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Doctor Bashir’s voice echoed in the empty, darkened mess hall. Garak had heard him approach, but did not look up from his PADD and plate of French toast and maple syrup (an Earth dish primarily eaten in the morning, according to Doctor Bashir, and in Garak's opinion a barely passable pre-bedtime snack, but the replicators on the Defiant had a very limited menu, and their few attempts at Cardassian desserts were so far from the genuine article as to be insulting) until the doctor's shadow fell across him.

"Good evening, Doctor.” Garak twisted his head slightly up and back. The doctor was standing at an awkward angle behind Garak's left shoulder, and to look him properly in the face would require contortions that were really too much of an effort after the long, fruitless day Garak had had. "Would you care to join me?"

"Hi, Garak." Bashir said nothing else.

"Hello, Doctor. Is everything all right?" He shifted around a little on the bench and looked the doctor full in the face, trying to better ascertain his state. 

"Oh, yes, yes, everything's fine." 

Everything was not fine. The doctor was flushed. His eyes met Garak's only briefly, then flickered down to the floor. He was fidgeting, hugging himself with one arm, left hand rubbing up and down his right forearm. The pink tip of his tongue darted out and ran over his upper lip. 

"Doctor. What's wrong?" It wasn't time to worry yet, exactly, but the doctor's manner was very strange. He hadn't displayed this level of nervousness around Garak since the very first day they'd met, when he'd been quite the innocent, dewy-eyed ingenue and Garak had deliberately played up his intimidating, unblinking spy persona. 

"Nothing, Garak, honestly!" A glance. The doctor's eyes were dark and wet and shining. "I just wondered where you were."

"Well, I'm here, as you can see. And now that you've found me, what can I do for you, Doctor? I'll ask you again: would you care to join me? You'd be doing my waistline a favour if you helped me finish this." Garak patted his belly. The doctor's eyes seemed to get bigger, if that was possible, as they followed Garak's hand.

"Your waistline is perfect," said the doctor, and settled himself on the bench beside Garak, long legs splayed out, so that they were sitting hip-to-hip but facing opposite directions. He pressed into Garak quite unnecessarily, although the firm warmth was not unwelcome. 

"Why, thank you, Doctor." Experimentally, Garak rubbed his belly a little more. The doctor's eyes remained locked on his hand. Curious. "Although the waistline comment was just a figure of speech. I'm afraid it's actually my thighs that bear the brunt when I'm too intemperate with desserts." It wasn't true, but it gave Garak an excuse to brush his hands along his thighs. The doctor, still laser-focused on where Garak was putting his hands, made a small, almost imperceptible gasp.

"Your thighs are perfect, too, Garak," he said, lightly placing his hand on the closest one. Once he'd made physical contact, he drew a deep breath and looked up, searching, into Garak's eyes. 

Garak had to stop himself from a sharp inhale as well. The touch had not come as a complete surprise, given the doctor's strange behaviour and focus on Garak's body, but Garak had not expected it to feel so good. The careful placement of the warm, capable hand on what to Cardassians, and, Garak was fairly certain, to humans too, was a rather intimate part of the body, sent a little thrill of electricity through him. It would be awfully nice, Garak thought, if he could feel more of that. 

And then he gathered his wherewithal. They flirted a little, yes, always had, but this was not normal behaviour for Doctor Bashir. As much as he would love to swim in those dark eyes and allow the doctor to make other parts of his body tingle, he first had to get to the bottom of this sudden change in behaviour. 

"So many compliments," Garak said lightly. "Is the perfection of my thighs your medical opinion or your personal opinion, Doctor?"

"Personal. God, Garak, you're perfect. Your body is perfect." He raised his other hand to caress Garak's cheek. 

"My goodness, Doctor, you really mustn't flatter me this way. I'm a simple man, as you know, and..."

But the doctor brought his lips to Garak's, making it impossible for him to continue.

They're so soft was Garak's first thought, as he closed his eyes and tilted his head back. His mouth is so warm was the second. No, stop, what are you doing, Elim? was the third, screeching to his head just as the doctor’s other hand crept up his thigh and began tentatively stroking his ajan through the heavy layers of clothing. By the ancestors, to feel another's touch there after so long, and for that other to be this beautiful man. There was no one around. It was so tempting to succumb, to let the doctor do what he wanted, and of course his traitorous organ was not helping at all. He felt a rush of wetness between his legs and cursed his weakness and lack of foresight — he should have found an outlet other than his own hand all these years on the station. A passing traveller, a trader. It's not as if the opportunity hadn't presented itself. And if he had, perhaps his body wouldn't be responding to the doctor's touch like that of an adolescent before his first bloom. 

