Garak knew something was off from the moment he walked in. From there, it only remained to determine exactly what it was and how he needed to deal with it.
Well, that's fine. That was what he did best, after all…
It was somewhat strange to slip into his analytical mode in his own quarters. He usually felt safe in his quarters… but then again, this didn't feel unsafe, exactly. It was simply… different.
Breaking the environment down into its component parts helped somewhat. Analysis first, Elim. Just as trained.
First: the air tasted of Human, as it always did on this station; this was, however, much less oppressive than it had once been, because—
Second: "Hello, love!" came the carol from the other room, and he smiled to himself, and then smiled wider as—
Third: Julian Bashir, chief medical officer of Deep Space Nine and man entrusted with the lives of everyone on the station, relentlessly competent, quick-witted and charming, came strolling into the room wrapped only in blue Kraussian silk—
Third-and-a-half: and didn't he look marvellous! Garak had been right: the blue set off his skin delightfully, not to mention the way it made his eyes look darker. But back to analysis of said Julian Bashir—
Fourth: because something was very subtly off about the way he was walking.
"Hello, my dear," he said without thinking much about it, analyzing Julian's gait. Something… hurt? No, there was no pain in his expression or in his movements, nothing to give away a vulnerable spot… "You look lovely. What's the occasion?"
"Can't a man greet his beloved dressed only in silk?"
"Of course he can. But you usually don't."
Julian smiled, nodding: point. "Not usually. But all the rules change on one's anniversary."
What? His mind raced, tallying back… it didn't make sense. "I'm sorry… but I don't think it is our anniversary." And that was a concern—that incisive mind, that perfect memory, beginning to slip?
But no, Julian was laughing. "Not of our official relationship, no."
"But it is the anniversary of our very first dinner in my quarters…"
Oh. Oh. "I see."
"I thought such a momentous occasion deserved celebrating."
Julian smiled, smugly anticipatory; meanwhile Garak remembered, half-wanting to wince. It had been such an awkward fumble… still, he'd managed, and Julian had managed, and managing had been extremely pleasant once they'd figured out a few basics. Yes… yes, very pleasant, and absolutely worth celebrating, and so he opened his arms, wrapped his beloved in them, pressed him close, and processed frantically.
There was this about Kraussian silk: it clung to every iceksamlan of skin. It left absolutely nothing to the imagination. On Julian, it usually delineated all kinds of hidden shapes; the peak of a hip here, a nipple (charming!) there…
And something was definitely… not delineated.
Have I lost my mind?
But Julian's muscles were tense under his hands, and when Garak pulled away, his smile was nervous.
Gently, Elim. Confessions flow better when eased free. "Is there something you'd like to tell me, my dear?"
Julian laughed, ran a hand through his hair, blinked. "I may have gotten you a present."
"Um… Hell. How… Do you know, it's all so easy until… Never mind. Happy anniversary!"
And he dropped his robe, and Garak stared—
"Doctor Bashir, what have you done?"
Nothing. Nothing at all. Where Julian's pretty prUt usually rested, nested cozily in fur; where his purse dangled, inviting tickling fingers, there was nothing…
Wait. Not nothing. Something…
His gaze rose to meet Julian's. Apparently his expression was everything Julian had hoped for, because the grin that greeted him was, quite frankly, brilliant.
"I beg your pardon?"
The grin slumped slightly. "Sorry. It means… more or less, it means 'look at what I've done!'"
"I don't think I could look away. What have you done?"
"Nothing permanent, don't worry. Just a bit of remodelling." Julian looked down, apparently quite pleased with what he saw, and patted the mysterious tuft of dark fur possessively. "It's just until Monday rolls 'round."
"Because it'll be fun!" Julian bounced on his toes, gleeful amidst spilled silk, and nothing at all bounced with him. "It's a bit of a done thing these days to try out another gender's setup. Do you know, even Miles had a go, back on the Enterprise—"
"Please stop talking." He was astounded enough without having to imagine the stocky Chief of Operations in any state of undress, let alone with modifications. "Let me process for a moment."
"Um." Less bouncing. "Don't you like it?"
His mind was racing. What is the etiquette for this kind of situation? Quite simply, there wasn't any, but Julian's eyes were now distressingly downcast. It wouldn't do. Manners, Elim! And the easiest way to fix it seemed to be to fall back on the first lesson any lover ever learned:
"It looks lovely on you, my dear."
Up came those pretty eyes, matched by a flattered grin. "Really?"
"Certainly." Why not? It was all more or less the same, wasn't it? Alien is alien.
"Thanks. I think it suits me rather well, actually." And now he was—yes, he was going to do a pirouette, incredible. But as he watched Julian perform his little spin, he found himself smiling.
Julian stopped, tilted his head, tipped his grin sideways… and yes, here it was, drawn out and clockwork-predictable: "So…?"
He echoed his tone: "So?"
"Well, come on…" Another semi-bashful grin. "Should we try it out?"
