DISCLAIMER: Star Trek, Star Trek:Deep Space Nine and its characters are copyright Paramount and no infringement is intended. The story, such as it is, is copyright Karen Colohan 1997.

Author's notes: This story was inspired by the episode "In the Cards", but takes place before the events in that episode.

THE BEAR ESSENTIALS

by Karen Colohan (copyright 1997)

"Don't you feel that you might be taking this whole situation just a trifle too personally, doctor?" Garak leaned back in his chair, wiping his lips carefully on his napkin. He regarded his companion with tolerant amusement. Julian Bashir's hazel eyes darkened.

"No, I do not, Garak," he insisted. "It's totally unfair of  Leeta. It's months now since we conducted the Rite of Separation and she and Rom got together. There really is no excuse for it. She should have given him back by now."

"But, doctor..." began the Cardassian in his most reasonable tone.

"No, I'm sorry, Garak," interrupted Julian, "but her behaviour is quite unacceptable. Leeta knows perfectly well what he means to me. He's been my companion every night when I've gone to bed for - well, years. He can't possibly have the same kind of meaning for her." The doctor's face now wore a distinctly lugubrious expression. "Besides - I miss him, damn it!"

"Is your bed really so empty without him, doctor?" enquired Garak sardonically. The look in his bright blue eyes implied that he didn't believe it for one moment.

"You're not taking this seriously, are you, Garak?" accused Julian. "And, for your information, there is no one right now to take my mind off him," admitted the doctor as an afterthought. The Cardassian filed this particular tidbit away for future reference before replying.

"It is a little difficult to do so, in the circumstances," he said reasonably, responding to the young man's accusation. "Anyway, if he is so important why don't you simply ask Leeta to return him to you?"

"Oh, I couldn't..." Julian sounded horrified by the suggestion.

"Whyever not?" asked Garak, mystified.

"I don't want her to know how much I miss him." Julian gave an embarrassed half-smile as the Cardassian shook his head in disbelief.

"So why are you telling me your guilty secret?" Garak wondered as he leaned forward, sapphire eyes gleaming conspiratorially. A faint smile tugged at the corners of his lips. Julian sighed, knowing that the tailor was teasing him, but deciding to take his comment at face value anyway.

"Because you're good at keeping secrets and I trust you to keep mine," replied the doctor. "Garak, if Leeta knew it would be all round the station before you could say..."

"Kukalaka?" suggested the Cardassian ironically.

"Garak..." muttered Julian reproachfully.

"I'm sorry, doctor," apologised the tailor, sitting back in his chair and raising a placatory hand. "So, am I to understand that you do not feel it would - enhance your reputation if it were to be widely known that you were miserable because your ex-girlfriend had failed to return your - teddy bear?" Garak directed a look of innocent enquiry at his lunch companion.

"Exactly," sighed Julian. Garak dropped his used napkin fastidiously onto his empty plate.

"Then your secret is safe with me, doctor. I suppose I can see your point," he conceded. "In any event, what do you intend to do now to secure Kukalaka's return?"

"For the moment - nothing," replied Julian morosely. "I just hope Leeta's sense of common decency will make her realise she should give him back soon." The doctor visibly pulled himself together. "Ah well, I really do have to get back to the Infirmary. I enjoyed our lunch, Garak. See you tomorrow?"

"Of course, doctor," agreed Garak graciously. He wasn't about to turn down the opportunity to spend more time in the human's company even if it did seem likely he would continue to bemoan the loss of his childhood toy. "I shall look forward to it." The Cardassian smiled one of his most pleasant smiles. Julian got up from the table and paused just long enough to recycle his empty tray in the replicator before leaving the Replimat. Garak looked after the retreating form thoughtfully. An idea was beginning to take shape in his mind. If it was company that Julian sought, perhaps the good doctor might consider an alternative to his missing teddy bear...

Julian was relaxing in his quarters, absently reviewing some new research papers, when his door chime sounded. He looked up from his reading in surprise. He had not been expecting any visitors at this late hour. Throwing his PADD aside and climbing to his feet the doctor called open the door. The identity of his visitor turned out to be even more unexpected.

"Garak?" Julian regarded the Cardassian standing on his doorstep curiously.

"Good evening, doctor, may I come in?" asked Garak pleasantly.

"It's a little late for social calls, isn't it?" observed Julian, a little more sharply than he had intended.

"I'm sorry," said Garak at once. He did not miss the edge to the doctor's tone. Perhaps this had been a mistake. "I should go..."

"No, Garak, please don't, it's all right, come in." Julian ushered his friend into his quarters, immediately contrite. He hadn't meant to sound so inhospitable.

"Thank you." Garak inclined his head graciously as he walked past the doctor and into the main living area. Julian turned to look at him expectantly.

"What did you want?" he asked. "It must have been important to bring you here so late."

"Indeed, I have been thinking, doctor - it's about our conversation earlier." Julian looked confused at the tailor's words as he tried to fathom which part of their discussion Garak might be referring to.

"What - exactly?" he enquired.

