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"You want me to read to you?" Julian repeated, somewhat taken aback.

"If it wouldn't be too much trouble, doctor," Garak said, with the air of a man who was taking great pains to speak delicately. Julian mentally checked the time -- he didn't want to give Garak another painkiller for at least an hour. A distraction was clearly in order.

Julian picked up the reader on Garak's bedside table, and turned it on. He stared at the screen for a moment. "Ah, Garak, we might have a small problem."

"Yes, doctor?"

Julian noted that Garak didn't actually ask him what the problem was, which suggested he already knew. "I don't speak Kardasi."

In fact, he could swear he just saw a twitch at the corner of Garak's lips. "Well, no time like the present to learn. You can read the phonetic script, yes?"

Julian frowned a little. "Well, yes, I needed to in order to access some of the computer subsystems in the infirmary--"

"Well, then," Garak said, looking remarkably less in pain than he had five minutes ago. "Start reading, and I'll teach you."

Julian looked down at the reader in mild despair. Anyone else in Garak's position would probably be grateful, not bent on tormenting him with such an inefficient way to learn a language.

But he looked at Garak's expectant gaze, sighed inwardly and licked his lips once before beginning.

***

Julian had suspected for some time that Cardassians possessed greater recall than the average human. This was borne out by the fact that Garak refused to answer the same question twice. So either Garak expected that any reasonable individual would remember a word's definition after only hearing it once, or Garak was being deliberately obnoxious. In either case, Julian was never so grateful for an artificially-induced eidetic memory.

"Mareh liem k'i shrinal apon, vren il," Julian read aloud, slowly and carefully.

"Good," Garak said warmly. "What does it mean?"

Julian looked closely at the sentence, picking out the words he knew, and trying to guess at the others. "The...the gardener took down the vines?"

Garak nodded in approval. "You're doing very well, doctor. I must say I'm impressed."

Julian tried to restrain the part of him that wanted to grin in response to Garak's praise. He frowned at the text instead, trying to put the new sentence together with the ones before it. "I don't understand. What does it matter that the gardener took down the vines? Is that a metaphor?"

"Keep reading," Garak urged him, in what was becoming a familiar refrain whenever Julian asked about anything other than the literal, direct translation of a word. But since Garak seemed to be so clearly enjoying Julian's meager efforts, Julian made a conscious decision not to be irritated by it. It was probably some time-honored Cardassian educational tool, or something else that Garak thought was in Julian's best interests. So Julian settled back into his chair and continued with the next sentence, while Garak watched him from the bed with an expression that Julian didn't know how to interpret, either.

***

By the end of the week, it had become a somewhat familiar routine. After he got off shift, Julian would go home, clean up, and then go off to Garak's quarters.

"Evening, Garak," Julian said as he stepped into Garak's quarters. Garak was reclining on his sofa, and his eyes were closed. Julian frowned -- if Garak was asleep, it was probably best to leave him be and let him rest.

But no sooner had he turned around, resolving to quietly slip out, when Garak called out, "Going home so soon, doctor?"

Julian turned around again. "I thought you were asleep."

"Merely resting my eyes. I've a small headache, that's all," Garak said, shading his eyes with one hand.

Julian frowned and moved forward swiftly. "I wish you would tell me about these things. There's absolutely no need for you to suffer in silence -- why do you think I keep coming to your quarters?"

"I thought it was for the literature," Garak deadpanned.

"As I still have no idea what this story is about, I think that's a bit premature," Julian said. He pressed a hypospray against Garak's neck, and Garak sighed softly soon afterwards in relief. "Would you like to go back to bed before I start reading?" Julian asked, trying not to make it sound like he was fussing over Garak, although of course he was.

"I think it would make a nice change of space to stay here. Won't you have a seat, doctor?"

Julian eyed the small space left at the end of the couch dubiously, but obediently retrieved the reader from the nightstand and settled on the end of the couch. After a moment of squirming, he said, "Feet up, please," and after a little hesitation, Garak stretched his legs out and put his feet into Julian's lap. Julian frowned again. "Aren't you cold with bare feet?" He touched one of Garak's toes to judge the temperature.

