and clasped them together.  He made a beautiful portrait of submission lying on the bed, waiting. 

"Excellent." Garak sat down beside him and splayed possessive fingers across Julian's chest.  The mere feel of Julian's skin made the tailor shudder.  Julian trembled as the long gray fingers caressed him into a dreamy, floating bliss punctuated by flares of excruciatingly beautiful sensation.  It grew worse when Garak brought his lips and tongue into play, suckling the pouty chocolate nipples, kissing his abdomen, stroking him from neck to quivering knee, with only the slightest caress of his manhood.  No longer dreamy, Julian burned like a thousand stars. 

"Oh, Elim, please, please, please, I need...don't ever stop...Oh Gods..." 

If he heard that voice plead once more, Elim Garak thought he would go insane. 

He did the only thing he could to shut Julian up.  He kissed the tempting lips and felt Julian undulate beneath him.  The heat of the young man's body seared his scales, and he was uncomfortably warm.  He needed to shed this velvet suit as his ancestors would have cast off dead skin.  He stopped kissing Julian and got a vocal protest.  He smiled sensually and pulled Julian to a sitting position. "Undress me, Julian." 

The young man gave him an answering smile that sizzled.  He employed his long-fingered hands deftly, but with a care and deliberate slowness that Garak fully appreciated.  Julian drew the velvet tunic down, revealing an expanse of solid muscle covered with shining scales.  He ran his hands over those scales, over the long row of ridges on each side of Garak's body.   The Cardassian held his breath as Julian's hands wandered up to the ridges on his neck and squeezed with just the right combination of pressure and gentleness.  Garak's eyes shut and his head fell back as his Julian caressed him with a confidence and an eagerness that took his breath away.  There was no longer any doubt that Julian was sincere in his desire...and there was also no doubt that the doctor was doing this out of affection...and love.  Garak felt deep admiration for the cunning his Julian had displayed to bring them both to this point. <'Teach me how to be a spy, Garak.'  I couldn't have devised a better gambit.>  It only made him love and want his doctor more.  He lifted his head again and opened his eyes, turning the brilliant light of his desire on Julian.  

"As much as I...oooh...as much as I've dreamed of this...you haven't finished your task." 

Julian bowed his head in mock obeisance and dropped his hands to Garak's waistband.  In seconds he had Garak's pants and briefs in pools around the tailor's ankles.  Garak stepped out of the clothing, but almost stumbled when he felt the heavenly slide of Julian's fingers along his thick, scaled, aching erection.  He didn't dare to think how that mouth would feel...it was enough to contemplate how the warm body would feel encasing him.  Soon for that.  First, his Julian was still due a seduction he'd never forget. 

No longer deliberate or gentle, Garak pushed Julian back down so that the man's hips thrust upward, the legs sprawled over the side of the bed.  Garak knelt before Julian and, as the young man started to sit up, kneaded Julian's perfect buttocks, parted the cheeks and grazed the prostate with a skillful finger.  The groan he heard made him smile, and he leaned down to kiss the spot he had touched.  Julian's hips bucked. "Ah...Gods, Elim!" 

Garak placed both his hands squarely on each hip, securing the young man and preparing him for the thrill of his life.  Julian trembled again as Garak's mouth descended, enrobing the waiting, weeping manhood in warm moistness.  Julian whimpered, a plaintive sound that became a scream as Garak feasted on his flesh, swirling his tongue as he would when savoring one of the jumja sticks sold on the Promenade.  Julian definitely tasted better, less cloying, more musky and spicy.  He didn't have the pleasure of prolonging the experience.  The young man came with a glorious cry of fulfillment.  Garak drank up most of the spume, then withdrew his mouth and let the rest trickle slowly down Julian's stomach.  Julian, for his part, thrashed his head from side to side and let his eyes shut against the celestial display that danced in his vision.  When the rapture subsided, he opened his eyes and levered himself up on his elbows.  He saw Garak casually collecting the white fluid off his abdomen and coating his fingers with it.  The Cardassian looked up and read the profoundly moved and blissful expression in Julian's eyes.  He gazed into that exquisite face, the face he adored, and said softly, "Julian, I want-I need you to take me inside you." 

Nodding, Julian lifted his legs in surrender. 

"No," Garak decided. "Lie on your side." 

Trustingly, the young man rolled onto his side and lay waiting for the intimate invasion.  It came in the form of Garak's moist fingers slipping inside him and coating his tight opening with his own semen, caressing the muscles until they relaxed, slick with male essence.  Only then did Garak take him, with a tender possession that made tears prick at Julian's eyes. <This is no mere seduction, my love.  This is no one-night stand.  This is only the beginning of the end of our loneliness.  From now on, we'll be together.>  Julian groaned as Garak carried him on a wave of pleasure that made time pause for both of them.  They rocked together gently at first, then let themselves be swept up in the hungry, primal tempo of their joined hips.  Garak pressed his mouth to Julian's shoulder, and Julian turned to cover Garak's face-so handsome to him, so beautifully alien, all silver-with kisses.  They loved for a long while, in a Tantric suspension of time, until the urgency of their breathing and their loins encouraged them to increase the pace and the ferocity of their lovemaking.  When Garak came inside the endless, hot, welcoming depths of his lover's body, Julian held him tightly as he bellowed his ecstasy.  Garak's hands had been roaming all over his lover, and their bodies were so attuned that Julian reached his own fulfillment.  His response was twice as voluble as Garak's, and he sobbed even after he had descended the heights. 

