“I assure you it's the most minor of headaches, my dear Doctor, and I have no intention of letting you try any of your medical experiments on me.”
“Well, let me give you something for it then,” Julian said, reaching into a cabinet where remedies for the relief of minor ailments were stored.
“Nothing, please. I assure you, the discomfort is completely gone. Just hunger, I would imagine. It's more than an hour past our normal dinner time. If your absorption in that research means too many more delayed meals, I'm afraid my waist line will begin to suffer and my pants will be in danger of falling down.”
The small whimsy got a few giggles among the second shift of medical workers Garak usually missed when picking up the doctor, but it also got the slight smile that promised Garak that his pants would, indeed, be coming down later, so Garak considered the humor successful. Secret, shared jokes were one of the pleasures of being in a relationship, and Garak never failed to rise to the appropriate banter. And while he did appreciate the doctor's concern, he would have to remember that casual remarks weren't so casual when made to a medical professional.
“That paper you were reading yesterday, did it turn out to have any practical application to the Erosian epidemic?” The enthusiasm with which Julian dove into his latest research provided an excellent change of subject, as hoped, and Garak leaned on an examination table giving at least half of his attention to the lecture. You never knew when Julian might ask some embarrassing question that took comprehension for granted and, besides, it never hurt to keep up on potential bio-weapons.
As the data flowed endlessly over his head, and his stomach made its demands loudly clear, Garak began noticing that Julian's attention was wandering. He'd repeated that same sentence just a minute before. Following the man's eyes, Garak was shocked to notice that he was watching a rather lovely nurse whom Garak had never seen before.
Dark, long hair was swept back into a simple structure, effective for keeping it out of the way. The style also had the advantage of showing off a long and slender neck, a piece of anatomy that Garak usually appreciated but which, now, seemed unprofessionally, and blatantly, displayed. Once, before he had become committed, she might well have also attracted Garak. With an unpleasant shock, Garak realized that the nurse Julian kept watching was watching Julian, too!
“I really hate to interrupt you, Doctor, but I'm having difficulty hearing you over the rumbling in my stomach. Could we please continue this at the Replimat?”
“I am sorry, Garak. Of course. It's just that I so rarely get to talk about my research on the station. And I never seem to get away to conferences anymore. Just let me clean up here and we'll go right away.”
Guilt at having only been half-listening died as Garak saw the disappointed look spread over the nurse's face, and he was almost abrupt in hurrying the doctor out of the room. Bad situations were best nipped off early, and Garak had a good idea of just where he would nip in order to do just that.
The motion on top suggested that Julian was getting uncomfortable and would soon roll off, so Garak adjusted his body to let Julian better settle. A sigh and the relaxation of Julian's body left a smile on Garak's face. It would be so nice to just drift off, but Garak mentally shook himself awake. Julian was more apt to being influenced at times like this, and those small irritations Garak found in Julian's wandering eye were needing to be put to rest. He admitted to himself that the irritation was probably mostly due to his increasing headaches but, as there was nothing that could be done about those, at least maybe he could do something about this.
“I've been noticing that business has been falling off just before closing time, and I came up with an idea that I thought might appeal to you.” Garak assumed the sounds Julian made meant an interest in his proposal and continued. “If I shifted my workday an hour earlier, I think I'd still get the same amount of sales, and I could meet you for an early dinner. Then we'd have enough time to do something for the evening.”
“We're doing something,” Julian murmured and gave a slight thrust to make his point more directly.
“Yes, and I assure you that I intend that we continue this particular activity, but we'd also have time to take in a concert or join one of the card games the engineering crew runs in the lower storage bay. Or maybe,” Garak suggested with rising excitement, “we could take a runabout to Bajor and try some new restaurant with real food. I don't know about you, but I do find replimat food gets monotonous.”
“I'm boring you,” Julian accused with another half-hearted thrust.
“Not at all. Your skills at boring remain exceptional and I, for one, can't imagine ever getting tired of your fine drilling efforts.” But I really think that an earlier dinner hour would do wonders for my digestion. And you must be getting in the way of the second shift doctor. Perhaps you should consider staying on your own shift.”
“I'm senior doctor, Garak. It's my job to oversee the other shifts. Clark isn't a bad doctor, but he's even less experienced than I am. He can always use a few suggestions. I was thinking of getting him involved in looking at some of my outlying data points. He's unlikely to come up with something useful, but even a small chance...”
A few stronger thrusts said that Julian was starting to awaken. Garak adjusted appropriately to allow deeper access. “Besides,” Julian said in an almost dreamy fashion as Garak could feel the hardness inside him grow to full size and the strokes slow, “there's a full medical team there that I rarely get to see.” The fullness repeatedly came all the way out, then slowly pressed in again. “It's my job to nurture talent and demonstrate good hands-on techniques.”
As the strokes increased in speed and strength, Garak had no trouble imagining just what fantasies were stoking the piston that was slamming into him now. Tempted as he was to get up and leave Julian and his doctor/nurse fantasy unfinished, Garak just pushed back against the strokes and listened to the sounds Julian made as he moved in an imaginary brunette. But once the doctor collapsed onto Garak's back, Garak flipped them over, freeing himself from physical connection. He got up from the bed, the pain in his head excruciating now, and looked down on Julian.
“Was she good just now, Doctor? I really would appreciate knowing just what she could do for you that I couldn't.”
It took a moment before Julian replied, his face showing clearly his thoughts as he followed Garak's words to the embarrassing recognition that his fantasy had not been private. “Be a woman,” he finally said.
They just stared at one another.
“Even if you used every sex technique I've ever taught you on her, she could never learn them to use on you. Think about it. Never again to experience what I've made you feel.” That's what I should have said, Garak told himself, liking this line of argument. And Julian would say...
“We have to talk.”
That wasn't it. It took a moment for the Julian of Garak's mind to become the man standing in front of him. Julian took the pants out of Garak's hands and indicated their usual back dressing room with a gesture. Cold inside, Garak led the way, smiling pleasantly and automatically at a customer as they went into the booth and he turned to close the wide red curtain. There was a moment of emotional armoring before he turned to face Julian.
“I'm glad you came. I was thinking of asking you to lunch because I really need to apologize for our argument last night. It was all my fault.” The watching eyes were unforgiving. “I can see that I should soundproof this little room,” Garak said looking around and attempting a small joke.
