Julian didn’t see the blast.
He heard Garak shout and turned only to see his friend slide down the wall, tunic smoking. “Garak!” Julian called. He was at his side at once, kneeling to assess the damage. The moment his hands went to Garak’s shoulders, Julian knew he wasn’t going to make it.
Garak seemed to know it too. “Doctor,” he began, “I’m afraid I won’t—”
“Shh.” Julian stroked Garak’s cheek, ignoring the indignant look that passed over his face at having his last words cut off. There was no time left, and Julian wasn’t going to waste precious seconds arguing. This wasn’t the Replimat, and they weren’t discussing Virgil. “Shh,” Julian whispered again, giving Garak a fond smile. Leaning in, he did what felt natural: he pressed their lips together.
Garak’s fingers clutched Julian’s arm with sudden strength, then dropped away.
I’m sorry, Julian thought fiercely. I should’ve said something sooner.
Sisko tugged him up. “We’ve got to go,” he said. “C’mon.”
* * *
The fact that it was a simulation didn’t make a difference to Julian. It had felt real at the time. Terribly real. The sights, the sounds, the smells—hell, even the food—felt like more than just a dream manufactured by the Founders. Garak had seemed his usual flamboyant self. Whoever had created that Dominion simulation had nailed down Garak’s personality and motivations. Or had that simply been Julian’s mind filling in the blanks? Lying on his bunk aboard the Defiant, he turned it over in his mind for the entire journey back to Deep Space Nine.
When they reached the station, his fretting only worsened. At the debriefing, Julian was aware of Sisko’s eyes lingering on him for far too long, and he knew Dax, in her infinite Trill wisdom, had figured it all out. Neither said a word to him about the simulated Garak’s death, or his reaction to it. For all Julian knew, they suspected he’d been having an affair with the tailor all along.
If that were the case, maybe he’d be better equipped to handle his turbulent emotions. Was it really that obvious? Did everyone see it except him?
More importantly: what would Garak think?
The revelation that the Changelings were the Dominion’s notorious Founders was enough of a distraction to occupy the senior staff for a good week, he calculated. Between bites of breakfast and while rushing through errands, Julian ran a gamut of his own simulations, struggling to predict the Cardassian’s reaction should he confess. Each one was more random than the last. Result: inconclusive.
It didn’t help that all Julian had to go on was Garak’s past behavior, which was hardly indicative of anything. The man was a notorious liar. If Julian were being reasonable, he’d let this go. Drop it. Part of him knew he shouldn’t allow this situation progress. Getting involved with Garak would be a disaster, if not for his career, then at least for their friendship. He needed to push aside his feelings like an adult, and carry on having lunch with the man every week, never saying a word, until one of them dropped dead or transferred off the station.
And yet, the evening after they’d returned from the Gamma Quadrant, Julian found himself standing in front of Garak’s shop. It was closed, the interior dark, but a sliver of light glimmered from a corner, escaping from underneath a doorway. The object of Julian’s thoughts was in there somewhere.
Probably busy working on his commissions, Julian decided. Better to not disturb him. It would be rude, and Cardassians hated rudeness. Julian’s feet happily carried him away to his quarters, where he could avoid embarrassing himself for at least another night.
Once inside his quarters, Julian nestled on the sofa with a stack of PADDs documenting a new pathogenic fungus that had been tearing through Bajor for the past several months. Normally it only caused disease in immunocompromised Klingons, but this fungus had managed to infect completely healthy Bajorans. It should’ve been the perfect distraction, sufficiently complex, intended to pique his natural drive for problem-solving. But another issue festered in his mind, demanding attention.
For two hours, Julian prodded both problems simultaneously: eyes and fingers focused on the mutation of the spores while the back of his mind questioned his behavior and emotions. But the latter problem was quickly gaining a foothold, nagging at him, demanding more of his energy. Stress from the last mission weakened his resolve.
In response, Julian’s brain only thumbed its nose at him.
Julian rubbed his temples and swept the stack of PADDs aside. “Computer, music.”
There was a chirp, followed by a burst of Klingon opera.
“That’s what I get for not being specific,” he muttered. “Computer, stop music.”
The room fell back into silence.
Julian jumped to his feet and paced. Up to the bedroom, over to the dining area, back to the front door. Get out of my head, he thought, clenching his fists. Oh, if Garak could see him now, agonizing over this like a lovesick teenager.
“My dear doctor,” Julian muttered, “what has you so distressed? Oh, nothing, Mister Garak, besides being absolutely infatuated with you. Sisko and Dax are already convinced we’ve been shagging each other for years, so why don’t we pop over to a pylon and have our way with each other? No? Well, see you tomorrow for lunch!”
Julian collapsed onto the couch, palms pressed into his eyes. There was no denying it. He’d felt the roiling emotions the second he saw Garak die. The strength of those feelings still rattled him, but the only way to figure out how to proceed next was to admit it.
Julian wondered how long he’d felt this way—when his interest in Garak had made the leap from mere curiosity to that of genuine affection. From fondness to attraction. He couldn’t pinpoint one turning point. It had been slowly building. The thought was ridiculous—there was so little he knew about Garak. Much of what he did know was terrifying, and that which wasn’t terrifying was contradictory. No doubt that was part of the appeal. Garak was the epitome of the unexplored frontier.
If Julian were being honest, he did have considerable trepidation about the differences in mating rituals and sexual physiology between humans and Cardassians. His knowledge was scant, his cross-species forays far from enterprising. And the more Julian talked himself into it, the more he worried about the fallout. Granted, if Commander Sisko suspected anything, he hadn’t spoken a word about it. Julian knew better than to take that as tacit approval; the commander simply didn’t want to broach the subject, and Julian couldn’t blame him. But it hardly mattered if Sisko didn’t approve—if he tried to dictate who Julian could and couldn’t date, he’d fight the commander on the issue. But in the intervening time, Sisko could make their lives difficult. He could expel Garak from the station, with ease. Julian couldn’t risk that.