Garak shifted just a little, and though he did not make a noise, Julian wondered if he'd accidentally tickled him. "Well, yes, slightly. But it's best to let the scales breathe once in awhile."

"Hmm," Julian said, and dragged the throw blanket off the back of the couch and spread it over the two of them.

"Really, doctor," Garak protested.

"I'm cold," Julian lied with a smile.

Garak looked thoroughly unconvinced, but settled back in the couch a little. "I believe we left off with Basaht and Nyalan at the archery range."

"Is it a big thing on Cardassia? Archery, I mean," Julian asked, turning on the reader.

"Since ancient times, I'm sure," Garak said. "It's been a while since I've done it, mind you, but I've been told I'm a fair hand at it."

"Perhaps you'll demonstrate for me sometime," Julian said, giving him an encouraging smile.

Garak's eyes were almost half-lidded. "Perhaps."

***

Julian was reading a medical advisory about the latest strain of Hesperan thumping cough when Jadzia Dax sat down at his table.

"Long time, no see," she said, with a smile that he'd learned to moderately fear.

"I've been busy," Julian said apologetically, setting down his data padd.

"How is Garak doing? I've heard you've been going to his quarters every night," she said. Jadzia had a certain gift for delicate insinuation, but Julian just rolled his eyes in response.

"He's on the mend, but I think boredom is the main enemy, at this point. I don't really want him moving about too much, and he can't read or watch holovideos for any substantial length of time without earning himself a headache," Julian said. "It'll pass, but it's going to take time and rest, both of which seem to be driving him up the wall."

Jadzia winced in sympathy. "I don't think I could really stand the enforced idleness, either. So, what have you been doing in his quarters every night?"

Julian felt unaccountably shy for a moment, not sure he really wanted to share this with anyone. "If you must know, I've been reading to him."

Her eyebrows rose a little and she looked at him approvingly. "That was very sweet of you to offer, Julian."

"Actually, I didn't offer -- he asked," Julian replied, some of his bewilderment creeping into his voice.

"Really?" Jadzia's eyes were round. "You know, Julian, one of my former hosts, Tobin, once met a Cardassian poet who was in exile on Vulcan. Illoja of Prim only read to his closest friends. Garak must think quite a lot of you."

Julian absorbed that information, and though he was secretly pleased that Garak might have come to feel as close to Julian as he did to Garak, he was hesitant to put much stock in the practices of an old Cardassian poet. "Maybe. Or maybe he truly is just bored, and could use the company."

He thought he saw something in her eyes, like Dax looking at him with a remote, analytic expression. "So what are you reading?"

"Well. I, uh, don't exactly know. It's in Kardasi, so he's been teaching me as we go along," Julian confessed.

"You're reading to him every night from a novel in a language you don't even know?"

"I'm getting better," Julian said, a little defensive.

He thought it was still Dax looking out at him, and Dax was a little amused. "I'm sure you are."

***

"I don't understand something," Julian said finally, pausing and looking over at Garak.

Garak had his feet in Julian's lap again and looked quite comfortable. How this was becoming normal by Julian's standards was frankly a question for the ages. "What don't you understand, doctor?"

"Basaht. And Nyalan. They're friends, aren't they?"

"The best of friends, I would say," Garak answered, sounding just a little sleepy.

"Then why do they fight all the time?" Julian asked, waving his hands in emphasis.

Garak looked like he was laughing at Julian, or so Julian thought he could deduce from the tiny quiver at the corner of Garak's mouth. Or Julian was becoming so hopelessly paranoid that he was seeing things. "I've noticed you enjoy a good argument as well, doctor."

"Well, yes, but..." Julian trailed off for a minute, and let the last part of the conversation process. He and Garak argued all the time, and he had to admit he enjoyed the fact that he could disagree with Garak on almost every point in any given debate, without their civil atmosphere being in any way diminished. Julian had been accused before of being a know-it-all, but rather than feeling threatened, Garak seemed to delight in the challenge.