That broke through but not in a way that Julian found funny. “Can you close up? We can go to your quarters.” Not “my room” where Julian would be forced to stay until Garak brought their argument to some acceptable conclusion. Not “your room” where they had screwed over every piece of furniture it contained. Your impersonal, not-part-of-my-life quarters.
“Of course,” Garak replied. “Give me just a minute to clear out my customers.” While Julian waited at the door, Garak apologized to the couple still shopping and promised a twenty-five percent discount tomorrow on anything they wanted to purchase then. They left quite pleased. Composing himself and replacing the professional smile with a calm one for Julian's inspection, Garak waved the door closed and they headed for his room.
Julian wasn't talking, for which Garak was grateful. It gave him time to plan. It was going to be bad, but just how bad Garak couldn't be sure. But he'd worn that face that Julian now wore and he knew the outlines of the conversation that was coming. Knew it enough that he felt sure he could modify it - mold it - into something he could live with.
The door closed behind them and Garak pushed Julian into the adjacent wall and kissed him as he had so many times before. And Julian let him. But there was no response except a polite acceptance that Garak needed to do this. The longer the kiss went on and the longer there was no response, the more Garak realized that his options had disappeared into a single one – the most desperate that he had so hoped to avoid. Well, if it must be this, then so be it.
Pulling back, Garak ignored Julian still standing by the wall and went over to the stash of kanar he made sure was always there. Certain that Julian was in no mood to accept a brandy if offered, Garak poured a single glass and tossed it down. The headache was there in force, but Garak knew he could manage through it. He always did. He turned, a sad smile on his face.
“You have to admit, my dear Doctor, that we've been getting stale of late. You know I love you.” Trying to deny that would have made the falseness of this ruse obvious. “But even love needs some...” he paused as if searching for a word, “...variety.” He poured another drink and downed it, too. “I would like to propose that we take a short vacation from one another.”
Julian moved away from the wall, his face showing that this conversation was not going the way he had expected. Good! Unsettled was the way he wanted the man. “Originally we agreed upon a month and it's been almost a year. Far more, you'll agree, than we ever expected. But I think it's time that we take a vacation from this relationship. What I propose is that you and I consider ourselves free to enter into other pairings. Free of any guilt or later recrimination when the vacation is over.”
And there it was. The hook. The assumption that they were not breaking up. They were not going to permanently end what they had. That Garak was not going to be alone again for the rest of his life.
“Vacation?” Julian sounded as though he were trying out the word.
Garak hurried on. “I know what you're going to say. You're afraid that we'll keep sneaking off together and, in so doing, undermine whatever other relationships we're having. Well, the solution to that problem is simple - we agree that there will be no sex between us while we're on vacation and that we not share the details of our other relationships with each other.” That got Julian's attention. “Anyone we want to have sex with, we do.” Garak continued. “Anyone but each other. When we both decide that we've had enough playing around, vacation's over and we're back together.” He held his breath as Julian ran the idea round in his head. When he could wait no longer Garak asked, “Well?” as evenly as he could.
A smile spread over Julian's face. “Perfect. I agree. As of now, we're on vacation.” A quick hard kiss, and Julian headed for the door.
Garak called after him as the door was opening, “If you're thinking about the nurse at work, may I suggest that hunting too close to home isn't such a good idea.” Julian just grinned, waved, and was out the door.
For a moment Garak just sat still and made sure he was still breathing. Then he slowly went over and poured the glass full to the top and drank it down in a couple of swallows. It wsn't what he wanted, but at least there was no permanent break. He had a chance.
Indicating the giggling brunette, Julian explained, “Tatty and I are going to be trying out one of Quark's new holosuite programs and I told her that you could make costumes for us.”
Garak's smile was glued in place. “Of course. If you can tell me something about the program, I can make suggestions that I'm sure will please you.”
“Earth. Ancient Rome. Or was it Egypt?” Tatty asked, looking to Julian.
“I'm familiar with the dress of both of those periods. Roman togas, perhaps?”
“Actually,” Julian explained, “we're doing Mark Antony and Cleopatra, so Tatty needs something Egyptian and slinky.” They hugged a little tighter.
“Ah, then a beaded collar, transparent skirt...” Any closer and they were going to start doing it right there in the shop. “...and perhaps an asp.” Seeing both shocked stares, Garak quickly added, “Stuffed, of course.” Bright smiles and whispers, then Tatty, whatever that was short for, wandered off to examine the dress samples around the shop.
Julian leaned on the desk and watched her for a while, then turned back to Garak, who was starting to sketch a few possibilities and said in a low voice, “Four times before breakfast and three over lunch. I haven't gotten it up that much since my Academy days.”
“How good for you. But we did agree, no details.”
“But who else can I tell?” Julian asked in frustration, glancing over as Tatty indicated that she was taking a model into a dressing room.
Garak waved her in, answering Julian in a voice just as low. “I would hope no one.” To change the subject, Garak asked in a light and pleasant voice, “So you're still enjoying your vacation?”
“Very much so. But I haven't noticed much activity on your part.”
“That, my dear Doctor, is because I am far more discreet than you are. You will know what I am doing, and who I am doing it with, when I decide to let you know, and not before.”
To take the sting out of his words, Garak began to run his hand over Julian's. With a glance at the dressing room curtain, he switched to the Vulcan caress that he knew drove the man crazy. And it was working. Turning the hand over, Garak began an assault on the wrist that was making it shake. Julian's eyes were glazing over and a flush beginning on his face. Abruptly Garak stopped and stepped away.
“I do apologize. We did agree to no sex during our vacation. It's just that I've been thinking lately of this particularly effective oral game that I'm determined to save just for you for when we get back together.” He held his hands up. “But I can wait.”
Julian, it was clear, wasn't sure that he could, and his curiosity quotient had just pegged to the top of its meter. “Maybe just a little fudging of the rules? I could sneak out to your room tonight after Tatty's asleep.”
Perhaps the asp could at least be made from some material to which humans were commonly allergic. “No. It's good of you to try to make me feel better. But maybe we could restart our weekly lunches.”
A distracted nod was Julian's only response as Tatty appeared in one of Garak's favorite creations. The girl did show to advantage. Reluctantly Garak decided that pride of profession meant that he couldn't even make her costume an unbecoming half size too small. It seemed that he was absorbing Earth ethics after all. How unfortunate.
