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.

NOTE: This story takes place before the reconciliation between Bashir and his parents in "Doctor Bashir, I Presume".

SET ME FREE

by Karen Colohan

Julian Bashir slammed the flat of his hand against the wall in weary frustration. The gesture was a somewhat pointless one; it achieved nothing, except to painfully abrade the sensitive skin of his palm against the rough stonework. Still, it reflected the doctor's current mood. Five or six times now Julian had explored the confines of his small prison and, as on each of the previous occasions, he had found no sign of a way out.

He had lost count of the hours - indeed it seemed more like days - since his captors had thrust him into this cold, bare, dank room. However, Julian was rapidly coming to the conclusion that they had forgotten about him. No-one had been near him since his imprisonment. He was hungry, thirsty and horribly tired. He wanted nothing more than to be able to sleep, to pass a few hours in restful oblivion, but the discomfort of the room, coupled with his own apprehension, had denied him even that respite.

Utterly discouraged Julian slumped down on the rough floor, back to the nearest stone wall. He drew his knees up tight to his chest, attempting to generate some warmth. It didn't seem to help. The damp atmosphere had slowly leached away all his body heat. It didn't help either that his uniform had acquired several large rips during his capture - one shoulder seam had given way completely on both the coverall and the shirt underneath as he had tried to pull free of his assailants. Julian hadn't gone down without a fight! Not that his defiance had achieved much, he reflected ruefully. He had still ended up stuck in this cold, dark cell - neglected, forgotten.

Julian wondered idly just what his captors had in mind for him. As far as he'd been able to tell, the reason for his abduction from DS9 was personal. Someone had a grudge against his father and had apparently decided to use Julian in a scheme to even things up between them.

Great, my father's on someone's shit list and I'm the one who gets to take the flak for it! thought Julian morosely. Well, if they're planning on demanding a ransom or some such nonsense I'll probably be here forever. Daddy dearest will be too busy with his latest grandiose scheme to bail me out - probably won't even realise that I'm being held. Captain Sisko will try and find me I'm sure, but I'm not holding out much hope right now...

The doctor shivered again. The chill dampness of the air seemed to penetrate bone-deep. It wasn't just the temperature that made him shudder though. The sense of total isolation was starting to get to Julian. At least if his captors showed their faces from time to time he would know he hadn't been forgotten... As it was, the unchanging gloom of the cell, the utter silence, made him feel as if nothing existed beyond the confines of this room. A deep, miserable sigh escaped the young man - he had never felt more alone in his entire life.

As the hours continued their slow passage Julian alternated between anger and despair. In those moments when his temper got the better of him the doctor would once again search every nook and cranny of his stone prison with grim determination, looking for a means of escape. Each time though the results of his efforts were the same. The floor and walls were solid rock and there was no possibility of breaking through them. There were no windows and the single door was heavy, fitting snugly into its frame. It was at this point that all the energy generated by his anger would drain out of Julian and he would sink back into despair.

By this time the doctor was also utterly exhausted and the lack of water was beginning to take its toll. Licking his dry lips Julian sank down on the cold floor, curling himself into a foetal position. Despite his uncomfortable surroundings he was so tired that sleep finally claimed him.

Julian woke suddenly, confused and disoriented. It took him a long moment to remember where he was and how he had come to be there. He sat up slowly, his muscles were stiff and sore. Looking around him the doctor noted that nothing had changed since he fell asleep. He was still alone and had not been provided with either food or water. Apparently his welfare was not a high priority for his captors. Carefully Julian stretched his cramped limbs, groaning at the discomfort as blood began to circulate more freely to his extremities again. His thirst bothered him more though. The doctor in him knew that if he weren't given something to drink soon he would become seriously dehydrated.

All at once Julian became aware of something different in his surroundings. It took him several moments of intense concentration to realise that the absolute silence had finally been broken. He could hear the faintest of scraping sounds. Eventually he identified that it was coming from the direction of the door. Had his captors at last decided to check if he was still alive? Julian inched back across the floor, away from the door, until he fetched up against the far wall. A tremor ran through him, whether inspired by the cold or apprehension he wasn't entirely sure. If it came to it he seriously doubted he had the strength to fight any more.

Strangely though it seemed to be taking a very long time for the door to open. Surely if whoever was out there had a key they would have come in by now... For the first time a faint glimmer of hope entered Julian's thoughts. He huddled against the wall and stared fixedly at the still closed door.