A little later, they lay together, silver and gold meshed together in beauty.  They had shifted their positions, and Julian's head nestled against Garak's shoulder.  He kissed the curves with deep affection.  Garak used gentle pressure to bring Julian's head to his for a lingering, loving kiss. 

"I love you, Elim," Julian said in a steady voice. "Oh, I forgot.  May I talk now?" 

"You already have, dear doctor."  The title was an endearment, as much as 'As you wish' had been in that old Terran novel Julian had nagged him to read, 'The Princess Bride.'  "Perhaps it's better that we came together now.  I don't think I would have been able to tell you I love you five years ago.  Of course, I didn't fall in love with you then.  It was right after you removed the implant that I realized how I felt." 

Julian smiled tenderly. "I knew right after you helped those Cardassian orphans.  God, we were both such idiots...but maybe you're right.  I wouldn't have appreciated how much this meant to me.   Now, because of everything I've gone through, I know there's no one else I want in my life.  It's not out of desperation, or fear of being alone, it's because I need you and want to spend my life keeping your loneliness away.  The Julian who would bolt when he felt too vulnerable is gone.  I know what it means to love." 

"You aren't going to start quoting one of those syrupy Shakespearean sonnets, are you?" 

Laughing, Julian hugged Garak. "I do love you, even if you hate Shakespeare." 

"And I'm keeping you, genetic enhancements and all." 

"Oh, how generous." Julian yawned. "I have to warn you, I'm still going to show off." 

"Of course.  You're going to be arrogant and superior for eternity.  I'll try to keep you grounded." 

"When you're not too busy acting like you have all the answers."  
 

"I think I was too premature lifting the no-talking ban." 

"Try to enforce it." Julian grinned lazily. "The only reason you got away with it is because I let you.  I was practicing the fine art of deception." 

"Mmmm, you will make a more than passable spy." 

The amusement faded from the golden eyes, and Julian was deeply contemplative. "At least one good thing has come of that whole ordeal.  And it's not over yet." 

"I hope not.  I think I would enjoy meeting this Sloan," Garak said meaningfully.  He was determined to confront the man, to put him in his place, to make him understand that he would pay dearly if any harm came to Julian. 

"I'll be certain to introduce you when he comes for me." 

"I certainly hope you do, because I am going to be at your side in any case." 

Touched, Julian dared to tease. "I thought you would be happy Starfleet had an organization like this.  It certainly beats the normal breed of intelligence agents, and confirms your hypothesis that we're hypocrites." 

"My priorities are different now," Garak said simply. "Your enemies are my enemies.  What affects you affects me-and I do not intend to lose you to this man." 

Julian chuckled at the phrasing. "No chance of that." He abruptly switched subjects. "Elim-did the Obsidian Order ever have any information on Section 31?" 

"We had heard of a hidden intelligence squad within Starfleet, but that was the extent of our knowledge," Garak answered honestly. "But my ignorance will be rectified in quick order.  I have a talent for information.  We will defeat this adversary.  I haven't had an intriguing challenge of this variety in more years than I care to count." 

Snuggling against Elim, Julian held him for a long, quiet moment that conveyed his feelings better than his inadequate words.  Whatever happened, he and Elim would face it together.   

"A man can tell a thousand lies..." 

And despite the lies, there was one truth that couldn't be denied.  He clasped Elim close, and felt utterly safe and cherished. 

"If I live to tell the secret I knew then, 
Will I ever have the chance again?" 

Finally, he had his answer, and he treasured it all the more because of the hard work and introspection, and the risks he had taken. 
 
 
 

For the first time since the war began, he dared to look toward the future, and it wasn't as grim as he'd projected.  He had Elim, he loved and was loved.  On that reassurance, he fell asleep in his lover's warm embrace. 
 

A week later, Kira and Dax strolled into the Replimat for lunch and noticed Bashir and Garak having lunch together as if their estrangement had never happened.  What was more, Dax spotted the two holding hands.  Julian whispered something to Garak, and the Cardassian lifted his hand to kiss his wrist.  Dax shook her head and smiled. "At last." 

Kira shook her head too, her eyes dark with amazement. "Unbelievable.  *Julian* and *Garak*?  It's actually true?" 

"Don't cause a scene, Nerys.  I know you hate Garak, but-" 

"I can...tolerate him.  He refused to go back to Cardassia, and compared to Dukat, he's a saint.  But I can't believe the two of them...And you're not the least bit surprised?" 

"I always suspected," Dax said, moving toward the replicator. "They were just too stubborn to admit their feelings.  I guess the war brought them closer together.  But no matter what happened, I couldn't be happier for them." 

"I guess I'm happy too," Kira said, sounding as if she were trying to convince herself. "It's about time Julian settled down with someone." 

