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 February 1996.

Lunch. In Kowloon. With Garak.

Julian Bashir stood looking out of the wide picture window of the apartment in Hong Kong and waited for his Cardassian friend to arrive. As he stared at the chaotic skyline with its towering skyscrapers Julian wondered what had prompted Garak to suggest meeting here. After all, he'd been less than complimentary about the decor the day before - and added to that was the fact that their last experience with this particular holosuite program had been fraught - and frankly dangerous.

Julian sipped at his drink distractedly - a martini of course. It had been prepared by his faithful holographic valet, Mona Lovesitt, restored to the program at the start of the new scenario. She had also laid out the food he had arranged to have provided, setting it out in an inviting display on the table before the doctor had requested that the computer discontinue her character - and all the others - from the program. He'd had enough excitement as a secret agent for a while! All he wanted now was a quiet, uninterrupted lunch with Garak.

A second reason had also prompted Julian to remove the other characters from the program today. After seeing them the previous day in the guise of his friends and colleagues he felt a strange ambivalence about encountering them in their original forms again. Perhaps it was that returning them to their programmed parameters would only reinforce the fact that this time there would really be nothing at stake - it would only be a game... Julian shook his head. He wasn't making sense - even to himself - this morning.

What was keeping Garak? It wasn't like him to be late. Had he changed his mind about this perhaps? Things had got a little tense between them the day before... Julian sighed and turned his attention to the table for a moment. Between them Quark and Mona had done him proud and an impressive array of Chinese food was spread out there. It looked good and he was hungry. In a minute he would just go ahead and start without Garak.

Garak. Julian knew he and the Cardassian needed to talk. The previous day's events had shaken a few of the preconceptions both of them had about each other and their friendship. Julian had stood up to Garak in a way that he had never done before, but then again there had never been so much at stake before. Desperate measures had been called for in those circumstances, hadn't they? Good God, but he had shot at his friend in the full knowledge that the holosuite safeties were off! Julian was very much aware of how easily the mere flesh wound he had inflicted could have been something far more serious...

Still, as it was Julian had repaired the injury to the Cardassian's neck ridge easily enough once Captain Sisko and the others had been restored. But what other, less obvious damage had been done to his friendship with Garak? They had both said and done things they hadn't entirely expected - of themselves or their companion. So where did they go now? Could their relationship ever be the same again?

Julian heard a sound behind him and startled from his reverie he turned to see Garak. The Cardassian was standing quietly in the middle of the room, watching the doctor a little warily. In deference to the program Garak was wearing clothing appropriate to the period, as was Julian himself. Perhaps the search for a suitable outfit was what had delayed him.

"Hello, Garak, I was beginning to think you'd changed your mind about having lunch." There was the faintest hint of uncertainty in Julian's tone.

"No, but I did wonder if perhaps you might have had second thoughts," admitted Garak as he crossed the room to join the doctor by the table. "This food looks quite wonderful, doctor," he added, making an attempt to change the subject.

"Because of what happened yesterday you mean?" queried Julian, not allowing himself to be deflected so easily.

"Yes," agreed Garak bluntly. "It occurred to me that our - disagreement might lead you to reconsider our friendship."

"I'll admit I was angry with you, Garak," said Julian with a sigh. "Your attitude, it - it seemed so... selfish."

"I prefer to think of it as merely pragmatic," said the Cardassian without rancour.

"And you just didn't trust me, Garak. You were so convinced that you knew best. You were the real intelligence agent; I was just play-acting!" There was an unmistakable edge of bitterness to Julian's tone.

"As I told you before, doctor, I'm no hero," said Garak flatly, wagging his forefinger to reinforce his words. "I had no desire to throw my life away needlessly. I make no apologies for that."

"I couldn't let you risk killing them all - not just to save yourself." Julian's hazel eyes flashed hotly, daring the Cardassian to contradict him. Garak stared at him for a long moment, measuring what he saw in the young man's expression and then gave a small nod.