It seemed an eternity before a louder click sounded in the small cell. It was followed by a heavy grating noise as the door slowly began to open. Julian tensed as a shadowy figure slipped inside, pushing the door almost shut again behind him. The doctor's eyes widened in shock though as he realised who it was that had entered the room.

"Garak?" he croaked in disbelief.

"Doctor!" The note of relief was clearly evident in the Cardassian's hushed voice. He hurried across to where Julian sat and sank down at his side. Worried blue eyes searched the doctor's face for signs of injury. Garak noted that Julian's lips were cracked and dry and he had a few superficial looking bruises, but that otherwise he seemed unharmed - at least physically so. The Cardassian also noticed that the lower part of the doctor's face was heavily shadowed with a dark stubble that made him look quite different from the familiar clean-shaven young man.

However, Garak's relief at finding Julian was tempered with concern over his mental state. The doctor had remained huddled against the wall like a small child and the expression in his hazel eyes had only slowly turned from fear to bewilderment and finally recognition. One slim hand crept out, carefully touching the Cardassian's face as if to verify that he was real. The fingers felt like ice against Garak's cheek and he made a small, involuntary sound of distress.

"Garak, is it really you?" asked Julian slowly, his voice barely above a whisper. He swallowed painfully.

"Yes, doctor, it is," Garak soothed. He reached up and took hold of Julian's hand in his own, fingers stroking in gentle reassurance.

"How?"

"After you were abducted the Constable set about tracking the ship your captors used. Eventually he was able to follow the warp traces to this barren place. Captain Sisko promptly despatched the Defiant to rescue you and bring you back to DS9."

"Why...? How is it that you're here though?"

"I convinced Odo that my skills might be useful," admitted Garak with a small smile. "I was most - concerned for your safety, doctor."

"You - you wanted to help me?" Julian's eyes held an expression of uncertainty, as if he could not quite understand why the Cardassian would do such a thing. If the doctor's doubt as to his motives disturbed Garak he gave no outward sign of it.

"Yes. It's really very simple, doctor. I would be most distressed if any harm came to you," said Garak carefully. "I decided that by coming on this mission I would have the best chance of ensuring that didn't happen." While Julian's tired brain tried to process this information the Cardassian continued. "I'm afraid though that you must remain in this unpleasant place just a little longer. Odo and his men are rounding up your captors as we speak. When it is safe to leave he will signal me. We need to get to the planet's surface then. The rock is too thick to allow us to transport directly from down here."

"All right, Garak," agreed Julian tiredly. "I - do you have any water with you though? They - they haven't given me anything to eat or drink since I was brought here. They just left me down here - alone..." There was a noticeable catch in the doctor's voice and, as he glanced up at the Cardassian, his eyes betrayed how hard he had found his enforced isolation. Garak also noticed that Julian had made no effort to remove his hand from his reassuring grasp. Still, perhaps it was unsurprising if he had been left completely on his own for more than two days in this awful place. Had the doctor truly believed he had been abandoned, perhaps left to die? If so, no doubt he was grateful for the tangible reminder that he was no longer alone.

Garak had to let go of Julian's hand though in order to retrieve a water bottle from the bag he had been carrying slung over one shoulder. The doctor took the proffered container gratefully, sipping carefully at first to moisten his parched lips and throat. Then he gulped down a considerable measure of the cool, refreshing contents.

"Thank you," he said quietly, when he had drunk his fill. Julian's voice was still a little rough, but it evidently no longer pained him so much to speak. He handed the bottle back with a tentative smile. The Cardassian returned the smile as he took it, stowing it away in the bag.

"Is there anything else you need?" asked Garak. "I'm afraid I don't have any food to offer you."

"I wish I wasn't so cold," admitted Julian. "This room is so chilly and damp I haven't been able to get warm at all. Of course, my uniform getting torn didn't help either." He gestured vaguely at the damaged coverall.

Garak's eyes were drawn like a magnet to the ripped material. Up to now he had been trying very hard not to look. Where the seam had given out and there was nothing to hold it in place, the uniform had peeled away from Julian's shoulder, leaving it, and a portion of his chest, visible. The golden-brown skin thus revealed - and the brief glimpse of a darker brown nipple Garak was afforded whenever the doctor moved - intrigued the Cardassian. His fingers had been itching to reach out and touch...

"Garak?" There was a definite question in Julian's voice.