Julian realized he'd been silent a moment to long, and gave one of Garak's feet a friendly squeeze. "I take it that kind of bickering between friends is normal on Cardassia?"

"Even desirable, doctor. A friend who agreed with you all the time would become terribly dull, wouldn't you say?" Garak asked, just a little bit of mischief peeking out from his eyes.

Julian snorted. "And if I agree with you, does that make me wise or terribly dull?"

The smile that he'd thought he'd seen earlier blossomed on Garak's lips. "What do you think?"

"I think I'm going back to reading if we're ever going to finish this chapter," Julian said, all mock grumpiness.

"As you wish, doctor," Garak said.

And when they divided the rest of the evening between reading and companionable bickering, Julian felt he understood, for the first time, that this was Garak's way of saying, I want you to be here.

***

He was getting better at this, although he'd kill for a few hours with a good Cardassian dictionary. But to his annoyance, the dictionaries available were sorely limited, and really not at all useful to a budding student of Cardassian literature.

"What does 'sirav' mean?" Julian asked one night, after seeing the word increase in frequency.

"It's just an obscure form of 'to do,'" Garak replied easily.

It still didn't make any sense, but Julian knew better than to press the point. Better to have a drowsy, almost dreamy-looking Garak than an annoyed and irritable one.

***

It wasn't often that Julian felt a little regretful that one of his patients recovered. But the readings on the diagnostic scanner could mean only one thing.

"I see substantial improvement, so I think you could be ready to be out and about as early as tomorrow," he reported, doing his best to sound cheerful. Which he was, for the most part.

"Now, that is a piece of good news," Garak said, and his look of relief made Julian feel guilty for that niggling sense of sadness. "I do enjoy your company, doctor, but I should also like to see something other than the walls of my own quarters."

Julian gave him his best professional smile. "I completely understand. But you're not to overdo it -- if you experience any pain, I want to hear about."

"Would you like me to promise you?" Garak asked with a little smile.

Julian sniffed disdainfully. "You'd only break it. But if you could at least think about not being stubborn and stoic, it would be much appreciated."

"I'm wounded by your lack of trust, I really am," Garak said, affecting a look of such melodramatic pain that Julian just had to laugh.

"I'm sure," Julian said. "I want to see you here again in another two weeks for a check-up, but other than that, I think we can pronounce you fit for tailoring once again."

Garak inclined his head in thanks.

Julian fussed with a few of the diagnostic displays for a moment. Head still down, trying to sound casual, he said, "Will I see you for our regular lunch next week?" It would be a change, going back to seeing Garak only once a week instead of every night, but it wasn't the end of the world. He could cope.

There was silence, and Julian was forced to look up. Garak was studying him intently, and Julian shifted a little, suddenly uncomfortable with the intensity of Garak's gaze.

"I do hope, doctor," Garak said quietly, "that you won't leave Basaht and Nyalan with their friendship undone."

Julian held his breath for a moment. "We could, of course, continue if you'd like," he said cautiously. "I don't want to intrude."

"Did you think yourself intruding these past weeks, doctor?" Garak asked, and Julian couldn't even put a name to the tone of his voice, but it made something shuddering go down his spine.

"Well, I..." Julian trailed off, unwilling to voice his insecurities.

"I'll expect you after you get off your shift," Garak said. "We'll have a proper dinner, this time. And I'm sure you'd be much more comfortable if you changed out of that uniform first."

Julian blinked.

"Have a good afternoon, doctor," Garak said.

"...Thank you?" Julian said after a moment.

Garak nodded his head once, and then strolled out of the infirmary.

He could be misinterpreting, but Julian thought it rather sounded like a date.

***

"Not too spicy, I hope?" Garak asked. "I wasn't entirely sure, but I thought it might be to your taste."

"No, no, it's wonderful," Julian hastily assured him. And if he could manage to not spill dinner all over the dark blue suit Garak had made him, that would also be a blessing.

They ate in silence for a few moments, and then Garak asked, "Are you all right, doctor?"

"Perfectly fine," Julian lied. He had hoped that he could hide his nervousness from Garak, but it seemed that was merely wishful thinking. "So, did anything interesting happen at the shop today?"