Then there was the judgment of his fellow officers. He’d receive little support on that front.
Julian stood up and replicated a raktajino. He wouldn’t be sleeping tonight.
* * *
The passing days didn’t lead Julian to any resolution. If anything, his state progressively worsened. He found himself daydreaming about Garak during meetings, rehearsing fantasy scenarios and rehashing conversations long past. By day four, the disease had spread beyond his control.
Of course, Julian had been avoiding Garak the moment the crew returned from the Gamma Quadrant. It was a cowardly move, but his only option as he sought to buy himself time. It also left him with little way to relieve his newfound obsession, besides the cold showers (increasing in frequency) and the furtive wanking sessions each evening following his shift. Messages from Garak piled up. Likely the tailor wondered why Julian had missed their last lunch. Julian left them unlistened; he knew he’d unravel the second that voice reached his ears.
The first close call came when Garak took it upon himself to swing by the infirmary. Alerted by a nurse, Julian was able to duck out of his office and slip away in time to catch her muffled, “Well, he was here just a second ago.”
He must think I’m such a prat, Julian lamented.
All hope was lost when he began stalking Garak. His friend proved to be a difficult quarry indeed— when Garak wasn’t in his shop, he was mysteriously nowhere to be found, and rarely did he linger elsewhere on the Promenade. To Julian’s diseased mind, that only made him more enchanting.
Another morning, nearly two weeks after the fateful simulation, Julian stood on the Promenade’s upper level, taking bites of a jumja stick as Jake and Nog chattered beside him. Below them, the Promenade bustled as passengers disembarked from a newly arrived transport.
“There’s my uncle,” Nog said, pointing, and Julian easily picked out Quark’s gigantic lobed head in the crowd.
“Talking to Mister Garak,” Jake added.
Julian leaned forward. Indeed, there was Garak, back turned to them. It was amazing how he blended into the crowd (even while wearing that gold and green tunic that almost sparkled under the light, and even while being the only Cardassian on the station). He moved ever so slightly to allow people to pass. Julian studied Garak’s suit, wondered what the fabric would feel like under his fingers. He smiled, admiring his quarry from afar.
Quark pantomimed vigorously. Garak nodded along.
“Uncle Quark ruined his favorite jacket,” Nog was explaining. “Got Romulan ale all over it.”
“Let me guess,” Jake said. “Morn was in another fight.”
Julian was so engrossed in his surreptitious staring, he almost didn’t notice Quark look up in their direction. Quark’s mouth moved, and a second later Garak began to turn around.
“Bloody hell,” Julian whispered, heart caught in his throat. With genetically engineered speed, he darted behind a bulkhead just in time to avoid detection. Once safely hidden, he took a deep, relieved breath.
“What was that about?” he heard Jake say.
Julian winced. He needed to get a grip; Starfleet officers didn’t run from their problems like frightened children, even if their problems happened to allegedly be former agents of the Obsidian Order. What he needed right now was advice. Outside perspective. He tossed the jumja stick into the nearest reclamation port and slapped his comm badge. “Bashir to Dax.”
“Lieutenant, care to join me for lunch at the Replimat in, say, two hours?”
When Julian arrived, tray heavy with rice and coconut soup, Dax had already found them a table in a far corner. She waved him over. “Aren’t you afraid he’ll come in at any moment?” she asked with a conspiratorial smirk as he sat down.
“I wish you’d at least pretend to not know what this is all about,” Julian groused. He picked up his spoon and paddled at the contents of his bowl. “I think we’ll be safe. For the past five days, he’s been in his shop around this time.”
Dax’s brows shot up. “You’re spying on him?”
Julian could only manage a sheepish smile.
“You know, Quark told me once that the last person who tried to spy on Garak was found in a meatlocker on Dessica II. Chopped to bits.”
“Does that mean you don’t think I should—” Julian cleared his throat, “tell him?”
“Now, I didn’t say that. Honesty is the best policy.”
Julian wondered what Garak would think of that particular aphorism. Nothing charitable, that’s for sure.
Dax began digging into her own lunch, fork and knife slicing through the flaky crust of an Andorian meat pie. “What do you want to tell him, Julian?”
“I don’t—it came so suddenly, like a kind of madness. I can’t stop thinking about him. I haven’t felt this way since . . .” Julian closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose, defeated.
“You have feelings for him,” Dax said.
“I think that was awfully clear from the way I behaved, back in the simulation. You saw what I did.”
Dax chewed slowly. “If you’re worried he won’t reciprocate your feelings, I’d say you have nothing to worry about. But he’s not really the type to appreciate the direct approach, is he?”
It stunned him how much that possibility scared him. Julian might’ve been Garak’s only friend on the station, but it wasn’t a one-way friendship. Julian valued him in so many ways he was only now beginning to appreciate. And, despite his better judgment, he trusted Garak. He wasn’t sure if he could cope with the loss of that bond.
“It’s too bad we don’t have much information on Cardassian courtship rituals,” Dax continued, then paused, fork hovering midair. “Well, speak of the devil. So much for those spying skills of yours.”
Julian turned, following Dax’s gaze. His stomach flipped and did a nosedive as he caught sight of Garak next in line at the replicator. Maybe he didn’t see them.
“You have one of two options,” Dax said, and the mischievous glint in her eye sent a chill down his spine. “Either you go over there and say hello, or I’ll call him over here.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Think of this as me giving you a push in the right direction.”
“It’s a kick, is what it is.”
“Come on, Julian. What happened to the daring young man who followed me around night and day, begging for a date?”
