Feedback for Terrie?

***<<< Early Morning, Day 1 >>>***

He remembered shedding his clothes and washing up after Garak had left and then shyly crawling in the Cardassian's bed. The sheets had been wonderfully sensual, at least against human skin, and made of what felt like some type of silk. The blankets had been made from light-weight material and had felt comfortable despite the fact
Garak's quarters had been quite a few degrees warmer than the station's norm. At that point in time, Julian hadn't cared. He had just needed a place to think. A place to gather his thoughts. A place that was isolated from the rest of the station.

He had been dazed by the turn of events, from his shameless assault upon Garak to the incredible tenderness the Cardassian had displayed.  And when Julian had pulled the  overs over his shoulder, he had every intention of remaining awake until Garak returned. He hadn't meant to fall asleep.

But when the annoying burning in his left shoulder finally became unbearable enough to jolt him awake, he opened his eyes to discover Garak sleeping next to him. His left arm was wedged between the Cardassian and the hard mattress. While Julian was completely naked, Garak wore a long-sleeved, buttoned front, indigo silk tunic and
matching, full-length bottoms.

Julian almost chuckled. Who knew Garak would be such a prude?

Carefully, he extracted his left arm, popping his shoulder to relieve the ache, and propped himself up. The two of them were tangled together on a bed obviously designed for one person. Garak lay flat on his back, his left arm at his side and right arm under and around Julian; the doctor's right leg was firmly sandwiched between Garak's.  He could feel the rise and fall of Garak's chest; he could tell by the rhythm that Garak was still asleep.

He held back the long sigh. That terrible argument with his parents, his father's usual posturing about "coming up with a new plan" and inability to take responsibility for any negative thing that happened... No wonder he had not seen his parents in three years or barely mentioned them to his friends. He didn't want to explain. It was too  complicated.

They were more like acquaintances than blood relatives. They were more like distant cousins who only met once every ten years at family reunions than a father, mother, and son. They expressed love out of society's expectations rather than true feelings. They had nothing in common, nothing at all. His father drifted from one job to the next;
his mother dutifully followed. Whenever asked about his parent's professions, Julian was careful to parrot Richard Bashir's job description instead of the truth. It was, after all, the easiest.

Perhaps it was why he tolerated Garak's myriad of explanations of his past professions as much as they angered him. While Sisko and Dax and Odo and O'Brien found such tactics infuriating, Julian had not. He had heard them all his life. But unlike Richard Bashir who insisted on delusions of grandeur, Garak did his best to de-emphasize his
importance in the grand scheme of things. It was rare for Garak to let the mask of "plain and simple" slip to reveal just how much power he had commanded at one time. Moments of desperation. Moments of pure honesty. Moments when the Cardassian had no other alternative.

No other alternative.

The words rang hollow.

Curled up next to the one person on the station who understood the situation and who supported his abdication, Julian couldn't help but feel like a hypocrite. Was giving up Starfleet really his only course of action? With what had happened to Simon Tarses, Julian knew it was the only way. He always kept a careful watch on how Starfleet dealt
with those who lied about their background on their applications.  Tarses' only crime had been that his paternal grandfather had been Romulan. Something innocent, something he had no control over. One didn't choose one's parents, after all. But Julian knew that what had happened to Tarses would happen to him if and when the doctor's secret came out; like Tarses, he would drift quickly into obscurity.

Now, of course, it was easy to trust Garak's judgement. He *had* lived through the pain of exile, hadn't he? He knew more about being shunned from one's peers than anyone else, right? He did know how to be unobtrusive even in the most difficult circumstances. He was, in many way, the ideal rogue. Mysterious. Playful. Everyone wanting to know more about him but not daring to ask.

The consummate spy.

After all Julian had put Garak through, the betrayal and the accusations and the rules, the Cardassian cared enough, *loved* enough, to forgive him for everything. Such power. No one had ever quite treated Julian in quite the same fashion. No one as intriguing and elusive as Garak had ever shown such interest in him. The feeling that someone as educated, refined, and fascinating could have such a phenomenal affection for him was almost overwhelming.

Hell, it *was* overwhelming. Why else would Julian have stripped and crawled into bed, hoping that Garak would wake him with a kiss or a nibble or something more?

Still, Julian's forcefulness last night was embarrassing, intolerable. After first confirming the whereabouts of Ziyal, the only other station resident who would ever visit the Cardassian in his private chambers, Julian had stormed off to Garak's. When the Cardassian hadn't responded after the first chime, he'd used his medical override
codes to barge in and basically throw himself at Garak. Maybe he had been hoping Garak would knock sense into him. Maybe he had been hoping Garak would rebuff him. Maybe he had hoped Garak would take him right then and there, in front of the door.