Garak smiled a little at that. "Asking me about my day, doctor? How...domestic."

Julian wasn't entirely sure if that was a jibe, but he refused to be distracted. "You're the one who made me dinner."

"The replicator made you dinner," Garak corrected him. "And I was suddenly beset by the crew of that Byzalian ship that docked this morning. Their fascination with Krausian silk was almost not to be believed."

Garak continued to entertain him with stories from his day, and Julian gamely responded in kind. It was nice, Julian decided, as they adjourned to the sofa after dinner. He'd always enjoyed Garak's company -- he couldn't think of why he'd been so insistent on holding Garak at arm's length before.

Julian sat down, and picked up the reader. "I wonder if Basaht and Nyalan will kiss and make up today."

"Kiss, doctor?" Garak asked, looking a little surprised.

Julian waved away his concerns with a shake of his head. "Just an expression of reconciliation. Do you still want me to read, or would you like to, for a change?"

"I quite prefer the sound of your voice," Garak said, and all the warm anxiety he'd felt when standing outside Garak's door returned with a vengeance.

"Right," Julian said after a moment, taking a sharp breath before turning on the reader.

He even got a full three pages in before Garak plucked the reader out of his hands.

"Garak, is something --" Julian trailed off abruptly when he realized that Garak was sitting much more closely than he had realized.

"Is it a human custom, doctor?" Garak asked, his voice very soft.

Julian licked his lips once. "What?"

"To kiss after a falling out."

"Well -- that is--"

"You forgave me," Garak said, leaning closer. "I was remiss in not following your tradition."

"You don't really need to--"

Garak kissed him.

Julian flailed for a moment, because there was vaguely thinking about it, and then there was being clutched by an adult male Cardassian who was kissing him in a way that was decidedly more passionate than apologetic.

When they came up for air, Garak pushed him gently down onto the sofa. "I'm sure I can think of more things to apologize for," he said, and he had the same half-lidded look that Julian had mistaken for exhaustion all these weeks.

Julian reached up and trailed one fingertip down a neckridge, and Garak shivered a little. "Don't you know that the best apologies go both ways?" Julian said, before pulling him down.

***

Julian put it down to infatuation. Stupid, unrelenting lust, even. This was undoubtedly why he was zoning out in the middle of a staff meeting, thinking not about roster shifts for the upcoming calendar and problems thereof, but of a certain Cardassian licking down Julian's neck before sliding warm hands up Julian's shirt and --

Jadzia poked him in the side, hard, and Julian realized that the Commander Sisko had asked him a question.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I was still thinking about the roster." He tried to look penitent, but wasn't overly optimistic about his chances of pulling that off.

Sisko cleared his throat. "I was asking about the status of the infirmary's computers."

At least it was a question he could answer. The meeting ended shortly after, without any more trips of Julian's brain to places it really shouldn't go during working hours.

And the hell of it was, he and Garak still hadn't had sex by any standard definition of the phrase. If anything, Garak seemed to be operating on a strict catch-and-release policy -- he'd kiss Julian senseless, fondle anywhere but where Julian wanted it most, and after hours of this kind of treatment, interspersed with dinner and literature, send Julian home.

Frankly, Julian hadn't engaged in extended necking-only sessions since he was a teenager. It wasn't that he didn't like it, but after two weeks, he was getting a little frustrated. For all he knew, this was yet another fine Cardassian tradition. Why hadn't Garak's book taught him anything useful?

Later that night, Julian lasted all of two paragraphs before he dropped the reader on the floor and settled himself neatly astride Garak's lap.

"You usually have more patience than this," Garak said, looking a little amused.

Julian wiggled a little in Garak's lap, watched Garak's eyelids droop in pleasure. And then they were kissing madly, Julian's lips wandering down Garak's jaw to his neckridge. He sucked carefully at the scales there, ventured a delicate little nibble, reminding himself to be careful, be careful, you're stronger than you look and you can't let people know-

"Harder," Garak murmured.

Julian froze.

