"My results just don't make any sense, there's no discernible pattern to them at all!" Julian sighed, annoyed.
He was holding forth about the latest data from an experiment he'd been running in the sickbay for the past week, and Jadzia was smiling over her raktajino. Julian had the feeling she was probably humoring him at least a little -- Jadzia was always humoring him at least a little -- but when he paused for breath she jumped in with her own ideas, which was what he'd been angling for all along.
"Hmm," she said, putting her mug down. "It seems to me that you could get clearer results if you set up some more precise temperature parameters - I know that lab is meant to be heat controlled but personally I find that setting up a smaller system is the only way to really make sure you're not having any fluctuating heat problems, however small, which might explain your current anomalies."
"Oh, you're brilliant," said Julian, with feeling. "Hold that thought while I get us a refill." He walked over to the replicators, already mentally reconfiguring the experiment chamber and setting up a pod around it. Maybe he could borrow a couple of spare conduits from Miles to get the extra power boost he'd need to implement Jadzia's suggestion.
Jadzia was smiling at him as he returned to the table with two steaming mugs.
"What?" he asked, suspicious.
"It's just good to see you so happy, is all," she said, taking her mug from him and patting his hand. "I guess things are still going well with you and Garak, then?"
He frowned. "I'm sorry?"
"Oh, was I not supposed to know? Honestly, I just picked it up in passing, it's not station gossip or anything. Though I don't think you'd have anything to worry about, Garak's pretty settled here now and I doubt anyone's going to accuse you of fraternizing with the enemy and selling Starfleet secrets or something." She laughed.
Julian was confused. "I think my friendship with Garak is common knowledge."
She sat back slightly. "But aren't the two of you dating?"
"Dating? What? No!" He blinked, taken aback. It had never even occurred to him that someone could get that idea. "Definitely not."
"I'm sorry, my mistake," she said easily. "Though I have to say, you could have fooled me."
He laughed. "Well, that's a first for me, then. But nothing's going on, I can assure you."
"If you say so! So then, let's talk about optimizing that experiment of yours."
It made Julian laugh when he remembered the conversation. The idea of him and Garak having some kind of romantic relationship seemed absurd. He liked Garak tremendously, of course, his sharp mind and enigmatic smile, but he failed to see how their interactions could ever be seen as anything other than entirely platonic. Jadzia on a rare flight of fancy, then.
Julian looked up and grinned as Garak hurried across the promenade towards him.
"Julian, you must forgive my tardiness, I am afraid I was dealing with a most persistent customer in the shop just now, he was adamant that his suit adjustments must be made as a matter of urgency, I couldn't shake him off." Garak leaned over the table as he spoke, lightly squeezing Julian's arm and smiling.
"No problem at all," said Julian. "I took the liberty of ordering us some food - sem'hal stew with yamok sauce as usual, I assumed?"
"You are very kind, thank you," Garak said, sitting down and picking up a PADD, transferring a file over to Julian. "Now, I know you've made your feelings on Cardassian literature abundantly clear, but I hope I can persuade you to give one more book a try."
Julian rolled his eyes. "What is it this time, a treatise on the correct application of subterfuge within family life?"
"This is the autobiography of one of our foremost politicians in history, Salden Pritek. I found it quite inspiring as a boy, and though I doubt you'll find it quite so enlightening, it might at least prove interesting."
"An insight into your inner psyche, perhaps?" Julian asked, picking it up and turning it over. "Well, that's certainly worth a read. Now, did you get a chance to read that last book I lent you?"
Garak looked pained. "I did, yes. I must say, Doctor, I found it rather tedious, not to mention founded on some deeply suspect principles. Whatever human morality dictated the qualms this fellowship had about wielding ultimate power, surely the greater good demanded the sacrifice of an integrity of a few? If Aragorn wished to be a true leader of men, surely he should have been able to bring himself to wield the One Ring in order to vanquish his enemies and protect his people!"
Julian leaned in. "Ah, but you see, that's just the point. If Aragorn had taken the Ring, he would have been consumed by it and no longer fit to be King. Absolute power corrupts absolutely; it's a central theme in a great deal of Earth literature."
"How charmingly black and white," said Garak.
They argued cheerfully over the relative merits of Tolkien for the next hour, until Julian got an urgent call to the medbay and he had to take his leave.
He only made it back to his own quarters at 2200, exhausted but buzzing slightly from a successful day's work. He emptied out his belongings onto the table, including his PADD, which was still displaying his latest loan from Garak when he switched on.
Julian smiled, sitting down to have a look at it. He certainly wasn't up for delving into Cardassian prose tonight, but he skimmed through the introduction anyway, not particularly taking it in, but happy at the prospect of gleaning some insight into a Garak's life in the volume over the coming week.
He got himself a glass of water and ran his fingers over the PADD screen, still smiling to himself. He changed into his pajamas, laughing as he remembered some of Garak's particularly entertaining observations about Earth literature from their earlier lunch. He'd had to dig up some more books from his Ancient Earth Literature course back at the Academy for Garak's analysis.
He settled down into bed, feeling a warm glow spread through him from what had all in all been a very good day.