Astounding. The man was astounding.
"Is that really going to be your attempt at seduction?"
The grin drooped. "I'm sorry?"
"Really, my dear." Mild affront seemed the best way of proceeding. "No dinner? No drinks? Pure carnality?"
"Oh, I've got both dinner and drinks set up." Back came the smile, and Garak did not melt under it, not at all. "But I've been waiting here very patiently for quite some time now, and I really rather think I'd like you to go ahead and open your present first."
"Did you prepare that line to be used ahead of time?"
"Yes, actually. Thought it up while on the table. Semna thought it was pretty funny."
Oh, mercies! "You're discussed this with your colleagues?"
"Of course I have!" Julian had now wrapped his arms around Garak's shoulders and was chuckling at him from not at all far away, absolutely convinced he was the funniest thing in four quadrants. "Couldn't exactly do the installation myself, could I? But they were delighted to help—found it rather intriguing, I think—Rij'll be up next if she has anything to say about it—"
"They all know?"
"Oh, what do you care?" There was a low laugh against his jaw; despite himself, he angled his chin to savour the warmth. "You love being the centre of scurrilous rumour."
"Not usually this scurrilous."
"Nonsense." Oh, a kiss. "I remember back before we got all tangled up together…" Another. "One week you were a spy, the next an assassin, the third the most famous lover in the Alpha Quadrant…"
"I never heard that one." Were those little kisses really leaving a trail? So warm… Without quite willing it, his hands found their way to Julian's hips, thumbs stroking against sharp hipbones.
"I thought you'd started it." Sharp teeth now—really, Julian was sharp all over—and those teeth were nibbling at his chin between words. Damn the man for learning so quickly.
"I'm sorry to let you down."
"Oh, no fear; once I'd convinced you to take up with me I found out it was true." Which might have been flattering, if perhaps a bit much, if Julian hadn't immediately begun to snicker.
He tightened his hands on those slim hips, felt Julian's happy sigh and sway.
"Am I convincing you now, darling?" Julian's voice was low and breathy; he probably thought it was very seductive. And I am pathetically suggestible, because he's right.
"Perhaps. I may require further explanation."
"A whole new set of genitalia is the sort of thing that could daunt any lover, don't you think?"
"Fair, fair… shall I take you into the bedroom and walk you through it?"
Too easy. It was never good to make things too easy for Julian. He did so like to chase. "I think here will do just fine."
"What, standing here at the door?"
"The sofa seems convenient."
And so it was, and Julian, shameless as always, sprawled out to display himself to best advantage. Garak was instructed to sit on the floor—"tailor-seat, ha! That means cross-legged"—and to pay close attention. Amused by the sparkle in Julian's eye, he did his best to play eager student, because you're enjoying this just a bit too much, my dear…
"I designed it all, of course."
It looked complicated and delicate… and yes, his Julian was of course a skillful artist in the surgery, even if he could be astoundingly tone-deaf in more sartorial situations. "Clearly you've put a great deal of work into it."
"Oh, yes. More than a few evenings."
"Well, when you're at the shop…"
This was surreal… and yet quite charming. He leaned closer. "May I touch?"
"I'm rather hoping you will." Julian wriggled his hips, and Garak fixed him with a quelling look.
"None of that."
"Oh, none at all?"
"Perhaps later. Perhaps. At this moment I find myself much more concerned with how this pretty thing works." He extended a curious finger, stroked lightly along one of the furred lips (not failing to note Julian's small sound). "Is it like an ajan?"
"Mmm, yes… but not exactly." Julian made a considering noise. "Less protective, certainly."
"Your species is remarkably flawed in that department." Unless the fur was intended as protection. Really… why bother?
"I didn't design it."
"You designed this one."
"Yes, but authenticity was rather my aim here. It hardly makes sense to build myself the perfect set of genitals… although, you know…"
That tone of voice held nothing but trouble. He held up a hand. "No. Please. Don't."
"I promise nothing," said his downfall, eyes dancing, "but for now we'll stick to this."
"Not literally, I hope."
"Ha! No, no, it's not sticky. Slippery, rather. It's self-lubricating, much like an ajan. Requires a bit more priming, though."
"Mmm. The interior is always nicely moist, but it's not ready for sex at any time."
"Neither is an ajan."
"You know what I mean, though. With Cardassians it's loosened scutes and swelling. With Humans it's… well, it's secretions and swelling, I suppose."
"Go on." Now he let his finger slip from the furry lips to the smaller naked pair, peeping out from between their larger sisters. "Why two sets of lips?"
"You've got me. That's just factory standard."
"And what swells, exactly?"
"Most of it, to varying degrees. Gets pinkish if you're doing your job properly." One long finger angled down to point out landmarks. "And it lubricates from in here, and from just here… really, I'm very well taken care of."
Dark and deep and very like an ajan. A floral ajan. So strange. "Fascinating…"
"If you're interested, I urinate out of here."