Julian hadn't expected Garak's unconditional acceptance about his past. There was no anger about being lied to all these years. He hadn't expected Garak's approval of his decision to resign from Starfleet nor the complete confidence in his ability to weigh the facts need to arrive at that particular outcome. Garak had simply accepted Julian's authority on the situation and gone from there.  Julian hadn't expected Garak's enthusiasm in planning his life as an exile.

Practicing medicine on Bajor? Sure, he'd considered it, but had thought it was too close to Federation space, that he would be recognized, that he would be remembered. Yet Garak's argument in favor of the planet made sense. In an odd way, it mirrored the Cardassian's own exile. DS9 was close to Cardassian space, Garak had experience in dealing with Bajorans, and, despite his protests, he did have an understanding the Federation mind set.

But Julian certainly hadn't expected Garak to take complete control of the situation, right down to deciding where Julian was going to practice medicine and then ordering him to bed.

Was it just for that one evening, when Garak had sensed that he had been tired of making all the decisions and that, for one night, he wanted to be in the care of someone he trusted? Or was this an indication of the type of relationship Julian had kissed his way into? But Garak had specifically said he was traditional yet adaptable, something which Julian translated as the Cardassian being willing to compromise when it came to control issues. He didn't necessarily like being ordered around; perhaps that was why he coveted his position as Chief Medical Officer so much. He had a measure of authority no matter who his patient was.

Yet that power was about to be snatched permanently from him, the end of his career a few short hours away. No wonder he had surrendered himself to Garak; it was the first time he had felt safe since the whole business with the long-term medical hologram had started. Julian let out a slow breath.

His new life. Waking up every morning in bed with Garak.

Julian suddenly smirked. He had no idea what type of morning person Garak was; the only time he had seen the Cardassian sleeping was in the Infirmary and in that  Jem'Hadar prison. He had no idea if Garak was the type to "wake up swinging." However, since Garak had joined him last night, it was logical to assume that the Cardassian was well aware he was in bed with Julian.

With the practiced expertise of many morning romps involving divesting his partner of clothing without waking said partner, Julian reached forward and carefully undid the first button. He watched for any signs of waking, but Garak didn't stir. So Julian undid the second. And then the third. And the fourth. The nightshirt had twenty buttons in all and Julian had unfastened them without waking Garak. His grin grew broader.

Now was the tricky part. Julian tugged the hem gently with his right hand, mimicking the movement made as if he had turned in his sleep, and exposed the center chest ridge. The series of scales and ridges had always fascinated Julian, but he had been too much the professional and also too embarrassed to gaze at them for extended periods of time. But now as Garak continued to sleep, he felt as if he had all the time in the world to admire them.

Julian knew just how physically fit Garak kept himself. He remembered thinking a long time ago when he had first had the chance for a thorough examination that exercise was a possible means of passing time when one had been cut off from his former life. And given the fact Garak had been a prominent member of the Obsidian Order, the need to fend off enemies by both mental and physical prowess was a must. It explained the muscled torso and abdomen, features hidden cleverly by the style of suits Garak preferred.

He tugged the material again, revealing more scales. He noted the color was paler than its usual slate gray; a closer visual inspection revealed Garak's chest scales to be drier than normal. He recalled the medical text that he and the chief had pried out of the computer banks after Garak's ordeal with the implant; there had been something about keeping the chest scales softened by the use of various oils.

Perhaps that was why Garak had shied away from Julian investigating his person last night; he hadn't properly "prepared" himself. Knowing Garak, the necessary items were lurking somewhere in his quarters. Either that, or programmed into the replicator's database. It still meant Julian had to get out of bed and possibly waking up Garak and therefore, something he decided against.

Instead, he opted to bare the part of Garak's chest closest to him so he could more thoroughly inspect the intricate patterns. Being this close, Julian felt he could fully  appreciate the complex designs. He'd had a few non-human lovers before, most recently Elaysian and Bajoran, but never one as truly alien as Garak. He was fascinated, so caught up in mentally recording the sight before him, he almost didn't notice the change in Garak's breathing pattern.

As the Cardassian woke, Julian carefully schooled his features to show none of his earlier smugness. Acting as if he didn't realize Garak was awake, he cautiously felt the Cardassian's center chest ridge with his forefinger. The touch was feather-light. When Garak didn't react, he placed his thumb on one side and forefinger on the other and trailed his fingers from the middle of Garak's chest and down the slope of his abdomen where the ridge seemed to merge with a flare of scales partially hidden by the  waistband of the pajama bottoms. Julian had no idea if it was a rousing sensation or if he was merely annoying Garak by tickling him, so he cautiously peered up and found one blue eye staring at him intently.

The raised eye ridge said everything: Enjoying yourself?

