maybe I need some rehab or maybe just need some sleep
i got a sick obsession, i'm seeing it in my dreams
i'm looking down every alley, i'm makin' those desperate calls
i'm staying up all night hoping, hittin' my head against the wall
* * *
Julian Bashir moaned softly to himself, and thudded his forehead gently against his console. I was wrong. This is not fun.
He rested his head on his crossed forearms, and mumbled into his elbow. "Computer, time?"
The computer's soft alto answered. "The current time is zero-one-thirty-eight."
Julian's eyes closed briefly; he sighed, and sat up, and rubbed his face with a weary hand. I have to be awake again in five and a half hours. This means that at some point, I should probably go to sleep. The thought hung before him; he stared idly at it.
There just wasn't enough time. Garak was going to be back on the station within the next twenty-six hours. Too soon, too soon! I need more time to study, damn it!
He stretched, and leaned back in his chair, and surveyed his console, its panels glowing, its surfaces covered with PADDs and dataclips: his resources for his impromptu research project on Cardassian reproductive xenobiology. This definitely felt like cramming for an exam, too little, too late. Please, God, let it be pass/fail - or maybe multiple choice? His frantic scramble for knowledge had devoured every moment of spare time for almost two days, every second he could snatch between duty and meals. His brain felt as if it was overflowing with Cardassian minutiae, and it still wasn't enough.
There was so much to learn. Cardassians, he was discovering, liked everything very complicated; this included their cuisine, their conversation, and their courtship. God forbid one Cardassian should simply walk up to another and smile, or pay a compliment, or proffer flowers. No, much better to shout angrily across the room or snipe miserably at each other until somehow, confusingly, anger switched directly over to love undying, without even the courtesy of an apology to mark the changeover.
He'd read Petals of the K'selses cover to cover twice the previous night, once feverishly, once methodically, pausing often to make notes. Thank the heavens, it was a romance novel - or at least as close to such a thing as Garak had seen fit to lend him. Well, perhaps it wasn't really a romance in the Human sense - it did have some kind of romantic plot, but there was so much over-layering with love for the Union and duty to the Home that it was kind of hard to tell if the protagonists were making love to each other or to some kind of idealized version of Cardassia. Perhaps that's the perfect Cardassian sex fantasy. God, he was getting weird now. And it was all speculation, anyway, because damn it, there wasn't a single smutty scene in the whole book! No sex, lots of talking. If that's a Cardassian romantic relationship, I'm already having one.
It seemed like Veren and Peretta, the protagonists, spent all of their time arguing nonstop about everything from duty to the home to the making of flower arrangements. Julian had waded valiantly through the book, hoping for them to shut up and kiss already; he'd given up by page 357 of 405, when apparently they were getting married and they still hadn’t even come close. The most frustrating thing was how the author lovingly depicted the body language and postures that went with each barrage of angry words, in an ecstasy of descriptive text; it was written in a way that suggested the reader was expected to find it fascinating and a little bit titillating. I don't think I'm quite sexually frustrated enough for that. Yet.
And the arguments never seemed to go anywhere. Every conversation was a contest to better the other's knowledge about a specific topic, no matter how irrelevant, and nobody ever won. Peretta never said, oh, you mad fool, I am overwhelmed with lust by your four-paragraph refutation of my stance on expansion of the Union, take me now! What was the point?
The book hadn't proved very helpful regarding ways one could demonstrate one's romantic interest aside from arguing, either. Oh, there were all these little hints that there were ways one could interest a potential partner, but the context wasn't described at all; it was just expected that the reader would understand. Veren was constantly doing things for Peretta, sometimes very small things – stirring her drink? and tying her shoes, was that really necessary? - and yet neither of them acknowledged it in any way. Was that romantic on Cardassia? Was it just polite? How do I know what to do? How do I know when to do it? Am I Veren or am I Peretta? Damn it, I don't have the right cultural references for this! He was sinking further and further into a mucky realization that everything he knew about romance seemed to be completely inapplicable.
The Cardassian physiology references he'd dredged up from the computer's memory hadn't helped much either. Their perspective was too dry for what he needed. It was all well and good to have a complete description of Cardassian physical anatomy (such fascinating differences! Scales where? Retractable what?), but nowhere did the texts mention the really crucial details. Signs of arousal in the mature Cardassian male, for example. Where to touch, and how, and when. He was going to have to figure it all out as he went, without any resources, and he hated that. I feel like I'm groping in the dark. Although, come to think of it, groping in the dark might be the best way to learn... Stop it, Julian, you're getting ahead of yourself.
He'd considered the possibility of a late-night holosuite booking at Quark's. Surely the Ferengi, who could cater to just about any sexual appetite, might have some kind of program that could provide him with insights on what an aroused Cardassian might look like - but down that road were very strange questions, and rumours, and it would be embarrassing, and there were some kinds of awkward that even Julian Bashir didn't feel the need to be.
I'm just going to have to do the best I can with what I've got. But it was such a blur, a whirl of data spinning around him, and even his capacious memory was having some trouble grappling with it all. I need to sleep, let my brain file it all away.
Julian straightened his back, stretching all his aching muscles, and pushed himself up out of his chair. "Computer, lights off." Obligingly, the room darkened; now it was lit only by his console's glow, and with a few taps on a panel, that too faded to black. The darkness was delightfully soft and velvety after hours of staring at glowing screens. He rubbed his eyes again, and yawned jaw-crackingly, and padded over to his bed, and lay down, nuzzling his face into his pillow until it sat just right, and oh he was so tired...
What would be the first thing Garak would say when he saw Julian on his return? Would he smile?
Maybe he'd stand just a little too close to Julian, as he sometimes did, and maybe Julian would be able to catch a hint of his scent - what does he smell like? I honestly don't know! Maybe spice? Does he even wear cologne?
Stop it, Julian, go to sleep.
I wonder if he wears cologne. I wonder where he puts it. Maybe a little on the ridges just under his ear, maybe a little on his collarbone, maybe a dab on each wrist... I wonder what it would be like to nuzzle in there, right where his neck flares, that lovely splay, get right in there and inhale, maybe kiss him, taste his skin -
Oh, to hell with it.
Julian got out of bed, strode to the sonic shower, yanked off his pajama pants, cranked the shower to full and thought very intensely about blue eyes and ridged shoulders and retractable what for a surprisingly short interval.
Sleep came much more easily after that.
"So when do I get to meet her, Julian?"
"Whoever it is that's been keeping you up all night." Tanylek Rijal's tone was teasing, her wide smile crinkling her nose even further. She sipped her raktajino and widened her eyes at him, intimating God only knew what.
Julian pursed his lips and took a slug of his own raktajino, double strong, double sweet. The caffeine was slowly percolating into his system, bringing him back online after yet another night of too much thought and too little sleep. Ahhh. Perhaps I can function today, after all.
"Who says there's anyone keeping me up, Rijal? Perhaps I've just been working late on a research project." He smiled his most mysterious smile. Look at me, lying by telling the truth. Wouldn't Garak be proud!
Rijal's eyes narrowed, and she shook her head in mock exasperation. "I know you, Julian. You're going to have to come clean to me eventually. This station is too small for secrets."
We all have secrets, Rijal... "Has it ever occurred to you that I have nothing to hide? I am a Starfleet officer, a model of truth and purity. My conscience is clear." He hid his grin behind his mug.
The Bajoran nurse rolled her eyes and laughed. "Okay, Julian, whatever you say. I'll get it out of you eventually. I always do." Her amusement was honest and friendly, and he couldn't help but chuckle. And he might as well smile, because she was right, damn it, she always did. It would be fun to have someone to talk to about this. Maybe...
And maybe not. It was still very early days, and Rijal was not exactly the soul of discretion. Help, get me out of this conversation!
His prayers were answered by a groan of pain from the door; both he and Rijal turned sharply to see a moaning Bajoran man being helped through the door by a few anxious friends. The man's face was a mask of blood. Julian's memory pulled up a name - Rem Pralis, one of the station's repair technicians. Facial laceration, no apparent involvement of eyes or mouth - he was already moving to take the man's arm and assist him to the biobed - no apparent muscular involvement - Rijal handed him a medical tricorder and he scanned the epidermis and the subdermal layers - looks worse than it is, but that's a nasty slash through the nasal ridges, the repair might be tricky. Well, the patient didn't need to know that.
Julian straightened up, smiled, made himself appear every inch the confident doctor. "Don't worry. We'll have you fixed up in no time." He was rewarded by the trust he saw in Rem's eyes, bleary through a haze of pain. Rest now. Let us take care of you. The man's friends clustered in the background; with a pointed look, he encouraged them to back off a little. They moved away, murmuring.
"Rijal, two hundred milligrams of triptacederine, please." As Rijal prepared and administered the analgesic, Julian studied the gash in Rem's face, planned his angle of attack. "What happened to you?"
Rem lay still on the biobed, calmer now as his pain ebbed away. Rijal waved a steriliser over his face, staunching the blood and removing the gore, leaving a clean wound behind. "I was repairing a conduit on the habitat ring. That damned Cardassian ductwork - you never know when it's going to give out on you. The conduit wall ruptured, and I caught a shard of metal to the face." He winced, remembering; Rijal's brows twitched, imagining.
Julian held up his tissue knitter, selecting the depth of field penetration, the correct epidermal type; with his other hand, he steadied the man's head against the biobed, angling it just so. "Well, you were very lucky. There’s no metal in the wound, it’s fairly superficial - you're not going to have any permanent damage whatsoever." This was going to be a bit finicky - he was going to have to adjust for the varying depths of cartilage on the man's nasal ridges as he went. "Please lie still."
As he worked, he hummed to himself. This was when Julian was happiest: when he could fix something that had gone wrong, when he could relieve pain, when he could exercise his talents and his mind without fear of overreaching himself, of revealing his unfair genetic advantages. Everybody wants their doctor to be perfect. Who am I to fail them? His hands were steady as he coaxed the Bajoran's tissues back together, and for the first time in several days, he lived in the moment. Just a little more right there, hmm, over and – yes… Right now, Julian Bashir was nothing more and nothing less than a doctor, present and precise; without quite being aware of it, he savoured the sensation of knowing exactly what to do. There. That should do it. Looks rather good, if I do say so myself.
He deactivated the knitter and looked over his handiwork. No trace remained of the laceration; Julian’s work would leave no scar. He let himself smile, wide and pleased, and it was mirrored by the Bajoran, who sat up and tentatively touched his nasal ridges.
"How does it feel?"
"Fine... it feels fine!" Rem's evident delight was contagious, and Julian grinned and clapped him on the shoulder.