"I admit I did wonder, although I don't think we need to discuss it in any more detail at this moment."
"Are you sure? It's a very interesting sensation—"
"Quite sure, thank you."
"If you say so." A shrug, and the moving finger, having poked, moved on. "And up here we have a lovely organ—"
"Oh!" It was so small! "May I touch it?"
"Can't see why not; you've had a go at everything else."
So delicate. He stroked it once. He would have liked to have stroked it more than once, but once was all he was permitted, as Julian made a sound something like yeek and very nearly clamped his legs shut on Garak's hand.
"I do apologize—are you all right?"
"My God, I didn't realize how sensitive that was. Oh, God. Sorry, Palis. Sorry, Brit." One of his hands was hovering protectively over that dangerous little nub. "Perhaps just go easy there."
So much to keep track of. Inside, outside, functional, decorative. Names would help. "And what am I to call this delightful assembly?"
"Well, that astonishingly sensitive little fellow is the clitoris, and this set of lips is the labia majora, and these are the labia minora, and this is the vagina… what?"
So unmusical. So clinical. "Are these the terms you'd use in bed, my dear?"
That won him a rueful grin. "No, I don't think so."
Garak smiled up at his favourite Human, lazy-sprawled on their sofa in charmingly-displayed disarray. "Tell me what you'd like me to call them."
He was treated to the sight of Julian Bashir, briefly speechless.
"I… do you know, I'm not sure. There are a lot of terms to choose from…"
"Go on," he said invitingly, and then briefly regretted it as he nearly drowned under the deluge—
"Wait, stop, stop—cat?"
"I've always liked that one."
He'd seen a cat. It had been pleasantly territorial. It did not in any way seem related to what lay between Julian's legs. "Hmm."
More terms. Some oddly mechanical. "Protruding rim?"
Julian blinked at him. "What?"
"That last one."
"Huh. Do you know, I don't think that translates well."
When Julian finally ran down, Garak sat, thoughtful.
"Having a hard time choosing, are we?" Julian's voice was amused.
"It's not that, my dear. It's simply that I am now beginning to understand Humanity's reputation."
"Indeed. As the most sex-obsessed species in the Alpha Quadrant."
"Oh, we are not."
"Name another species with that many words for genitalia."
"Hmm," said Julian, with pleasure in his voice. "Well, I suppose there are worse things to be known for."
"And you'll mate with anything. You as a species, I mean."
"I really can't argue with either interpretation. I'm trying rather hard to mate with you, for instance."
"Patience, my dear. You'll make me feel tawdry."
"Not at all. You're my favourite. I don't sprawl myself out like this for just anyone."
"Tsk. Be nice, and pick a name."
He wanted to. He did. But… "Nothing seems to fit, my dear," and he looked up at Julian apologetically. "I'm certain they're all charming words—"
"—not all, but we'll leave it—"
"—but nothing seems quite right."
It was too charming, this pretty little furred thing. Too cunningly designed, too well-woven to be summed up as a cat or a fruit or something out of a machine shop. He stroked it again, saw how Julian's thighs eased open, smiled to himself.
Julian's smile was uncertain. "Should I pick something?"
"No, no, my dear." He let his fingers trace gently over and around, learning the shapes, the contours. "Just tell me more about this creation of yours. I'm certain the proper name will spring to mind."
The sight of Julian frowning down at his own genitals was something to tuck away.
"I'm not really certain what else there is to tell."
"Did you build it personally? Or can one select from a template?"
"Oh, this is all me." There was a slightly worrying amount of pride in his grin. "And do you know, it's one hundred percent actual Julian Bashir. Or perhaps Juliet, right? Because if I'd turned out XX, this is exactly what I would have been sporting."
"Chromosomal designates. XX usually gives one a female, XY a male, although of course there are many variations… I think Cardassians are similar there, aren't you?"
"I believe so. It's not exactly my field."
"So all I had to do was culture up some tissue, switch this to that, and…"
The words flowed over him. They were unstoppable. None of them seemed particularly relevant, and a great deal of the information being imparted was far beyond his scope. That was fine; that gave him time to ponder, to assess…
He dropped his jaw, sipped air, smiled, and yes… that was what he'd scented. Just a faint waft of warm skin, bare beneath silk… Delicious.
Hmm. I think I like this pretty thing.
What could it do? For that matter, what could he do?
Curious, he moistened a fingertip and ran it just so…
"—sort of medium, I mean, it's not always—oh… Um. At any rate, we replicated—"
That was interesting. And now if he used both hands, if one stroked while the other gently dipped…
"—three trials, but—God! That's—oh, that's—yes, that's nice… where was I? Oh… something about growth trials…"
A laudable result. And now, perhaps, if he dipped his head forward, if he opened his mouth and let the flat of his tongue stroke here—
"God! Oh, God, never mind about the bloody trials, do that again!"
The hand on the back of his neck urged him on, and Garak found himself suddenly immersed in scientific discovery.