"I understand that - now I think, doctor," he said softly. "I should have trusted your judgement more. Sometimes it is hard for me to remember that you are more than simply a healer. You have rank, a position..." Garak's words trailed off into silence and Julian eyed him narrowly. Was that envy he heard in his friend's voice? The doctor was a little less accusatory as he continued.

"Yes, you should have done, Garak. After all, it was my program, my fantasy. I knew how the other scenarios had played out. I wasn't about to let anyone die if I could possibly help it."

"And yet you were prepared to shoot me..." Garak's clear, blue gaze pinned the doctor. This was what lay at the heart of their sudden discomfort with one another. This was the matter that needed to be addressed and as the human had given him the opening why not deal with it now? It could only harm their relationship more if left unresolved between them.

"It was only a minor wound..." Julian was the one on the defensive now and they both knew it.

"But could you really be so sure your aim was that good?" asked Garak reasonably as his hand stole up to his neck to absently rub at the newly healed tissue. All the while the tailor's eyes continued to hold the doctor's, piercing in their intensity. Julian couldn't face the accusation he saw in them. He ducked his head.

"No," he finally admitted in a small voice.

"I thought not."

"I had to make a choice, Garak!" Julian's head snapped up again his expression now resolute. "I - I'm sorry you don't seem to like the one that I made, but as you just pointed out I am a Starfleet officer. Do you think it was easy for me to point that gun at you and pull the trigger? It wasn't! But there were five other lives at stake - five senior officers."

"And weighed against that there was only one Cardassian." Garak nodded slowly as if something had suddenly become clear to him. "Just one Cardassian who is not an officer, but simply a tailor - a friend..."

"Garak!" protested Julian. "Now you're being unfair. I told you it wasn't an easy choice to have to make. It wasn't, but you made it even harder for me. For that matter, if you had just trusted me a bit more there wouldn't have been any decision to make. Dear God, I thought we'd known one another long enough for you to trust me at least a little."

"Doctor, you of all people should know that trust is not something that comes easily to me..." Julian's face twisted in a grimace of disgust at Garak's words.

"That excuse is becoming just a little tired - a bit too convenient for you to hide behind when there's something you don't want to face up to," he said irritably. Julian's body language was aggressive as he squared up to the Cardassian. Garak eyed him with surprise - his young friend was becoming remarkably perceptive! "Of course, there's also still the fact that you felt I was treading on your toes anyway - playing the spy in my fantasy. You automatically assumed you knew better than me. Well, you didn't! Oh, out there in the real world, in the Obsidian Order, maybe you would have been right. But this was my fantasy and I knew the rules of the game better than you. I can't help but wonder if that's what you're finding so hard to handle."

"My dear doctor," insisted Garak his voice low and intense as he leaned closer to Julian in an attempt to regain the upper hand. "What happened yesterday was not a game. You know that. It was all very real. That was why I acted as I did. Yes, I'll admit I thought my skills were better suited to the situation than yours. I underestimated you as it happened. You saved everyone in the end. However, you have still not addressed my original point. What if you had injured me more severely?"

"I didn't though," said Julian stubbornly, defensively.

"You could have done very easily..."

"I know that, Garak, but I see no point in playing what-if! Please, I'd really rather not think about it any more." Julian turned away from the tailor, studying the table with far more interest than it warranted. Garak straightened, noting the tension in the doctor's shoulders.

"Would it have - upset you if I had died at your hands?"

"What kind of a question is that? Anyway, it would never have come to that."

"Don't be so naive, doctor! A fraction of an inch to one side and you would have severed a main artery. I would have bled to death in minutes."

"Garak, please..." There was a note of pleading - and pain in the doctor's voice. His back was ramrod straight; his hands clenched into fists at his side. His whole posture spoke of an intense denial.

"What would you have done?" Garak pressed the question, needing to hear the young human's answer.

"I don't know," replied Julian honestly. He spun round to face the tailor once more, his hazel eyes troubled. "I... I couldn't just have stood by and watched you die. That much I do know." He shrugged his shoulders helplessly.

