“Garak, stop being ridiculous and come over here!”
“I thought I made myself perfectly clear, Doctor. Under no circumstances am I huddling up with you for warmth in the back of a runabout!”
Julian looked to the ceiling, setting his chin in determination. “Well, under the current circumstances, you have the choice of either swallowing that damn pride of yours, or dying from hypothermia. Fact of the matter is that I am the only source of heat left on this shuttle, and if you don't come over here right now and take advantage of that, then I shall simply have to wait until you're too cold to move, and drag you over here myself!” He cast a glance at the window, which was already icing over. “By the looks of things, I won't have to wait long,” he added grimly.
“Of all the people in the universe to crash land on a block of ice with, it had to be you and your cursed hero-complex,” Garak grumbled, and shivered again.
“Not a hero-complex, Garak. Just the Hippocratic Oath and concern for a friend.” Julian sighed. “Would you please just come over here and lie down?” His voice was weary, and either that struck a note of compassion somewhere in Garak's half-frozen insides, or he finally realized that he actually did have no choice. The temperature was dropping rapidly, and while their emergency message did get through, most likely it would be hours yet before they could be rescued. And whatever it was on this blasted ice-cube that made everything from engine systems to phasers die probably wouldn't make the rescue mission any easier.
Garak moved slowly, the cold having a noticeable effect on his body already. “Please let it be noted in the ship's log that I did this under protest,” he complained, although the effect was somewhat lessened from the way his teeth chattered.
Julian just rolled his eyes and held open the cocoon he'd made from whatever he'd been able to find to wrap around him. There were only two thermal blankets in the emergency kit, and he'd scavenged everything, including the seat cushions, as well as whatever clothes they'd had with them, which still wasn't much.
“Your protest is duly noted. Now get in here before you freeze solid.” He was joking, of course, but when Garak finally joined him on the floor, he had to take a moment to consider if it could actually happen. Because Garak was stiff as a board in Julian's arms and looking very unhappy with everything. Not that Julian could really blame him for it. Someone as generally unwilling to let anyone help him couldn't be at all comfortable snuggling up with Julian and his Federation goodwill. No matter how necessary it might be.
But Garak was his friend, and Julian did his best to try and make the experience easier for them both. “Relax, Garak. I'm sure if you put your arms around me, you wouldn't be compromising my virtue.”
This made Garak huff. “Fear not, Doctor, your virtue is perfectly safe. In the unlikely event that I would be able to produce an erection, I would be too close to death to really be in the mood.”
The bluntness of the statement threw Julian, until he went back over the words and came up short.
“I'm afraid you lost me.”
He was hoping the cold wasn't affecting Garak's brain already. Julian had calculated that they would have at least three hours left before Garak would risk slipping into unconsciousness, if only the stubborn man would stay here under the blankets with Julian.
“It's a Cardassian thing. And it's rather a long story.”
“Well, we've got nothing but time until we're rescued, so feel free to start telling it.”
Garak sent him an odd look, but then, finally, he unwound enough to relax slightly under Julian's arm, and cautiously snake his own around Julian's waist.
“All right then. It's a leftover quirk of early Cardassian evolution, from back when we were four-legged predators, not unlike the riding hounds of today. Ironic, really, that we end up making our closest relatives our beasts of burden.”
Julian smiled as Garak slowly got warmed up on the topic. It always made for a truly interesting tale, even if Julian could never really be sure if it was even true. But they had hours to pass, and as advanced as his brain was, Julian wasn't above getting bored.
“The most recent theory on this suggests that our primitive ancestors came very close to being wiped out entirely by various natural disasters, and had to take drastic evolutionary steps to ensure the survival of the species. So at some point, they developed the ability to automatically channel all their remaining strength into one last ditch effort of mating, should they be close to death. Although the act itself would most certainly kill them, apparently it was important enough at the time,” Garak explained.
“Sounds like a somewhat pointless exercise. I mean, how could they even be sure a potential mate was nearby?”
“Ah, but this is where Cardassians and riding hounds differ. Hounds are pack animals. Cardassians are by nature pair-bonded, usually for life. Of course not so much anymore these days, but it wasn't too long ago that the only divorce was death. Our ancestors could be reasonably sure that a mate would be nearby if they had one. Once bonded, a pair was never very far apart.”
Warmed either by the subject at hand or perhaps by Julian's body heat, Garak slowly became more animated, and Julian heaved a quiet sigh of relief. If they could just keep this up, he could probably extend his prognosis by a couple of hours before things got dire.
“And you're telling me that the urge to pair-bond never made it to recent times, but this procreational imperative did? I'm not sure I'm buying that, Garak.”