"Why, about your teddy bear," announced Garak with an expansive smile. "To be precise, about how you have missed having Kukalaka to keep you company at night." Julian's expression was becoming more incredulous by the moment. He regarded the Cardassian as if he were beginning to have serious doubts about his sanity.

"Garak," said the young man at last, each word spoken slowly and with considerable deliberation, "you stopped by my quarters at past 2300 hours just to talk about the fact that my ex-girlfriend still has possession of my teddy bear?"

"Not - precisely, doctor..." Garak's voice held a little less certainty than it had at the outset.

"What then?" asked Julian, a slight irritation beginning to show itself. The tailor rallied himself as the doctor's question gave him the opening he had been seeking.

"I wondered if you might have considered - an alternative," Garak suggested, eyeing the human carefully.

"I'm sorry?" Julian frowned, not understanding at all where the Cardassian was taking this conversation.

"Another companion, perhaps..." continued Garak. His eyes sought out and held the doctor's.

"Garak?" Julian returned the steady gaze curiously, trying to interpret the strange, unfamiliar expression in his friend's bright blue eyes.

"Doctor..." There was an equally unaccustomed intensity to Garak's tone that took Julian by surprise. As their gazes remained locked a look of slowly dawning comprehension settled on the young man's face.

"Garak, are you...?" Julian's voice had dropped to barely more than a whisper with the shock of realisation. "Do you mean...?"

"Yes, doctor, I was referring - to myself." The words were simply spoken, without inflection. Very slowly Garak advanced, continuing to watch Julian's face intently with every step he took towards him. The doctor's eyes widened at his friend's approach, but he made no move to back away or avoid him. When Garak was only inches away, he stopped. Carefully he reached out and rested his broad palms lightly on Julian's shoulders.

"You really are serious, aren't you?" said Julian softly. His hazel eyes betrayed a mixture of surprise, confusion and uncertainty.

"Doctor, I do not think that I have been more serious about anything in a very long time," replied Garak solemnly.

"I - don't know quite what to say," admitted Julian honestly.

"Tell me, is it entirely out of the question?" the Cardassian asked with quiet intensity. "If it is then I will leave now and no harm is done."

"No harm...?" A trace of genuine anger sparked in Julian's eyes. "Do you seriously expect me to just let you walk out of here and act as if nothing ever happened after this, Garak?"

"Doctor, I'm sorry. I should go, before irreparable damage is done to our friendship." Garak sighed, his hurt evident. "Forgive me. I have obviously allowed my observational skills to become rustier than I had believed," he concluded, somewhat to the doctor's surprise. The Cardassian reluctantly let his hands drop from Julian's slender shoulders - immediately regretting the loss of the human warmth against his skin - and moved to turn away.

"No, stop - Garak..." Julian's long fingers curved around Garak's arm, pulling him back to face him. "It's all right. I wasn't asking you to leave."

"But you said..." Now it was the tailor's turn to look confused.

"I only meant that I didn't see how you could expect there to be no consequences - whatever the outcome of this conversation," explained Julian patiently. "I did not mean that I didn't want you to stay. It's just - well you have to admit this has all come rather out of the blue. I'm having a little difficulty taking it all in. You have to give me a chance to get used to the idea. After all this time I... You..." The doctor shook his head, clearly still somewhat bemused at the turn of events. His gaze lighted on his hand where it still firmly gripped the Cardassian's arm and he stared at it fixedly. "I thought that if you were going to make a move you would have done it long ago. I'd pretty much given up even thinking about the possibility," he added quietly, almost to himself.

"Then you - do want...? began Garak hopefully.

"Yes, Garak, I'd like you to stay," agreed Julian. A slightly shy smile spread across his face as he made his decision. It caused Garak's own lips to curve in an answering gesture. "I'd also very much like to know exactly what you had in mind to stop me from missing Kukalaka."

"Oh, my dear doctor..." murmured Garak as Julian drew him closer. The young man tilted his head in silent question. By way of reply the Cardassian leaned in and kissed him gently. The soft human lips parted, welcoming the caress. At once the kiss deepened as buried instincts took over. By the time Julian and Garak broke apart they were both quite breathless and utterly enchanted by the experience.

"Garak," declared Julian, his face flushed and his clear eyes alight with wonder, "I think I'm missing Kukalaka less already. Do you have any other ideas? I'm sure you could help me get over his not being here altogether, if you put your mind to it."

The Cardassian's answering smile was wide and predatory, but the human didn't seem to object. He was quickly lost in a haze of rising desire as strong, grey hands found their way inside his uniform. Skilfully Garak disposed of the fabric which impeded his progress until he was able to touch, explore and marvel over every inch of Julian's fascinating smooth, brown skin. He also spared a few moments to discard his own clothing, drawing a murmur of approval for his exotically ornamented body from the young man.

"Doctor," advised Garak between kisses, "when it comes to such matters I think you will find me a veritable latinum mine of ideas." Julian did not reply. With a little encouragement from the Cardassian he had found a much more enjoyable use for his mouth. Garak's last coherent thought before the doctor's busily nibbling teeth and lips made thinking impossible was to offer a silent vote of thanks to Leeta, and to hope that she did not tire of Kukalaka's company too soon!

THE END

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