"Good. We'll get you a salve to keep the tissue healthy while it finishes healing." He nodded to Rijal, who was already moving to the replicator, and turned to the technician's friends.
"He's going to be fine." Relief burst over their faces, and they babbled their thanks. I love my job. And then, through the babble, a voice he recognized -
"Well done, Doctor."
Now? Oh, no, I'm not ready -
Garak stood in the doorway, framed by the wash of garish light from the Promenade. His travel bag was slung from one shoulder. His head was angled, his eyes half-lidded, a slight smile on his lips, and he looked almost -
I wonder how long he's been there? And as he wondered, his genetically enhanced senses earned their keep, cataloguing: blue eyes, ridged face, pointed chin, white teeth, thick dark hair, grey skin, ridges tracing down his neck and shoulders, I've never seen that tunic before, it flatters him, oh, God, this was real, up 'til now it had been a thought exercise, a tremendously fun idea, but here the man was, all broad shoulders and angled profile and contained intensity, too far away to smell, damn it, and while all of this was going on in Julian's head, his mouth opened and said:
"Oh, it's you. Back already?"
Garak's smile faded slightly at Julian's terse tone. In for a penny, in for a pound. Julian plowed ahead.
"Well? I'm a bit busy here. What is it you need?"
Now Garak's expression went very blank. From the corner of his eye, Julian saw Rijal's head turn sharply towards him. Even Rem Pralis gave him a wary look. Doesn't matter. It's not your reaction I'm concerned about.
He watched as Garak regrouped, wiping all traces of surprise from his face. "I merely came by to say hello, Doctor, upon my return from the Terdani trader convoy." The Cardassian's light tenor was shaded with amusement, expectation.
"Ah. Hello. Anything else?" Look at how busy and important I am. He frowned - just a little - and looked down his nose at the shorter Cardassian, and hoped to God that he was doing this right.
Garak blinked once. "I suppose not."
"Then I'll see you at lunch. Tomorrow will do, unless you feel the need to come bother me again before then." And Julian turned back to his Bajoran patient, who was frankly goggling at him. That's how I do it, right? Veren and Peretta bickered behind his eyes, their example clear: acknowledge him, answer him, arrange opportunities to see him, but subtly, subtly, as if you're doing him a favour the whole time.
Torture, when what he wanted to do was to beam at Garak in the stupidest way and welcome him back to the station and fawn over him and -
And thank God that some part of him had been thinking clearly enough to stop him from doing so. Apparently some of my Cardassian crash course has sunk in.
From the corner of his eye, he saw Garak, still looking at him, blue eyes piercing. Don't look up, Julian. Rijal, across the biobed, was wearing a practiced, professional expression of disinterest. The newly-repaired Bajoran was staring at Julian, his look equal parts confusion and anxiety. He must think I'm the most colossal ass. Well, I'm not sure he's wrong. At least he'll follow my wound care instructions, as I will clearly take his head off otherwise.
Julian saw Garak's eyes narrow for a moment, and then he turned and left the sickbay, and Julian's heart started beating again. Good, get out of here, oh, come back, come back! With no small amount of effort, he wrenched his thoughts back to the task at hand. He hung a smile on his face and did his best to look affably unruffled. Rem Pralis was now eyeing the door; Julian was inclined to indulge him.
"You're done here. Remember to apply the salve morning and night, and really work it into the ridges, all right?" He patted Rem's shoulder; the man leaned away slightly. Well, fear is a motivator too. "I will be checking up on you in two days. Be sure you use the salve just as I've said." Julian widened his eyes, trying for scary, and was slightly gratified when Rem nodded emphatically. He and his friends left in a muttering group, casting occasional glances behind them at the unpredictable Human doctor. Julian could imagine the stories they'd spread around. Watch out for the puppy - he bites!
Rijal was very loudly saying nothing at all as she tidied up the biobed. Julian didn't really feel like trying to explain. Let's pretend nothing happened at all. Because nothing did, right?
"I'm going to go look up some details on that Rigellian fellow we saw last week - make sure the down-planet transfer went smoothly. You all right here?"
Rijal nodded, not looking at him. "Maybe you should have a little more raktajino before we see any more patients, Julian." Her tone was pointed; clearly, she didn't think he'd behaved appropriately. God, I'm not even sure I behaved appropriately!
"I, uh... I will." He walked back to his console and sat down, bringing up his patient reports. His hand found his mug of raktajino, and he sipped. Yuck, it's gone cold. He drank it anyway, doing penance.
And as he read reports and drank his cold coffee, the back of his mind was singing, singing, he came to see you, before he'd even gone to his quarters, he came to see you, he missed you, he did; his fingers tingled, his heart raced, and thank God his console faced the wall, because he couldn't stop grinning.
what you’ve got, boy, is hard to find
i think about it all the time
i’m all strung out, my heart is fried
i just can’t get you off my mind
* * *
I think this is the first time I've ever prepped for a lunch.
Julian surreptitiously pulled up his reading notes on his PADD for just one more look-over; as he scrolled through, he finished off the last gulp of yet another mug of Klingon coffee. Any more of this stuff and O'Brien will be able to use me to power the station. His heart was clipping along at a brisk pace; his fingers were trembling slightly; he definitely felt marinated in caffeine.
But I don't think I can entirely blame the coffee for this, no sir... There was a definite neurochemical component to this high. Soon, soon, soon - I need another dose!
He'd gotten to the Replimat five minutes early, despite desperately wanting to jog over to Garak's shop to say hello and banter and walk him over and just be with him. I want, I want -
But that would be entirely the wrong thing to do, Veren and Peretta had warned. Make him come to you. Always make him come to you.
So here he sat, at their usual table, drumming his fingers of one hand on the tabletop, rubbing his lips with the other. The crowd on the Promenade flowed smoothly along, a parade of gaudy colour, but Julian was looking intently for grey. Oh, God, is he going to be late? Sometimes he was late. Julian wouldn't be able to handle it if Garak was late, not today. Discipline, Julian!
Ah - and there he was, and Julian allowed himself an unobserved moment of sheer aesthetic appreciation. Garak moved through the crowded Promenade like a shadow, never touching, never touched. The flow of traffic was against him, but he stepped so nimbly that he was never bumped, never diverted from his path. He moves like a dancer. How did I not see this before? Julian became aware that his mouth was hanging open, just a little. He closed it tight, pressing his lips together. I will not stare, I will not daydream...
Garak's eyes scanned the Replimat, and lit when they saw Julian waiting for him. He angled out of the flow of traffic and waved as he approached the table, smiling. Oh, my. Here we go.
"Good day to you, Doctor. You are early today!"
He wanted so badly to smile; he shoved the urge down firmly. "I'm hungry. If you'd been another minute later, I would have started without you." He kept his eyes steady, his gaze challenging.
Garak's smile froze for a fraction of a second, and then he looked sideways at Julian, appraisingly. "Dear me. I am so sorry to have inconvenienced you. Please, don't let me keep you waiting any longer." He bowed slightly, and gestured Julian towards the replicators, eyes glinting.
Julian grabbed his mug for disposal, and walked to the replicators, keeping ahead of Garak so he wouldn't see those teasing eyes. If he makes me laugh, I'll never be able to keep this up. He popped the mug in and waited for it to dematerialize before he ordered. "Red leaf tea, breast of kemprel with ss'ori glaze, and a side dish of pirrentep blossoms." The replicator hummed; his meal appeared.
Garak's eyes widened in amusement. "My goodness, aren't we Cardassian today."
Julian picked up his tray. "It's your turn to order." He kept his tone brusque.
Garak smiled easily. "Very well. If you're going to be Cardassian, I think perhaps I will be Human. Computer, I would like a glass of carbonated water, linguine noodles with a tomato sauce, and a salad of celery, radishes, and red peppers--"
Julian broke in. "Computer, hold order."
Now Garak's gaze was steady. "Excuse me?"
"Plain tomato sauce is very dull, Garak. I believe you’d prefer an arrabbiata sauce." Trust me. I'm the expert.
Garak paused for a moment, scanning his face, then shrugged very slightly. "If you say so. You are the Human, after all. Computer, resume order; please change the tomato sauce to an ‘arrabbiata.’” Julian heard the slight, almost sarcastic emphasis, and ignored it. Be bold, Julian! Again the hum, and Garak's food materialized.
Before Garak could take his tray, Julian moved swiftly and picked it up. Look at how strong I am, look at how well I can take care of you. He turned, one tray in each hand, and moved ahead of Garak back to their table. He fancied he felt Garak's eyes burning a hole in the back of his neck. Just keep walking, Julian. Confident! Virile! Strong! At least this felt familiar; everybody liked having little things done for them, after all. At least, women did. At least, Human women did… usually… Maybe that wasn't the case for Cardassian males? I hope I'm not - oh, God, what if I'm emasculating him? What if he's upset -
Suddenly worried, Julian turned to assess Garak's reaction, and Garak was right there, just behind him, smiling just a little. Gah! He started in surprise, and the trays wavered dangerously –
Garak's eyes widened; the smile went a little crooked. He reached out with both hands and steadied the trays. "Please, Doctor - let me assist you." Gently, he took the trays from Julian and slipped around him to place them lightly on the table. He sat, and gestured for Julian to join him. Julian did so, feeling like he hadn't quite gotten that one right. Do I get points for trying?
He busied himself with cutting up his kemprel. He very pointedly did not watch as Garak tasted his pasta, and very deliberately did not smile when the glance he snuck at Garak's expression told him that, yes, it was very good. Despite his cool exterior, his heart pounded faster when Garak smiled at him appreciatively and nodded his thanks. One more point for me. Too bad I have no idea how many I need to win.
They sat together, and ate, and Julian made conversation and did his very best to act normal, as if he hadn't spent the last two days running simulations in his head, as if he didn't want anything more than lunch, as if Garak's hand wasn't right there, just asking to be brushed against. Where did this come from? A little less than a week ago, they'd eaten lunch together, and talked about songs and books, and it had been fun and relaxing, and there hadn't been all this messy physicality rolling around in Julian's mind. Now his body was almost painfully aware of Garak's proximity, and he wanted a hell of a lot more from the tailor than a good chat. Relaxing, no. Fun... Maybe?
"Ah," Garak was saying, "so you recognized Verota's reference to Merrik in Like the Regnar? Well done, Doctor. You'll find Verota enjoys doing that - all of his books seem to be interconnected on some level."
"Has he written many?"
"Oh, yes." Garak smiled. "I will lend you another, if you like - but first you must finish Petals of the K'selses. The two books are so different; they would not complement each other." He sipped his water.
