Sexuality was such an odd human obsession. Even after all the years that Garak had spent living among them, he did not understand their fixation on such a normal thing. Humans loved their labels. Heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, omnisexual, asexual: those were just a few of the labels that humans had created to shove everything into a nice little box. They so loved their categories and that limited them so much. He knew in the medical files regarding Cardassian sexuality that they were labeled as ‘omnisexual’, and he scoffed at the idea of his sexuality being so simplified.
While, yes, gender did not normally play much of a role in the selection of a partner, it was so much more than that. There were Cardassians that preferred one sex over another and even others who preferred none at all. No choices were considered odd or wrong. Except in a few high ranking positions in society there was no push to marry and have children of your own. If a same sex couple desired children there were multiple avenues available to them to do so. Sexuality wasn’t just about sex, the physical pleasure one received from another, but about the connection with another.
Those same medical files that labeled Cardassians as omnisexual also named them mildly telepathic due to their abilitiy to resist mental attacks. But they were not telepaths. They could not read another person’s mind at a distance or even if touching. They could not sense the emotions in another person. There was no equivalent word in Standard for what they were. Their mental capabilities were a mixture of biology and training. Their natural aptitude was enhanced and molded from childhood. The mental resistance his race bore had more to do with the unfamiliarity of the landscape of their mind than anything else.
Cardassians were not family oriented out of desire alone, but out of necessity. They required the close contact with others, to remain healthy and sane. While not used nearly as much anymore, solitary confinement used to be a typical form of punishment or even torture. Few could last long under such conditions. They did not share a hive mind, but there was a mutual awareness of their species. In a room full of aliens a Cardassian could easily single out another.
Garak’s exile couldn’t have been a more apt punishment. To be constantly surrounded by others, but knowing that they had no trust for him, that they would never offer him the closeness that he desired, was the worst agony. It would be a slow death, a wasting death, and he held little hope for any reprieve.
Feeling the prickling awareness that gave away the presence of another Cardassian, Garak turned to find—a human? The day that Dr. Julian Bashir arrived on the station, so bright-eyed with naïve wonder, and just screaming ‘fresh meat’, but so obviously hiding something – at least obvious to a Cardassian because most other species, particularly humans, were blind to what was right in front of them – Garak had been captivated by the mystery that he presented. A Cardassian could never pass up a challenge after all, particularly if there was something to be gained. If Garak had been a betting man, he would have placed credits on the fact that there was. And as time passed, he learned he was correct.
Thus began his relationship with the Doctor. Garak wouldn’t call it a friendship at first. There was too little trust there for that, but there was a certain camaraderie, an ease of conversation and company that was present from the very beginning. Maybe it was wishful thinking on his part, but Julian seemed as drawn to him as Garek was to him.
Somehow their companionship had grown in something more, through good times and bad times that tested the strength of their bond. Garak had taken many risks with his relationship with Julian, but one he did not take, was not willing to risk the consequences of, was acting on his desire for something more with his friend because as the years passed, that is what Julian had become to him – his one if not only friend.
The final revelation of Julian’s secret hadn’t even shaken the foundation of that friendship. If anything, Garak was proud of his friend for being a good enough actor to have hidden something so large for so long that even he had not been able to get an inkling of what it was that the doctor was hiding. The exposure had not detracted from Julian in Garak’s mind and if anything, had made him more attractive, if only so he could begin to learn the true depths of his friend.
From the moment that Jules entered that hospital and received treatment, Julian had always worn a mask. He learned quickly to hide his abilities, where the line between good and too good lay, and how to stay just below good, so as to not draw too much attention to himself. It had started as a conscious effort on his part, but as time passed and he got used to playing the role, it became second nature. He no longer had to think about it, just did it as though it was natural. In the rare instances that he was able to let himself go, so ingrained were his fake limitations that it took more effort to release them than to use them.