It wasn't until almost a week later, and with his next lunch date with Garak fast approaching, that Julian thought to remember the conversation that he'd had with Jadzia. It made him stop in his tracks. She didn't have a point, did she? There wasn't something he'd missed?
He frowned, thoughtful.
"Miles, there you are!" Julian found him squatting in front of a work station, a tangle of wiring in front of him
"Hey, Julian," Miles said, sounding distracted. "What's up? You still on for dinner this weekend?"
"Great, I'll let Keiko know." Miles returned to his work for a moment and then looked up at Julian. "Was there something you needed?"
Julian sat down next to him, leaning against the bulkhead. "I'm having a bit of a problem with something."
"Oh? Is this one of those problems where I actually don't want to know?"
"Er," said Julian. "I don't know. But listen, how would you describe the relationship between Garak and I?"
"How would I what?"
"Garak and I. I've always thought that we were just friends, but suddenly, well, I'm not so sure."
Miles stopped what he was doing and turned to face Julian, squinting. "How can you not be sure? That sounds to me like something you'd be pretty clear about."
"Oh, I'm never sure about anything with Garak. That's half the fun of it all." Julian grinned.
Miles winced. "This really isn't my area, you know. Just ask Keiko, she'll tell you I'm hopeless."
Julian brightened at the thought. "Do you think Keiko would have any ideas?"
"No! No, don't drag her into the mess that is your love life as well. Look, I may not be an expert, but I think you ought to be talking to Garak about this, not me."
Julian sighed. "Probably. What do I say, though, without sounding like an idiot?"
"Well, if that's your goal, then there's no hope for you." Miles turned back to his wiring, but he was laughing. "And for the record? This is definitely one of those things I just don't want to know about, all right?" He brandished his wrench at Julian. "Now go away and sort your life out, this relay won't mend itself."
Julian sighed, defeated. "Fine, fine. I'll see you later. Quark's tonight?"
"Sure, why not." Miles waved him off. "I'll see you there."
Julian contemplated who else he could ask. He could imagine the matching blank looks of horror on the faces of Kira, Sisko and Odo, so they were all out. Quark's advice would be both freely given and completely terrible.
"Help me, Jadzia, you're my only hope," he muttered as he looked up her current location at one of the monitors. Happily, she was already in sickbay, so he hurried down, hoping for her advice on relationships as well genetics experiments.
"Julian, Julian, Julian," Jadzia said, studying the readings on her tricorder.
"I know, I know, I should just talk to Garak about it." He fiddled with the settings on the atmospheric chamber mournfully.
"Well, yes, but also you need to figure out just what it is you actually want to talk about."
He sighed. "And that's where I'm stuck."
She patted his arm as she walked past to pick up some more readings. "I forget how young you are, sometimes."
"Yes, well," he said, not sure how to respond to that.
"The thing is, the question isn't so much what you think is happening as what you want to happen. What do you want, Julian?"
"I--" He thought about it. He thought about the fact that his time with Garak was usually the high point of his week, with the kind of mental sparring he often dreamed of and rarely found. He thought about it some more, and felt a slow, knowing smile cross his face. Oh.
Jadzia watched him, and nodded. "That's what I thought. Go on, your shift's over in ten minutes, I can clean up here."
"Thank you," he said, with feeling, and ran out of the room.
Garak was just closing up shop when Julian got there.
"Doctor!" Garak said, smiling. "What an unexpected pleasure. I was just closing, but if you're having some kind of sartorial-related emergency I would be more than happy to help."
"Not sartorial-related, no. May I come in?"
They went inside, and Garak leaned against a shelf of fabric, watching Julian evenly. "What can I do for you?"
"I think I'm onto you," said Julian. "I've finally worked you out."
"Really? Well, this ought to be interesting." Garak's eyes widened just a little, intrigued.
"All of this time, I thought you wanted to be my friend, but that's not it at all, is it? I used to think that you were only befriending me so that you could pump me for information to report back to your Cardassian superiors, but I now see that your intentions consisted of something else entirely."
"Is that so? And what intentions do you suppose I have?"
"My hypothesis is that you took a shine to a young and impressionable Federation doctor and took it upon yourself to gradually seduce him, hoping that sooner or later he might detect your advances. If that came to pass, perhaps you might find yourself quite alone with him one day, in order that this young Federation doctor might do something very rash. Something rather like this."
And with that, Julian stepped right up into Garak's space, his heart pounding. He curled one hand around Garak's wrist to anchor himself, and leaned in to kiss him.
For a moment, Julian could hardly breathe, his whole body one taut line of nervous energy, with his mouth pressed against Garak's cool, dry lips. Then Garak's mouth opened with a small sigh, and his hands moved to rest lightly on Julian's hips, and then Julian could breathe again.
Garak broke the kiss to whisper in Julian's ear. "Excellently deducted. Although I must say it has taken you some time."
"Yes, well," said Julian. "It wouldn't be any fun otherwise."
Garak laughed, low and warm, and rested one hand on Julian's chest. "How very true. Though this part of the plan is already proving to be most enjoyable."
"I'm glad to hear it," said Julian, and kissed him again.