"I've already finished it." Julian's tone was noncommittal; he picked up a pirrentep blossom between two fingers and popped it in his mouth. Sweetness spread across his tongue.
Garak's head drew back in pleased surprise. "Why, Doctor! I believe that's the first time you've finished a book I've lent you in less than a week! Tell me - what did you think?"
"Well," Julian said around a mouthful of kemprel, "it was certainly a bit of a genre switch."
"Ah? How so?"
"Every other book you've lent me so far that dealt with peace-time Cardassia was more of an examination of the Cardassian Union as a whole, or of certain families, and how the different family members interact."
"And you think Petals is different?" Garak tilted his head; his dark hair fell lightly forward across one ear. Focus, Julian, focus.
"It's clearly different. It's a study of a romantic relationship." Julian sipped his tea, and speared another piece of kemprel.
"A romantic relationship? Is that what you took from the book?"
"Well, it's not the only thing, but it was very much there, yes."
Garak pursed his lips, and twirled some pasta around his fork. "And what did you think of that, Doctor?"
Julian paused for a moment, fork in the air, and pretended to think it through. As if I hadn't already run this conversation in my mind ten different ways! "I thought it was fascinating to see how Veren's love for Peretta affects his perceptions of his duty to his family. You know, Cardassians handle that very differently than Humans do."
Garak's mouth was full of salad, but his expression said, do go on.
"Well, Veren has to deal with a direct conflict of interest between what his family wants him to do, and what Peretta needs him to do, in order for her to stay safe."
"And he chooses his family." Julian frowned, and tapped his fork against his plate.
Garak seemed surprised. "Does he really? He and Peretta become enjoined!"
"But he sends her away immediately!" Julian put down his fork, his food forgotten for a moment as he strove to make his point. "That doesn't seem very loving - he's probably never going to see her again!"
Garak's chin tilted up. "But she is safe now, protected by his family name. He solves the problem of the conflict between her and his family by making her part of his family. They cannot attack her now without attacking one of their own, committing their resources in a very visible way. It would compromise their reputation."
Julian's mouth pulled to one side in disbelief; his brows rose. "Well, if she's safe now, why can't she stay with him in the capital?"
Garak's eyelids lowered, and he smiled at Julian. "With her dear new relatives all around her? Come now, Doctor. Cardassians are moral, but we are not stupid." He crunched a radish, satisfied with himself in some inscrutable way. He was right. Veren's family would no doubt have had Peretta's meal poisoned by sundown if she'd stayed in Cardassia City. And I do believe Garak's proud of that, in some bizarre way. My God, Cardassians are strange.
Julian chewed his kemprel, and contented himself with a slightly disgruntled, "Hmmph."
Garak seemed to take his reaction as a bit of a challenge. "Hmmph indeed. And how would a Human handle the situation?"
Julian sucked on his lip for a moment. "Take Peretta and leave. Marry her somewhere else. Stay there with her, at least for a while."
"Ah. Avoid the situation. Run from the problem." Garak poked at the last bit of his meal.
"No, not run from the situation, change the situation!" Don't twist my words!
Garak looked up, his eyes calm, smiling. "You cannot change a situation by running from it, Doctor. The situation still exists. You're just postponing the time when it must be dealt with for a while."
Julian looked back at him, challenging that implacable smugness. "I'm not saying that Veren needs to forget entirely about the situation in the capital. I'm just saying that perhaps a clever man might realize that he could be safer elsewhere, away from his enemies. And his exile needn't be complete; surely a man with resources could find ways to channel information to himself, to stay in touch with allies back home, even while he was unable to return." Julian dropped his gaze to his plate, stabbed his last bite with his fork, looked up at Garak from under lowered lids. "Don't you think, Garak?"
Garak's posture was still for just a moment, his eyes considering. "How very... imaginative of you, Doctor."
Hah. Gotcha. "Have you considered, Garak, that perhaps by running, one could buy time? One could learn about one's enemies, any weaknesses they might have, from a safe distance. Then one could return - in one's own time - and strike back." He pushed his plate away and folded his hands.
Garak's eyes danced, they really almost danced; he pressed his lips together, then tilted his head and smiled at Julian. "What a very Cardassian viewpoint, Doctor. All these lunchtime discussions must be leaving an impression on you."
Did... Did I just... win? Julian wasn't quite sure what had just happened, but Garak was smiling at him in a very flattering way, all overtones of pride and subtext of something else that Julian could not be trusted to interpret, not today. Can I just drown in that smile, please? With an effort, he yanked himself back out of Garak's eyes, forced his expression to stay calm and cool.
Garak's smile faded back to its usual hint around his mouth, and Julian was able to look at him again without wanting to crawl across the table. "What a delightful lunch this has been, Doctor. The conversation has been simply scintillating. It seems that missing an occasional lunch has a salutatory effect on you. Should we stop seeing each other so often, do you think?"
What? You’re testing me. Or... flirting with me? Cardassians - it's the same thing!
"I think that if you'd rather spend your lunch hour on your own, it's no concern of mine." Because these lunches are all for your benefit, not at all for me, and I certainly didn't miss you when you went away, oh, I really hate this. He turned his gaze to his PADD and tapped at it, bringing up his afternoon schedule, not looking at Garak.
Garak's voice held mild surprise. "Oh, I didn't say that, Doctor. I admit, I do enjoy our lunches. In fact," and he leaned forward, and Julian looked up at him, "I think we should schedule the next one right away. Shall we go back to Wednesdays, once a week?"
Next Wednesday is nine days away. No no no no no -
"Nine days from now? Hmm. If you want to wait that long to see me again, then that's what we'll do." Holding his breath -
Garak's cool blue eyes assessed him for a very long moment, and Julian wanted to writhe in his seat -
"Actually, Doctor, I've found my schedule has rather opened up of late. If you like, we could eat together again on... Friday?" And he tilted his head almost flirtatiously, how did I never notice, and it felt like all the blood in Julian's body was rushing to his face - well, most of it - keep it together, Julian -
"I believe I can find time for that in my schedule, if that's what you would like."
"Oh, it is, Doctor." And Garak's little smile was incandescent, shining right into his back-brain, oh, and Julian was illuminated -
won't listen to any advice, momma's tellin' me i should think twice
but left to my own devices, i'm addicted, it's a crisis
my friends think i've gone crazy, my judgment's getting kinda hazy
my steeze is gonna be affected if i keep it up like a lovesick crackhead
* * *
"Personal log of Julian Bashir, stardate 47703.8. Walked by Garak's shop three times today. Very carefully did not look in, God forbid he should think I wanted to see him, so ridiculous, and the third time I walked by, he called out to me, and asked my opinion about... about... what was it about? Some kind of closure for a suit jacket he was working on. I don't know. He was wearing blue. I told him that I thought the closure looked a trifle dull for the style of suit, and he picked out another one, and I told him I thought it was much better. His eyes were very, very bright today; was it the tunic...? He thanked me. He smiled at me... What the hell do I know about suit jackets? God, I hate this. End log."
"Personal log of Julian Bashir, stardate 47707.7. Went over Petals of the K'selses again. Veren seems to like straightening Peretta's collar. I keep expecting her to hit him, and she keeps letting him do it. What does it mean, I wonder? Hmm… End log."
"Personal log of Julian Bashir, stardate 47714.4. Lunch was wonderful... I could watch him eat forever... he takes such delicate bites... and that damned spice pudding, I thought I was going to die when he licked the spoon - and we talked about Red and Grey some more and he liked my take on Palevren's speech, and he wants to see me again on Monday - if I don't explode first, I hate this goddamned Cardassian waiting, aargh, I am pathetic, end log!"
"Personal log of Julian Bashir, stardate 47719.6. Made an unusual purchase today from a Livrii music merchant: a collection of classic Cardassian vocal works. I gave it a listen after my shift, and it's rather interesting - lots of opera - seems like every race has its opera - and some pretty love songs, and even some children's songs. That last surprised me - Cardassian children's songs are remarkably sweet - and, best part, the collection has an arrangement of Kant'a, Kant'a! Can't wait to see his face when I start humming it at lunch. He's going to wonder how I learned it, and I am not going to tell him. I am a mystery, who knows what I might do next, ye gods, can I really keep this up? End log."
"Personal log of Julian Bashir, stardate 47727.3. Fought with him today at lunch. A really good bicker, hammer and tongs. His face when he's really engaged in his argument - his eyes just glow - he's so passionate - God, that's the only time one's allowed to be passionate in this damned backwards Cardassian torture - um, anyway, his take on Pride and Prejudice was completely wrongheaded, but he doesn't have the references, of course, so I set him straight about Mr. Darcy. He couldn't understand why Elizabeth didn't leap at Darcy's first proposal! 'A chance to move up in the world,' he said, 'and he's been tremendously obvious about his interest.' Cardassians - they just don't understand anything. Or maybe it’s… wait, should I be trying to be more like Darcy? Which makes him Elizabeth Bennet… God, ‘a pair of fine eyes’ indeed, and this is really stupid, Julian, end log."
"Personal log of Julian Bashir, stardate 47735.9. Straightening the collar is marvelous. Veren, you clever bastard. I just - I just leaned over and grabbed the neck of his shirt and twisted it just a little, and I touched his neck, oh, that splay - softer than it looks! Those little scales - and he smells like something fresh, like a forest, I couldn't have imagined - and he looked at me, and he was so close, and his mouth opened, his lips - oh, God, end log - "
"Personal log of Julian Bashir, stardate 47743.5. He came to see me at the infirmary today. He brought me another book, an enigma tale, be still my heart - um, Chasing the Truth. He said he was rereading it, and thought I'd enjoy it too, and he 'simply couldn't wait until our next lunch' to bring it over. I was in the middle of my prion research, too busy to really talk to him, thank God, I think I might have done something embarrassing. As it was, I was brusque and standoffish, very formal, thank you, Garak, I'll look at it when I have time. Veren would've been proud. But I feel like a fool - how much longer can I keep this up? I'm going to crack, I know it... end log."
“Personal log of Julian Bashir, stardate 47747.10. God, this book is impenetrable. I feel like he’s playing a prank on me. Does he really expect me to read this, let alone figure out who does what? I’ve either done something right, or something very, very wrong… But I saw him on the Promenade and he asked me about it, and he smiled this little smile, and what am I missing, I’ve got to be missing something… End log.”