It took all of Garak's willpower to break the kiss and wrench the doctor's hand away from his rapidly flowering ajan

"Garak..." The doctor's voice was a desperate whine.

"My dear." Garak was gentle as he tried to calm his mind. He grasped the doctor by both hands and deftly folded them to his chest, just the right firmness to both reassure and to hold him back in case he tried again. "My dear, this is not normal for you."

"Kissing you? No, I suppose I've never done it before. But I've wanted to. For a long time. I just thought, why've I been waiting? Why not do it now?"

"I see. And that is why you came looking for me?"

"Yes. Well, actually, I was hoping to find you in your quarters, so we could..." The doctor became bashful again, casting his eyes downwards. 

"So we could what, Doctor?" Garak coaxed, even though it was obvious what the doctor wanted. To maintain the upper hand, it was useful to have the other give voice to their intentions. 

"Well, so we could fuck right away." The confession emboldened him, and all reticence evaporated. His eyes met Garak's with a naked longing Garak could only have dreamt about before now. "Garak, you're so beautiful. Your body is amazing. I've wanted to fuck you for a long time. I'm tired of waiting. Let's go to your quarters now?" The eyes, deep and brown as the syrup on Garak's plate, were pleading. He pressed forward, as if to kiss Garak again, but stopped when Garak, still holding him by both hands, didn't relent. 

And it was hard. So incredibly difficult to hold him back. Not physically difficult, at least not yet. He was fairly sure the doctor wasn't using his full strength, so keeping him at bay was no strain. But to imagine the doctor, the beautiful, bright, tender, warm doctor with his clever hands, wanting him, undressing him feverishly, touching him in places that hadn't been touched in years, taking him, filling him with his alien organ (who knows how that would work, but the joy in finding out...), and maybe, maybe afterwards holding him for a while, was almost more than Garak could bear. 

He swallowed and remembered his training. Analyse, Elim. This was a problem to be solved.

That the doctor's inhibitions had been lowered somehow was obvious. That he did not even seem to consider that Garak might not welcome his advances was not entirely out of character, but the strength of his insistence was a little alarming, although the fact that Garak absolutely would have welcomed them in other circumstances mitigated the alarm somewhat. They'd long pretended with each other that the flirting between them was no more than an amusing diversion, but the doctor was perceptive and surely able to see through Garak's veil of plausible deniability, just as Garak was able to see through his. No, each of them surely knew that the other knew that underneath it all was genuine attraction which, given the right set of conditions and bed in which to grow, could someday emerge. 

But not these conditions. Not this bed. 

"What exactly were you doing when this extraordinary notion to visit me in my quarters popped into your head, Doctor?" 

"It's not so extraordinary, is it, Garak?" The doctor's eyes frowned. 

"It is a little, yes." Garak was not yet prepared to outright deny that the attraction was mutual. It might come to that, but blatant denial of obvious facts was for games, like the game that Garak was absolutely not and never had been a spy. For serious situations, obfuscations, half-truths, and distractions were far better suited. "Please. Indulge me. What were you doing?"

"Okay. Then, after, can we go to your quarters? Or mine. Or we could stay here." He grinned and lowered his voice to a purr. "No one's around to walk in on us."

A vision of the doctor, flushed and naked, dominant and spreading Garak out on the mess hall table like a feast to be devoured, flashed through Garak's mind. He’d heard human men often had a lot of hair on their bodies and wondered, as he often had in the past, if the doctor was one of these. Elim! That is not a thought for right now! He banished the image and lasered his focus instead on the last thing the doctor had said. It was not true that there was no one around. The mission had been top secret, so the Defiant was running with a skeleton crew, but Worf and Dax were also aboard. In his altered mental state, was the doctor just dismissing the fact that either of them could walk in at any minute, or had something happened to them?

"And what about the rest of the crew? Wouldn’t Commanders Worf and Dax be quite shocked if they caught us, Doctor?" Garak asked gently. 

"No, that’s unlikely," said the doctor. "That they’d catch us, I mean. I'm pretty sure they went to Worf's quarters. Maybe Jadzia's, but Worf's are closer. Actually, we all left the bridge at the same time. They had each other, but I had to come find you." His hand, still on Garak's thigh, crept up, and his fingers pressed between Garak's legs. "Now I've told you. Can we go? Your quarters are closer than mine, if you don't want to do it here."

Garak swallowed and tried to ignore the questing hand. He shifted a little, but couldn't do much about it without releasing his hold on the doctor's arms. "Doctor. Do you mean to tell me the bridge is currently unattended?" And that Dax and Worf were seemingly affected by the same thing that was causing the doctor to act so oddly?