"What?" The Cardassian dragged his gaze back up to the doctor's face.

"Are you all right, Garak?" asked Julian anxiously. "You - you seemed to be miles away."

"I'm sorry, I was only wondering how long it would be before Odo sends the signal," Garak lied smoothly. "The sooner we can get you back to the Defiant the better. I'm afraid I don't have anything with me I can use to repair your uniform. It never occurred to me that my tailoring skills would be required on this mission."

"You could still help me to get a little warmer though," said Julian, glancing at his companion shyly.

"Oh, how?" asked Garak innocently.

"If - if you sat next to me and put your arms round me your higher body temperature might make me feel better," Julian suggested. Garak stared at the doctor with an expression of mixed shock and barely disguised hunger.

"I - are you sure?" he managed at length. The doctor nodded. Garak hesitated a moment longer, but he could see Julian was shivering. It wasn't that he didn't want to hold the human. He did, very much - it was simply that he wasn't certain how his body would react to the closeness.

Garak had been craving a more intimate relationship with his friend for months now. When he had learned of Julian's abduction he had been horribly afraid that he would never see him again. So as soon as the Cardassian discovered that Odo believed he knew where the doctor was he had determined he would be part of the rescue team. It was becoming obvious to Garak that his feelings for the human had gone far beyond simple friendship. Julian had never said anything to indicate what his own feelings were - or if he had guessed at Garak's - but the tailor had his hopes. He hadn't expected to be forced to show his hand so soon though.

Still, Garak realised Julian would think it odd if he refused the request and in any event, the doctor did need the warmth; his icy hands had revealed that. It would be the utmost cruelty to turn away from him. Offering up a small prayer, and wishing for self control, Garak settled himself on the hard floor at Julian's side. At once the doctor snuggled against him and Garak folded his arms protectively around the slender figure.

"Oh, that feels good," sighed Julian as some of Garak's warmth began to seep into his chilled body.

You don't know the half of it, doctor, thought Garak ruefully. Julian squirmed in the loose embrace, arranging himself more comfortably. His cheek came to rest against the Cardassian's chest and he could hear the echoing sound of Garak's heart. The strong, rapid beat was strangely reassuring and relaxing. Soothed, Julian began to slip into much-needed sleep.

Garak was eternally grateful when he saw the doctor's eyelids flutter shut. The young man's nearness was affecting him even more than he had thought it might and he had feared Julian would notice his reactions. The feel of the human in his arms and his distinctive scent were conspiring to give the Cardassian an achingly hard erection. He had never noticed just how soft Julian's hair was before. Normally it was neatly brushed, as smart as everything else about the doctor, but now it fell onto his forehead in disarray. Errant strands of it tickled Garak's chin when he glanced down at the bent head. He could feel the tension slowly draining out of the doctor's body as he held him and with an effort he forced himself to try and relax too.

The Cardassian was quite unprepared for the shock that jolted him out of his hard-won composure when one of Julian's hands dropped laxly into his lap. Garak's blue eyes widened in disbelief and he couldn't suppress the startled gasp that escaped him. The sound, and his small, involuntary movement, disturbed the doctor and he came awake at once.

"Garak?" he queried, blinking endearingly. Julian focused sleepily on the ridged, Cardassian face, trying to decipher its strange expression.

"Doctor, please..." hissed Garak imploringly.

"What...?" Julian suddenly glanced down and noticed for the first time where his hand was resting. "Ohhh!" he muttered in embarrassment, abruptly turning an interesting shade of red. "Garak, I'm sorry, I... Garak?" All at once the doctor had noticed the heat radiating into his palm. A dawning understanding lit his features as his questing fingers measured the hardness which had bloomed in the Cardassian's lap.

"Doctor," murmured Garak painfully, "I'd really rather you didn't do that. I - I'm not sure how much more I can take," he added honestly. Julian's fingers stilled, but he did not remove his hand from the Cardassian's groin.

"This is why you were reluctant when I asked you to hold me, wasn't it?" said Julian shrewdly. "You were afraid of how you'd react, weren't you? And to think I was shy of asking because I wasn't sure if you'd want to!" Garak dropped his gaze, saying nothing. "Well, I notice you're not denying it," continued the doctor.

"It would be - difficult to deny, in the circumstances," observed Garak wryly. "Given where you have your hand it's fair to say I have no secrets from you now."