Perhaps what was called for was a little more directness. Spearing a piece of vegetable off Julian's plate to remind him of their intimacy, Garak asked, “Have you given any thought to a visit to the Andorian restaurant on Bajor I was telling you about, once our vacation is over? I was looking up a menu and there's quite a few dishes I'd like to try. Maybe a long weekend, and a couple of visits to the restaurant if the first meal lives up to the reviews?”
Julian turned back to look at Garak from whatever had caught his attention across the room. “You're bored already with your new friends?”
“There's a sameness to lovers, I find. A body is a body, and the mind is never what I hope it will be. Certainly not up to your quickness and breadth of interests, even though I haven't yet talked you out of some of your more outrageous positions. But I have faith that I will.” Julian's smile, while brief, was genuine. Garak knew that the something that was between them was based in a mutual respect.
“I had been thinking about our getting back together,” Julian admitted, but his eyes were already wandering to a lovely blonde woman in a wheelchair across the room. The past tense was too obviously emphasized.
Garak's eyes followed Julian's and Garak's heart sank again. “A patient of yours?” he asked.
“What? Oh, yes. Melora's from a low-gravity planet and I've been looking into seeing what could be done to help her adapt to the more common high-gravity worlds she's most likely to be stationed on by Starfleet.” His voice drifted off and that look that Garak hated began appearing on the doctor's face. It looked like Andorian cusine was relegated to the uncertain future.
Sighing, Garak returned to his own lunch. “If I may make yet another suggestion that I'm sure you'll ignore, though you are complaining about the strained atmosphere in the infirmary. Never a patient, Doctor.” An idiotic grin was Julian's only reply.
Garak thought he was reaching the limit of his tolerance for listening to sloppy love stories that he thought had existed almost entirely in Julian's head. Even today, he doubted the good doctor could tell the difference between offering an appropriate bedside manner and offering his bed. He'd believe that Julian loved that woman – thankfully long gone from the station - when Quark started to give away free drinks.
And why did Julian think that Garak would even want to listen to his tales of love lost? It was one thing to be young and have to listen to a friend crying in his kanar. It was quite another to listen to the man you loved tell you about the woman he had once loved.
Well, that was for another day's headache. Today's was bad enough. What he'd seen leaving Quark's put everything he was going through into perspective. Natima and those two traitors she called students. Yes, he'd heard about them. He wasn't that isolated here on this godforsaken station. He still had friends - or at least people who owed him - who kept him up on what was going on at home.
Home. The thought made his chest ache as badly as his head did. The woman's ideas were crazy. To be safe in this universe you needed to have the military in charge. That was such a simple truth that Garak couldn't comprehend how anyone couldn't understand it. But, clearly, Natima didn't. What she wanted to do would shake the foundations of their joint world. And whether Cardassia thought it needed his help anymore or not, Garak knew it did.
The first thing he had to do was get through to someone who could let Central Command know they were here. For a moment the temptation was overwhelming to call his father directly and tell him. But, no. Tain might not even take his call and, even if he did, Garak wasn't sure he could play the role of self-controlled spy-in-exile that he used to keep up his self-respect. But Tain would hear about this. And maybe there would be just the slightest glimmer of pride that his son was still working for Cardassia.
Garak lengthened his stride. The shop would open late, but that couldn't be helped. For now he had to find someone to call that he trusted – someone who would pass the word along. The traitors had been found.
“Are we? No, I hadn't heard.”
“What were you doing in Ops? And where are you going?”
“Just passing on a message from a friend. And I'm going back to my room to get a hemming tool that I forgot. So stupid of me. I've got customers waiting and I really can't stop to talk. Perhaps we could get together for lunch tomorrow again?” The speed-walking ploy failed as Julian could have jogged circles around Garak and was quite comfortable keeping up with him. It was Garak who was losing his breath. He slowed to a more sensible pace.
“Who was the friend?”
“More like the friend of a friend. Just someone who wanted to get a message to Commander Sisko in a roundabout way. And what could be more indirect than me. Message given. Errand over. Quite simple.”
Julian's steps slowed and he let Garak continue on. Before Garak disappeared around the corner, Julian called out. “I'll find out about that ship and I'll let you know.”
A wave and Garak turned the corner. His mind immediately went to what he was going to say to Central Command. No one wanted a fight with the Federation. The commander was quite correct about that. But it might be that Central Command would need some small piece of sabotage performed to make sure the traitors stayed where they were until someone higher up could decide how this should be handled. Perhaps he could suggest a prisoner exchange. Surely there was someone the Federation wanted that the Cardassians could supply. Even if they needed to kidnap someone to get their bargaining chip. Now who from the Federation had he heard was going to be in a vulnerable location?
Never let sentiment get in the way of your work. He could hear his father's voice so clearly. Well, his father certainly lived by that creed or he, Garak, wouldn't be stuck here right now. How would his father take to Garak returning? Would he be forgiven? Would he be allowed to take his place at his father's shoulder again?
Home. It hurt so much. And what was keeping him on this benighted station? A little shop. A few friends. A used-to-be lover. Nothing he couldn't leave behind.
Everyone suspected he was a spy. Once he finished this job they'd know. Naive Julian. What would he think of his glamorous spy/lover now? Would he understand why Garak would do this? No. His dear doctor was not nearly hard enough to look at facts coldly and do what had to be done. Oh, but he was going to miss that man.
A deep breath. No time to think about anything but the job. Garak turned to leave, feeling for the blaster that he never removed from its hidden holster, then paused, went to a cabinet and took out another one that he stuffed into the back of his pants. It never hurt to take a little extra precaution. Then he was out the door and gone.
“I do,” Garak admitted. “I appreciate loyalty and you showed a great deal of it to your lady-friend. Quite admirable. Besides, your fashion sense is inimitable. I do hope I can gain some small part of your future patronage.”
“For what you just did, I'll give you all my trade, as well as that of my family.”
“A suit or two would suffice. Designing for you would be an enjoyable challenge.”
“Garak!” Julian appeared at almost a run and grabbed Garak's shoulders and shook him. “I heard you were involved with that Cardassian ship out there. What's going on and are you alright?”
With a slight smile to Quark, Garak put an arm around Julian and walked a few feet away, reassuring Julian in a low voice. “Perfectly fine. Never felt better. A small incident that's now over. Our Cardassian visitors should be safely away by now and the drama is over.”
“Details, Garak! I want all the details.”
“Why don't I come to your room tonight and we can make a party of it.” The way Garak was feeling right now, he could make love to the world.