“I think you killed him,” Julian muttered, a little miffed that she’d bring up that unpleasantness now. It didn’t exactly help his self-confidence. But she was raising her arm, ready to make good on her threat. He stood, tugged down the front of his uniform, and gave her one last baleful glance.
She favored him with a smug grin. “Good luck.”
At that moment, he wanted nothing more than to crawl under the nearest table and hide. Distantly, he was aware of the other diners, all of them absorbed in their own meals and conversations. He kept his focus straight ahead on Garak, who had just retrieved a blue mug from the replicator. Blood rushed in his ears, but Julian could feel his confidence return with every stride of his legs, closing the distance. This is ridiculous. It’s only Garak. So what if he rejects me? I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off—
“Hello, Garak,” Julian began.
Garak turned and smiled. “Why, Doctor, what a pleasant surprise!”
Julian didn’t doubt the tailor saw him coming, but he played along. “I wanted to apologize for missing our last lunch.” He grimaced. “And the one before that.”
“Oh, it’s no matter,” Garak said, waving it away as if the slight bothered him not a whit. Not that Julian expected him to show a hint of affront. “I’m sure you were busy.”
“Regardless—” Julian swallowed as the cloying stench of Garak’s rokassa juice, like sweetened, rotting meat, assaulted his senses. Bizarrely, even that didn’t put him off. “I want to make it up to you. Would you, ah, like to have dinner? With me. Tonight?”
There, it was out, and more or less coherently.
Garak gave him a sharp, piercing look that seemed to appraise him from head to toe before fading into his usual expression of bland politeness. “My dear doctor, I’m afraid I already have plans.”
“Oh.” There was no masking Julian’s disappointment.
“You see, I’m having dinner in my quarters tonight. Around nineteen hundred hours.” Garak turned and left, but not before Julian caught the slither of a smile on his lips.
Julian didn’t register its meaning until the tailor was long gone. “Did he—did he just invite me to his quarters?”
* * *
Julian paced in front of his closet, towel wrapped around his waist, rubbing his palms together as his attention flicked to each individual garment. He didn’t have any hope of impressing someone who made his living on fashion, but the least Julian could do was not show up to dinner in a gaudy jumpsuit. Garak would never forgive him.
Eventually, he settled on a patterned blue sweater and gray slacks. The sweater was far too baggy, so he replicated another (possibly a cardinal sin). This one fit tightly against his chest and biceps. He slid into a navy blazer and inspected himself in the bedroom’s full-length mirror.
He grinned at his reflection. “You look quite fetching, if I do say so myself.”
With two minutes to spare, Julian arrived at Garak’s quarters, box of toffees in hand. As he waited for a response to the chime, he began to rethink his choice of gifts. Was candy too forward, or not forward enough? Should he have grabbed a bottle of wine instead? Perhaps chocolate? An isolinear chip of King Lear would’ve been in better keeping with past form, but lacked the nuance he sought. Maybe he still had time to find Keiko and ask for a potted succulent. Garak had once expressed an interest in plants. If that weren’t yet another lie.
The door hissed open, interrupting his thoughts. Garak looked magnificent in a suit of maroon and black, embroidery curling across silk fabric like tendrils of smoke. “Welcome, doctor,” he said, smiling with his usual fondness. “Please come in.”
Momentarily struck speechless, Julian stepped forward, offering the toffees. He cleared his throat, finding his voice. “Hello, Garak.”
“Oh, how thoughtful. Thank you.” Garak set the box on a high shelf, where Julian guessed they wouldn’t tempt him.
“Watching your figure, Garak?”
“If only we could all be blessed with your figure, my dear.”
Julian allowed a private smile. “I suppose I owe it to good genetics.”
Garak beckoned him forward. “Come here. I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing this outfit before, have I?”
Julian approached, hands clasped in front of him. He tilted his head to the ceiling as he awaited Garak’s appraisal. He felt like a boy who was just learning to dress, under the inspection of his mother.
Garak circled around, frowning as if trying to divine meaning from an abstract painting. His attention settled on Julian’s shoes. “Those boots.”
“They came back in fashion.”
“Yes, decades ago. I recall the merchants on Cardassia Prime used to wear these.” He shot Julian a pointed look. “I was just learning how to talk.”
“A time that would forever live in infamy.”
“I’m sure.” Garak reached out and fiddled with the lapels of Julian’s jacket, smoothing them with the tips of his fingers.
Julian felt heat rise in his cheeks. He tried to not breathe in the other man’s scent as Garak continued to fuss over him. “Really, Garak, you’ve seen me dressed worse than this.”
“Far too frequently, it pains me to say.” Before Julian could retort, Garak straightened, smiled. “What would you like to drink? I have kanar and springwine. Of course, if that doesn’t satisfy, my replicator is at your disposal. Perhaps your usual Tarkalean tea?”
“Springwine sounds good.”
As Garak bustled away to play the gracious host, Julian seized the moment to take in his surroundings. The quarters were mostly their bare default, unadorned, as if barely lived in. A few tasteful pieces of art here and there, but nothing that made it feel like a home.
“You know, I’ve been in here before,” Julian began, letting the fact that it had been while watching Garak sleep off withdrawal go unmentioned, “but I never got the chance to comment. These aren’t the quarters I’d expect of Elim Garak.”
Garak had popped a cork and commenced pouring a bottle of amber liquid into a glass. He didn’t look up. “Meaning?”
Julian wasn’t sure what exactly he meant, either. He noted Garak’s neutral tone and decided to tread lightly. A good policy whenever anything turned personal between them. “Maybe nothing like a dungeon from medieval Earth, per se, but maybe something with more—” He hunted for the word. “Flair?”
“How little you know me. Flair? I’m really rather dull.”
“And you expect me to believe that?”
“To tell the truth—”
“Now that I doubt.”