“Personal log of Julian Bashir, stardate 47747.10, addendum – oh, my God, wait, I think… I think that the main characters are lovers…? But then she killed his cousin… and somehow now they’re in this together, and it’s all tied up with memory… somehow… and it might not even have happened? Damn these Cardassians, they can’t ever say anything, it’s all subtext all the time, end log.”
“Personal log of Julian Bashir, stardate 47752.7, I was right, I was right, they killed his cousin together, it was all a plot, but really it was years ago and they’re just now reliving it? Or something? Didn’t quite get that part, it’s a Cardassian memory thing apparently, but I got it right enough that he smiled at me, and he congratulated me on my improved understanding of Cardassian cultural ethos, dear Lord, he put his hand on my arm, every time he smiles I feel like I’ve gone into v-tach and my hands shake – is this fun? I can’t tell anymore – I don’t think I tasted a single bite of lunch – how do I see him tomorrow, how do I… hmm, end log…”
“Personal log of Julian Bashir, stardate 47753.8 – I just had the most wonderful conversation with Major Kira – “
“Doctor – “
He was walking back up the Promenade to sickbay, reviewing case notes on a PADD, when he heard her calling. He stopped, looked back; Major Kira was striding up behind him, her walk perhaps slightly more urgent than usual.
“Is there something I can do for you, Major?” He smiled at her, half-distracted; there was a lot to do before his shift was over, at least two cases that needed his review back in the infirmary, and that report he was drafting for the commander regarding staffing, and Garak, Garak, Garak –
“It’s about Garak.”
Well, that would be the way to get my attention. He focused on her. “Yes? Is he ill, or…?” I’ve seen no sign of it – perhaps he’s hiding it – or could it be –
“Ill? Hmm. No, I don’t think so, although it might make this easier. Doctor, we should have this conversation in private.” Her gaze was concerned.
He blinked, and gestured towards sickbay; she followed him. “Is something wrong, Major?”
She looked at him for a moment, then pressed her lips together and strode ahead, and now he was following her through the door. Her head turned, side-to-side, as she scanned the infirmary, almost as if she was reconnoitering the area; God, she was intimidating sometimes – but this wasn’t one of those times, because now she turned to him, and whatever it was she wanted to say, she looked almost nervous about it. That certainly wasn’t a look he was used to seeing on the face of Major Kira Nerys.
“Doctor, I have to tell you something that I’m… I’m not sure about it, but if it’s what I think it is, you need to know.”
This was all very mysterious, and if it was about Garak, he didn’t much care for mysterious, these days, unless it was from Garak himself. No short supply there, certainly. “Major, what is it?”
She frowned. “Doctor, how much do you know about Cardassians?”
He blinked, nonplussed. “I know quite a lot about Cardassians. Were you wondering about their circulatory system, their neurological pathways…?”
Her brows rose, her mouth tightened, and he had the feeling he’d missed something there. “Actually, I was wondering if you know anything about kotok temell.”
If you’d asked me three weeks ago, the answer would have been no. “That’s the… second tongue, right? The gesture language?”
“Oh, I know quite a bit about it, Major. It underlies spoken Kardasi, and can add to or change the meaning of what one says. The general theory is that Kardasi has developed this component because of the… poor hearing of… the Cardassian species…” And Kira’s look had gone just a bit glazed, and he’d missed something else, hadn’t he. Julian, shut up for a second and listen. “Sorry, Major – what about it?”
She looked at him, expression a bit dry. “Doctor, can you read it?”
“Um, no. No, I can’t.”
“Well, I can.” Kira frowned, thinking, and she moved restlessly, almost pacing as she spoke. “When you grow up with Cardassians around, you get to know them pretty well. It came in handy sometimes – you knew more or less what a Cardassian was saying from how they stood, even if you weren’t close enough to hear, or if there was too much noise. Or if you were causing the noise.” She smiled a bit at a memory, and it wasn’t a smile Julian particularly wanted to know more about.
She stopped pacing, turned and looked at him, spread her hands. “Doctor, I saw you and Garak having lunch yesterday.”
Julian’s brows rose; he gestured with his PADD, and…?
And now Kira looked distinctly uncomfortable, and this wasn’t a look Julian could remember ever seeing on her face. “Were you talking about anything… unusual?”
Julian drew his head back, confused. “No, I don’t think so. Books. Food. Cultural conventions. All pretty typical.”
Kira frowned down at her boots. “Maybe I’m wrong - ”
This was getting a bit silly, and he really did have work to do, and as much as he wanted to stay friendly with Kira – “Major, would you please just tell me what’s on your mind? I’m really rather busy.”
Irritation flashed across her face. “Prophets forbid I should hold you up. Doctor, Garak is – “ She stopped herself, grasped at air, frowned, “interested in you.”
Whiteout – a roaring in his ears – somewhere his lips were moving, “Uh, wha - I’m… sorry?”
She rolled her eyes, looking like she’d rather be doing just about anything than having this conversation. “It’s all there. His… signals. His posture. His left hand, the way he kept tilting it – he’s… well, it’s hard to miss.” She raised her eyebrows, looked almost apologetic. “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you – but I think you need to know. I’m not the only person on this station who can read kotok temell, Doctor. And people might start to talk.”
“Ahh,” and he paused, as if to ponder, and his mind was shouting yes, yes, yes! and he wanted to grin and laugh and perhaps do an impromptu skip and now didn’t seem to be the time for that –
With an effort, he pulled himself back to here-and-now, smiled at Kira, affected what he hoped was a convincing look of concern. “Well, dear me, that is a situation, isn’t it. Thank you for telling me, Major. You’re right. I did need to know.”
Kira nodded sympathetically; she seemed a bit relieved, and Julian couldn’t blame her for it. My God, she’s probably been trying to figure out how to tell me since yesterday. It was funny, and he couldn’t laugh, he didn’t dare –
But now she frowned again, oh, God, there’s more? “Doctor, can I give you some advice?”
He couldn’t even fathom what this might be. “By all means.”
“Cardassians can be… hard to say ‘no’ to. If Garak does suggest… something to you, you’re going to have to be very firm when you turn him down.” Her look suggested that she was a bit worried that Julian might get himself into trouble here. Major, you have no idea…
“Oh, Major,” and he kept his voice confident, reassuring, “Garak and I are good friends. We understand each other. I’m sure this will work out just fine.”
Her brows twitched up, but she smiled. “All right, Doctor. I’m glad to see you’re taking this so well. I know I wouldn’t.”
He nodded, not quite trusting himself to reply, and she nodded back to him and strode out of sickbay, no doubt off to some other very important duty, and he was left standing, clutching the console for support, smiling like a fool.
I was doing something, what was I doing, oh God –
Back to it, Julian, back to it, and focus -
That night, in his quarters, he sat on his couch, elbows on knees and head on fists, and smiled, and smiled, his face hurt from smiling. Somehow he’d hit on something, he’d done something, in the jumble of half-understood Cardassian customs he’d gleaned he’d actually managed to do something right –
He fell back, arms spread, legs wide, laughing to himself. Oh, God, this could happen, this could actually be -
It had been torturous, he had to admit that to himself. God, three weeks, three weeks of this slow dance, three weeks of verbal fencing and lowered eyebrows and back-handed compliments and collar straightening, for God’s sake, and he’d been looking for something back, and he hadn’t seen anything he recognized; Garak had smiled, and diverted, and redirected, business as usual, oh, it had been maddening.
But now, perhaps – if Kira was right – and she wouldn’t have brought it up, would she, unless she was sure – oh, if Kira was right –
When would he see Garak again? He’d hoped for today but it just hadn’t happened; the morning had been too busy, and in the afternoon he’d been making rounds, and then Kira had come by – and he just hadn’t trusted himself after Kira had come by.
Tomorrow? Can I see him tomorrow? He was on duty from oh-eight-hundred to sixteen-hundred, but that left a lunch break and a long lovely evening, there were possibilities there, and this was so frustrating, it really was; all Julian wanted to do was to boil out of his quarters and find the man and ask him, really? Do you like me? Could you like me? And to touch him, to stroke his hair, to stand so close, to run a hand along those ridges – his hands twitched –
God, I can’t, I can’t, it would ruin everything, it would be so obvious –
And Cardassian courtship appeared to have no allowance at all for obvious.
Well, Cardassian courtship has never dealt with the likes of me. There had to be a way to make it work, there had to -
Bah, enough planning; that was for tomorrow – tonight he was going to bask, to be smug, to be delighted. He rubbed his face, pressed at the muscles, poor zygomaticus major and minor crying out with fatigue, and yet he just couldn’t stop smiling –
No celebrating yet. In fact, he needed to compose himself, to focus, because there was a duty he needed to perform, one he’d been putting off; he hadn’t wanted to be premature, to get ahead of himself –
But before he even dreamed of moving beyond flirtation (such as it was), before he really tried in earnest to get into the bed of the station’s resident Cardassian very-likely-spy…
* * *
“Bashir to Sisko.”
“Sisko here. What can I do for you, Doctor?”
He blinked, tried to formulate his query, God, I should have rehearsed this –
“Um, Commander, I… are you in private, sir?”
“Yes, Doctor.” Sisko’s tone was polite but clipped, get on with it.
“I, ah, I need to get some information on… station policy.”
Silence for a moment on the other end. He could imagine Sisko’s frown. “Policy? What kind of policy?”
“Ah, any policy you might have on… fraternization.”
More silence. Not good. “Doctor, what are you talking about?”
“Ah, ha, it’s just that, well, I’m interested in, um, getting to know someone who’s not a member of the Federation, and – “
Sisko’s voice cut him off, impatiently. “Doctor, did you really call me to talk about going on a date?”
Um. Yes, I did. “Sir, I just really felt that I needed your approval – “
“Doctor, you are a grown man.” And a pause, heavy with meaning, and he felt his cheeks warming, damn it – “I would think that you have experience with making these kinds of decisions on your own – “
“Sir, it’s Garak.”
A rather different kind of pause, now. Oh, God.
“Let me get this straight. You are calling me to ask permission to… fraternize… with Garak?”
“Um. Yes, sir.”
Across the comm line, he heard a weary sigh. He winced.
“Doctor…” Sisko’s voice was slightly exasperated; he sounded a bit as if he was grasping for words. “What you do in your personal life is no concern of mine. As long as you don’t make it one.”
Now, what did that mean? “Um, I…”
Another sigh. “Doctor, are you planning on revealing any Federation secrets?”
“Oh - no, sir!”
“Are you going to give up command override codes, or smuggle narcotics to Cardassia Prime?” A touch of sarcasm now, and Julian’s wince got a little more pronounced, oh, God, what have I done -
He sighed. “No, sir.”