"I doubt that's entirely true," snorted Julian disbelievingly, "but right now you would certainly be hard put to deny that you want me! So this was why you insisted on being part of the rescue mission. I must admit that seemed odd, not in character for you at all. This," the long, elegant fingers closed briefly on Garak's erection again, "throws a whole new light on things."

"I rather imagine it does," muttered Garak, "but I do wish..."

"You wish I'd stop - or carry on?" breathed Julian intently. It was evident that the Cardassian's response mattered to him a great deal. For the first time since Garak had unlocked the door and entered his prison the doctor's hazel eyes shone with something of his familiar spirit.

"I - I'd rather not..." said Garak indistinctly.

"You'd rather not come out and admit what you want? Garak, I'm disappointed in you. You make this grand gesture by coming to rescue me and then just saying a few simple words seems to be beyond you." Julian's eyes glittered in the dim light of the cell. His thumb continued slowly stroking Garak's cock through the fabric of his trousers. He knew the Cardassian must be close. Would he admit to his feelings or just sit there until the doctor made him come in his pants? Abruptly Garak's hand caught hold of Julian's wrist, stopping the maddening caress.

"Doctor, if you know me at all then surely you have learnt that it is not easy for me to speak of what I am feeling," said Garak slowly. "Do my actions not speak for me? I came on this mission because when you were abducted I feared I might never see you again. To my surprise I discovered that possibility caused me considerable pain." The blue eyes locked onto Julian's and, for once, they were utterly guileless, completely sincere. The depth of feeling the doctor saw reflected in them shocked him.

"I have wanted you for a very long time, my dear doctor," Garak continued with quiet intensity, "but had this situation not occurred I am not sure that I would have been able to tell you." As Garak fell silent Julian reached down with his free hand and felt for the fastening of the Cardassian's trousers. Garak stared at him in open surprise.

"This is what you want, isn't it?" said Julian softly. The tailor nodded dumbly. "It would be easier if I had both hands..."

Garak let go of the doctor's wrist and he quickly freed the Cardassian's erection from his clothing. Julian looked at the steely length admiringly as he began to stroke it rhythmically. The grey shaft was thick and decorated with a spiralling pattern of raised scales. Their slight roughness felt intriguing against the doctor's smooth palm. The plump head was a deeper, charcoal colour and was presently leaking a slick, inky liquid.

"Most impressive," murmured Julian in a low voice, his lips close to Garak's ear. His breath was warm against the sweeping ridges. "When we get back I do hope you'll give me the chance for a more thorough exploration - in more comfortable surroundings." The husky, seductive note in the words went straight to the Cardassian's blood. He gasped an incoherent warning as he thrust hard into Julian's encircling fingers and came.

The doctor smiled, pleased by the expression of intense pleasure on Garak's face. He certainly didn't feel alone or abandoned now. Julian was more than grateful that the Cardassian had been part of the rescue team. He continued rubbing Garak's now limp cock gently, smoothing the sticky fluid over the patterned skin. Finally, curious, Julian raised his hand to his mouth, tentatively touching his tongue to the final traces on his fingertips. To his surprise it tasted sweet, yet faintly spicy. He decided he approved.

Garak was watching Julian through narrowed eyes. The sight of the human licking the taste of him from his slender fingers was powerfully erotic. Had he been physically capable the Cardassian would have been tempted to roll Julian onto his stomach and take him then and there, despite their uncomfortable surroundings. No, it was probably just as well he was too tired. If he gave in to that impulse he was likely to scare the doctor away forever. Besides, who knew when Odo's signal might be given? Something a little less intense was called for now, something to show Julian his appreciation and to bring him the same delight Garak had just experienced.

"You enjoyed that?" teased Julian gently, as if the matter had been in any doubt.

"A better question is, did you?" countered Garak. Julian merely smiled enigmatically. The new growth of beard shading his face lent him a darker, more mysterious air than usual. The Cardassian definitely approved; he enjoyed getting to the bottom of a good mystery. With a calculating grin Garak caught hold of the doctor's still slightly sticky hand and brought it to his own mouth. Julian inhaled sharply as the Cardassian sucked each finger in turn, cleaning them thoroughly with his long tongue. The gesture was unmistakably suggestive and the doctor's breathing quickened in response. Eventually Garak completed the task to his satisfaction. He kept hold of the hand though, admiring its slender elegance and the delightful colour of the smooth skin. Suddenly the Cardassian let his other hand drop to Julian's lap. his teeth flashed white as he discovered the tell-tale hardness there.

