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When You Go Away

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no relief from grey skies
where’d you take those blue eyes
what can I do

when you go away it’s like you hide the sun
i regret today the things that we might have done

* * *

Julian Bashir was humming. This was going to be fun.

He pecked away at his PADD, entering his case notes for the Bajoran patient who’d just left. Subjective, objective, assessment, plan, tum tum tee tum tum. He’d woken up with the song in his head, found himself singing it as he cleaned his teeth, and it had chased him all the way through the station from his quarters to the sickbay. Now it kept him company as he tidied up his morning’s notes and saved them to the appropriate directories, nice and neat, tum tee tum. He was only half aware of it, but when he heard himself humming, he smiled.

I’m going to have to bother him about that today.

Oh. No. No, I won’t.

The smile faded. Julian pursed his lips, looked at nothing much, ran a hand through his hair. Today was lunch day. Except it wasn’t, because Garak wasn’t on the station. In two years of lunches, the two of them hadn’t yet missed a week. I guess there’s a first time for everything.

The most irritating thing was that he kept forgetting. Yesterday he’d settled down to read a few more chapters of Verota’s Like The Regnar, and had been quietly delighted when he’d seen what he thought was a reference to one of Verota’s previous characters from an earlier work. He’d made a mental note to mention it to Garak – and had remembered, and sagged slightly. Damn, another whole week! It kept popping up and hitting him in the face, and it was starting to smart.

I don’t see why it should take five whole days off-station just to purchase fabric. Garak had made pretty apologies at their last lunch, expressing his dismay at having to disrupt their routine. It was rare for Terdani trader convoys to come anywhere near Deep Space 9. Their usual trade routes kept them closer to the heart of the Federation, not out at its fringes. Garak had been positively ebullient at the prospect of a really good rummage through their wares. Julian couldn’t really fault him for it.

But five days? Seems a bit over-indulgent. Well, Garak wasn’t the only one making a trip of it. It seemed like half the station had seized the opportunity to shuttle over to the trade convoy’s spiderweb of ships, there to slowly wend their way back and forth from tiny ship to tiny ship, to peer at jewellery and exclaim over art and run their fingers over fabric. The Terdani travelled all over the quadrant, and one never knew what one might find. They also did a busy trade in lodgings and food; once you got there, and had gotten yourself thoroughly lost in their web of ships, it was just easier to stay ‘til you’d found whatever you were looking for.

And it wasn’t like Garak got many opportunities to get off the station. Julian winced slightly, feeling a bit of a heel for begrudging his friend the chance to see somewhere new. He himself thought DS9 was an absolutely wonderful place to live – so much to see! and every day different! – but if you’d been there for years and years, Julian could concede that it might get a bit dull.

So, there, that was settled. Garak was away, and he was no doubt having a wonderful time, and Julian was fine with that. In fact, it was a good thing. Perhaps he’d gotten into a bit of a rut, really. Who knew what other exciting things might be happening on DS9 during a Wednesday lunch hour?

Right. So let’s go find something to do, shall we?

He sucked on his bottom lip, pushed his chair back, and stood. His lunch hour awaited.

* * *

when you go away it’s an unfinished song
can’t find words to say but i know where you belong

* * *

Hands behind his back, Julian wandered from shop to shop on the Promenade, peering into windows, letting his feet take him wherever they liked. Music and chatter rang through the station’s shopping arcade. The sometimes enticing, sometimes disconcerting scents of various culture’s cuisines wafted through the air, tickling his nose. Bajoran today? Bolian? Certainly not the Replimat, though. He’d been spending far too much time there.

As he wandered, he found himself humming again, his lips softly shaping syllables he didn’t really know. Kant’a, kant’a, lam chek’I’o, bes ten, bes ten, vellen des attoh… The pretty little tune wandered through his mind, softly colouring his thoughts, making him smile. He wished he’d heard the ending. Hard to imagine Cardassians singing such sweet songs to their children.

He’d learned the song from Garak, not entirely on purpose. Last week before their lunch date, Julian had finished up a bit early at the sickbay and, at loose ends, had decided to meet Garak at his shop instead of at the Replimat. As he’d approached the shop, his unfairly good hearing had picked up the tailor’s soft voice, almost murmuring, its cadence lyrical. Amused and delighted, Julian had stopped outside the door and listened for a few seconds before entering. The moment his foot had crossed the doorstep, the song had stopped, and his friend had looked up from his counter, wearing what Julian thought of as his customer service face - welcoming, but quite bland. Garak had been cutting fabric, it seemed; the laser tool lay beside a bolt of something rich and expensive-looking.