“I can't tonight. Pekky's coming over. But I can get her out early and we could have breakfast together. How about that?”
Pekky? Like air leaking out from a poorly tied balloon, some of the joy went out of Garak's heart. “Breakfast would be fine. I'll look forward to it.” With a wave, Julian was gone.
For a moment Garak looked at the empty corridor then, sighing, returned to Quark. The trip to the Promenade was made in hurried silence, which gave Garak more than enough time to ream himself for his insane idea of a vacation. But logic reminded him how much worse things would have been if he'd let Julian just leave that night, as Garak had no doubt he'd been about to do. He could manage this. Just how many more women could the good doctor find that needed his personal medical attention? Too many was the answer.
“What do you say to a bottle of kanar in my room? I've got a special vintage that I've been saving for some occasion and I think this definitely qualifies. Obviously we have a lot in common.”
Quark shook his head. “The eyes. You look like I feel.”
Garak nodded. “Yes, I think I would appreciate the company tonight. Lead the way, my good innkeeper. We will drink to love.” That they would also drink to oblivion was left unsaid.
A little drunk he might be, but not so much that he didn't recognize the good constable's hand, even in female form. “Trying out a new shape, Constable? I'm onto that trick now, I warn you. There's not a thing you're going to get out of me.”
Taking the stool next to Garak's, Odo slid onto it with as feminine a grace as Garak had seen. A slight gesture of hand and the young Ferengi bartender poured a short drink from a bottle under the bar, and laid it in front of her. “No tricks, Garak. Quark thought that you might like a little company of your own.” Odo indicated the distant couple over his shoulder.
Garak avoided looking in the direction of Julian and his new friend. “So now I'm an object of pity, is that it? Well, you can save your trouble. I'm just fine.” This time he did glance over at Julian. “He's just got an itch that it will take him a little time to scratch.” The unavoidable sigh made its own statement about how okay Garak was with the situation.
“You'd think by now he's scratched off several layers of skin.”
Odo's natural sarcasm made even the painful funny and Garak found himself laughing loudly. Over at the far table, he saw Julian's eyes lift and meet his, opening a little in surprise. How interesting. Garak turned back to the woman at his side.
“I take it you're offering yourself as a diversion?”
The woman looked at him in surprise. “I suppose I am.”
“I accept. Let's get out of here.” In full view of a staring Julian, Garak slid his arm around the constable's waist and guided them both off the stools and out of the bar. As he turned them toward the lift to his quarters, he could just make out Julian leaning forward on the table attempting to get a better look. Garak's smile was the first unforced one he'd had in weeks.
“Don't let me stop you,” Garak said, waving a hand in invitation.
He must have appeared to be reading Odo's mind as a guilty look spread subtly over the bland, over-smooth features. “Stop me from what?” Odo asked.
“Looking around. It seems to be an irresistible urge that comes over people who visit here.”
“I didn't know you had any visitors other than the doctor,” Odo said as he rose from his chair, turning to observe the room.
“I don't,” Garak admitted with the sigh that was getting to be a bad habit.
“You must not keep anything here. Perhaps you rent a storage locker?”
To Odo's inquiring glance, Garak just shrugged. As Garak leaned back, smiling, Odo took advantage of the unexpected permission and paced the room. His inspection wasn't as thorough as Julian's had been, but Garak could have sworn that Odo would have known exactly where to look if he ever felt a need in the future to perform a real search of the premises. Surprising Garak, Odo sat back down.
“I've been feeling a little bored myself, of late. It occurred to Quark and me that your disinterest would look more real if you had someone on your arm. Like he does.” It wasn't necessary to explain who “he” was.
“Looking pathetic, was I?”
It was Odo's turn to shrug.
“Why?” Garak asked.
Odo got up. “Maybe because it's pleasant to have someone to keep secrets with. Who knows?” When Garak didn't answer right away, Odo asked, “Tomorrow night?” and flowed into a Bajoran woman of great beauty and a remarkable resemblance to a certain major.
Taking Garak's burst of laughter as acquiescence, Odo shashayed out of the room, hand to hip, leaving Garak in collapsed laughter. Garak pulled himself together and got up to put his glass in the disposal, laughter still bubbling out. It looked like he had a date.
Chairs close together, they had laughed and flirted and provided everyone with adequate entertainment, though the conversation at the table would have surprised anyone near enough to overhear. As a special thank you to the constable, Garak wracked his brain to remember details from years on the station when life was fuller and, certainly, a lot more violent. Connections he hadn't bothered making then, he tried to make now and his beautiful companion leaned close to him to hear whispered memories and possible solutions to long wondered about mysteries.
When one particular murder, about which Garak knew too much to be willing to continue the discussion, became the subject of too many questions, Garak stopped the questions with a well-timed kiss. Well-timed because Julian had chosen that very moment to enter with his own lovely date. Between enjoying Odo's startled reaction and the momentary freeze of movement from the bar's doorway, Garak couldn't have asked for more. Well, he could have, but he was happy to take what he could get.
In gratitude to the one whose lips were pressed unwillingly to his, Garak proceeded to give the good constable a five minute lesson in the fine art of kissing. And while Odo did prove to be a quick learner of mechanics, Garak suspected that he was actually having no effect whatsoever on him. One explanation could be that Garak's skills were slipping, but he was sure Julian would have been willing to give a signed testimonial that he was still at the peak of his seductive power. The more likely explanation was that Odo was resistant for some reason. How lovely. A challenge. How Garak loved these small games that stirred the mind and kept boredom at bay.
Again Garak pulled Odo toward him, but now let the kissing continue under Odo's control. If it wasn't for the lack of body response beneath Garak's hands and the slight smile on Odo's lips as he pulled back for a moment to glance over to the fascinated doctor and then reapply himself to his assigned task with a passion, Garak might, himself, have believed that passion real.
“Since you seem to have a rather immediate need, might I suggest that I have a few small holosuite rooms that are available for an hourly rental?”
At the sound of the completely unexpected voice, Garak and Odo pulled apart to find Quark smiling beside their table. In his normal voice, Odo asked, “This wouldn't be a room that violated station rules, I presume. The ones on prostitution perhaps?”
“A joke, Odo!”
“Keep your voices down,” Garak said in a low and hard voice. A glance to the bar showed Julian standing up to guide a young woman to the seat beside him.