“Then I don’t think that I need to know any more about this situation. Do you, Doctor?” And now Sisko’s voice was very slightly amused, and Julian held his breath, funny was fine, funny was okay, because funny meant –
“Not at all, sir.” Funny meant… yes?
“Good. Go do what you have to do. And for God’s sake don’t tell me any more about it. Sisko out.”
Funny meant yes!
Julian breathed out, all the air leaving his lungs in a whoosh, and collapsed back on his couch, and there was that smile again, back on his face as if it had never left…
i don't care what people say - the rush is worth the price i pay
i get so high when you're with me but crash and crave you when you leave
* * *
“Ka’e’zIIIIIIIra nu’so’cil ga’IIIIII – “
Full-volume Cardassian opera rattled the walls of his quarters, and he spun, glass in hand, directing an imaginary orchestra –
“Nuka ha’ tuuuudces juuuuuget’I – “
And what the words meant didn’t matter, it really didn’t, what mattered was the feeling, the emotion, and by God, the Cardassians had gotten this one right, hadn’t they –
“Nu kaaaaa’ik cigren’eeeeeeer!”
Love songs were universal, they transcended all cultures, he’d always thought so, and as the soloists crescendoed to a towering finish, as instruments he didn’t recognize cascaded together into a blast of harmony, emphatically fortissimo, he saluted with his glass, and drained it in triumph, and winced –
Ugh, how does he drink this, it’s terrible –
Kanar was so thick, so sweet; certainly effective, though, because he was warm and happy, laughter bubbling out of him, and he felt lit up from within –
Might be the kanar, might be the oxytocin, God, I am infatuated, I am so far gone -
And what delight to spin, and laugh, and sing, and enjoy it, God, Garak wanted him, he wanted him, and it could be, it could all be –
He popped his glass into the replicator, exchanging it for a fresh one, brimful of more orange sludge, ick, but he did so want to immerse himself in Cardassia tonight – God, do I – oh, marvelous sweet torture, this was the best part –
Another song was playing now, this one softer, sweeter, the vocalist a soprano, and the instruments twined around her voice beautifully, and Julian waved his hand, closing his eyes, letting himself flow with it, oh, Lord, there was a reason he was such a fool for love, because it felt so good, he felt so good –
What would he do tomorrow? He plotted fuzzily. He’d find him, he’d get up and dress and take a little extra time with his hair, and he’d – wait, he had to work, all right, but after that, he’d go straight to the shop, and he’d smile, yes, he’d walk right up to Garak and smile at him, and he’d say something, something clever, what? Details, details, never mind – and Garak would smile back, and perhaps he’d look up at Julian, and Julian could just sort of lean in, it would just flow, God, it would be perfect, to kiss him, to wrap his arms around him, he could press him up against the counter, and Garak would slide his hands up Julian’s back, and he’d – he’d –
God, he was halfway there just from thinking about it –
He shook himself, gulped kanar, winced again, ick, this stuff was really terrible, but it was all the replicator in his quarters knew how to make.
Oh, a brainwave – Quark’s! Quark would have kanar! Quark would have lots of kanar, all different kinds, maybe something not so godawful, and also – very appealing – Quark’s would have company, because he was just too goddamned happy to sit in his quarters by himself anymore, he felt so good and he needed to be with people, he needed to smile at someone, even if it was Quark, even if he still kind of had to keep it to himself for tonight, he could at least celebrate –
He slid the half-full glass of detestable kanar back into the replicator and bubbled out of his quarters, drifting, smiling.
* * *
“Ah, Doctor Bashir, welcome to Quark’s!” The Ferengi smiled pleasantly and nodded to Julian as he came in. “What can I get for you tonight? Something to eat, something to…” And he looked at Julian, and the smile turned just a little predatory, “… something to drink?”
Julian nodded, wary of that smile but too damned happy to care, particularly. “Quark, what have you got in the way of kanar?”
Quark blinked. “Kanar?”
“Well,” and Quark drew the word out, and looked Julian up and down, “I do have a variety of excellent kanar, Doctor, but… have you already indulged tonight?”
Now it was Julian’s turn to blink. Mental self-diagnostic: flushed cheeks, silly smile, room spinning gently – yes, he was well past tipsy, and it was no doubt quite obvious, and a bit late to pretend otherwise. “Um, yes, perhaps a little.”
“Uh huh.” Quark nodded. “May I make a suggestion, Doctor?”
“By all means.”
“You might want to consider switching to something else. Beer, maybe. It’s easier on Humans.”
Julian considered the suggestion. Probably a very good idea. And really, any excuse to not drink any more kanar was a welcome one; he’d done his duty, hadn’t he, three weeks of duty - “All right, Quark, beer it is. Very kind of you to think of my well-being.”
Quark brushed that aside. “Purely a business decision, Doctor; better for my pocketbook if you pass out after five more drinks instead of two.” He smiled a sharp-toothed smile, and slid a glass of ale across the bar; Julian caught it, and nodded ironic acknowledgement.
He turned, leaning his elbows back on the bar, and sipped, and Quark was right, that was better; pleasant bitterness filled his mouth, bubbly and cold, ahhh. He floated pleasantly, gazing out at Quark’s, busy tonight. The click-click-click of the Dabo wheel blended with the chatter of the patrons and the clang of feet going upstairs, downstairs, as busy waiters hurried from bar to table, table to bar. All in all, it was a lovely place to feel good, distracting and gaudy, but it would be much, much better if he had company.
Well, there was always Morn, propping up his end of the bar… No. Not in the mood for a monologue tonight. Besides, Morn’s love life always made his own look a little bit pathetic, and tonight he wanted ebullient celebration, not one-upmanship. Perhaps he’d just wait for the right company to find him.
He perched on a bar stool, leaning back a bit, and swivelled himself back and forth, relaxed, enjoying the feeling of being just a bit drunker than he probably should be, listening to the music Quark was piping in (some kind of semi-raucous flute-based thing, he had no idea what culture played anything like that), sipping his beer, and life was grand –
Oh! And it had just gotten grander, there was Jadzia, just coming through the door and lovely as always, and he took a moment to admire her, top to toes; she really was quite something, and terribly fetching tonight, her hair loosely tied back, her dress a casual thing that set off her spots. She saw him, and grinned, and he grinned back; my God, those eyes, perhaps I just have a thing for blue eyes? It would explain rather a lot…
She walked towards him, smiling. “Julian! What are you doing here?”
He did his best to appear suave, and sophisticated, and not at all tipsy. “Oh, just relaxing, enjoying the convivial atmosphere.” Urgh. Only people who are trying too hard say ‘convivial.’
And indeed, Jadzia was clearly very amused, and was pressing her lips together, trying not to laugh. “Is that so.” She slid into the seat next to his. “Well, perhaps I’ll come and conviviate with you for a while.”
Oh, God. Embarrassing. But company was company, and Jadzia Dax was wonderful company, so this was all to the good. He smiled invitingly. “What brought you here tonight?”
“Quark and I are going to play a little tongo later, aren’t we, Quark.” This last was addressed over her shoulder at the Ferengi bartender, who was all the way at the other end of the bar, and who clearly heard her even so; he smiled at her, and she grinned back. “Although I’m awfully thirsty right now – “
And suddenly a glass of blue liquid was sliding her way, and she caught it and nodded thanks, and Quark moved off to another customer. Strange, how those two were so tight. I don’t understand it. But there was a lot about Jadzia he didn’t understand, and that was part of why he liked her so much.
“What is that you’re drinking?”
She looked at the glass, mildly curious. “I have no idea.” She sipped, and her brows rose, and she took a much bigger sip, and sighed in pleasure. “And I don’t care.”
Julian grinned, and toasted her with his glass; they clinked and drank.
“So, no company for you tonight, Julian?” Jadzia’s face was mischievous; nosy as always, it seemed.
“Too bad. You’re going through a bit of a dry spell.” Now her face was sympathetic, her tone commiserating; Julian knew better, and she smiled at the arch look he gave her.
“I’m doing just fine, thank you – in fact, I – um.” Wait, perhaps this wasn’t a good idea.
Jadzia’s smile widened, and her eyes narrowed. “’Um,’ huh?”
“Hmm.” Julian sipped his drink. He had rather been hoping to talk to someone, and Jadzia was usually a very good listener. She was also a terrible gossip. Must the two go hand in hand?
“I suppose I could tell you… but Jadzia, I have to ask you to keep it a secret.”
Her eyes widened, all innocence. “I swear not to tell.”
“Well,” and Julian leaned in a little, “I got some rather surprising news today from Major Kira.”
Jadzia nodded encouragingly.
“She told me that Garak is… interested in me.”
Jadzia blinked at that; clearly, this had not been where she’d seen this going. “Garak? Really?”
“Oh.” She processed that, and looked up at him, mildly concerned. “Julian, what are you going to do?”
And he grinned, he couldn’t help it - “I’m going to cross my fingers and hope she’s right.” And he found himself laughing, almost giggling, foolish and full of endorphins –
Jadzia stared at him, sitting there, drink in hand, chuckling to himself, and cracked a smile of her own, wondering and strange. “Julian Bashir. Seven lifetimes, and I still hadn’t heard it all.”
He shrugged, still laughing. I know it’s crazy. I just don’t care.
She tilted her head, hair swinging down across her shoulder. “Is this – I mean, Julian, I honestly didn’t expect…” And she laughed at herself. “Julian, really: men?”
“I mean, you and…?”
“Oh! Oh. Well, I don’t know about men, plural…”
“Well, I didn’t quite mean ‘men plural,’ although you really shouldn’t knock it ‘til you try it.”
“Jadzia!” He frowned at her, and she smiled at him, and sipped her drink demurely while he spluttered.
“What I was trying to say was that I don’t know about men, I just… I think it might be just… one man. This man.” And there was a little smile creeping over his face, and as hard as he was trying to be serious, to explain himself, he just couldn’t keep that little smile down; he rubbed his hand over his mouth, trying to wipe it away, and instead he started laughing again. God, Julian, you are really embarrassing sometimes. Perhaps it hadn’t been a good idea to go out in public tonight…
But Jadzia’s smile was warm; she seemed to understand what he was having so much difficulty saying. “You’re really crazy about him, aren’t you.”
“Oh,” and now he rubbed his eyes, “in ways I can’t even describe…” His skin tingled, his food tasted like cardboard, he couldn’t sleep; infatuation was a dangerous drug, so addictive – and the idea of it potentially becoming a long-term habit? He didn’t know if he could handle that, the idea of Garak wanting too, the idea of Garak perhaps needing him, or of this going further, of this becoming too much, or not enough, of crashing down –
His thoughts tumbled over themselves, a tumult, what?