“Doctor! This is unexpected. What a pleasure to have you visit my humble little corner of the station.” As he'd recognized his friend, the Cardassian’s eyes had widened a little, and he’d favoured Julian with an indulgent smile.

Julian had smiled back as he approached, narrowing his eyes at Garak. “You were singing.”

“Singing? Me? My dear Doctor, you must be imagining things.” Garak’s expression had admitted nothing.

“I don’t think so. I heard you.”

“Truly, Doctor? What good hearing you must have. If I was singing, which I wasn’t, it would have been to myself, and it certainly wouldn't be meant for anyone else’s ears.” A bit of a rebuke in Garak’s voice there, and a question, too – how curious that Julian could hear him through a bulkhead and a closed door. He didn’t know about Julian’s enhanced senses, and Julian certainly hadn’t been about to tell him. Redirect, redirect, moving right along…

“How did it go? Sounded like can’t ah, can’t ah, lamb check eye oh – “

His friend had held up a hand, his expression pained. “Stop, Doctor. Spare my ears.”

Julian had raised his brows and smiled his most ingenuous smile. “What, you don’t like my Cardassian accent?”

Garak had lifted his eyes skyward for a moment. “Ah, is that what that was. Doctor, should you in future wish to learn Kardasi, do consider seeking out professional assistance.”

Ouch! I have a damned good ear – that was pretty close to spot on! Slightly wounded, he’d kept smiling nonetheless. “Fine. You teach me, then. How should I have said that?”

Garak had angled his head slightly and looked sideways at Julian. He’d finally spoken, his voice long-suffering. “You should have said:  Kant’a, kant’a, lam chek’I’o.” His light tenor had glided over the clicking sounds of Kardasi, smoothing them, making them sound rhythmic and soft.

Julian had widened his eyes, his gaze just a touch mocking. “Ah, loads of difference. Thank you for enlightening me.”

“Dear boy, where you are concerned, I am pleased to teach, as you clearly need the help.” The Cardassian had made a mock bow, his own smile flashing for a moment.

You ass. Julian had grinned affectionately. “So what does it mean?”

“The song? Ah. It translates – quite loosely - to, ‘tailor, tailor, what have you made?’”

“Does it really?”  Julian had been delighted; Garak had looked slightly rueful. “How does the rest of it go?”

Now Garak had looked a bit blank. “I really couldn’t say.”

You mean you aren’t going to tell me. Unsatisfied curiosity was an itch to Julian Bashir; he had to scratch it. “You don’t know the rest?”

“Doctor, of course I know the rest.”

“Then why don’t you sing it to me?”  He’d infused his voice with as much charm as he could.

Garak had looked singularly unimpressed. “Because, Doctor, you are not three years old.”  His face had suggested that he was prepared to re-evaluate Julian’s maturity based on their current conversational topic.

“Oh – it’s a children’s song?”

“Sung on Cardassia Prime as a story-song, yes.” 

“A story-song – what is that?” 

The discussion had continued on through Garak tidying his shop, through a slow meander to the Replimat, through an enjoyable lunch, through Garak walking Julian back to the sickbay and departing with a small smile. Nothing special, just a typical Wednesday lunch hour, spent with a friend.

I wish I was doing that now. And look at where his feet had brought him:  here he was at the Replimat, once again, because it was Wednesday, and where else would he be?

With a slight sigh, he moved to the replicator. “Tarkalean tea, Earth green curry, and… and three stalks of Cardassian lennet, please.” His order materialized; he took it, and surveyed the Replimat, looking for a table. “Oh, excellent.” The only table open was their usual spot. It was like the universe was conspiring to remind him how dull today was going to be.

Julian toted his tray over to the table and plunked it down without ceremony. He folded himself into his chair, plucked a lennet stalk from his plate and crunched into it, feeling quite grumpy.  I’ll sit here, and I’ll eat, but I won’t have any fun.

God. Now who’s not three years old?

Julian rolled his eyes at his own mood, and sipped his tea, the slight bitterness of the hot liquid contrasting pleasantly with the minty lennet. He rolled the taste around in his mouth, and thought. I should be enjoying myself, doing something different. Why am I sitting at our usual table, by myself, in a sulk?

I miss him, that’s why, and I’m put out about it.

And when had Garak being around become so important, exactly? They only saw each other once a week, really. Certainly, sometimes Julian would drop by Garak’s shop to bounce a thought off him, and sometimes Garak would slip by sickbay for a moment to share a treat, and sometimes they’d run into each other as they travelled the station, but really, it didn’t add up to much, certainly nothing to miss.