Quark looked over his shoulder to follow Garak's gaze, then turned back to give Odo an up and down look. He'd obviously never seen this particular shape before. The visual sweep resulted in a significant reduction in Odo's unnatural endowments. “Oh, please don't,” Quark protested. “On the other hand, keep doing that and you'll fall right out of that dress.” Odo's breasts returned to their previous cup size, the covering secure.
“If you're ready?” Garak asked, ignoring Quark.
With a deep sigh, Odo nodded, leaned forward and they continued their very public demonstration of affection.
“Doctor! How wonderful. I was just hoping I'd see you. Have you heard that there's going to be a new play performed next week? They've reserved one of Quark's holosuites for the performance, which is going to be set on ancient Vulcan under a double moon. It should be spectacular and I so hoped that you might be free to join me.”
Grabbing Garak by the elbow, Julian hurried him into their dressing room, grabbing a piece of clothing on the way and nodding to an interested matron. He pulled the curtain across the opening and pushed Garak up against the opposite wall. “Where were you?” Julian repeated in a low voice.
A short hard kiss was Garak's only answer and then he pulled away before Julian could take it any further. Removing the dress from the seat where the man had thrown it, Garak shook it out and looked it, and Julian, up and down. “Definitely not your color and I doubt it would suit you.” Another fast kiss. “So what about the play?”
Julian shook his head. “Mali and I are spending next week on Risa.” Refusing to be distracted, Julian retrieved the dress from Garak and threw it back down, returning to the subject of his visit. “I had something I wanted to talk to you about last night. Were you spending the night with your new “friend?”
“An inappropriate question, my dear Doctor. And one which I have never, and will never, ask you.”
Julian stared for a moment, then nodded. “You're right. I was out of line.” Taking Garak by the hips, he pulled him close and ground them together, whispering in his ear, “But sometimes I just want so much to...” The rest of what he might have said was interrupted by a voice calling, “Mr. Garak? I'm ready to complete my purchases.”
“So sorry, Doctor. Perhaps another time.” And with that Garak slipped out.
The lips under his moved slightly, “Are you finished yet? This is a very awkward position.”
Trying not to smile too obviously, Garak adjusted their relative positions and resumed the kiss while rubbing an ear tip and murmuring, “Please remember, my dear Constable, that this impersonation was your idea.” A sideways glance showed that Julian had settled on a bar stool and was watching them with fixed fascination. Garak bent to his task with enthusiasm.
“Is the tongue really necessary?” Odo asked after a few minutes.
Since Julian was still watching, Garak paused only long enough to assure Odo that it was. The inside of Odo's mouth was unusually featureless, Garak realized, and he began to explore the space. All seemed almost right, except that perhaps the constable's tongue lacked the texture Garak might have expected. It occurred to Garak that if Odo didn't eat, perhaps he also couldn't taste. Suddenly curious, Garak pulled slightly back. “Can you feel pleasure?” he asked the lovely woman in his arms, admiring Odo's fine aesthetic sense when it came to the female form – this one wearing a military uniform that didn't hide her finer features.
“If you mean are you any good at this, I really couldn't tell you.” There was a beat and then Odo added, “Are we done yet?”
A quick glance to the bar and Garak helped Odo to her feet. He'd noticed that she was still having a bit of a balance problem with the heels she was wearing. Odo's eyes followed Garak's down to his feet, and the heels flowed into flats. Their eyes were now more on a level. “Better?” asked the woman.
“Much,” agreed Garak and, arm around Odo's waist, he hurried him/her out of the rear door before Julian could decide to join them. They stopped in the next store entrance and Odo, now a hulking crewman with bulging muscles, moved in front of Garak blocking Garak from Julian's view as the doctor came hurrying out after them. Looking left and right, Julian strode off in the direction of Garak's quarters.
“I suppose you're going to want to stay with me again tonight,” Odo said in the long-suffering tone Garak knew well enough now to ignore.
“Just as long as I get the inflatable bed and you get the bucket,” Garak agreed as they slipped out of the doorway and headed in the other direction.
It took a moment for Odo's voice to penetrate Garak's sleep-deprived brain. A mumble must have reassured Odo because he was off again on a description of a murder that had taken place during the Cardassian occupation. While the monotone droned on, Garak allowed himself to drift again to the rhythms of the words that were fading back into silence. If you thought of the voice as a musical instrument playing to some alien tempo, it was really quite soothing was Garak's last conscious thought.
“So you did know about Karpac's sabotage!” The rising triumph in Odo's voice, not the least bit soothing now, broke through dreams of wholesale carnage that made waking, on the whole, the better option.
“Did you say something, Constable?” Garak asked, stretching and rolling over onto his side to face the changeling who crouched by the side of the mattress.
Standing up suddenly, Odo made a quick turn around the room and returned to stand over Garak, saying accusingly, “You fell asleep again.”
“Guilty.” At the look on Odo's face, Garak added quickly, “But sleeping is all that I'm confessing to.” He brightened. “Isn't it time that you got in your bucket? I can just turn my back and give you some privacy.” Suiting action to words, Garak rolled over, ignoring the over-loud sigh coming from somewhere behind and above him.
It must have been only a minute or so before Odo woke him again with yet another complaint. “Do you have to sleep naked?”
Giving up on the chance of getting any more rest, Garak rolled over and allowed himself to stretch and display himself in all his naked glory. “Remind me to drop off a nightshirt for our next sleepover.” He indicated his clothes, neatly folded on a table. “I can't sleep in those, so unless you have something to offer me then, yes, I do have to sleep naked. And thank you for the temperature of the room. It's very comfortable.”
The grumbled reply Garak chose to interpret as “You're welcome.” Garak thought he caught the merest hint of a smile. But then Odo was back to wandering restlessly through the small space, much as he had been doing when Garak had last been awake. Catching Odo's eye, Garak suggested, “Feel free.”
“If you mean retreat into my bucket, I'll remind you that these are my quarters, not yours. Perhaps you should go back to your room. It's early, but I'm sure that the doctor is fast asleep by now.”
“I meant feel free to change. I assume you've been pacing because you're frustrated by staying in one shape so long, though why my presence would inhibit you I have no idea.” Garak looked around the limited space. “I suppose I am intruding on your privacy.”
Odo's nod was more emphatic, but a sudden thought made Garak interrupt whatever it was that Odo would have replied. “I have an idea that might let me repay you in a better way than even by brain dumping for you.” He patted the mattress and moved over to leave room. Odo's eyes opened wide and he instinctively stepped back a pace.