Julian grinned. "You said 'learn to savor' and that you should teach me." His hand traveled up the ridge to the protruding triangular hollow where the shoulder ridges and chest ridge met. "Well, I firmly believe in independent studies."

Garak didn't reply, only continued to watch him.

"My behavior last night...." he let his voice trail off and then modulated it to be one of his most seductive tones he'd ever cultivated, "let's just say I fully intend to make it up to you this morning." He pressed his lips against the dry chest scales.

The Cardassian rolled to his side, facing Julian, but didn't bother to brush the hands away. The set of Garak's features conveyed everything. They were the most open Julian had ever seen, even in that awful prison when Garak had dealt with the claustrophobia. Perhaps it was because it was so early in the morning. Perhaps it was because they
were close to becoming lovers.

Perhaps it was because Garak was waiting for a decision.

*The* decision.

Garak or Starfleet. One or the other.

It was the reason why they didn't consummate their relationship. The reason Garak had held back and had not allowed himself to be touched. The reason Garak had left him alone for however long last night. The reason Garak had worn pajamas to bed. The reason why he was not reacting now.

Garak or Starfleet.

If Julian had woken up this morning and decided that Miles was right after all, that he should fight Starfleet to keep his commission, all that had transpired between him and Garak were a few intense kisses and sharing a bed. Simple, irrational acts done in a fit of desperate passion and emotional volatility. Forgivable. There would be a few weeks of enduring embarrassed conversations, but they had survived that before.

No wonder Garak had fled his own quarters last night. The Cardassian had known that if they had gone any further and Julian had any doubts the next morning, his only source of "companionship," to use the word Garak had, would be alienated from him. Julian would have probably believed Garak had taken advantage of him, something deemed
almost unforgivable in his culture.

He dropped his hand from Garak's chest.

Garak or Starfleet.

He glanced around the Cardassian's quarters, noting his uniform draped neatly across the back of a chair. The Bajoran-styled suit Garak had been so adamant about retrieving last night was nowhere in sight.

Garak had known that Julian would have second thoughts the morning after. The fact Julian didn't call the Bajoran medical facility last night when the Cardassian told him only reaffirmed it. Even the explanation that it had been too late in the evening to contact the planet fell flat.

Snippets of last night's conversation suddenly burned in Julian's mind.

"Experience, my dear doctor. Nothing else."

"We have all the time in the universe for *that,* don't we?"

"Let me teach you."

They all had double meanings, like almost everything Garak said or did. Julian had been too emotionally distraught last night for him to even *think* on two levels.

Without another word, Julian slipped out of bed, shuffling into his uniform, socks and boots, unable to even look at Garak. He didn't have the courage. He didn't have the strength. And when he walked out, listening for the hydraulic hiss followed by the clunk of the door closing, he asked the computer for the time, calculated if he could
take a shower before meeting Sisko just as the captain came on duty, and then made his way to his quarters.

Garak or Starfleet.

**<<< Mid-Morning, Day 1 >>>**

For the fifth time in his life, Garak declined Julian Bashir's invitation of intimacy. He was either a love-struck fool or a masochist. Refusing the ambassador that last time had been one thing; the ambassador wasn't his Julian. Refusing the doctor last night when Julian had barged in and kissed him had been a matter of principle; if he was going to consummate his lust for Julian, it would not be a grotesque grappling in front of his door. Refusing the doctor's plea before Garak had left last night had been a matter of priorities; Garak had to set his plan into action and then wait for the results.

But last night when he had returned from his errand forty minutes later and found Julian sprawled naked in his bed... Guls! The flushed, glorious look of a human whose unscarred skin reminded him of Dravian sand and Vulcan satin stretched across the deep, luminescent hues of sapphire Givattian silk had been intoxicating to say the least. Garak had dropped into a nearby chair and stared, the sight making him hard and damp.

He had known he would have never made it through the evening unless he did something. A frigid shower and a firm hand. A change of clothes. Lowering the temperature of his quarters to station norm, too cold for him and therefore uncomfortable. If he had slept on the couch, Julian would have taken offense because it would have been seen
as a rejection. It would be another blow to the doctor's delicate ego, so Garak had rearranged the bunched up sheets and blanket and had settled down next to Julian.

Of course, Julian had immediately curled around him.

If that wasn't proof enough he was a masochist, Garak had been unable to sleep and frankly too wary to move. If Julian's hand had strayed to the Cardassian's groin, all resolve to wait until everything had been settled would have instantly evaporated.

It was all so shamelessly un-Cardassian.

He had to win Julian fair and square by *Federation* standards. No coercion. No dominance. This emotionally extenuating circumstance would have to serve as the trigger for a more physical relationship.  If it was handled properly, hitting all the necessary requirements of a "natural" culmination between two people according to Federation
philosophy, there would be nothing Sisko or O'Brien or Dax or anyone else could do except accept it.