Julian twiddled the lennet stalk between his fingers, and sighed.

* * *

take me with you this time, won’t you
don’t make me miss you this time, don’t you
we’re so much better together, don’t you think
i do, i do

* * *

He finished his lunch in a desultory fashion, picking at his curry, lingering over each sip of tea. His eyes drifted over the people moving along the Promenade, the shoppers, the travellers, the crew. He wasn’t really seeing it. I’m a bit too wrapped up in my own self-pity, thanks. God, I am being ridiculous. But it did all seem so dull.

Maybe he'd just exhausted the diversions the station had to offer. He did have a little bit of leave saved up. I could take a day off, go over to the convoy myself, do some shopping of my own – yeah! He’d get away from the station, away from sickbay and his routine, see something he’d never seen before. Surely the Terdani would have some fascinating pharmacological finds, or sports paraphernalia, or something, anything, an excuse, that’s all I need. It’d be fun. Distracting!

And he’d run into Garak on one of the convoy ships, and Garak would see him and smile, and Julian would play it very cool, oh, fancy meeting you here, did you say you were coming here too, I forgot all about it –

And he would laugh at me. I hate it when he laughs at me.

The little dream burst like a bubble, and Julian sighed. It was a stupid idea. He wasn’t really all that interested in seeing the convoy ships, and he wasn’t much of a shopper, and he had work to do. There is no reason here for me to hare off on leave without notice.

And why did that sour little thought make him feel even crankier? He pushed the remnants of his curry around his plate and scowled, then raised his head and looked around him.

The station was definitely less interesting without Garak around. Julian wasn’t certain when that had happened. Deep Space 9 used to be the most exciting place I could imagine. Every day, a new adventure. Now it seemed… well, honestly, it was a bit dull, at least today. True, there were probably all kinds of ships docking, new species travelling through, Quark was no doubt running some kind of engaging betting pool, Kira was likely snipping at Sisko while Jadzia snickered in the background, Miles might be elbows-deep in some intriguing piece of Gamma quadrant technology, and Julian would normally have been aching to find out about all of it, all at once –

But it just wasn’t as much fun without someone to talk to about it.

Things are just better when he’s here. Julian hadn’t realized how much he looked forward to hearing Garak’s comments about books, about people, about food, about – oh, about everything. Garak’s unique blend of sarcasm, humour, gossip, and education had seasoned Julian’s days for so long that life tasted a bit bland without it. Huh. That’s certainly a unique taste I’ve acquired. A bit hard to replicate that particular spice.

That last was true in more ways than one. Julian had never met anyone quite like Garak. The Cardassian’s lunch conversation was the most fascinating mix of harmless and terrifying. One moment he was chuckling with Julian over a turn of phrase in a book; another moment, idly commenting on current events in a way that suggested a past in something considerably more sinister than couture. He was quite the most complicated person Julian had ever met. I still don’t understand why he spends any time with me. That’s probably a good thing. The second I figure it out, he’ll likely stop, the infuriating ass.

He sighed again, and stood, scooping up his plate and returning it to the replicator to be dematerialized. There was no point sitting here feeling sorry for himself. He’d gotten used to walking a bit with Garak after eating. Garak claimed it improved the digestion; Julian didn’t much care one way or the other, and there was always something interesting to see on the Promenade, so why not indulge his friend? Well, today he’d wander alone for a while. God knew he rarely spent much time by himself. It was no doubt good for him.

But you still wish he were here with you, don’t you, Julian?

I do. I do…

* * *

walk the street parade looking through everyone
but they don’t have your face
oh, look what I’ve become

* * *

The Promenade was crowded. As Julian walked, he found himself having to dodge and weave a bit to successfully negotiate the crowd without accidentally bumping into anyone. A transport must have just docked. Well, it was good news for the Promenade businesses. It might keep him busy this afternoon, too; somebody always came off a transport with a minor injury that needed knitting, or a touch of nausea from the docking maneuvers. Easy little cases, quick fixes; that's what I need, that will cheer me up. Julian much preferred feeling needed to being at loose ends, and right now he felt quite superfluous. This is ludicrous. And childish. And I'm going to stop now.

He straightened his back, glanced at a wall monitor. 13:48, just about time to head back to sickbay. Thank God. This lunch hour had seemed to stretch forever. It would be a relief to get back to work. He scanned the crowd, looking for an angle of attack that would get him through the people and over to sickbay with a minimum of fuss -

Hey! There he is! Garak was on the other side of the Promenade, peering into a shop window. When did he get back? He's early!