Garak leaned up on his elbow. “Relax, Constable, I'm not suggesting anything that bizarre. It just occurred to me that when we were discussing earlier the fact that you could physically feel, but only in a muted way, that you have the perfect way to test just how much you can feel.”
“That way being you, I presume?” Odo asked with sarcasm dialed up to maximum and a foot raised as if to move one more step away.
“Me. I really don't like to brag, but I am very, very good at touching and if anyone is going to help you find out just how much you're capable of feeling, it's me. Think about it. An opportunity that may never come again.” The instincts of the professional seducer were there unconsciously in Garak's voice - logic for a rational soul, understanding for a troubled one. “We've shared secrets. This will be just one more.” Again, he patted the mattress. “Let me help you. A fair exchange for your help.”
Stay or flee? Or just jump into his bucket? It was all in Odo's face. Garak said nothing more but let Odo work it through for himself. He willed his body to relax and wait.
What he offered was a gesture he didn't often make – a kindness to use his experience to help someone else. But he did owe much to Odo for being his haven when one had been so badly needed. And he probably was the only one who could help Odo find out just how intimate he could ever be with someone. Never as close as what he, Garak, had experienced with Julian, but more than Odo, in his loneliness, had probably ever felt with another person.
Slowly, decision made, Odo lay awkwardly down on the mattress, leaving a carefully measured gap between them, and mirrored Garak's posture, raised on an elbow, each watching the other's face. Letting Odo see his hand move slowly so that he could stop anything that made Odo uncomfortable, Garak reached out and ran his fingertips down Odo's neck, a place of special response for Garak, himself. Not a flicker of reaction. “Can you feel that?”
“Of course,” Odo replied, his obvious annoyance interpreted by Garak as simple discomfort with the situation and, therefore, ignored.
Garak pressed harder. “What does it make you feel?”
“Idiotic.” And that made them both laugh, the tenseness of the atmosphere easing. The laughter left a smile on both their faces as Odo seemed to accept that whatever was going to happen was not as dangerous as he had first thought it might be. He tried a fuller explanation this time. “The pressure of your fingers is obvious. But what you're doing produces no feeling, whether pleasure or anything else. Just pressure.”
Garak rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling while Odo stayed quiet and let him think. After a while Garak rolled back. “Your face is unfinished. Maybe your nerve endings are as well. A body is very complex. How do you know that you're properly creating a body? Where do you get your notion of what to...” Garak reached awkwardly for a word. “...be?”
“I suppose I just follow instincts.” Garak could see the excitement growing on Odo's face. “You mean that I need to look deeper at what I'm copying. Not just copy superficial characteristics.”
For the first time, Odo really looked at Garak's naked body. Before Garak could say another word, Odo flowed onto Garak, completely covering him. For just a moment Garak felt blind panic and then, before he had time to even react and control, the blindness was gone and Garak found himself staring into the eyes of – himself!
There was a beat of total silence in the room. Then Garak's pleasant mask smiled on a second naked Cardassian, and Garak fell onto his back laughing. It was another moment before they could both sit up and look at one another thoroughly. “Well?” Odo asked, hands outspread.
“Not what I expected, but interesting.” Garak's attempt to mimic Odo's observational style was not nearly as successful as Odo's imitation of him had been. Unable to resist the temptation, Garak looked at himself carefully, fascinated at a three-dimensional view he'd never had. A raised eye ridge and a stare at Odo's organ and the observed appendage agreeably enlarged before they shared a grin and Garak completed his visual tour.
At a gesture from Garak, Odo lay back down, Odo observing as he did, “This isn't as embarrassing as I thought it would be.”
“Since you're fully dressed in me, I shouldn't think it would be.” Strange as the situation was, Garak was finding it absolutely fascinating. He traced the air above Odo's body. Every ridge and skin shingle in perfect placement. And rather handsome if Garak had to admit it. Gracefully proportioned – muscular without being muscle-bound; aesthetic, with the natural beauty of the Cardassian figure.
Tentatively he reached out a finger and touched the small shapes beneath the neck ridge, a place where Garak knew he was particularly sensitive. Odo almost spasmed, his eyes opening wide. “That,” Garak said with a trace of pride at having been proved right, “is what makes good sex possible.”
Odo gasped and his muscles strained against Garak's hand. “Don't fight it,” Garak warned. “Adjust your body to accept the feelings and then let them take over your being.” A skeptical look was quickly erased as Garak moved to an even more sensitive area.
Patience was one of Garak's most useful traits and he reveled in giving sensations to himself through this strange intermediary. It was almost as if he could feel what he was causing Odo to feel. With a thoroughness that Odo would have appreciated if he had been in any sort of condition to appreciate anything except these new sensations, Garak stroked each source of well-remembered pleasures.
Where to go next, Garak wondered. Obviously not to intercourse, the line that he had set for himself in his private addition to the vacation rules he'd set for Julian. The doctor might be getting off on playing doctor, but Garak had made a private commitment to the man that he firmly intended to keep. But, short of that line, Garak couldn't help but be tempted to see what he would look like in the throes of passion. The way Julian saw him. Without conscious decision, he moved his hand to Odo's organ and let the warmth and pressure bring it to full hardness, while reassuring Odo with a slight smile that he did have veto power over anything Garak might do. Odo closed his eyes and sighed. Permission enough.
Never giving Odo release, never letting Odo's body relax, Garak played his own body's clone for over an hour with the experience of years of staving off the loneliness of empty nights and an empty soul until, at last, a wetness covered his hand and a sigh pronounced his lesson successful. A light kiss and a caress of tongues set an affectionate end to the physical experience and he lay back beside Odo and smiled at the ceiling. If there was one thing he was expert at, it was taking good care of himself.
“So that is sex.” Odo's voice held a wonder that made Garak's smile wider.
“Partly. For the rest, I'll find some books for you to read.” Garak could feel Odo's nod. With mischief he added, “Of course, there's always Quark's holosuite programs.”
“The books will be adequate, thank you.”
They lay companionably together, naked Cardassian twins. After a while, Garak reached out and took Odo's hand, entwining their fingers. His voice was quiet with memories. “Sex with another person is very different. There's an intense satisfaction that comes with learning how to give pleasure to someone else. Even if you're just sharing bodies, there's still more than a little pride at being able to play sensations like a body harp. And there's a secret thrill at having so much control.” The hand in his squeezed to acknowledge understanding.