Garak's hand pressed against the nape of Julian's neck, his fingers stirring the short hair there. "Harder. Don't hold back."

Still Julian remained motionless, his heart hammering in his chest.

Garak pushed Julian away so he could look him in the eye. "If you think I'll allow such timidity in my bed, think again. I'm not a human; you can't hurt me. So do it like you mean it."

Julian stared at him in disbelief. But Garak looked utterly serious, and maybe even angry.

So Julian leaned forward and took one neckridge between his teeth, and bit down.

He had expected to bite too hard, to draw blood, to hear Garak protest in pain. What he did not expect was for Garak to crush Julian to his chest, his hips thrusting up as a distinct sound of pleasure escaped his lips.

Note to self, Julian thought dazedly. Cardassian skin is tougher than it looks.

And after that, they ended up in Garak's bed in no time at all. The freedom from worrying was intoxicating -- they mock tussled for a while, each trying to end up on top, and Julian didn't have to worry that he would accidentally push too hard or exert too much force. His face must have betrayed him, because Garak rolled him onto his back and pinned his arms. "What's that smile for? Are you laughing at me, doctor?"

"Julian," he insisted, and couldn't swallow back the smile. "And nothing. I'm not smiling about anything."

"Not yet, you aren't," Garak said, and it sounded like a promise.

And then Julian's combadge went off.

"Can't you ignore it?" Garak muttered into Julian's neck.

Julian fumbled for it, and said, "Bashir here."

"You're needed in the infirmary right away, Doctor," came Jabara's voice.

Julian looked regretfully at Garak. "I'll be there shortly," he said and then cut the comm.

***

Julian was understandably a little nervous when Gul Dukat sat down next to him at the bar. It hadn't been so very long since Julian had publicly embarrassed Dukat, with Garak's assistance. He doubted that Dukat was the kind of man to forgive a personal slight like that so soon.

"I'll have--" Dukat took a look at Julian's glass, "Well, not what he's having. I confess to some surprise, doctor -- I wasn't aware that kanar was at all popular with humans."

"It's not," Quark answered helpfully, setting down a glass of Bajoran spring wine for Dukat.

Dukat raised one eyeridge. "How curious. Tell me, doctor, is the person who tutored you in Cardassian politics the same one who introduced you to our liquor?"

Julian awkwardly took a sip of his drink, uncertain if he should stay in his seat or leave for safer ground. "And if it is?" he asked, taking care to sound casual and not accusatory.

Dukat's lips twisted into a smile that was a little charming. "I confess that I've never cared for kanar, myself. If that's the only other thing you've been introduced to, it would be a shame."

Julian didn't know what made him say it -- he certainly didn't want to prolong the conversation, but he couldn't let the unspoken criticism of Garak pass. "I've been reading literature, as well."

"In translation?" Dukat asked.

"Well, at first. But we -- I'm working on a book right now in Kardasi, although it was slow going for a while."

"Indeed!" Dukat said, looking genuinely interested. "Now that is a rare occurrence -- a human reading literature in the original Kardasi. Tell me, doctor, what is the name of the work you've focused efforts on?"

Julian told him.

Dukat's eyes widened slightly at first, but then his eyelids dipped low and he leaned forward. "Really."

That had most definitively not been the answer Julian was looking for.

"Um, yes?" Julian answered hesitantly. "I mean, I haven't finished the book yet, so I don't think I could have a totally informed discussion about it, but I --"

Dukat's hand was suddenly on Julian's thigh. "Oh, I'm sure you've...read enough to have a decent conversation."

Julian was now well and truly alarmed. "What do you think you're doing?"

Dukat leered at him. "Come now, doctor, you've read all about it -- wouldn't you like to experience it for yourself?"

Julian tried to stand up. "Experience what?" he asked, mostly to buy time.

He didn't get very far. Dukat gripped him by the shoulder with one hand, the other resting at Julian's hip. He leaned closer and whispered, "If you don't know, I'd be glad to demonstrate. I promise you won't forget being fucked by a Cardassian in his prime, like me."

"Dukat," a voice interrupted him.

Julian and Dukat turned their heads simultaneously to see Garak standing there.