"My thought exactly." Dax watched the couple with a fond smile. "After the war, the scandal about his enhancements, and oh yes, Section 31, he deserves some happiness." 

And from the laughter in Julian's face, and the old cunning in Garak's, both of them were definitely content. 

From a corner table, a Romulan soldier also watched the couple.  Casually, he finished his meal and observed them  with a fascination that everyone else apparently shared.  He slowly ate his meal, but departed the Replimat swiftly.  He headed to Quark's bar, to get the 'goods' on the doctor and the tailor, and to further the plans he'd come to this station to carry out in the first place.  When he completed his business, he returned to his guest quarters and headed directly for his computer terminal.  He transmitted his signal on a private frequency that wouldn't be detected by the Ops crew.  He steepled his fingers and patiently waited for an answer. 
 

When the transmission came through to his private office, Sloan had just finished the final touches on his current plan of entrapment.  The Federation ambassador who had been stranded on Cardassia when the war broke out had been fully unmasked as a willing guest rather than a political prisoner.  Not only that, she was in collusion with Legate Damar, as she had been with Dukat and the other Cardassian officials.  But Dukat was wandering the galaxy.  Although he would have to be taken care of at some point, he was no threat right now.  Sisko and his Bajoran officer would keep the madman in check.  As for the other Cardassian officials, they were of little consequence.  And Damar... 
 

Sloan didn't concern himself overly with Damar's plans.  The man was tumbling toward an ignominious end.  The Dominion would tire of his bluster, his brash recklessness, his licentiousness.  His days in power were numbered.   

The Federation ambassador, now, was a cause for great concern.  There was no shadow of a doubt.  She was guilty, and she would face the justice that only he and his group could mete out.  He would deal with her easily and quietly.  It was simple, straightforward.  A vast difference from his last target... 

The terminal screen flickered to life with the words 'INCOMING TRANSMISSION.'  It bore none of Starfleet's earmarks, or the Federation symbol.  It was his secret frequency, known only to his operatives and his vast network of informants. 

The man who appeared on screen was one of those informants.  A Romulan.  Tarok was his name.  He was slight, nondescript, unremarkable.   He could come and go easily on Deep Space Nine without arousing suspicions, particularly now that Sisko and the Cardassian spy-turned-tailor had brought the Romulans into the war. "I'm assuming you have something for me," Sloan said. 

The Romulan didn't waste any time on idle pleasantries. "Mixed results are what I have.  I hear nothing of the Founders' condition." 

"We can afford to be patient for now.  What else?" 

"The Ferengi arranged for the isolinear rod to be delivered to Ambassador Thorne on Cardassia.   It should be on its way via a Boslic freighter.  The Ferengi  is ignorant of its contents or its purpose.  For an extra bar of latinum, he willingly remained in the dark." 

"Well done." Sloan's voice indicated he expected no less. "Anything further?" 

"You asked me to keep an eye on the station's Federation doctor." Tarok paused. "I do not know if this is useful, but I have observed him in a courtship ritual with the Cardassian tailor.  I saw them behaving quite intimately in public.  The Ferengi bartender confirmed they are involved.  Is that information useful to you?" 

Sloan grinned. "You'll know when you check your credit account." 

The Romulan smiled in return. "I remain your servant." He cut the transmission, leaving Sloan contemplating a black screen. 

It was no small coincidence he should be thinking of Doctor Bashir when Tarok delivered the very vital piece of news.  He couldn't recall when a subject had challenged him so thoroughly.  He'd considered Bashir's case open-and-shut, and been astounded by the evidence that pointed to Bashir's innocence.  At the moment when Bashir had declared the illusion a fraud-not because of the trivial detail about O'Brien's shoulder, but because Bashir didn't want to believe his Garak had abandoned him-Sloan had decided he was going to induct this man into the group.  They didn't get their pick of Academy graduates.  Candidates with Bashir's credentials, loyalty and potential didn't come along every day.  Even at the moment when Bashir had threatened to expose him, Sloan had felt a deep respect for the man. 
 

Naturally, Bashir resisted him, but it was futile, as the Borg would say.  His youthful idealism, and his stubborn adherence to his own particular code of honor, wouldn't last long in the face of the most devastating war the galaxy had seen in years.  He would grow weary of seeing his friends risk death every day.  He would be ripe when Sloan returned for him. 

But to get to Bashir, he would have to contend with Elim Garak.  That posed a thorny problem, but he could cut through the Gordian knot.  One word to Bashir about Garak's collusion with Sisko, and that relationship would be in tatters.  As Garak knew, blackmail was the trademark of an expert intelligence agent.  No question, Elim Garak would be no problem.  In fact, his skills would be an asset while Bashir was in Sloan's employ.  The Cardassian would do anything to remain near his doctor, and to safeguard him.  He'd waited five long years to have Bashir.  He wouldn't be willing to give him up so easily.  And he could always use Garak to keep Bashir in line. A romantic like the doctor would sacrifice anything for the man he loved. 

Sloan smiled and raised an imaginary glass. "Congratulations, Julian Bashir and Elim Garak," he murmured to his empty office. "May your relationship be a long and happy one." 

END

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