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It's not a secret. Not technically. It's just that he never brings it up, and no one thinks to ask.

And why would they? Bashir sleeps with plenty of women, and he doesn't exactly withhold information about those conquests. And Garak? Well, Bashir gets the feeling that his friends don't think much about Garak at all. He knows better than to invite Garak along when he spends time with his other friends. One awkward lunch which he'd absentmindedly scheduled with both O'Brien and Garak had proven that it was better to keep Garak separate from the rest.

Keeping it separate makes sense anyway. Everything about his friendship with Garak is different.

Like when Bashir says goodbye to O'Brien after a few hours of holosuite adventure, he says that he is going to turn in early. He even heads in the direction of his own quarters until O'Brien is safely out of sight, and Bashir can drop pretense for the moment and change direction.

(It's not a secret. O'Brien doesn't always want to hear everything about his friend's sex life.)

Garak opens the door with a surprised "doctor!" As if he didn't expect the visit.

Bashir smiles, easily falling back into pretense. "Do you mind if I come in?"

"Not at all."

When the door slides shut, Garak has Bashir against the wall.

"I see you've been in the holosuite again." Garak's breath is hot against Bashir's neck.

"Didn't feel like stopping by my quarters to change."

"You should learn a little patience." Garak already has him out of his tuxedo jacket and half out of his shirt. A perk of sleeping with a tailor: no fumbling fingers. "Perhaps I should teach you."

Bashir leans his head back against the wall, closing his eyes. "Perhaps, but not tonight."

"Not tonight," Garak agrees. "Would you like to take this to the couch?"

"You said no lessons tonight."

"The couch is only a few meters away." Garak's voice is stern, but Bashir can feel a smile against his shoulder.

"A few very long meters."

"You, Doctor, are really not worth this much--"

"Garak." Bashir looks at him with sympathy. "You needn't worry about hurting your knees again. As you said, I am a doctor, and I've a feeling that I'm about to owe you."

Garak raises an eyeridge, then leans close to Bashir's ear. "We will see who is sore by the end of the night," he whispers before sliding down Bashir's body, leaving a kiss on his collarbone, then his belly, then a bit lower. Bashir's breath catches, and he leans his head back again. He watches the red lights on the ceiling and listens to the sounds Garak's mouth makes on him.

Yes, the rules here are different. Friendly and distant. Light conversation, no first names. Bashir's never been entirely sure that Garak would let him use the name Elim, and anyway, 'Garak' has worked well enough. No need to change it.

He closes his eyes again, still able to see splotches of green where the lights left a temporary imprint on his retina. Garak's quarters are always warm, and it reminds him of making love midday on Earth. Small differences, of course. The turning and the hum of the station, rougher lips around his cock, and stronger hands holding his hips, sliding back behind him to apply pressure -- a not-so-subtle reminder of what they will be doing later.

Bashir smiles to himself. He's fairly sure that it's a Cardassian thing, the need to constantly feel in control and dominant, even when he's on his knees. He hasn't voiced this theory to Garak. They don't really talk about this. Not directly.

His vision darkens to black and his thoughts begin to fade, becoming faint and erratic -- where he'll eat breakfast tomorrow, what reports he needs to finish before lunch, whether or not Jadzia will join him and O'Brien in the holosuite next time -- until they are gone altogether.

He reaches blindly, and his fingertips brush the ridge of Garak's neck. Garak makes a quiet, appreciative sound that Bashir feels more than hears. Bashir finds Garak's hair and holds onto it -- not guiding or pushing; Garak wouldn't put up with that -- as the pleasure shoots through his body. For a moment, all he can hear is his own heartbeat and an undignified groan that escapes his throat.

There is a perfect, quiet moment until Garak's mouth slides away. Bashir shivers, even in the Cardassian heat of the room. He doesn't think to offer a hand up until Garak is already standing again. His hands are cool on Bashir's hips.

"Doesn't seem right," Bashir says, breathily, "that you should know so much about Human anatomy."

"Mm. I know all sorts of things you wouldn't expect me to, Doctor."

"Things in general, or things about me?"

Garak looks at him, his eyes curved with amusement. "I think it's time to retire to the bedroom. I'm feeling rather impatient myself."

Bashir nods mutely, and he stumbles out of his shoes and pants as he follows after Garak.

"You're early," Bashir says when Dax walks into the infirmary.

She's smiling strangely. Never a good sign. "I know."

"Well, you're in luck. Ensign Powell's check-up finished early. On the biobed, please."

Dax sits sideways on the biobed, watching Bashir as he looks for the proper scanning equipment necessary for giving both symbiont and host a thorough check-up. He raises an eyebrow at her.


"Just curious."

Bashir restrains himself from rolling his eyes. "Lie down, please. Hands to your sides." He begins to scan her abdomen. "Curious about what?"

"Oh, just what you were doing in Garak's quarters this morning."

Bashir freezes. Of course, the one time he made the mistake of falling asleep in Garak's bed, someone would find out. He manages a tight smile. "Are you spying on me?"

"I would never do such a thing," Dax says with feigned offense. "I needed to tell you I'd be early for my check-up. Some sort of debris came through the wormhole that I'm going to be working with all day. You weren't answering your comm, so I asked the computer to find you."

"Well. You'll be happy to know your symbiont is fine. And you're once again not pregnant. You seem to be in perfect health."

She raises her eyebrows. "Aren't you going to answer me?"

"Of course, I could have seen something anomalous. In fact, I could have you in here all day running test after test..."

Dax sits up, her eyes glued on him. "Are you hiding something? From me? I'm hurt, Julian."

Bashir puts his scanner back into place, giving himself a moment away from her gaze.

It's not a secret. He never wanted another secret. If someone asks...

"He wanted me to come by before my shift for some measurements. He's apparently having some trouble with one of his sizing scanners, and he'd lost my information. He knew I'd be too busy today to come into the shop, so..."

He doesn't look at her again until he's finished. He can't look at her and lie at the same time.

"So, you just stopped by his quarters... without your combadge."

"You should have Miles look at your combadge. You wouldn't want it to malfunction at a bad time. Mine's working perfectly." Bashir laughs. He thinks it shouldn't be so easy to laugh. "Really, what do you think? That Garak and I are conspiring for some evil plot?"

Dax stands, straightening her uniform. "Of course not." She's still smiling the same little smile that was on her face when she came in. "Well, I have a date with some debris."

"Have fun."

Bashir watches her leave, and his eyes linger on place where she was some seconds after she's out of sight. He has the urge to chase after her. Tell her the truth. Instead he goes to his desk, ostensibly looking over some reports while he waits for the next check-up.

It's not a secret. Not technically. Some things are just too private to share with everyone on the station. And at some point before he's settled on his new set of rationale, Bashir isn't entirely sure who he's lying to anymore.