Last night, Garak could have completely convinced Julian that resignation was the only option. He could have insisted the best way to leave quietly, to avoid last minute pleas from O'Brien, Dax or Sisko, was to deliver his resignation electronically. He could have capitalized on Julian's fears, used his influence to bend Julian's will, and pressured the young doctor to renounce Starfleet and the Federation completely. There were many things he could have done last night by an overt assertion of his power.

He hadn't.

It had meant abandoning Julian when it had been quite obvious the doctor was more than willing to cross the line of intimacy. It had meant a late-night visit to the one person on the station who had, at one time, held more influence over Julian than he had ever had. And that one person had  not been particularly happy to see him.

"What do you mean, 'he came to my quarters'?"

"Exactly what it sounds like."

Sisko had crossed his arms, silently demanding an elaboration.

"He considers me his friend," Garak had replied. "You do know about what happened in Infirmary this afternoon."

Again, no response.

"Captain, it's late at night. You're tired. I'm tired. And if you expect me to believe that no one has informed you of what transpired earlier today, then you are a far bigger fool than I had ever thought you were."

"I'm not in the mood to be insulted, Garak."

"Then don't play stupid, captain."

Sisko's nostrils had flared and there was an angry glitter in his eyes. Perhaps it had been because Garak had called his intelligence into question. Perhaps it had been because Sisko had no control over the station rumor mill. Perhaps it had been because it was Garak standing in Sisko's quarters at an obscene hour of the night, warning
him about Bashir, instead of Dax or O'Brien. Perhaps it had been because O'Brien had beaten Garak to Sisko's door and the captain didn't want to hear the same argument twice.

Then, Sisko had given a single nod, his permission for Garak to continue.

"He believes his only recourse is to resign from Starfleet. No doubt he will be waiting in your office when you come on duty in the morning."

"Why are you suddenly interested in Doctor Bashir's career?"

"As I said, he considers me his friend."

"And you don't consider what you're doing right now betraying that friendship?"

"If I have to explain *that*, captain, then it is clear I have severely misjudged your ability to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your own command staff." Blue eyes had stared into bottomless black. "He asked for my opinion. I told him what he *wanted* to hear." He had paused and then had said flatly, "I am telling *you* what *you* need to hear. Surely *that* is self-explanatory enough for you, captain."

Sisko's lips had twitched into a sneer. "I don't trust you, Garak."

Garak had met it with a sharp, vicious smile of his own. "No one does, captain, except him."

The emotions which thundered across Sisko's features were perhaps the most intense Garak had ever seen from him. There had been the distinct possibility Garak had pushed too far; it was always difficult to judge just how Sisko's mind worked. Some moments, the captain emulated the heroes of the Federation, boasting tolerance and level-headed decision making. Others, he was just as brutally calculating as Tain, feral as any Klingon, and as passionately obsessed as Dukat.

"What do you plan to do about it?" Sisko had hissed in that deadly soft tone that was distinctly the captain's, somewhere between even-toned Federation and maniacal Dukat.

"What I have already done," he had replied plainly and then dropped his gaze. "I listened to his plans about resigning and then made an excuse about retrieving suits from my shop." The final comments had been the most crucial and had been delivered with a soft tone and a genuine plea in his eyes. "He will be destroyed by this, Captain Sisko. Starfleet defines who and what he is. He has trained himself to be the best at a single profession. I'd like to think the two of us are living proof of his abilities. Without his career, he is lost and, therefore, he has lost himself."

Sisko's face had remained frozen. Then he had asked quietly, "Are you speaking as a friend?"

"No. As an exile. Surely you can appreciate the difference."

As he had turned to leave, he had heard, "I don't think I've ever seen you this passionate about something, Mister Garak."

"Then, my dear captain, you've never had the opportunity to debate me on the finer points of Kardasi literature."

The doors had whisked shut behind Garak and he had returned to his brazenly naked and extremely tempting charge.

Somehow, he had finally drifted off to sleep; he had then woken up to the cooler air prickling his chest scales and a not-so-shy hand traveling up and down his center chest ridge. Garak had willed every micron of arousal to be contained and to let his face convey the one question Julian had to answer before the Cardassian allowed himself to
feast upon his Chosen.

Amazingly, Julian had understood. No argument. No tears. No protests. Just simple acceptance.

Garak's refusal to possess what had been offered to him was so very un-Cardassian. Then again, Garak had been feeling particularly un-Cardassian ever since Tain died, so much so he had placed the outcome of this particular game on that weird, serendipity of Starfleet. Perhaps he would succeed at this one final attempt of intimacy, the last he intended to try with Julian.

There would be no more after this.

His soul couldn't take it.

Back to the Table of Contents | Part One | Part Three