"What do you want, tailor?" Dukat asked scornfully.

"If you please, Dukat, I went to the trouble of teaching him to read --"

"Not very well!" Julian broke in, embarrassed and angry.

"Be quiet, dear," Garak said, not taking his eyes off Dukat. "So I would appreciate it if you would back off."

"Are you going to make me?" Dukat asked, his eyes narrowed and Julian seemingly all but forgotten at the moment.

"You wouldn't want to wear out your welcome," Garak said, still menacingly pleasant.

Dukat seemed to think that over for a moment, and then he roughly shoved Julian in Garak's direction. "Enjoy yourself, Garak. You're welcome to your traitorous little bit of baggage, although he'll make a fool of you when he propositions the next Cardassian he meets. You can't expect even a human to be faithful to a washed-up tailor like you."

The polite smile dropped from Garak's face, and his arm circled Julian's waist. "Hadn't you better be going?" He said something in Kardasi -- Julian thought it sounded like a metaphor, but he didn't understand it.

Whatever it was, Dukat looked at them grimly, before stalking off.

"When did you get here?" Julian asked, a little dazed.

"As soon as Quark informed me that you'd acquired an interesting...companion."

Julian put two and two together. "Quark doesn't do anything for free. You paid him. You knew this would happen."

Garak sighed and began gently ushering him out of the bar. "No, I merely suspected that Dukat would retaliate after your last encounter with him. I certainly didn't anticipate him becoming...personally interested."

"It's all because of that smutty book!" Julian said, his voice a furious whisper. "I can't believe I've been reading you pornography all this time!"

Garak took the opportunity to pull him into his quarters. "Please, doctor, nothing so crude. It's a well-known work of erotica."

"I can't believe it!" Julian sputtered again, mentally reviewing the book with mounting horror. "I thought I knew what was going on in the book -- have I been reading sex scenes aloud to you all this time?"

"Doubtless your performance would have been enhanced had you actually known what you were reading," Garak allowed. "But I found you quite...stimulating, nonetheless."

Julian scowled at him, refusing to take the bait. "I don't understand why Dukat was just suddenly all over me like that."

Garak sighed. "Doctor, the novel in question is a popular one -- any Cardassian familiar with it would take its mere mention as an invitation. In the future, it would be wise to keep our literary endeavors private." He coaxed Julian forward into his arms, although Julian would rather have yelled at him more. "Now, weren't we interrupted earlier?"

"I want to know," Julian said stubbornly.

"Know what?" Garak asked, actually looking confused.

"Mareh liem k'i shrinal apon, vren il," Julian repeated from memory. "The gardener took down the vines. What does it really mean?"

Garak took in a deep breath, and Julian knew the words hadn't fallen on deaf ears. "It's an invitation."

Arousal rapidly overruled any lingering annoyance. "So what are you waiting for?" Julian asked, his throat suddenly dry.

They were on the bed and half-undressed before Julian's brain caught up with him. "I have more questions," he murmured into Garak's ear, leisurely tonguing the soft scales running underneath.

Garak gave a rumbling little moan when Julian sucked and nibbled his way down one neck ridge. "I am at your disposal," he managed, before he hissed again in pleasure.

"Sawatori nei apon shrata," Julian said, pushing Garak to lie on his back while Julian wiggled down enough to be at eye-level with Garak's chest. Actually, he could reasonably guess at what it meant, but there was nothing like confirmation that one was right.

"Here," Garak said, brushing fingertips over the smaller, secondary ridges that crossed his chest and met in the center. Julian licked his lips -- if he recalled correctly, Basaht from the story was as fond of this particular activity as Julian had become.

If Garak's gasping response was any indication, he agreed wholeheartedly with the results. Julian pressed a kiss in the center, right where the ridges tapered off, and murmured, "Valei i'i?"

Garak pulled him back up for a kiss. "Later. I want---"

Julian remembered something, and almost burst out laughing. "Sirav. Obscure form of 'to do', is it?"

He thought Garak might laugh, but instead he looked serious and maybe just a little fond. "I don't think I've ever heard that word sounding so sweet in anyone's mouth before."