Delighted, Julian bounded through the crowd, not nearly as concerned with politeness as he had been a minute ago. "'Scuse me, pardon me, sorry, hey, Garak!" He skittered to a stop next to Garak, grinning widely.

And the dark-haired man who turned and looked at him was most manifestly not Garak, and clearly had no idea who this strange Human was or what he wanted, and Julian felt like an absolute idiot. He's not even Cardassian. God, I am a fool. His heart plummeted.

He backed away, waving his hands before him as if attempting to erase the awkwardness. "Sorry, sorry, thought you were somebody else."

The man gave him a sideways look, and turned back to his window-shopping. Julian, for his part, moved a few steps away and pretended to look through the window himself, trying to disguise his discomfiture. Stupid, stupid!

It wasn't the awkwardness of it he minded, particularly. God knows I'm used to that by now; I seem to have such a talent for it. No, the thing that was disconcerting him was how excited he'd felt when he'd thought he'd seen Garak, and how upset he'd been when he'd been wrong. He knew he missed him, and that was strange enough on its own. But to miss him this much? This was unusual. This was...

Oh, God, this is a crush, isn't it.  Julian's eyes widened; his fingers twitched. Oh, God. Here I go again. Once more unto the breach, head over heels and ass over tea-kettle? What the hell is wrong with me? He squeezed his eyes shut and emitted a quietly pained sound, then dropped his head into his palms. The dark-haired man he'd mistaken for Garak decided that there were probably less weird places to be on the station and moved on, leaving Julian alone, shaking his head in front of the store window. He raised his head and stared at his own baffled reflection.

All right, wait, stop, think. Let's not jump to conclusions here. After all, he and Garak had been friends for two years now. Their lunch dates had been a pleasant punctuation to Julian's weeks, nothing more. He'd never missed him before. I never had the chance to before - he was always there!

Gah. Okay. Definitely some kind of crush. Unexpected and complicated. But kind of fun, perhaps? If not ridiculously dangerous? Okay, Julian, let's figure this out. It made sense that Julian was enamoured of Garak as an intellectual companion; he was a fantastic conversationalist, well-read, funny, with a clever opinion on everything. Although I may be slightly biased...

What about the physical component? He certainly wasn't Julian's usual type. Julian typically preferred young, female, and pneumatic. Garak was none of those things, that was definite. So that's an easy way to deal with this. There certainly can't be any physical attraction here, and that's a deal-breaker. I mean, when he gets back, am I going to hug him?

Well, that was certainly possible; one often hugged one's friends, after all.

All right, let's amplify. How about a kiss?

Hmm.

Or I could brush my cheek against his, Cardassian style.

Their jawlines stroking together. The brush of tiny rough scales against Julian's skin, like the bristles of a cat's tongue, like fine sandpaper.

Um.

This thought exercise was turning out to be singularly poor aversion therapy.

Oh.

Julian's eyes were wide; at some point in the last few seconds, he'd bitten down hard on his lower lip. He was dizzyingly aware of a new world opening up to him.

Mmmmph - 

And when had he started thinking solely in monosyllables?

This was not how it usually worked for Julian. I admit, I'm prone to crushes... But usually I fall madly in love with them and then they become my best friend, not the other way around!

He pressed his hands against his face, briefly, eyes still wide. He could see his reflection in the window; his pupils were widely dilated. His cheeks were hot, his skin tingling; he felt short of breath. Careful, Julian! God, he was so full of oxytocin and dopamine that they were going to come pouring out of his ears. And he was humming, double tempo, like an idiot, kant'a, kant'a, lam chek'I'o, what was wrong with him?

Calm down, calm down! I cannot afford to go all Jadzia on this one! I need to think!

He inhaled, long and slow, held his breath, let it out in a controlled exhalation. Again. He felt his heart rate drop. He closed his eyes, found his calm, held himself still.

And then he slitted his eyes open, just a little, and snuck a look at his reflection.

It was smiling back at him.

He felt his smile widen involuntarily; a laugh slipped from his lips. Feeling a bit insane, he ran his hands through his hair and pulled for a second. He did look quite mad.

I was too intense with Jadzia. But I didn't know Jadzia. And I do know him. And I think he really does like me. Maybe he could... more than like me? He still shied away from the thought; it was too precious, too intense to hold on to for longer than a moment. Oh, God! He was dizzy with unexpected delight, with the discovery of something entirely new on DS9. This station really is full of surprises!

His comm badge chirruped, and the computer's pleasant voice spoke. "Doctor Bashir, the time now is 13:55." 