Garak cast him a sidelong look that balanced between playful and reproachful. “To tell the truth, you’re the only guest I’ve entertained in these quarters. But that isn’t too surprising, seeing as how I don’t even sleep here.”
“Of course, you already knew that, didn’t you?” Garak was pouring the kanar now, his voice still frustratingly neutral.
Julian hadn’t known that. He shook his head, still frowning. Naturally, Garak had known Julian was spying on him—that wasn’t what puzzled him. “I don’t understand. I saw you come in here every day at eighteen hundred hours, right after you closed your shop for the night.”
“Ah, but that’s not the real question, is it?”
Garak didn’t continue with this train of thought, and instead stared at Julian, as if waiting for him to finish for him. “The question,” Julian said, catching on, “is whether you stayed here.”
Garak beamed. “Very good.” He closed the distance between them and passed Julian the springwine. Then he raised his own glass of bright blue kanar. “A toast. To learners—both fast and slow.”
“Cheers.” Julian clinked their glasses together. Garak’s eyes widened briefly in surprise. “What gave it away?” Julian said. “That I was following you, I mean.”
“Oh, doctor, I couldn’t attribute it to any one thing. May I make a suggestion? You should consider leaving the espionage to the real spies.” Garak glanced around hastily and whispered, “Wherever they may be.”
Julian laughed. Fair enough. It wasn’t like he was gunning for a position in Starfleet Intelligence. Best to stick to the day job. That didn’t explain why Garak had let him continue his farce of a covert operation for so long. Garak must’ve wondered why Julian was keeping such close tabs on him. But if Garak wanted to know, he’d have to ask.
Garak had moved to the back of the dining area, where he seemed to be preparing dinner from scratch. Of course Garak could cook. He was talking about Keats as he worked, quoting this or that poem. Right. Julian had given him an isolinear rod featuring Romantic poets. Julian nodded along to whatever Garak was saying, watching Garak’s hands deftly maneuver around the small countertop, applying finishing touches, stirring this and spicing that. He seemed so serene, so tranquil.
“You’re really domestic,” Julian blurted and cringed. God, he sounded like an utter twit.
“As I said: dull.” That same neutral tone again, never giving away what Garak was thinking. He seemed even more guarded than usual. Julian would have to work on that.
“That’s not what I meant—”
“Here.” Garak ladled a pink sauce over an arrangement of fish and handed him the platter. “Take this to the table, if you please.”
Yes, idiot, Julian thought savagely. Take this and shut up before you say anything else asinine. Making himself useful, he grabbed more dishes and utensils, sliding them onto the table while his mind scavenged for possible witty remarks. In all directions, he drew blanks.
Garak wiped his hands on a towel. “Doctor, have you not heard a word I’ve said?”
Julian pressed his lips together. “Sorry.”
“I thought so. I hope this won’t become a new habit of yours. We Cardassians may relish the sound of our own voices, but I have little patience for repeating myself.” Before Julian could offer another apology, Garak continued, “You may recall that I promised to treat you to some of my favorite Cardassian dishes, as replicators don’t do our cuisine justice.”
Julian remembered no such promise, but he listened dutifully as Garak pointed to each platter and described its contents. The only item he recognized was the regova eggs.
“The flavors are more diverse than what an untrained human palate can tolerate. I won’t be offended if you have to replicate your usual toasted bread and chicken broth.”
The challenge was obvious. Julian plopped down in the seat across from Garak and grabbed a fork. “I’m not surprised you’re already blaming your bad cooking on my inferior palate.”
Garak tilted his head. “I slave for hours over a hot stove, and I’m repaid in insults.”
“Sit down, Garak,” Julian said through a mouthful of fish. It wasn’t half bad. Spicy, tangy. “You’re making me nervous.”
Garak pulled out the other chair and, sitting primly, began eating. He glanced up intermittently as if to ensure that Julian wasn’t spitting wads of food into his napkin. Julian shoveled forkfuls at his accustomed speed, appraising the way the low cut of Garak’s tunic exposed the gray, smooth scales of his neckridges. Julian took a deep breath to steady his nerves.
The silence was companionable. It dragged on far too long.
That smooth-as-silk voice broke the silence. “Why were you following me, doctor?”’
Julian hadn’t expected a direct question, especially so soon. Luckily, he was ready for it. More or less. “Our last mission to the Gamma Quadrant—did you hear about what we discovered? Well, you were there. Sort of.”
“If you returned to that horrible alternate reality, I think I’d rather not know.”
“You don’t like hearing about your evil twin?” Julian teased.
“Evil is a loaded term, and much too subjective for my tastes.” Garak took a bite of food, chewed, swallowed. “From what I’ve heard, my counterpart sounds more like a buffoon.”
“Could it be, then, that I’m having a pleasant dinner with the real evil Garak?”
Garak favored him with one of those enigmatic smiles. “What an interesting supposition, doctor.”
“I’ll have to run some tests on that. But no, it wasn’t the alternate reality. The Founders had us in this simulation of sorts, to test out how we’d react under certain conditions. We weren’t aware of it, you see.”
Julian shook his head. Garak would approve of a tactic that gathered information through devious means. “You helped us escape the station.” Julian hesitated. “And then you died.”
When Julian didn’t elaborate, Garak prompted, “That’s it?”
With a few key pieces omitted. The moment of truth was upon him. Time to bare his feelings and face rejection. “It . . . I wasn’t prepared for that. People think I’m naïve, and maybe I am—I became a doctor so I could save people, and, Garak, you died. You were dead and we just left your body there. But that wasn’t it. I felt . . . there was so much more to do and—what the bloody hell am I trying to say?”
“It’s your story, doctor. I can’t presume to finish for you.”
But you can. I want you to. Meet me halfway, you bastard. “It hurt in a way that was different from losing a friend.”
“This hardly explains why you were following me.”