Being station on Deep Space Nine was a dream come true in so many ways, and for the first time in a long time, he didn’t feel like the Federation was breathing down the back of his neck, just waiting for him to make one move and expose himself. From the instant he met Garak, he’d been drawn to the Cardassian, but he’d also been wary because Cardassians were very observant, and over the years, he learned that this one was particularly so.
But all the hiding was for naught when his father exposed him in front of everyone. He’d been worried for himself and his career of course, but the part that he most feared was the loss of friendship with Garak. He wasn’t sure when he had come to mean so much to Julian, but at some point those regular breakfasts had grown into something more. But he need not have worried as he was able to keep his job, and if anything Garak seemed even more interested in him.
Their imprisonment had been a trial, had strained their relationship almost to the limits, but they made it past that. Then came Julian’s own stupidity. He wasn’t blind. As much as Garak tried to hide it, he could see the attraction that his friend had for him, an attraction to more than just his mind and beyond mere friendship. Strict heterosexuality had been just another part of his mask, another thing to hide behind. Other sexual orientations were much more accepted than they were in the past, but they were generally not considered the norm, and Julian’s act was all about keeping up a normal appearance.
Over the years, he’d been attracted to a fair share of men, some of which had even propositioned him, but he’d never acted on those desires, had turned them all down. Now, he was cursing his lack of practical knowledge, not knowing what to do. Somehow knowing that he was going to have to be the one to take the first step, if a step was taken at all. And Julian also knew that once that line was crossed there would be no going back. That scared the shit out of him. He wasn’t one for taking risks, and this was a doozy of one, but he felt that he couldn’t not risk it.
Except then the Dominion attacked Cardassia Prime and free of the government that exiled him, Garak returned to his home planet to help rebuild. With the sudden departure of his friend, Julian felt adrift. He was angry that Garak left, then angry at himself for being angry because the reason was a good one. He was hurt too, but then he realized that he had no hold on the Cardassian.
When the announcement came from the Federation in answer to the Cardassian’s request for help, asking for medical personnel to volunteer their aid, Julian had been the first to sign up. It didn’t matter where he was stationed, didn’t matter if he didn’t even see Garak (okay, maybe it mattered a little) because he’d be doing what he’d always loved – helping people.
Garak winced as he looked in the mirror and realized that he truly looked old. He hadn’t been lying to Julian when he’d told the doctor that he was past middle age. He winced again at the thought of Julian, missing his friend more than he cared to admit.
He’d been back on Cardassia Prime for six months now, and they’d made progress, slow progress, but still progress, but people were still dying, there wasn’t enough medicine, not enough replicators to go around, and not enough food due to the dust still choking the sunlight from the sky, and making growing impossible.
A knock startled him out of his thoughts and he turned towards the door. It was late, and he wasn’t expecting anyone. Hesitantly opening the door, he was shocked to see the person standing on the other side. “Julian!” Garak exclaimed before he could stop himself. It took him a few moments to realize that he was blocking the doorway, and he hurriedly stepped aside. “Doctor, please do come in. This is a surprise.” As Julian entered, Garak shut and locked the door behind him.
Turning, he found Julian, standing in the center of the room, looking unsettled. “Julian, not that I am unhappy to see you, but what are you doing here?”
Drawing a deep breath, Julian walked towards him, but did not say a word. Suddenly raising his hand, Garak fought back the flinch and the desire to run away, but he could not help the full body shudder or the strangled, “Julian, what—” that escaped him as the Doctor’s hand suddenly trailed across one of his sensitive neck ridges.
And then, Julian was suddenly pressed up against him, holding him close.
Garak froze, not really understanding, hoping, but not willing to believe.
“Garak.” Julian drew in a shuddery breath. “Elim.”
Now it was Garak’s turn to draw in a breath of the sound of that name from Julian’s lips.
He wasn’t sure, who closed the distance between them, but suddenly their lips met, and it was like kissing lightning, electric and wild. No more words were needed that night as they made up for lost time.