Something of this sudden cascade must have crossed his face, because Jadzia’s expression had changed, her smile fading just a little. “Julian, are you… nervous?”
He laughed once, a little half-breathed ha. “I… apparently am, yes.” And he drained his beer, and waggled his glass at Quark; another slid his way, and he snatched it up and started in. Jadzia watched this, mildly perplexed.
She leaned in a little, and put a hand on his arm. “You know, it’s all right to be nervous, Julian.”
He looked back at her. “I’m not quite sure… I don’t really know where this is coming from, I…” He shook his head. Apparently he’d had more to talk about than he’d thought. The subconscious was really a fascinating thing, wasn’t it, prodding one along…
Jadzia pursed her lips, which, he noted, was still pleasantly distracting. Infatuated, not dead. “You must have some idea.”
He blinked at her, and thought about it, God, someone to talk to... “I have sworn you to secrecy, right?”
“Absolutely.” Her nod was firm.
He sighed. “Okay… I like him, I like him tremendously, and I, I’ve been flirting with him for weeks now, kind of secretly, I mean, I didn’t tell him I was flirting with him, so I don’t know if he knew – “
Jadzia’s expression was confused. Fair enough; it didn’t make any sense, did it. He plowed on regardless. “And it’s been fun, and I’ve really enjoyed it, and thinking about it is marvelous, and now all of a sudden it’s… real.”
Jadzia nodded; she understood that one, it seemed. “It hadn’t quite hit you.”
“And now it has.” More beer.
She watched him, her face calm. “And what does real mean to you, Julian?”
“’Real’ means… I don’t know. It means that suddenly it could all change.”
“That’s what you want, isn’t it?”
He thought about that. “I… think so. I don’t know.”
She frowned. “Julian, why did you flirt with him for weeks if you didn’t know if you wanted anything to change?”
Confusion made him droop. “But I do want things to change. At least, I think I do…”
“You’re going in circles.”
“I know, damn it, I just – “ He stopped, and took another gulp of beer. It wouldn’t help his thinking, but at least it tasted nice.
“I think you need to figure out what exactly it is that you’re nervous about.”
He sighed, and swivelled his chair from side to side as he thought. “It might be… It’s just such a ‘what-if,’ Jadzia. What if… this doesn’t work out? Or what if it does? It all changes. He’s my friend. Do you know what I mean?”
She was nodding. “Friends are a tough one.”
“Yes. And what if suddenly it gets complicated, or what if it’s not as much fun as I seem to think it would be, or what if it doesn’t work at all – “
“That’s never stopped you before.”
“It’s never been my best friend before.” So much to lose. God, where had his giddy gone? Why did reality have to intrude like this? He certainly hadn’t asked it to.
But Jadzia was smiling at him, and it was a warm smile, amused and patient and affectionate. He wasn’t quite sure what he’d done to earn that, but he’d take it. “Julian, once upon a time, you were infatuated with me. Don’t deny it.”
He laughed at that. “I don’t think I could even remotely deny it, Jadzia.”
“But nothing ever happened.”
“No, nothing ever happened.”
“And what are we now?”
He looked at her, and grinned. “We’re friends.”
“And why are we friends?”
“Because we like each other.”
“And do you and Garak like each other?”
“Apparently. We’ve been having lunch together for almost two years, regular as a clock.”
“So why do you think you’ll stop liking each other if you start liking each other?” She waggled her eyebrows, and despite himself he snorted laughter.
“I don’t know. Relationships fall apart, Jadzia… People change.”
“Nobody knows that better than me.” She smiled her wonderfully complicated smile, and he nodded, acknowledging her point.
Now it was her turn to stare at her drink, to swivel her chair. “I’m not going to tell you there isn’t a risk, Julian. It could all go wrong. It could end.” She looked up at him. “But what you’re doing now is ending it before it even begins. I’m not sure I understand why.”
He sighed. “I’m not sure I do either. I just… I don’t know him, Jadzia, after two years you’d think I’d know him, and… I just like him, and I know he likes me, and is that anywhere close to enough to make this work?”
She shrugged. “It sure seems like you want it to be.”
“Oh,” and he almost sighed the words, “I do…”
“But you don’t want to hurt him.”
Or me. “That’s about the size of it.”
“So, let’s say you decide not to pursue this. What happens?”
He thought about that, too. “Um. Well, I’d have to stop flirting. I could… just go back to how things were.” Even saying it felt… awful.
Jadzia looked at him. “Do you really think he hasn’t noticed how you’re acting?”
I’d rather hoped he had… “It does seem a bit of a coincidence that he’s only shown interest in me after I’ve flirted at him for three straight weeks.” Hmm. Actually, it seems a bit… obvious for Garak, doesn’t it. And that Kira, of all people, would be the one to catch it? Sit on that for a bit, Julian; you’ve got company right now.
“So what will happen if you stop?”
He sighed. “He’ll wonder why. He’ll probably be hurt.”
“And things will change.” God, he was caught between a rock and a hard place; he pressed his eyes shut -
Except that wasn’t really the case, was it, because this rock was rather comfortable, actually – his eyes opened -
He didn’t want to hurt Garak, did he, he certainly wouldn’t want to upset him in any way – his brows rose -
And Garak had made rather a point of demonstrating that he was interested, yes? Coincidentally when Kira was nearby – was that Cardassian flirting? The indirect route? Didn’t matter; what mattered was that Garak liked what Julian was doing, which meant he wouldn’t want him to stop – stopping would upset him – can’t have that -
And if not flirting would be just as upsetting as flirting, if either way somebody might get hurt, well, hell, may as well pursue the path of maximum fun, right? Really, it was for the good of both of them; at this point, he was almost required to go ahead and seduce as hard as he could. Completely, one-hundred-percent logical, and compassionate too, really.
I’ve just talked myself into doing something absolutely wonderful, and I’ve made it seem like the logical thing to do.
He suddenly had an idea what it might be like to be Jadzia Dax. Ye gods. For a moment, he was almost glad nothing had ever happened between them. She’d eat me alive.
He found himself smiling, tentatively at first, then hugely; he looked up at Jadzia and was met by her answering grin.
“You are a wise woman, Jadzia Dax.”
She lifted her glass, and smiled, and he laughed, and they both drank –
so i’ve got a question: do you wanna have a slumber party in my basement?
do i make your heart beat like an 808 drum?
is my love your drug?
* * *
“Dr. Bashir, the time now is oh-seven-hundred hours.”
“… oh, God…”
He pulled the pillow over his head to spare himself the blinding agony of the gradually brightening room lights – God, he swore he could hear the air recyclers humming, the attitude thrusters firing, did everything on this station have to be so goddamned loud? --
How could it be oh-seven-hundred already? He could’ve sworn he’d just gotten to bed –
What had he done last night?
Well, he remembered kanar – ugh, and his stomach turned over – and he remembered singing, and he remembered Quark’s, and he remembered Jadzia…
Things got a bit hazy after that. He thought he remembered… more singing? And tongo? Possibly both at once? Well, if I have fewer credits today than I did yesterday, there was definitely tongo.
And toasting with Jadzia –
Oh, God, I told her about Garak – he pulled the pillow more tightly over his head, and briefly considered putting it over his face.
She’ll tell everyone… But he had asked her not to, and she’d said she wouldn’t, and Jadzia Dax was a terrible gossip, but she was also honourable to a fault. She wouldn’t tell. Unless she felt it was somehow to Julian’s benefit. So for a little while, at least, he was safe…
And he smiled to himself, beneath the pillow, despite the fact that it hurt to do so. It was so nice to have told someone. Sharing his private delight made it ten times more real. And she’d laughed, she’d congratulated him, she’d actually talked him into it – well, he’d done that himself, but she had definitely facilitated it, really -
Everyone should have a Dax of their own. God, she was delightful.
He remembered her walking him home, their arms around each other’s shoulders, singing Cardassian opera – God, of course she knew Cardassian opera, it amused him now that he’d even been surprised. She had a remarkably nice alto, actually, and the two of them together had sounded pretty good. Of course, the way he’d felt last night, it could’ve sounded like the most terrible caterwauling, and he would have thought it was absolutely marvelous.
And there were still vestiges of that feeling, trickling through him, down his spine, through his limbs, making him curl his toes and twiddle the edges of the pillow, quietly gleeful –
Garak is interested in me.
Today the real campaign could begin – he pushed the pillow away and sat up -
Urgh, and let himself collapse again, on his back this time, and stared helplessly up at the ceiling. Perhaps after I do something about this hangover…
His stumble to the replicator was a pathetic thing, one foot dragging behind the other as he tried to co-ordinate his lanky, complaining frame. It served him right, he supposed. If I spend four hours poisoning my body, I can’t expect it to like me much the next day. It had been fun, though…
He tapped his personal medical access code into the replicator, quietly thankful that rank had its privileges. “Bashir combination one-beta-two.”
There was a flicker of golden light, and a one-shot hypospray appeared, prepped with his personal prescription for a hangover. They’d come up with it at Starfleet Medical, after one particularly damaging night, and he’d still never found anything better: a metabolic accelerator (to clear the nasty acetaldehydes), a mild anti-nauseant (to cover him ‘til the accelerator kicked in), a touch of glucose (a quick sugar boost for when one couldn’t face food), and a smidgen of triptacederine (to deal with his throbbing head). He found it worked much better when he chased it with coffee; he’d dabbled with incorporating caffeine into it directly, but really, even hungover, coffee was more fun.
He pressed the hypospray against his right carotid artery and winced a bit as it slammed the concoction into his bloodstream, ah, ahhh… Oh, that was already a little better; the air recyclers had gotten quieter, and the room lighting was almost bearable. Whew. Back into the replicator with the depleted hypo; now, off I go -
Off to the sonic shower, to vibrate away the external residue of Quark’s while his liver took care of the internal residue. The soft hum of the shower was soothing, and he almost dozed off again, there against the bright mesh of the wall; thank God, the shower’s cleansing cycle ended after five minutes, and the cessation of noise roused him again. He stumbled to the mirror and took stock: face tired, dark circles under his eyes, conjunctiva rather red, hair a disaster. He wasn’t going to cut much of a dashing figure at the infirmary like this, was he; better do some damage control, especially if he wanted to skitter off after his shift and track down a certain Cardassian tailor –
And he watched in delighted amusement as his face changed at the thought, how his mouth stretched into a smile, how the corners of his eyes crinkled, how a touch of colour flushed his cheeks as his face warmed. Who was this besotted idiot staring back at him? Hello, Julian. I recognize you.