“Are you being purposefully thick, Garak?”
That got his attention. “I must warn you, your meandering story is falling on dangerous territory.”
“Dangerous how? Because it scares you?”
Garak lowered his fork and placed both hands on the table, as if making to rise. But he stayed in place, staring at Julian. Julian stared back, not about to be intimidated. “This foolhardy sentimentality of humans—”
“Of humans? When you Cardassians aren’t falling over yourselves in declaring your love for the Union, you’re pining over lost lovers and—”
“You’re confusing vice for sentiment.”
“I might be naïve,” Julian snapped, “but I know the difference.”
Before Julian could register the movement, Garak was up and standing behind him, leaning forward so his breath tickled Julian’s left ear, both hands flat on the table, pinning Julian in. Julian shivered. They’d been in a similar position before. He’d been startled and flustered back then. Now he had to fight waves of arousal as Garak pressed against him.
“I suppose I should be flattered,” Garak hissed, “that Julian Bashir, the brilliant and charming Chief Medical Officer of Deep Space Nine, has taken an interest in me.” Garak’s lips brushed his ear, and Julian froze. “I admit you’re a stimulating conversationalist, and very alluring.” The lips moved down, grazing the skin of Julian’s neck, and the doctor gasped. “Lovely, even. But—” The mouth returned to Julian’s ear. “I’m not impressed.”
Julian swallowed. “Bollocks.”
“I’m unfamiliar with that term.”
“Rubbish,” Julian amended, picking non-slang words Garak would recognize. He cleared his throat. “Nonsense. You’ve wanted me since the beginning.”
“Have I? You should know better than to presume to read my thoughts.” He took a long, lingering breath. “But you misunderstand me, my dear. I’d love nothing more than to have you right now. Bent over this very table.”
Julian shivered from the force of the words, his cock going hard.
“But you have no idea what it’s like to have me in your bed.”
Julian arched back until his head rested on Garak’s shoulder. “Then show me.”
Garak bit down on the tender flesh of his neck. Julian cried out. “I will hurt you,” Garak said, tongue flicking a soothing trail over the now-throbbing skin. “But not only that. I expect a certain amount of obedience, and I fear you’re much too willful.”
“I’m eager to please.”
Garak nibbled his earlobe. “Not good enough.”
It was too much. It wasn’t enough. Julian turned in the chair, neck craned, and kissed Garak hard on the lips. The scales were rough and so much warmer than Julian imagined. Before he could lean further into the kiss, Garak pulled away with a growl and grabbed Julian by the jacket, hauling him to his feet and shoving him against the table. There was a crash as a plate clattered to the floor. Julian fought the urge to smile.
“As I said,” Garak whispered, voice full of menace as he glared at Julian from beneath his eyeridges, “you’re much too willful.”
“Then you’ll have to find a way to teach me obedience. You can handle a challenge, can’t you?”
“Oh, you flatter yourself. You’re no challenge. You’re nothing but a boy. Soft.” To punctuate his words, Garak pinched Julian in the side, causing him to jolt. “It would take no effort to break you.”
Julian felt a shock of fear at the word break. This was an ex-agent of the Obsidian Order he was dealing with, not just a simple tailor with an apparent kinky side. The line was blurry, but it was there, and although that uncertainty sent a thrill through Julian, it also scared him. Could he trust Garak not to cross that line, get lost in the game? Did Garak even care if he did?
Garak was watching him closely. He must’ve sensed Julian’s hesitation, because his hands dropped away. “I thought so.”
The moment Garak backed off, Julian had his answer. This wasn’t an interrogation; Garak was operating under the bounds of consent. Julian could stop this any time he wanted. He escaped Garak’s grasp and rounded the table, putting it between them. His body protested the lack of contact. “I hate to disappoint you, Garak, but I’m a trained Starfleet officer, not some scared and helpless prisoner. You might be used to breaking the weak and innocent, but I can put up a fight.”
For a moment, he feared he’d taken it too far. Then Garak’s eyes lit up and he smiled. Predatorily. Slowly, he began to stalk around the table, toward Julian. “I suggest you run for the door, doctor, or you might have to put that to the test. I’d hate to bruise that pretty skin of yours.”
Julian easily continued around the table, keeping it between them. “You’re full of shit. I bet you’re so out of practice, you couldn’t hurt a fly.”
Garak stopped and started to laugh.
“I bet,” Julian continued, warming up to the insult, “the only thing you know how to wield anymore is a sewing needle.” I can’t believe I’m encouraging this side of him. He’d seen Garak at his worst, and it had been terrifying. “You’re rusty, old, declawed.” Julian leaned over table and scooped a thick, red sauce onto his finger. He brought it to his lips, licking the sauce off in long strokes of his tongue.
The scales of Garak’s face and neckridges darkened, going from gray to charcoal. Fascinating. He wondered how far down that color change went.
Julian sucked the last bit of sauce from his finger and smiled as Garak made an almost imperceptible groan. “Delicious. You’ve been so well domesticated.”
Garak’s eyes flashed with anger. Before Julian could run, Garak grabbed him and threw him against the wall. Hard. Julian gasped for air, finding his lungs unresponsive. “You should’ve fled when I offered the opportunity,” Garak said, pinning him against the wall with an arm against Julian’s throat. “Now I have no choice but to punish you.”
Julian wheezed, trying to get his lungs working.
“Knock twice on the wall if you want me to stop.”
Shaking his head, Julian pressed his erection against Garak and mouthed the word please.
Garak’s free hand traced Julian’s hard cock through the thin cloth, his touch feather-light, eliciting a strangled moan. “Is this what you want?”
Julian nodded and sucked in a shaky breath. At last, he could breathe again.
Garak’s hand fell away. “Too bad. I haven’t appropriately disciplined you yet.”