“And when you share souls...” Garak stopped, hardly able to find words as he thought about his joining with Julian. “Well, that's what you aim at. For a while it's as though your skin melts away and you're no longer locked alone in your body. You're not alone.” There was silence for minutes as they each contemplated such a union.
“An ancient Earth philosopher, Plato, wrote a treatise called “The Symposium,” where he hypothesized that man had originally been a four footed creature who displeased the gods. In punishment man was cleaved into two parts and each part healed. Love, according to Plato, was the search of each part for their other half. And when they finally found one another, they would fly together and cling, trying to force themselves back into one through the barrier of skin.”
“A philosopher, as well as a tailor,” came out of the quiet.
Garak laughed softly.
“I'd like to know that feeling. Sometimes...” The longing in Odo's voice was almost painful to hear. “Would you want to...” The words still weren't comfortable.
Garak shook his head. “No. I have my other half. I just have to wait until he finds me again.” He turned over to face Odo. “You need to find someone to learn about sex with. Is there someone you think about?” Seeing a look pass over Odo's face, that was Garak's own, made him not want to follow that thought further. It felt as though he were exposing himself. “Well, most people are experienced when they get to be our age, so you should get some experience yourself before you try for the real thing. Find someone older. Someone kind and patient.” A twinkle lit Garak's eyes. “If you're feeling awkward about it, I'd be glad to look around for someone for you. Remember that my clientele is very female. I assume that's where your interest lies.”
An embarrassed, “The books you suggested will be sufficient. Now, if you'll excuse me, I really do need to retire.”
As a golden waterfall arced across the room, Garak couldn't resist. “Sweet dreams.” He must have imagined it, but he could have sworn that the arc formed a middle finger as it disappeared into the bucket. Laughing, Garak turned over and was soon asleep, himself.
“I didn't expect you.”
“Obviously,” Julian said, reluctantly turning his attention to Garak as Odo disappeared. “I assume you're no longer busy.”
“No,” agreed Garak. “I was just going to make myself a drink. Will you have a brandy?” At Julian's nod, Garak poured two glasses, gave Julian his, and waved him to his usual chair.
As Julian glanced around the room that Garak kept meticulously neat, Garak followed his eyes to the pillow that had fallen to the floor. With an apologetic smile, Garak got up, replaced the triangle and sat back down.
“Isn't that a little narrow for very athletic activities?” Julian asked, indicating the bed.
“That's why we used to spend more time in your room,” Garak admitted.
“You still need a sofa.” The age-old complaint.
“It would clutter up the room.” The eternal answer.
For a while they just sipped in silence, Garak patiently waiting to see what effect this parade of lady-friends, to quote Quark, was having on Julian.
“I miss this.”
“The drink? I'll get you a bottle.”
“The quiet times.” A joke wouldn't have been the right answer, so Garak let the quiet continue.
“I miss the affection. Knowing that someone actually loves me.”
“Nothing to miss. Someone does.”
That seemed to satisfy Julian, and he sipped slowly at the drink as if wanting to make it last.
“Who was she?”
“Just a friend of Quark's. He thought I'd find her amusing and he was right. She's in some disrepute on her home world as she insists on wearing clothes.” Garak smiled his knowing smile. “Usually.” He got up to refill his drink. At his offering gesture, Julian shook his head. “She and I have quite a lot in common. We'd both like to be able to go home.” For Odo, of course, that would mean finding his home.
A stab of pain suddenly shot through Garak's head and the liquor splashed out of the glass. As he steadied himself on the table, Julian was at his side, his tricorder out. Garak shoved it down with a sharp “No!”
“No. Though it might help if you rubbed my head.”
“Of course,” Julian agreed immediately and led Garak back to his chair. Moving behind him, Julian began the soft, but firm, movements that had brought Garak relief from milder pains in the past. Garak had no intention of letting the good doctor know how much worse the pains were getting since there was nothing either of them could do about it. And, after all his advice to Julian, he was not about to become another one of Julian's patients.
“Is it better?”
“It is,” Garak said with surprise. “If it happens again, I'll have to ask you to make a house call.”
Julian began to run his hands down both sides of Garak's neck, tracing the ridge and running his fingers over the shapes below them, then down beneath the lounging robe. “I can make a more detailed examination now, if you'd like.”
Hands wrapped tight around wrists, Garak regretfully stopped the stimulation that he knew would just frustrate him if he let it continue.
“She obviously doesn't know how to relax you, and I do. It will help with the headaches. Just let me love you.”
That almost undid Garak, but what he wanted was more than just an hour of sex. He wanted Julian back. With a different ache, this one in his heart, he shook his head no. “Rules,” he reminded Julian. He could feel the tension in the hands he held and knew that the man would just try another argument and, next time, Garak wasn't sure he'd have the strength to say no. He had to send Julian away before he weakened, and he knew Julian wasn't ready to come back for good.
Ducking under Julian's arm, he got up and stepped back. “She might not relax me, but I find that each lover is like a fine chocolate. They leave your body in a state that it's pleasant to remember and enjoy for its individual flavor. Perhaps another time. And thank you for the massage. It's worked wonders.” Turning back to the bottle to pour one more drink, Garak could hear the door open and close behind him. He put the glass back down untasted.
That was all, but it was more than enough. Odo, an enthusiastic co-conspirator, had suggested surveillance of Julian's movements. It seemed that the good doctor had not given up on the two of them.
Quickly Garak stripped off his suit and flung himself down on the floor, forcing himself through a series of fast pushups until he thought he'd collapse if Julian didn't show up soon. The door buzzed. Quickly stuffing his clothes into a closet and throwing on his lounging outfit, appropriately hanging open, Garak hurried to the door and waved it manually open so that he could keep it partially closed.
Garak could see what he looked like reflected in Julian's shocked face. Out of breath, skin slick with sweat, he looked like someone who had just been interrupted in the middle of a particularly strenuous workout. And he knew exactly what kind of a workout Julian would assume. He was right.
“For visitors, yes. Is it something important?” Garak didn't try to control his breathing nor the smirk that was painted across his lips, but he did make sure he blocked Julian's view into the empty room.
“Get rid of her. We have to talk.” Flat, with no room for argument.