He winked at himself, silly and pleased, and clearly the shot was kicking in; he had about four hours before reality slammed back down, and that was more than enough to get a start on his day. Time for raktajino, and a quick breakfast, and to try to do at least something about his hair –
God, what a morning, he hadn’t stopped.
When he’d stepped through the door, his cheerful smile had been rather deflated by Rijal’s sharp exclamation of “Oh, thank the Prophets.” She’d already been on-shift for two hours; she’d had a PADD stylus stuck through her ponytail, a hypospray in her hand, and a general air of frenzy, and she’d grabbed him and towed him into the infirmary, “Come on, Julian, we need you – “
And she hadn’t been lying. They’d run from can to can’t, through a seemingly endless deluge of patients; it seemed as if everyone had picked today to catch a virus or eat something disagreeable or fall off the upper level, for God’s sake, and that was in addition to the regular steady stream of physicals and immunizations and scheduled minor surgeries and, and, and –
Three nurses and two physicians hadn’t been nearly enough to deal with it. Hell, they could’ve all been twins and it still wouldn’t have been enough. He and Doctor Tvel had barely said two words to each other; when Tvel had gone off-shift at ten-hundred hours, exhausted, Julian had been left to clean up as much mess as he could, with the admittedly capable assistance of Rij and the nursing squadron, ready, willing, and able, but God, it had been like trying to hold back the tide with a mop –
And now the tsunami had washed over them, and the sickbay was littered with detritus, spent hyposprays, cast-aside tissue knitters, empty vials, blinking PADDs, and he and Rijal stood in the middle of it and looked at each other, laughing so that they didn’t scream.
The other two nurses had ducked out for lunch – well-earned, Julian certainly couldn’t fault it – and he and Rij had been left to tidy up the disaster zone. They picked their way through, sorting equipment, filling empty things and emptying full things. Rij was better at it, really, and Julian found himself relegated mostly to being an extra pair of hands, carrying whatever Rij needed carried and being tall as required, and it was restful, especially because his shot was starting to wear off, and God, the lights were getting a bit bright again, and had those air recyclers just kicked into a higher gear…?
Arms full of empty hyposprays, he navigated across the infirmary, brain downshifting, and he caught his foot on the edge of a console and nearly tripped; he juggled the hypos, his balance precarious, and managed to steady himself without spilling any of his cargo. Whew. Julian, it’s time to sit down.
He turned and looked at Rij. “I think – “
“- that you need to go get something to eat, Julian, yes, that is a very good idea.” Rij’s expression was sardonic, but friendly.
Oh. Food. That sounded good too. He nodded at her, and cast about for a place to set the hypos down. Rij pointed him towards the recycling slot, and he poured them in, and off they jangled, to be sterilized and recharged, or taken apart into their molecular components, as the case might be; not his problem, thank God.
He straightened, and rubbed his face; yes, definitely time for another shot, and something to eat, something bland and protein-based. He looked out at the Promenade and winced. Too noisy. Too bright. He couldn’t even fathom the idea of the Replimat today.
“Rij, I think I’ll just eat in. Mind if I duck into the back?”
She’d parked herself at her console to grab a bite to eat, and gestured him away, her attention devoted entirely to her hasperat roll. He seized the moment and escaped through the door to the surgical suite; as it closed behind him, he slumped against the wall, oh, the blessed, wonderful quiet…
He just stood there for a moment, savouring the feeling of not being needed. He had a few minutes to himself now, to eat and relax, and first of all, to replicate that damned shot –
Voices murmured out in the infirmary, and he half-listened, but it wasn’t his problem right now; Rij could handle just about anything –
- except, apparently, the irate Cardassian who now stalked through the door of the surgical suite, shoulders tense, eyes narrowed. Rij was right behind him, voice raised and in mid-shout, “ – just started his lunch break, Garak, he hasn’t had a chance to sit down all day – “
“Well, then, he can sit down with me,” and Garak wheeled on Julian, and the look he shot him was irascible and sour, and Julian didn’t know quite what to do with this situation. He looked at Rij, what is this?, and she shrugged helplessly, don’t ask me.
Garak caught the wordless exchange, and if anything, his mood darkened. “Doctor, I need to speak with you immediately.”
Julian blinked at him. “Um… all right, Garak… What is this about?” Argh, this wasn’t right, his tone should be more firm, his posture more upright, but God, his head was clanging like a bell again, and his blood glucose was plummeting into his boots, and he couldn’t quite manage it right now –
“A little privacy, if you please?” And Garak looked pointedly at Rijal, whose face went very blank. She looked at Julian, brows raised.
“Um…” He rubbed his face. “It’s fine, Rij…”
“Thank you, Doctor.” Garak’s tone was bitingly sarcastic, and Rij raised her hands, turned her back on both of them, and strode out, her general attitude proclaiming absolute fatigue with everything but hasperat. Good for you, Rij. Julian almost wanted to do the same, but this was Garak, and he liked Garak, even if he rather seemed to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. What is this going to be about? And do I have to face it on an empty stomach?
“Do you mind if I get something to eat, Garak?” He moved towards the replicator as he spoke –
“Actually, Doctor, yes, I do mind; I would like your full attention.” Garak’s tone was clipped, his posture taut, and he eyed Julian angrily. “You appear to have left me in the dark about something quite important. I don’t appreciate it.”
What…? Julian had no idea what he was talking about. Did I… oh, God, he hasn’t – Garak couldn’t have found out about Julian’s genetic enhancements, could he? But then he wouldn’t be angry – this didn’t make any sense. “I’m sorry?”
“You should be. But I don’t think you are. In fact, I’ll wager that you don’t even know you’ve done anything wrong.” The Cardassian drew himself up to his full height and tilted his head, somehow managing to look down his nose at Julian, and he was almost sneering, what on earth…?
Julian blinked, and opened his hands. “All right. I admit it. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Perhaps if you hadn’t drunk so much last night, you’d be better able to keep up with this conversation.” Garak’s eyes narrowed to slits.
Hey! “Excuse me?”
“You were at Quark’s last night. You were celebrating.”
“Perhaps you’d care to share your happy news with me?”
Julian’s mind raced. Hmm. This wasn’t quite the right setting for Julian to launch himself at Garak like an amorous guided missile, was it. And Garak really didn’t seem to be in the mood, and frankly, neither was he. Leave it. Calm him down. Try to figure out what the hell is wrong. God, Cardassians… What could he have done?
“It’s really not important, Garak; just some minor good news. Not even worth discussing.”
“You found it worth discussing with Jadzia Dax.”
Julian’s face screwed up in confusion. “I met her at Quark’s!”
“So I hear. I also hear that she accompanied you to your quarters. How fascinating that you two have become so very close.”
This didn’t make any goddamned sense at all – “We’re friends, Garak! You know that!”
“I thought you and I were friends, Doctor!” And now Garak was pacing, hands working at his sides, and Julian briefly wished he’d actually learned any second tongue, because he was sure that it would be tremendously useful in helping him figure out what the hell was going on –
“Then why are you keeping secrets from me? Secrets you can only share with Jadzia Dax? Secrets that lead you both back to your quarters?” Garak stared at him, his blue eyes cold, and that sneer -
This was completely insane! Maybe he was too hungry and hungover to process properly, because this just didn’t follow, Garak wasn’t like this – “Garak, you are making something out of nothing! I haven’t – I mean – why the hell do you care who I go drinking with?”
“Ah! So you admit you planned to have drinks with her!” And Garak pointed an accusatory finger at him, his expression victorious and justified, and Julian was starving, and his head hurt, and he was just about ready to punch Garak in his self-righteous ridged face –
“You’re twisting my words! I hate that! Just tell me what you’re angry about, for God’s sake, and stop carrying on like such an ass!”
“Oh, now I’m an ass, am I?” Garak’s eyes were wide, his expression outraged.
“You’re certainly acting like one!”
“And is that why you prefer the company of Jadzia Dax to my own?”
Oh, God, really, Jadzia again? That was it – “Well, you’re certainly not doing much to change my mind on that topic right now, are you!”
And suddenly Garak was in motion, striding towards Julian, and Julian found himself balling his fists, ready to strike –
- this was crazy –
- and weirdly… familiar? –
And Garak’s hands landed heavily on Julian’s shoulders, and Julian was pressed back against the wall, and those wide blue eyes were only inches away, and Julian suddenly thought, page 322 –
“And what would you suggest I do to change your mind, Doctor?”
- this wasn’t at all what he’d half-planned –
- for one thing, it would have been nice to be much less hungover –
- but go was go, and Julian leafed back through Petals in his mind, found Veren and Peretta, shrieking at each other in the garden, and what did he say, what did Veren say, oh, yes –
And Julian let his face slip into the haughtiest expression he could muster, brows up, mouth disapproving, absolutely incredulous at Garak’s thick-headedness, “’Have I not explained matters to you well enough already?’”
He saw it in Garak’s eyes, the tiniest glint of delight, of veritable glee –
And Garak kissed him, hard, noses pressed together, lips not quite aligned, clumsy and awkward as only a first kiss could be, and his toes curled –
Garak pulled back, just enough that he could look into Julian’s eyes, and his expression was just marvelous, just a hint of a question in those eyes: was this all right, did Julian want him to stop?
And Julian laughed out loud, and lunged, throwing his arms around Garak and pressing his lips to his, and Garak staggered back just a little with the force of Julian’s onslaught. Julian couldn’t really bring himself to care; he was too busy tasting Garak’s mouth, exploring his lips, teasing him with his tongue, won’t you, please –
Apparently Garak would, because he made a low sound, almost a hum, and his mouth opened beneath Julian’s own, and now Julian was absolutely lost, as Garak’s hands slid up and over him; they were pressed as close together as they could possibly come without removing any clothing, oh, and wasn’t that a thought, and Julian found himself actually moaning against Garak’s mouth, a sort of half-voiced cry, as three weeks’ worth of tension uncoiled in his groin –
Perhaps the Cardassians are on to something, after all. God, one never stopped learning -
The kiss broke, and they pulled apart, just a little, looking at each other, hands still moving, Garak’s fingers tracing gently over Julian’s face, his hair, his eyebrows, his ears, lightly caressing, exploring –
And Julian was finally able to indulge, to touch, and how fascinating to run his fingertips over the ridges above Garak’s eyes, tracing them up to his hair, running his fingers along Garak’s hairline, over his chufa, down to the twin line of ridges just below his ears, and from there down his neck; he felt heat bloom in Garak’s neck ridges, under his fingers, and Garak hummed again, softly, and looked at him with bright eyes, and all right, perhaps this wasn’t quite what he’d envisioned, but by God, he’d take it.