"Yes, I guess it is." There was no concern in the doctor's voice, only frustration. He pressed forward again, and this time Garak had to exert a fair bit of strength to keep him at arm's length. "Garak, it's fine. Don't worry. Let me kiss you again. You taste so good." 

"Not yet, my dear." This was worse than he'd thought. If he understood what the doctor was implying, Garak was the only one on board not in a mind-altered state. A state that had caused three seasoned Starfleet officers to abandon the bridge of a vessel deep in enemy territory, and to dismiss doing so as 'fine'. 

"You said we could, after I told you," the doctor was agitated. "What are we waiting for?"

Garak could feel the doctor's muscles tensing under his uniform. It was an unsettling reminder that the doctor was allowing Garak to hold him back. Normally, a Cardassian of Garak's size and build would be able to overpower most humans, but the doctor's augmentations meant that, despite his slender frame, he was almost certainly stronger than Garak. 

"If you recall, I asked you what you were doing when you decided to come looking for me, Doctor. You still haven't told me that." He'd also made no promises about what would happen after the doctor told him what he wanted to know, but perhaps it was t prudent to point that out. 

"Okay. If it'll make you feel better. I wasn't doing anything. I was just sitting on the bridge, talking to Jadzia. Then I thought, well, Garak's all alone, and I've fancied him for years. What am I doing here, wasting time with Jadzia?"

"And then what?" Strange that he would word it that way. 'Wasting time' was hardly a phrase the doctor normally used when talking about his friends.

"Well, I left, of course. To find you." 

"And what did Commander Dax say when you did that?"

"She didn't say anything. She and Worf were pretty wrapped up in each other. They left too. Like I said, I think to go to Worf's quarters." He gave Garak a meaningful look and leaned forward again, an increment more forcefully than he had the last time. Garak’s arms nearly buckled, but ultimately managed to hold firm. “Now I’ve told you,” the doctor murmured, squeezing Garak's thigh. “Let’s go, hmmmm?” 

“Of course, my dear.” They couldn't stay here, Garak literally holding the doctor at bay, forever. For one thing, it wasn't working. Garak was obliged to clench his thighs together as the doctor's hand worked its way back up towards his ajan. "But, try to remember, Doctor. For me. Did anything happen before you decided to come looking for me? Anything at all?

"Garak, why does it matter? Relax. I'll take care of everything. I'll take care of you." The doctor gave Garak a deep look of utter sincerity, pleading, and want, and inhaled raggedly. It took a great deal of Garak's will not to do the same.

"You know me, Doctor," he said, swallowing. "I won't be comfortable until I have all the information to hand. Try to remember, my dear. Were there any unusual transmissions? Scans?" 

"Oh, god! Of course I want you to be comfortable." The doctor's face crumpled and he seized Garak in a fierce embrace, having broken his arms free of Garak's grasp with alarming ease. "I'm so sorry, darling," he murmured into Garak's ear. 

Well. This was a strange, thrilling combination of discomfort and pleasure. Garak hugged the doctor back. It might be interpreted as reciprocation, but at least it kept the wandering hands away from his ajan

“That’s quite all right, Doctor. But try to answer my question. Did anything happen before you decided to find me? Think, my dear.” 

“No...wait, yes. There was a piece of debris Jadzia was analysing,” said the doctor into Garak’s neck. Garak wondered how much the doctor knew about Cardassian sexual practices — a Cardassian lover as eager and insistent as the doctor would have bitten, hard, on his neck ridge by now. Still, the soft alien breath on his neck scales was distracting. He could feel blood coursing fast and hot into his ridges and hoped the doctor couldn’t detect it as well. Or if he could, that he was ignorant of the significance. 

“And what did Commander Dax discover about this piece of debris?” Garak made an effort to control his breathing.

“I don’t know, Garak. It was emitting a signal. Oh! She thought it might be Cardassian!” 

Ah. Of course. That might explain why Garak seemed to be unaffected. 

“And so you naturally thought of me,” Garak concluded soothingly, though he doubted that to be the case. “Of course, Doctor. It’s starting to make sense. And what else did Commander Dax say about it?” 

“Nothing, Garak, really. That’s everything I know. Do you feel comfortable? Let’s go now?” He nipped at Garak’s ridge playfully, eliciting a surge of animalistic pleasure and an involuntary cry from Garak’s lips. 

Well. Of course the doctor knew about the ridges. No doubt he’d done his research long ago. “Certainly, my dear,” Garak replied, when he was able to speak again. “Very comfortable. But, Doctor, tell me, do you think it's safe to return to the bridge?"