"Oh well, doctor, I believe I have my answer."

"Is it really such a surprise to you, Garak?" asked Julian curiously. "That I should want you?"

"I wasn't at all sure before today," admitted Garak, "but I hoped. It is gratifying not to be disappointed. In any event, I certainly never imagined you would want this - here..." Julian smiled bleakly.

"I don't think I have ever wanted - needed anything more," he confessed, suddenly serious. "I was so afraid no-one was coming back for me. When they didn't even give me water I thought I was being left to die, and all because of someone's grudge against my father... Knowing you cared enough to come and look for me - that's important to me."

Garak nodded his understanding. What the doctor was saying struck a chord in him. He had felt something similar when he learned the lengths Julian had gone to to keep him alive after his implant malfunctioned. The Cardassian determined to replace the renewed pain in the young man's eyes with pleasure. With a tailor's skill Garak found the hidden fastening of Julian's uniform and unsealed it all the way down the front. Then he pushed the torn undershirt out of his way, exposing the smooth chest to his avid gaze. The doctor shivered as the cold, damp air touched his bare skin.

"Garak!" he protested. The Cardassian silenced him with a quick, unexpected kiss. Julian's eyes opened wide as Garak drew back to judge the doctor's reaction. Apparently what he saw pleased him for he leaned forward and kissed Julian a second time - far more thoroughly. The human's mouth opened to him, hesitantly at first, but then more eagerly as the Cardassian's questing tongue explored.

When Garak's lips finally lifted from the doctor's they did not retreat this time. Instead they began a trail of small kisses down Julian's neck, across his chest - pausing briefly to nibble delicately at the chocolate coloured nipples - then downward to his stomach. Broad grey hands followed in the wake of the Cardassian's mouth. Julian shivered again, but it was no longer from the cold.

Garak shifted his weight and began to nuzzle lower still. The musky scent rising from the human's groin was quite different from the typically spicy smell of a Cardassian. The entirely respectable erection was also something new. Garak didn't think he'd ever seen anything so smooth and unadorned. The colour of it delighted him too - the rich golden-brown hue that he had discovered tinted all of Julian's skin now becoming suffused with a deepening rose. Carefully Garak continued his trail of kisses, working from the base to the tip of the human cock.

"Ah, Garak," whimpered Julian as the warm wetness of the Cardassian's mouth suddenly engulfed him. "Oh don't... Ohhhh... Oh God, Garak! No! Yes... oh please, yes!" The doctor's typically vocal response amused Garak. How like the young man to talk too much, even during sex! Well, the Cardassian was sure he could find better uses for that mobile mouth in future. For now he simply basked in Julian's evident enjoyment of what he was doing. He licked. He nibbled. He sucked. Each action brought a new gasp or cry from the doctor. Finally the sounds increased alarmingly in volume and Julian's hips thrust upward frantically as he came. Garak took everything he had to offer, learning the salty taste.

When the tremors subsided Julian lay back, utterly limp and exhausted. He barely had the energy to move his limbs, but he felt wonderful. With gentle, precise movements Garak dressed the doctor as neatly as his damaged uniform would permit, so that he would not become chilled as the sweat dried on his skin. He also straightened his own clothing. Carefully then the Cardassian pulled the young man's slight weight into his lap. Julian smiled contentedly and slid his arms about Garak's neck possessively.

"Much better," he murmured sleepily. "Glad it was you who came to rescue me. Don't think any of the others could have made the waiting so pleasant." Garak sent him an answering smile.

"But what about when we return to DS9, my dear doctor?" he asked. "What then?" For all the lightness of his tone the answer held considerable importance for the Cardassian. He was still afraid the young man might count this as a once-only experience.

"Hmmm? Oh, well, then we'll have a nice big bed to sleep in instead of this cold, miserable place," said Julian dreamily. "You will come and help me keep it warm, won't you?"

"Any time you wish me to," agreed Garak fervently.

"Good, that's settled then. Sounds like my idea of heaven right now," confided Julian. "What do you think?" Garak was of the opinion that he liked the way the doctor's mind was working. A warm bed and Julian Bashir to share it with him was a fair definition of heaven to the Cardassian's way of thinking. He kissed Julian lightly on the cheek and settled back with him wrapped tightly in his arms to wait for the Constable's all clear.

THE END

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