Garak smiled at him, a curious smile, delighted and intense. “I hope that I have demonstrated a thorough understanding of your lessons.”
Oh, God, that was page 322 again, wasn’t it, and Julian tried to think, tried to cast back for what to say next, but Garak’s hands were tracing up and down along his neck, slowly, and his brain wouldn’t come online –
Garak frowned, just a little. “Have you nothing at all to say to me, Doctor?” And he clearly felt that Julian wasn’t playing along, oh, no -
Uh, um, something, anything, “I… oh, I like your ridges,” and he smiled pathetically, oh, God, Julian, really?
And then he laughed, he couldn’t help it, because Garak’s face had frozen in the most incredible suffused expression, a mixture of amusement and incredulity and chagrin.
“Really, Doctor? Three weeks of pretty, promising words to lure me in, and now that you have me, all you offer me is ‘I like your ridges?’” There was laughter in Garak’s voice, but also just the slightest trace of disappointment, and his hands settled gently on Julian’s shoulders.
Julian shook his head, trying to clear the pink fog that had suddenly enveloped him; he rubbed his face. “Just – give me a minute – my God, Garak, nobody ever gets kissed like that in Petals of the K’selses!” I do believe I may just have found an even better hangover cure than Bashir one-beta-two.
Garak blinked. “Of course nobody gets kissed like that in Petals of the K’selses – what kind of books do you think I’m lending you?” And suddenly he was laughing, as honestly as Julian had ever heard him laugh; he was terribly amused. “I must admit, Doctor, that when I realized that you were trying to court me using Petals as your guide - was that really what you were doing?”
Oh, God, he’d known? “That, and some Cardassian physiology texts…”
Garak’s eyes closed in sheer delight, and his hands tightened. “Oh, Doctor…”
Julian’s embarrassment warred with pleasure at Garak’s enchanted expression. “Was it… Have I done all right?”
And Garak’s eyes opened, and the expression in them was rather different, hungry and pleased, and Julian suddenly felt a bit like a mouse confronted with an expectant cat. “All right? Oh, yes, Doctor…” And those hands slid over his shoulders and down his body, and Garak pulled him close, breathed in his ear, “I have never been courted with such courtesy, such delicacy. Truly, Doctor, the most virgin of pre-Reformation maidens could not have been offended.” And as he spoke, his hands wandered lower, and Julian’s back arched –
“Ah… Um, I, pre-Reformation? Are you saying I was a bit archaic in my methods, Garak?” Julian found himself with his arms trapped against Garak’s chest, his hands propped against Garak’s neckline; oh, well, he was never one to waste an opportunity, and he slipped his fingers over Garak’s collar, reaching down and in to just lightly brush the scales along his collarbone, the tip of his chula – and the physiology texts had mentioned sensitive nerve clusters, but had said nothing about how Garak would gasp, about how his arms would tighten around Julian, about how he would seek Julian’s mouth with his own, interrupting all dialogue –
Footnotes – those texts really need footnotes – and perhaps an appendix – Julian S. Bashir, MD, intrepid researcher -
“Hmm,” and Garak half-hummed, half-growled against Julian’s mouth, the most fascinating vibrations thrumming through his chest against Julian’s fingers, and his mind flashed to Cardassian anatomy, and then flashed further –
But Garak was talking now, somehow, although his voice was just a bit more intense than Julian was used to hearing. “Archaic is perhaps a trifle harsh, Doctor, but I really would recommend you bring yourself up-to-date.”
“Mmm? How so?”
“It is permitted to smile now and then, Doctor. And not every exchange of words needs to be quite so hostile. Do you know, I think I shall lend you some books on the topic.”
“I wish you would have lent them to me earlier.”
“Ah, but these kinds of books one does not lend to one’s naïve Human lunch companion. He might get entirely the wrong idea.”
“Are you saying I’m naïve?”
“You might be surprised.”
“I rather hope to be.” Oh, this was flirting, this he could do – the quick exchange of phrases, the knowing flash of eyes, the tilted heads and tilted smiles – and Garak still held him close, and he ran his hands up and down Garak’s back, feeling the most intriguing tracery of scales up his spine, and how they bloomed to fullness, covering his upper back, the nape of his neck – God, he could just –
No, no, this was not the place. He was the Chief Medical Officer on DS9, and it absolutely would not do for him to be caught in flagrante delicto in the surgical suite. Garak’s fingers traced along his sides, slipping lower, down to his hips, and for just a moment he closed his eyes and shivered, letting the feeling wash over him – and then he pushed lightly against Garak’s chest. Garak’s hold on him broke immediately, and they stood there, looking at each other, not touching, and it was really so very odd, how something that had been normal for years was suddenly almost torturous.
Julian cleared his throat. “Um. Are you actually upset about Jadzia?”
“What do you think?”
“I think you needed a pretext to come rant at me.” Like Peretta to Veren. The switchover from angry sniping to mad, passionate love made more sense, now; the author just hadn’t written any of the really important stuff down. Too smutty, I suppose. Too bad – all that delightful physicality, elided in a paragraph break…
Garak smiled, pleased. “How kind of you to provide one, just when I needed it.”
Um. Well, let’s let him think that was on purpose, then.
“Convenient. Really, Doctor, three weeks? This isn’t the pre-Reformation age, despite what Petals might have you believe; you don’t need to observe every formal courting ritual. I was becoming quite concerned that I’d have to be obvious with you.”
“Although, my dear Doctor,” and Garak’s voice dropped to a near-whisper, almost conspiratorial, “if I may be perfectly frank, I think I might rather enjoy the chance to be obvious with you…” They were still standing so close, and Garak’s gaze travelled over him, lingering, and Julian’s body responded as if he’d been caressed, oh, this was addictive and pharmaceutical-grade, and how had he thought that telling Garak would give him any relief? This was worse, because now there was a whole new kind of waiting…
What was that line… what had Peretta said, when she and Veren were saying their goodbyes at the train station? Ah, yes. He lowered his lashes demurely, looking away. “’You have only to mention you desire a thing for me to desire it also, sire; since you have chosen me, I know your judgement is sound.’”
Garak said not a word. What – have I -
Julian snuck a look at him, from the corner of his eye – oh – and apparently that was what an aroused Cardassian looked like. Garak’s eyes had widened, pupils dilating, and Julian saw a flush of dark grey spreading from between the scales on his neck, highlighting his ridges, and ye gods, he must be far gone, because it was just about the most attractive thing he could imagine, but he was not going to touch, not now –
“Do you know, Doctor,” and Garak’s voice was thick, and he almost hissed his words, “I must have reread that Pride and Prejudice book four times in the last week, looking for clues to what you might want me to do to move this along…”
“Garak, you are not going to find clues for what I want you to do in Pride and Prejudice.” His face felt flushed, their gazes were locked, no touching –
“Hmmm… yes, Mr. Darcy and Miss Bennet are so dreadfully restrained in their responses, aren’t they? Nothing but language, language, all the time…” That grey flush was still spreading – how far down did it go – oh, God, did it spread over every ridge –
“Much like Veren and Peretta, don’t you think? Really, it’s a pity that climactic scene didn’t go into more detail.” Pink fog behind his eyes, warm tension in every muscle, and things happening physiologically that just weren’t comfortable in this uniform –
“Indeed. I could say much the same for Darcy’s more successful proposal.” Every sibilant in the sentence stretched so sweetly –
“It’s… actually quite funny, you know. There have been many, many novels written that attempt to complete that story. Everybody seems to think it’s unfinished.” His heart was pounding, his hands shaking –
“Really, Doctor?” And Garak tilted his head, his eyes fixed on Julian’s, face half-smiling, ridges lightly flushed. “Then that is something our cultures have in common. Something quite similar happened with Petals of the K’selses.” Was Garak breathing faster, or -
“So… there’s one place both Cardassian and Human courtship meet in the middle, then...” Because Julian certainly was -
“Is that so...” – oh, God -
“Well, we both hate things left unfinished, don’t we - oh, come on, Garak,” and he tilted his head, angled his mouth just slightly towards Garak, his resolve slipping away, “don’t you want to know what happens next…?”
Garak leaned towards him, eyes so much bluer when set off by that charming trace of dark grey, and Julian’s eyes slid shut –
“Tanylek to Bashir.”
Oh, you are joking.
His eyes popped open, and there was Garak, just a breath away, wearing a look of extreme frustration that no doubt matched Julian’s own to perfection. It was almost funny, except that it really, really wasn’t. Hold that thought –
He tapped his badge. “Bashir here.”
“Doctor Bashir, your thirteen-hundred will be here in about ten minutes.”
Oh, God! But he’d – he had just – hadn’t it just been –
Apparently this remarkable little interlude had taken more time than he’d thought. It hadn’t seemed long enough, not nearly long enough.
“Uh, thank you, Nurse Tanylek. I’ll be out presently. Bashir out.” He rubbed his face, and peered at Garak through spread fingers, and found nothing to say but, “Aaaargh – “
Garak, far from disapproving of his limited vocabulary, was nodding in complete agreement.
Julian blew out a breath. “Um. I’m off-shift at sixteen-hundred.”
“Ah. My shop is scheduled to stay open ‘til eighteen-hundred.”
“I do hope so,” and those eyes -
Oh, dear God, give me strength. Julian clenched his fists, tensed and relaxed his body top to bottom, breathed deep and let his hormones drain away as best he could. With mild amusement, he noticed that Garak appeared to be doing something rather similar.
He mustered the best smile he could, under the circumstances. “See you tonight, then.”
Garak eyed him for a long moment – oh, but not long enough - and gestured Julian towards the door.
They filed out together, Garak dropping a nod Rijal’s way as he strode from the infirmary. Julian watched him go, thinking of very little and rather a lot, all at once –
And a small, strong hand grabbed his wrist and yanked, and he spun around, and here was Rijal, brows climbing her forehead, “Really, Julian?”
He couldn’t help it. He laughed out loud. “Really, Rij.”
Her face was a picture. “Have you gone insane?”
“Oh, probably…” And he looked out after Garak, now out of view, and smiled stupidly, and Rijal groaned.
“Oh, you and I are going to have to talk.”
“Whatever you like, Rij…” His heart fluttered and danced in his ribcage, his pulse throbbed in his ears, his cheeks were hot, his mind was full of fireworks –
He’d been wrong, he’d been so wrong.
This was going to be very fun.
* * *
because your love, your love, your love is my drug