"The bridge? Why?" Another nip, a little harder this time and a little further down. Oh, he did know what he was doing, and he was very good, too. “We’re going to bed.” If only. 

"Well, my dear," Garak took the opportunity to release his hold on the doctor's arms, caressing firmly down the slender limbs in a manner that he hoped would be interpreted as sensual, and clasping the doctor's hands safely in his own. "I might as well confess that I've occasionally had wicked thoughts about you, and some of them have involved creative uses of the captain's chair." Some of that was true. 

A dirty grin split the doctor's face. "Garak! You are full of surprises, do you know that?"

"It may have been mentioned before." 

"Come ON, then." The doctor stood abruptly, pulling Garak up along with him as if he were a toy. No roughness, exactly, but Garak was twisted around and tipped off-balance and had to use his grasp on the doctor to steady himself. Disconcerting how the doctor, usually so cautious about using his full strength, was not aware of what he was doing. Or was he? The action had thrown them closer together, bodily, than Garak was comfortable with right now. 

"Of course, Doctor." Garak straightened himself but did not release the doctor’s hands or step over the bench. It was better to have a barrier between them. “If you’re certain it’s safe.” 

“It is! Come on, let’s go! We may not get the chance again.” Suddenly the doctor's hands were grasping Garak's buttocks and Garak was being pulled up and over the bench in a manner that caused no small harm to his dignity, and possibly could to his person, too, should the doctor drop him. But the extent of Doctor Bashir's true strength was becoming apparent. He did not put Garak down once he’d lifted him over the bench. Garak’s toes hovered a few centimetres off the floor, but the doctor didn't even tremble or need a backwards step to steady himself as he hoisted Garak up. He may as well have been lifting one of young Molly O'Brien's toys for all the difficulty the weight of Garak's solid body gave him. Garak's treacherous heart betrayed him again — how reassuring, how blissful, how thrilling, to be in the strong, warm arms of this beautiful being. 

The kiss that came next was so natural that Garak scarcely realised it was happening until his arms were around the doctor's shoulders and the doctor's tongue was eagerly exploring his mouth yet again.

It was only through the purest of willpower Garak stopped himself from being completely carried away by the doctor's skilful tongue and delighted little moans. Reluctantly, he tore his mind free and ran through his options. He had to get to the bridge, and soon. It was positively treacherous to be in the middle of the Gamma Quadrant with no one in control of the ship. However, whatever had made the others to take complete leave of their senses had seemingly happened on the bridge. Would it affect Garak too, if he went up there? Probably not, if the source was Cardassian, but it was hardly a certainty. But staying here was no guarantee either. Perhaps the whole ship was affected and it was just a matter of time before it reached Garak, too. Or maybe it already had. How natural was this magnetic draw he had to Doctor Bashir, anyway? Of course the man was attractive, and Garak had been fantasising about him for years, but shouldn't Garak’s reaction, on being drawn up against his will into a man's embrace, have been to attempt to incapacitate the offender, or at least to struggle free? Certainly not to sigh and marvel at his strength and melt into a second kiss. 

No, it was imperative he get to the bridge. Ideally he'd investigate the situation as thoroughly as possible from afar before taking action, but with Doctor Bashir all over him like a racing hound in its first rut, and Garak's ability to resist being sorely tested, there was no time to lose. 

Garak broke the kiss. “Are you planning to carry me to the bridge, Doctor?" 

"Carry you...?" The doctor looked surprised to find himself with an armful of Cardassian. "Oh, I'm sorry, Garak." He carefully loosened his grip so that Garak's feet dropped back to the floor, but did not release Garak from his arms. Instead, his hands kneaded Garak's buttocks. Garak found himself being pressed into the warm human body.

"Not here, my dear, remember?"

"Garak, your arse is exquisite.” 

"Thank you, Doctor, but I must insist we continue on the bridge." Garak gently but firmly placed his hands on the doctor's forearms and pushed down, then grabbed his hand and drew him towards the exit.

“Okay...” Bashir allowed himself to be pulled towards the bridge. 

The bridge was not far. They speed-walked and Garak tried to determine what his next step should be. Briefly he wondered if it would be better to just let the doctor have his way, and then proceed to the bridge. It was imminently practical, and it wasn't as if Garak was unwilling. In fact, his body was vibrating, longing to feel the doctor undressing him, handling him roughly, pressing him into the wall and taking him here in the corridor. At the thought another hot rush moistened his trousers. 

No, Elim!

The distress it would cause the doctor once he was back in his right mind was potentially immense, and, selfishly, Garak was sure that if such a thing were to happen, things between himself and Bashir would change, and not for the better. No, that approach was to be avoided at all costs. 

Then, how to incapacitate an augmented human without hurting him?