Julian blinked, coming back to himself. I've... I've got to go back to work! The idea, so appealing a few minutes before, was now almost unthinkable. Go back to work? Research prion therapy? Give shots? While there were birds singing in his mind and butterflies in his stomach? Urgh.

With an effort, he straightened his shoulders, squared his stance. He looked at himself in the window. Oh, dear. He did his best to tidy his mussed hair with his hands, and hung his most coolly professional expression on his face. Doctor Bashir, chief medical officer on DS9. With a rosy haze over his vision, and blue eyes laughing in his mind.

It can't be helped. He'd just have to plug on through his afternoon, and deal with this later. Maybe he'd replicate some chamomile tea, something soothing. Yeah. And drink it ice cold.

He turned away from the shop window and did his best to merge seamlessly with the Promenade traffic. There was one very good thing about this crowd:  it had enabled him to have his private little meltdown apparently unnoticed. Thank God. The last thing he needed was to be sussed out by Jadzia, or God forbid, Quark.

The crowd swept him along, and deposited him neatly back at the entrance to sickbay. He closed his eyes for one more moment, treated himself to another deep breath, and crossed back into real life. The sounds of whirring scanners and bleeping computers were a balm for his frazzled nervous system; he felt himself coming back into focus.

One of the nurses, Rijal, smiled at him as he came in. "Good lunch, Julian?"

He smiled back. "Oh, yes, thanks."

"Not too bored today? I know you usually spend Wednesdays with Garak. Were you able to find something interesting to do?"

Um. "Yes, I suppose you could say that." He tried to emulate Garak's customer-service face, the bland voice that revealed nothing.

Apparently, he failed on both counts, for Rijal's brows lifted. Her already crinkled nose wrinkled further with her smile. "Julian, what have you been doing?"

Deny everything! Wait, wait, I haven't even done anything! "I - what do you mean?"

Her smile went a touch lopsided, and her brows rose even higher. "I know that face. Who're you chasing this time?"

"Chasing?" Julian wanted so badly to sound outraged. It was too bad that his voice came out in more of a squeak. "I don't know what you mean."

Rijal's smile shaded from skepticism to affection. "Uh huh. Well, I'm sure I'll meet her soon enough. Just don't let her break your heart."

Julian huffed out a little breath, his eyes wide, and strode to his console, the better to escape nosy know-it-all medical staff.  God, am I transparent? Can everyone see everything I think? He needed to take some lessons from Garak in inscrutability. Among other things... Oh, God, he was blushing again. He sat heavily in his chair.

Let's see. How long have I got 'til he gets back? Um, two days. It would have to be enough. To think that an hour earlier he'd been irritably wishing Garak would get back sooner. Now he needed all the time he could get to plan his... Attack? Infiltration? Is this going to be a war? He had a feeling that the standard Bashir frontal assault would be a miserable rout against this defender.

No. I've got to do this right. He knew Cardassian romance was a complicated thing, full of subtle cues and verbal exchanges, and what could be read as outright hostility, if you weren't a Cardassian. His usual resource for Cardassian cultural studies was going to have to be strictly off-limits. What else did he have?

I have his books. Julian's eyes widened for a moment, then narrowed as he mentally reviewed the titles Garak had lent him over the past few months. Like The Regnar. A Question of Politics. Red and Grey. Not much help there. He still had Petals of the K'selses, waiting untouched on his bedside table. Please, God, let it be a romance novel.

He caught a glimpse of himself in the reflection on a darkened panel, eyes a bit frantic, fingers twiddling, and that damned betraying smile still dancing 'round the corners of his mouth. Oh, what a mess you are. But he'd always felt he was at his best when pursuing a hopeless cause, whether it be practicing medicine on a crumbling space station, or trying to steal the tennis championship from the reigning champ, or frantically chasing after the heart of someone quite unattainable. This will be a challenge. I excel at challenges.

There was a soft chime, and a consult request popped up on his terminal. Time to focus, Julian. But he took a quick moment to scribble down a list of Cardassian physiology references to consult, and to note a couple of passages in Red and Grey that had made him wonder when he'd first read them. I have so much to learn, and so little time to learn it...

God, had he really been bored?

His heart thumped in his chest, and he smiled. Garak, when you get back, I promise to astonish you. This student is going to surpass his teacher. Boredom was a distant memory; the next two days promised to be a frantic, neurochemical-drowned cram session. Like Starfleet Medical finals, but swap epinephrine for oxytocin.

Julian Bashir was humming. This was going to be fun.

* * *

what can i do, when you go away?

--the weepies