He'd hoped that implying that Garak was lying would keep his energy up, and true to form, Garak put extra effort into his words. Julian had no doubt that Garak was well aware of his game and was playing it right back. It warmed him in a way unrelated to the cold that while he often felt left behind with some of Garak's complicated tales, he was currently being brought in on the joke somehow. It made him feel like they were equals for once. Even while he was reasonably sure Garak was pulling his leg.
“As an educated creature you should be well aware that sometimes evolution just doesn't make logical sense. Your own species being a perfect example. Your external genitalia alone...” he trailed off with a disbelieving head shake, which someone who wasn't his friend might have found offensive. But Julian just smiled.
“Of course. Pot and kettle. But please, do go on! This is fascinating!”
“Really, Doctor? I never realized you cared at all about evolutionary theory?” Garak asked, eye-ridge quirked high.
“Perhaps not. But it's no secret that I have a keen interest in everything related to sex,” Julian said frankly, and Garak chuckled warmly.
Their faces were close, and Julian happily cataloged all the signs that Garak was warming up. His scales were a healthier shade of gray, if still somewhat pale, especially around the nose. The indentation on his forehead had colored blue almost an hour previously, an early warning of the shock to his system, but the color seemed to have faded slightly. All very good signs. But Garak's limbs were all still cold where they touched Julian's, so there was no denying that they were still in serious trouble.
“In that case I can inform you that I have actually read several accounts of people having experienced this phenomenon, and the one thing they could all agree on was that, at the time, nothing could be further from their mind than sex. Can't say I blame them. I can't imagine feeling particularly amorous when you're literally minutes from death.”
“So what you're saying is... my virtue is safe?”
“Very. If I was going to compromise your virtue at all, I would much prefer to do so while not freezing to death, thank you.”
Perhaps it was the closeness or the life and death situation, or maybe Julian's brain was somehow the first to suffer from the cold, but before he knew it, he found himself asking: “In less critical circumstances... would you?”
Garak went very still for a moment before apparently shrugging it off and moving on. “Well for one thing, higher temperatures would be much more conductive to getting in the mood.”
“You're avoiding the question.”
“Perhaps I wouldn't have to if you'd asked a question I could believe you actually wanted an answer to!”
Julian took a moment to carefully gauge Garak's reaction. His spoon had deepened in color again and his lips had taken on a blue tinge. But his pupils were slightly dilated, where they'd been contracted before, and his entire body had started to stiffen up again. So either the cold had suddenly become overwhelming again, or the subject at hand had upset him. A minute earlier, Garak would have been right. Julian had indeed asked a question he wasn't sure he wanted answered. But seeing that it had an effect on Garak suddenly made him desperate to know.
“What you believe is really no concern of mine,” he said harshly. “I would very much like an answer to my question though.”
“I'm not entirely sure what you're asking me here,” Garak hedged.
“It's simple enough. Given the opportunity, would you try and have sex with me?”
“It's not even remotely simple. Given the opportunity, I would first of all have to consider if such an advance would even be welcome, as there would be no point making it, should it be refused off the bat.”
“Assuming it was welcome?”
“Assuming anything is dangerous, Doctor, you know that.”
“Dammit, Garak, it's a yes or no question! Would you or would you not sleep with me?!”
“That depends,” Garak said stiffly.
“On whether you'd even want that. Because while the opportunity might arise, there's no guarantee that all parties involved would be amenable to the idea.”
Finally an answer Julian could work with. “Fine. Say you had my explicit consent, filed in triplicate, a comfortable mood-inducing environment and maybe just a little less snappish pride on the tip of your tongue... would you want to have sex with me?”
“I don't really-”
“Yes or no, Garak.”
“I despise yes or no questions,” Garak muttered.
“Oh, for heaven's sake!” Julian cried, and in a moment of either reckless abandon or just plain insanity, he closed what little distance was left between them, and found Garak's cold lips with his own. When he pulled away, Garak blinked at him, but seemed otherwise perfectly calm, unlike Julian who was breathing harshly and feeling utterly out of his depth. But then again, that was pretty much par for the course with Garak.
“I thought I already told you... this temperature really isn't suitable for stoking passions.”
“Who said anything about passions? It was just a kiss,” Julian countered, annoyed now at the non-answers.
Garak gave him a long look, his blue eyes giving the impression of looking straight into Julian's soul.
“Very well, my dear Doctor. Fair is fair. Since you were good enough to meet me half way... given the opportunity for another kiss... I would take it.”
As it turned out, Julian ended up being the one taking. When the Defiant finally came for them several hours later, many more opportunities had been taken, and even more would be given later on. Julian never did figure out if Garak had lied to him, but since there was truth to be found in every kiss, he didn't put too much effort into working it out, either.