“I don’t think you’ll get the chance,” Julian whispered. Garak looked ready to retort, but Julian pressed a jagged shard of the fallen ceramic plate to his throat, cutting him off. “Let me go.”
Garak raised an eyeridge. “Oh, how cunning! Bravo, doctor. I’m genuinely impressed.”
“I thought you’d like that. Now let me go.”
“I don’t think so.” Garak pressed his arm against Julian’s throat. “It seems we’re at an impasse. Except you won’t draw blood. You don’t have it in you.”
Julian stared into Garak’s eyes, finding them black, fully dilated. He could only imagine how his own must’ve looked. He had to fight to keep the makeshift knife level, to resist the urge to thrust against Garak’s leg. “Are you sure?”
Garak shifted his weight. It happened in an instant—Julian pressed the shard into the scales of his neck, drawing a trickle of dark red blood just as there was a sharp click. Cold metal snapped around Julian’s left wrist. Then he was wrenched, the shard flying from his hand. His face collided with the wall. His arms were yanked back. Another snap.
Julian blinked as he realized what had just happened. “Where the hell did you get handcuffs?”
“I think you’ve talked enough for tonight. Get on your knees.”
Julian tested the cuffs with a few jerks of the wrists. They held. He turned around so he could glare at Garak, and spat at him.
Garak sidestepped it with the ease of one who’d dodged more than one spitwad in his life. Damn that unflappable bastard. “Very well,” he said, taking hold of Julian’s shoulder and kicking his legs out from under him.
Julian’s knees hit the carpeted floor and he hissed as pain shot through him. Garak had held him steady to keep him from falling flat on his face, and Julian silently thanked him for that. He didn’t want to creep into the infirmary at this hour with a broken nose.
Garak circled around, dabbing at his neck with a napkin. “Are you ready to apologize?”
Garak disappeared behind him, out of Julian’s line of sight. He tried to keep his eyes trained forward—for what reason, he wasn’t sure—but as the quarters fell silent and the seconds ticked on, his curiosity became too much to bear. He turned just enough to peer at Garak from the corner of his eye.
There was a glint as Garak turned over a blade in his hands, studying its edge. He caught Julian gaping. “Eyes forward. I suggest you stay perfectly still, doctor. I use this knife to cut the flower spikes of my orchids. It appears I’ve neglected to clean the blade and, alas, this particular species leaks a sap known to sting the flesh rather painfully. If I accidentally nicked your skin, I’d never forgive myself.”
That could’ve been a lie. Despite being on his knees with his hands behind his back, Julian was feeling bold. “Maybe you should wash it, then.”
“Does Starfleet not teach its officers how to show proper respect to one’s tormentors?”
“I must’ve skipped that etiquette lesson.”
Garak grabbed him by the hair, drawing him up. Julian grimaced, but managed to not make a sound. The threat was implicit: shut up and hold still, or else. Julian took the order to heart. His limbs were trembling with anticipation as Garak released him and drew close, knife in hand. I can’t believe I’m allowing this, he thought. I don’t even know what he plans to do with—
Garak’s breath was on his nape, and a second later, there was a sickening tear as the knife sliced down the curve of his back, cutting through jacket and sweater.
“I need those!”
“I disagree. Your appearance is already much improved.” Garak brought the knife to Julian’s right shoulder. When Julian stilled again, he sliced through the sleeve. Then he shredded the other. The torn fabric fell away and Julian shivered.
Garak knelt in front of him and whispered, “Lean back.”
This time, Julian obeyed, arching back as far as he could comfortably manage. Looking down, he saw the knife hover against his throat. Oh-so-slowly, Garak brought the blade down, slicing the front of his sweater. Julian swore he could feel the blade coming within millimeters of his skin. Then Garak was back on his feet, slicing fabric here and there, much too haphazardly for Julian’s tastes.
He glanced around, finding himself completely naked above the waist. He felt a breeze against his skin as Garak circled around, appraising him. The knife disappeared with the flick of a wrist. A cool, scaled finger traced Julian’s jawline, and he raised his chin. It took all his frayed self-control not to lean into Garak’s touch as those strong fingers caressed his neck, his shoulders, his cheeks.
Garak moved to the dining table. “Now, for your chastisement.”
“Couldn’t you just give me a scolding?” Julian batted his long eyelashes, a technique that never failed to win over even the most frigid soul.
“You’ll find that doesn’t work on me.”
Too bad. “Well, I hope you discipline me soon. I’m getting cold.”
“Cleave gag,” he heard Garak mutter under his breath. And then Garak had the platter of red sauce in hand. He lowered it to the floor, between Julian’s knees. “Since you seemed to like this dish so much, you can lick it clean.”
Julian stared down at the plate, wide-eyed. He can’t mean—he wouldn’t expect me to—
A quick, disbelieving glance at Garak revealed him standing to the side, arms crossed over his chest. Waiting. Remote, like he was dispassionately taking bets on what Julian would do next. Julian guessed at his thoughts: 10 to 1 odds says he throws the plate at me and storms out, the timid human.
Julian returned his attention to the platter. It sat there, an inanimate challenge to everything he believed up to that point. I’d never, he insisted to himself, feeling a coil of fear and something else. Humiliation. Garak expected him to eat off the floor like an animal, some pet. He couldn’t let himself be reduced to that.
This is my punishment. Didn’t I say I was eager to please? No surprise that he’s putting that to the test. Seeing how far I’d go. Julian had meant every word of it. He wanted to please Garak, wanted to prove that he was more than just a foolhardy human. He wanted to show Garak that he was worthy. Whatever that might entail.
Widening his stance, Julian leaned forward and pressed his face to the plate. At first he lapped at the sauce quickly, intending to get it over with, but then he slowed, savoring it as he felt Garak’s eyes on him. Brazen, he swirled his tongue around, licked at the rim, letting out small moans of satisfaction as he found every drop of tangy sauce. Imagine what I could do to your cock, he silently mocked with a thrill.