"You really mean that, doctor?"

"Of course I do, Garak. I'm a doctor. I want to save lives - not take them!"

"And would that have been all that you felt if I had died - a threat to your reputation as a doctor?"

"What do you mean? You're not making sense." Julian stared at Garak his expression perplexed. The tailor smiled slightly - so the good doctor could still be incredibly obtuse at times too...

"If the worst had chanced to happen would you not have felt anything - personally? Would it have been merely an affront to your professionalism." Comprehension suddenly dawned and Julian's eyes widened. Did Garak really think him that cold and unfeeling?

"Garak, you're my friend. I wouldn't want to lose you under any circumstances - least of all knowing that I was the one who caused your death. But - it didn't happen like that. We're both here - and I hope about to share lunch."

Garak had as much of an answer as he could have hoped for. Also the doctor had given him another chance to change the subject and he accepted it. He flashed his most charming smile and Julian returned it tentatively.

"Of course, doctor, you've gone to all this trouble and all I do is talk..." Garak spread his hands apologetically. The doctor's smile widened a little.

"I do enjoy your company," said Julian carefully, surprising the Cardassian. Garak hadn't expected him to say any more on the subject. "I would - miss you if you weren't here. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

"Thank you, doctor, it is - gratifying to know there is someone on this station who would miss me if I were gone." Garak's smile faltered and he strove for lightness in his tone, but did not entirely succeed in achieving it.

Still a little uncertain, Julian indicated a chair and as Garak settled into it he took the other place at the table himself. Covertly the doctor studied the Cardassian's face, trying to read what lay behind the now bland exterior. He had the definite feeling that there was more to the tailor's words than there appeared to be - that he was missing something that should have been apparent. Still, he sensed that no lasting damage had been done to their friendship and that was the most important thing. Contenting himself with that knowledge Julian set himself to lighten the mood and to play the good host to his companion.

"I, um, hope you like Chinese food, Garak," he said with a gesture at the dishes on the table. "It seemed approapriate to the location."

"I don't believe I've tried it before," replied Garak politely, "but I'm sure I shall enjoy it." He looked across the table, catching Julian's eye. He smiled disarmingly, wanting to set the young man at his ease. Their conversation had been somewhat fraught thus far, but the tailor counted himself content with the outcome. Now he simply wanted to enjoy a pleasant meal in the doctor's company. Garak had few enough opportunities to spend time with him without being subject to the scrutiny of the rest of the station's residents.

Julian returned the smile and his hazel eyes brightened. Was everything going to be all right between them? He hoped so. He really would miss Garak's friendship if it were withdrawn. Feeling heartened the doctor began reaching for the bowls nearest him, helping himself to the food hungrily. He realised that Garak was hesitating and glanced across at him questioningly.

"What are these, doctor?" asked Garak, holding up the two slender lengths of smooth wood which lay beside his plate.

"They're chopsticks. They're what you eat the food with," explained Julian. A sudden mischievous grin lit his face as Garak's look of confusion and puzzlement told him the Cardassian had no idea how to use them.

"But - how?" the tailor asked almost plaintively.

"Here, let me show you." Julian held his own chopsticks up in expert fingers, demonstrating the technique and then dipped them into a bowl and retrieved a morsel of food which he popped into his mouth. He chewed slowly, savouring the taste of the succulent piece of chicken with its delicate flavouring of ginger, as he watched Garak attempt to mimic his actions - without success. "No, like this!" he said laughingly as the Cardassian failed again and began to look increasingly exasperated.

Julian reached across the table, rearranging the chopsticks in the tailor's fingers until he had some hope of controlling them. Intent on his task he didn't see the sudden light in Garak's cornflower eyes or notice the sharply indrawn breath he took. He was too caught up in guiding the Cardassian's hand to a bowl and steadying the chopsticks while he reached into it. Garak let the doctor do as he wished, not wanting the precious moment to end and the long, sensitive fingers to be withdrawn.