"Isn't that your fault? You kept correcting my accent!"

"And you still don't say it quite right," Garak said, and this time he really did look genuinely affectionate.

"Are you going to complain, or are you going to get on with it?"

"Oh, I'm prepared to overlook it, under the circumstances," Garak said, and proved it by wrestling off the rest of their clothes and kissing Julian's skin whenever possible. If Julian had been irritated before by two weeks of heavy petting-only on Garak's sofa, the absolutely wonderful things Garak did to Julian's neck while he opened the bedside table drawer made Julian revise that opinion immediately.

"You know," Garak said, almost conversationally in between exploring Julian's nipples with his lips and teeth, "I still think it's foolish for humans to leave sensitive information like sexual practices out for the galaxy to see, but I do so appreciate," he paused as he moved down lower, "being informed." And when he took Julian's cock in his mouth and pushed a lubed finger into Julian's ass, any and all sarcastic retorts died on Julian's lips, to be replaced by noises that sounded desperate and were probably embarrassing, but Julian really couldn't be bothered to care at the moment.

Garak added another finger, thrusting both smoothly in and out, taking his mouth off Julian's cock and watching his face carefully.

After a little while, Julian gritted out, "I may be a human, but you won't hurt me, and if you don't get on with it, I'm going to hurt you."

"Threats during sex? You might be a bit Cardassian after all," Garak said, looking pleased and hungry all at once. And then he mercifully shut up and did as requested.

It took Julian a moment to get used to it -- it had been a long time since his few encounters in medical school. But then Garak was thrusting slow and steady, and even with his eyes half-closed in pleasure, he didn't look away from Julian's face.

Julian brought his hands up to Garak's neck, stroking the hardened neck cords, and Garak actually stopped for a moment and groaned, before throwing Julian's legs over his arms and fucking him harder. The changed angle and the raised scales on Garak's abdomen rubbing against Julian's cock was too much sensation to be endured for long; he felt his mouth work soundlessly as he came hard and clutched at Garak's shoulders.

That must have been too much for Garak as well, as he got in a few more short thrusts before shuddering to a halt, a few nameless noises of satisfaction escaping his lips.

As their breathing slowed to normal, Garak pulled out and settled beside Julian, who promptly took it as an excuse to cuddle close. Garak didn't seem to mind, his fingers stroking aimlessly over Julian's skin as he caught his breath.

"I don't even know how the book ends yet," Julian said after a warm, comfortable silence. "It had better not end like The Never-ending Sacrifice."

"I'm not sure how I feel about sleeping with a man who thinks literary classics resemble popular erotica," Garak muttered, but Julian could tell his heart wasn't in it.

"I'm serious, what happens in the end?" Julian stroked a finger down one of Garak's chest ridges, only to have the hand gently captured.

"The book was a best-seller -- and like most commercially successful enterprises, it spawned sequels. Many of them. The author is a very wealthy man."

"So Basaht and Nyalan have fabulous sex and live happily ever after?"

Garak snorted. "More or less."

Julian thought about that for a minute. "So, do you have the others?"

"Well, one must do something to entertain one's self while waiting for brash Starfleet doctors to come to their senses."

"Oh," Julian said, trying to hide a smile. "Well. I don't want you to be bored. Maybe after we finish the first book, I could read you the next one?"

Garak was quiet for a minute. "We could do that."

"And the one after that?"

"No. One classic for every two pieces of populist trash -- those are my terms," Garak said. "I'd still like to be able to have literary discussions with you in public, if you please."

Julian snickered. "It's a deal. Although you realize, we'll have to read this one again from the beginning. I'm sure I missed all sorts of things. You might have to explain them to me in detail. Just so I can be sure I got it right."

"Well, as the Cardassian adage says, 'We learn best by doing,'" Garak said.

"And literacy's such an admirable goal, so it must be worth doing well," Julian followed up, grinning.

"You took the words right out of my mouth," Garak said, pulling Julian astride him.

"That'll be the day," Julian said, and any further discussion was postponed until much, much later.