When the plate was clean, he sat up and allowed himself a smile of triumph. Julian Bashir, conqueror of sauces. He could feel it all over his face, but to hell with that. Maybe he should ask for seconds.
Garak kicked the plate aside, and Julian gasped in disappointment. What had he done wrong?
Then Garak grasped him by the back of the neck and kissed him so forcefully it took his breath away. Julian responded eagerly, sucking Garak’s tongue as it slipped inside his mouth, groaning as Garak nibbled his lower lip and licked traces of sauce from his cheeks and the tip of his nose. It was sloppy and wet and so absolutely amazing. “Good boy,” Garak whispered into his mouth. “Such a good boy.”
Julian grinned and grinned, kissing along the ridge of Garak’s chin.
“Can your mouth handle more excitement, dear?”
Eyes leaping to Garak’s trousers, Julian nodded. There was no visible bulge or tenting, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything. “May I use my hands?”
“Only if you promise to behave.”
“Please? I want to touch you. I promise. I’ll be on my best behavior.”
Garak knelt behind him and there was a click as the cuffs came loose. Sighing in relief, Julian rubbed at his wrists and looked up as Garak returned to stand before him. There was no hiding the trembling of Julian’s hands as he crawled forward and, kneeling between Garak’s legs, began to unfasten the buttons and closures of his trousers. The moment he tugged down his trousers and underwear, Garak’s cock began to evert from its sheath. Julian marveled as it emerged, hard ridges springing to attention, slate gray scales shining with lubricant. It was lovely. Garak gave it a few strong pumps, coaxing his cock to its full size.
For a moment, Julian took hold of the shaft in both hands and calculated. Garak’s cock smelled of a faint musk, sweet and alien. Gingerly, he licked at the head, finding the scales soft under his tongue. Then he lapped at the ridges underneath, smiling as Garak’s cock jerked ever so slightly. Here goes, Julian thought, and took it into his mouth.
Closing his eyes, Julian formed a tight seal with his lips and sucked hard, swirling his tongue. Garak’s hands went to his head, stroking his hair but not pushing him forward. Julian was thankful for that; already his jaw ached from his ministrations. But he didn’t stop. Garak didn’t make a sound, but his thighs trembled as Julian stroked the base of his cock and sucked with relish.
He stayed like that, on his knees, sucking and laving Garak’s cock for what felt like an eternity. And he didn’t mind one bit.
“I’m close,” Garak said at last.
Julian hesitated. What was he supposed to do? There was no time. Garak groaned, and then he was coming into Julian’s mouth. It was hot, syrupy-thick, and Julian struggled to swallow it all in time. As he pulled away, he wiped his chin to find some had dribbled over his face.
And Garak was kissing him again, pulling Julian to his feet. They did a strange, awkward dance, Julian clinging to Garak, trying to get into contact with more of that sturdy body, and Garak trying to drag him somewhere. High off endorphins and epinephrine, Julian stumbled forward, his own erection almost forgotten.
He giggled, momentarily disbelieving. “I just sucked you off.”
“Indeed, and now it’s my duty to return the favor. Have more of your drink.”
“Thank you.” Julian swished the springwine around in his mouth, took several more gulps. “God, my knees are absolutely knackered. Why are you putting your trousers back on?” It was so unfair that Garak still looked dapper and composed, while he was half-naked, horny, and disheveled—covered in sauce and semen.
“Doctor, go to the bedroom and strip down,” Garak ordered.
“I’ll have to kick you out.”
“You wouldn’t,” Julian said, drawing back to look at Garak’s face, now sporting an innocent smile that was anything but. “You are the evil twin.”
Garak tilted his head and grabbed Julian’s bum in two hands, squeezed. “Don’t make me repeat myself.”
Julian hurried in the direction of the bedroom, kicking off his shoes and yanking down his pants on the way there. The bedroom appeared similarly plain, the lights down to half brightness. It wasn’t until he’d tossed aside his knickers and flopped backward onto the bed that he saw the hooks and straps hanging from the ceiling.
“What are you, Garak?” he said. “A professional dominatrix?”
Garak was leaning in the doorway. “I believe that’s the term for a woman, but I’m hardly knowledgeable in that area. That’s merely a relic from the room’s previous resident. I haven’t had the time to have it removed.” He paused. “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted you like this, doctor.”
“Well, now that you have me, what do you plan to do?” Julian asked, rolling onto his stomach. He hoped to hell this was alluring. To his delight, Garak smiled, all teeth. Suddenly Julian recalled that Brother’s Grimm story Little Red Riding Hood—the wolf, dressed in the grandmother’s gown, lying in wait: all the better to eat you with.
Climbing upon the bed, Garak covered him with his body, kissing and biting trails along Julian’s ears, neck, shoulders, down to his back, following the curve of his spine. His fingers lazily stroked Julian’s sides. Julian squirmed underneath the pleasurable volley of attention, grinding his hips into the bed.
Garak slapped his bum, spanking both cheeks in quick succession. “No.”
Julian stilled, pouting. He couldn’t help it. “But—”
“That’s easy for you to say!”
Another spank, this one harder. Julian yelped, then gasped as Garak continued his trail of kisses along his back, descending. The abused skin must be beet red now. Julian held his breath as he felt a clever tongue investigate the cleft of his ass. It licked, wet and warm, then probed deeper as two hands spread him open and—
“Oh! God, that’s—” Dirty. Unsanitary. Disgusting. “Fabulous.”
Garak made no reply, apparently contented with thrusting his tongue in and out. Julian pulled at his own hair, bit his fingers to keep from crying out. If he doesn’t give me more, and soon, I’m going to go mad.