Nodding, Garak said, “Half an hour,” then looked over his shoulder, smiling as he looked back. “Make it forty-five minutes.” Julian's face gave nothing away. He just nodded and left. The door closed. Garak leaned back against the wall, now really out of breath. This time, he was determined, he would get it right.
Julian came in immediately and looked around, seeing the small items Garak had artistically thrown around. His clothes were uncharacteristically thrown on the floor near the bed, the pillow back on the floor. Julian came over to Garak and stood there for a minute just looking down on him. Garak kept silent.
“You need a shower.”
“I do,” Garak agreed, voice still breathless.
Reaching out a hand, Julian pulled Garak to his feet and pushed him toward the bathroom. Leaning into the familiar small space, Julian turned on the water, ignoring the wetness soaking his sleeve. At Julian's gesture, Garak removed his robe, got in and let the hot water fall over him.
“I'll wash your back.” That was all Julian said as he quickly stripped off his uniform and joined Garak beneath the water, soap in hand. Letting the other man control, Garak shut his eyes and luxuriated in the soapy hands running up and down his body. It had been so very long.
Neither spoke as Julian scrubbed him down as if he would remove any taint of the imaginary lover. Garak wasn't complaining. He loved every touch and wanted it to go on until the hot water ran out, and even then he'd happily freeze to keep those hands moving over his body.
When everything was clean and rinsed, Julian resoaped his fingers and rammed them deep into Garak's body. “I don't care about agreements or vacations,” he said as he shoved them in and out repeatedly, deep and hard, Julian's breath now coming as fast as Garak's. The fingers pulled out.
“Bend over.” Not asking. Telling. Garak did, bracing himself against the shock of full, hard penetration. Julian had amazing strength in that slender body and he used it with no concession to the length of time they'd been apart.
He was setting his mark on Garak – a mark Garak was more than happy to carry. The first time Julian came was fast and he gripped Garak's hips so hard that Garak knew there would be bruises. More welcome marks. The second time was almost as hard, but with more technique, as though to remind Garak of his lover's skill. The third time was slower, soft and sliding, with the moans that spoke of complete satisfaction on Julian's part. They collapsed in a heap on the shower floor.
Julian recovered first, reaching up to turn off the water. “You're going to need another shower.” That set them both to laughing. They lay for a long time like that, wrapped in each other on the hard floor.
“Is the vacation over?” Garak finally asked.
“No. But the rules have just changed.”
Garak stiffened, mind racing. But there was no change in the body holding him. Finally he let his own body relax and nodded, not turning to see Julian's face.
“Get on your knees.”
“Actually, she's a professional. Just got in yesterday. I've been wondering myself if she's just here for Garak or if she has some other business on the station. They certainly got together quickly.”
“Professional?” At Quark's disappointed look in Julian's imagination, his eyes opened wider and he went back to watching the table. “I wonder if he can afford her?”
“From what I hear,” Quark confided in a low voice, “they're trading favors. She seems to be involved with a syndicate on Heta 9. I really hope Garak knows what he's doing with her.”
“Well, she certainly seems to know what she's doing with him,” Julian said, a disgusted tone in his voice. The woman was running blue fingertips down Garak's neck ridge and his eyes were closed with a look of ecstasy. Julian knew that look. He'd caused it often enough. When she started outlining the shapes beneath the neck ridges Julian almost got up off his stool, then remembered that Garak was perfectly free to do whatever he wanted and sat back down.
“How many does this make? There were four Bajorans,” Quark mused.
“Six,” Julian quickly corrected.
“Six. Three Romulans and two Klingons,” Quark finished.
“I was surprised I didn't see him in the infirmary. And don't forget your Ferengi friend.”
“Oh, a lovely woman. Those lobes! If only she'd keep her clothes off.”
“I understand she does that, too.”
“This one's lovely, too, isn't she?” Quark said.
Her hair was the soft white that Julian remembered had so fascinated Garak when he'd turned Garak into an Andorian for the trip to Deleb. The memories flowed back. They'd gone to hear a concert by Janton, a Cardassian that Garak had admired, and Garak had been transfixed by the bobbing antennae. Apparently he still was to judge by the way Garak was stroking the woman's. She was looking just as rapturous at the attention as Garak, himself, had been when she'd been playing with him.
Julian knew just how good those Cardassian fingers could be. He'd almost let himself be taken the night of the concert. How long had it been since Garak had been inside him. Actually, as Julian thought about it, Garak rarely was. He preferred to let Julian be dominant in their sexual couplings. It was almost as though Garak were encouraging Julian to develop the harder aspects of his character.
Julian pulled on that thought and felt a sudden urge to follow the thread. The stronger he acted, the more of a smile he won from Garak. And the more he got his way. The other night. All these months of Garak's stupid vacation idea of no sex between them, and all it took to bring them back together sexually was insisting on it.
Garak could always have said no. There was no force – physical or mental - involved. It seemed that whenever Julian was adamant, Garak gave in. Garak chose to be submissive to let him, Julian, learn to be dominant. The realization set Julian back on his mental heels.
Of course. Whatever he controlled in their relationship, it was because Garak wanted him to control. Not because Garak was in any way weak, though he'd have to explore the idea that Garak might have a really dominating father, but because Garak wanted him to learn to be strong. Well, that simplified things, didn't it?
Across the room, Garak and the woman got up and looked at the stairs and then at Quark, who waved them to it. Nodding happily at Julian, Garak and the girl hurried up the stairs to one of the holosuites.
Almost, Julian was tempted to go over and stop them, but he was feeling really good just now. Let Garak have his one last fling.
“Are you waiting for someone?” Quark asked, holding the brandy bottle above Julian's glass. At Julian's nod he poured a short one.
“I am,” Julian said with a smile.
It matched the smile on Quark's face as Quark went back to polishing glasses.
“Don't bother with a drink,” Julian told him, getting up from the stool and putting a piece of latinum on the counter. “You're not staying.”
“May I ask why?”
“Certainly,” Julian replied. “Vacation's over. If you paid for any future attentions, you can count it as money lost.”
“And can I ask where we're going?”
“The infirmary. I'm testing you for venereal diseases.”
“We're playing doctor! How wonderful. Just remember that after you're done testing me, I get to test you.”
As Julian hurried Garak out of the bar, he never saw the wink that Garak gave Odo, who was just coming in. Or the smile that Odo shared with Quark as he joined him at the bar. It looked like it was going to end up being a good night for Garak, after all. Quark raised his glass and toasted Odo. “To one of us getting lucky!”