As if sensing his need, Garak withdrew and began to rummage in the nightstand. Julian whimpered, suddenly feeling empty. It was a strange, foreign sensation, and hardly the first of the night. And not the last, he hoped.
“On your back.”
Julian obeyed, staring up at the ceiling and that black strappy contraption. His cock was a heavy weight against his stomach, begging for attention. Garak took hold of it, giving his erection an experimental squeeze. Julian groaned, legs splayed, thrusting into Garak’s hand. When no admonition followed, he took that as a good sign and sat up enough to look into Garak’s eyes. “M-more. Please?”
“Oh, shi—Garak, you massive wanker. P-please, please. Please suck me.”
“You beg so nicely, my dear.”
Kneeling between Julian’s thighs, Garak took his cock into his mouth and began to suck. It was the singularly most incredible sight of his life, he decided at that moment, howling gibberish as Garak’s tongue worked the shaft, fingers gently cupping his balls. God, he’s good at that, Julian thought deliriously. I wonder if he’d kill me if I tried to fuck his mouth. He didn’t dare find out.
Then he felt a slick finger tap at his opening and slip inside. A second finger, teasing and stretching, followed the first. Inching deeper, Garak’s fingers curled, homing in on his sweet spot.
Julian threw back his head and clawed at the bedcovers. Garak’s mouth, his warm palm on his balls, his fingers inside him—the pressure was sweet and overwhelming. He came forcefully, trembling from head to toe, the waves hitting him one after another. It seemed to last forever, leaving him stunned. He was only distantly aware of Garak swallowing.
Julian sucked in deep breaths, his racing pulse steadying. “Wow,” he said. The word hung in the air. Wow.
Garak pulled away. He sat at the edge of the bed, smoothing out his hair and tugging at his sleeves. Julian tried not to take his sudden distance personally. This was Garak, after all. Eternally private and secretive. The man probably showered with his trousers on.
“I’ve never done anything like that before,” Julian whispered. Suddenly shy, he hid his face in his elbow.
“How does a curious young man as yourself neglect such basics?”
It was a question for which Julian had no answer. “I know, I’m terrible. Take pity on me?”
“My dear doctor, I’m here, as always, to help with your education. How do you feel?”
Julian rolled onto his stomach and propped his chin in his hands. “Utterly besotted.”
Garak favored him with a fond smile that was all too brief. “Did I cross any boundaries?”
“You did startle me with the knife bit, and when you knocked the wind out of me, but I knew you’d never hurt me.”
“And the hair-pulling?”
“I . . . I rather liked that. Uhm. Mind if I use your shower?”
Garak lifted his hand in the direction of the lavatory.
Julian padded out, chest fluttering at the way Garak’s eyes followed him. He took his time in the shower, letting the hot water douse his hypersensitive skin. Already he was shivering at the memory of Garak’s fingers inside him. Intellectually, he knew that kind of stimulation could produce intense orgasms, but he’d never thought to try it himself. He’d have to make up for lost time.
When Julian emerged, wrapped in a white towel and shaking out his hair, he found Garak standing in the dining area, eating from one of the plates like a man starved. When he spotted Julian, he set the food aside. “There might be some logic to your rapid eating habits, doctor.”
Chuckling, Julian came up behind and wrapped his arms around Garak’s chest, pressing his cheek against soft black hair. “I’ve been telling you. Hey, do you want to cuddle?”
“You know, snuggle. It means to embrace, affectionately. It’s—”
Garak shook his head. “I know what it means. I just don’t make a habit of lounging around in bed.”
“Once or twice won’t make it a habit,” Julian drawled in a low voice he hoped was seductive.
Garak shifted his weight between feet but didn’t pull away. “I replicated you a new shirt,” he said, gesturing to a folded garment slung over a chair. “It should suffice for your trip back to your quarters.”
Julian balked. Was Garak kicking him out? Just a wham, bam, thank you, ma’am, now sod off? Blindsided, Julian bowed his head and, gathering his scattered clothes, began dressing. It only made sense that someone so remote and secretive wouldn’t want him spending the night. He hadn’t been expecting an invitation. But to just toss him out on his ear, so coldly, was another matter.
Garak was back at his side. A hand went to Julian’s elbow. “Have I offended you?”
“No, nothing like—well, offended wouldn’t be the word I’d use.”
Garak nodded. Julian noted that he didn’t ask what word he would use. “Odo keeps a rather close eye on my quarters, as you might imagine. Rest assured, I’ve deactivated his devices, but it’s only polite I return them to working order. Considering the hour, it would be in your best interest not to stay overlong.”
“Worried about my virtue, Garak?”
“Among many other things. I have a gift for you.”
Julian raised a brow, the slight nearly forgotten. “Oh? What is it?”
“You mentioned you were inexperienced,” Garak said, picking up a PADD, “so I included the specifications of an item you may find helpful. Along with your homework.” When Julian grabbed for the PADD, he held it back with a smug gleam in his eyes. “If you’re interested in doing this again, that is.”
“Ah, I asked first.”
Julian threw his arms around Garak’s neck and kissed him. He released a sigh as Garak held him close, the tension in that sturdy body easing. “I thought you were already bored of me,” he confessed.
“Now who’s the one being thick?”
“Me, I freely admit it. When will we see each other again?”
“During our usual lunch, of course.”
In two days, then. That wasn’t really what Julian had been asking, but there was no need to press the issue just yet. He did know where Garak worked, after all. It was much harder for him to avoid Julian than vice versa. “Brilliant,” he said, snatching the PADD from Garak’s hand. “I look forward to it.”
“As do I. I take it I don’t have to remind you to maintain a certain amount of discretion?”
“I think you just did. But no worries.” Julian tapped the side of his nose. “I’ll keep things hush-hush. Good night, Garak.”
“Good night, doctor.”