"There!" said Julian triumphantly as his efforts resulted in Garak holding a mouthful of food at the end of the unwieldy implements. "It's easy once you get the hang of it you see."

He drew back and watched the tailor. Garak realised belatedly that he was expected to do something. Still a little tentatively he raised the food to his mouth. It tasted good. The crispness of the vegetables Julian had selected for him was pleasing and he was able to mask his other reactions with his genuine admiration for the meal. Nevertheless he regretted the loss of the doctor's soft fingers brushing against his own as they had patiently instructed.

They continued to eat in silence, Julian still far more proficient with the chopsticks than Garak. The doctor put his companion's unusual quietness down to the extra concentration he needed to master them, but he was aware of something strange in Garak's behaviour. Julian kept getting the feeling that the tailor was watching him, but that when he looked up the other hurriedly turned his attention back to his plate. How peculiar...

The meaning of it all finally became clear as Julian reached for a bowl at the same instant as Garak and their fingers touched as they closed on the cool porcelain. There was no mistaking the look that Julian saw in the tailor's eyes as he looked up to apologise and withdraw his hand. Garak's fingers tightened on his, refusing to let go.

"Garak?" he breathed in question.

"Yes, doctor," came the equally soft reply.

"Why - why are you...? Why won't you let go of my hand?" Julian didn't take his eyes from the tailor's face.

"Don't you know?" asked Garak with the faintest hint of a disbelieving smile playing about his lips.

"I... I'm not sure. Maybe..." replied Julian tentatively. He rather had the feeling that he did know, but he wasn't sure if he quite believed it himself.

"I thought after the conclusion of our little talk earlier that you might have understood." The Cardassian's gaze was steady and held a new warmth that was almost tangible.

"Perhaps I do, Garak, but..."

"Surely you've always known, doctor. I think you are not at all as naive as you would sometimes have people believe." Garak's soft, encouraging tone invited confidences. Julian's long lashes veiled his eyes for a moment before he spoke again.

"I - I sometimes had the feeling that you were - interested in more than just friendship, yes. But you never pressed the matter before. Why now?" He glanced down at his hand and at Garak's strong, capable fingers which still covered his own. Following the direction of Julian's gaze the tailor finally relinquished his hold, instead folding his hands primly on the table in front of him.

"Yesterday changed everything, doctor," he said simply as if that explained it all. Julian shook his head uncomprehendingly.

"I'm sorry - I don't see what difference that could have made. As you were at great pains to point out I risked killing you. That's hardly the basis for a closer relationship."

"On the contrary, doctor, your actions showed me that you were truly worthy of my affections."

"Worthy? I still don't understand."

"Oh, I always suspected that under that soft, silken exterior there was something more - a hint of steel. You proved that to me beyond all doubt yesterday. You stood up to me, refused to be intimidated by me. I - admire that greatly in you, doctor. I don't want a lover who will be too easily dominated. I feared that might be the case with you so I hesitated to make a more obvious approach. Now I can see that I was wrong; that I underestimated you. You will never fear me or bow down to me..."

"You like a challenge?" There was a trace of something aggressive in Julian's voice and in the cant of his brow, but while on the surface he appeared confident his thoughts were in a whirl. A lover? Garak's lover... Yet even as the thought presented itself to him Julian had to admit it held a certain - fascination.

"Oh yes, doctor," agreed Garak intently. "I always find a challenge so - stimulating. Don't you?" Julian's eyes glittered as Garak's words began to draw him in.

"And what if I'm too much for you to handle? You admit you've already underestimated me once. What if you're doing it again?" Garak laughed softly at the bravado in the doctor's words.

"I know how to take care of myself."

"I'd noticed..." The tone was faintly taunting. Clear, blue eyes met and held hazel, neither willing to back down. Slowly Julian used his chopsticks to reach for another morsel of food from his plate, but instead of placing it in his own mouth he held it to Garak's lips. The tailor smiled slightly and accepted the doctor's offering, his teeth crunching down on the slices of water chestnut that accompanied the strip of tender chicken. Garak stretched out a hand to the nearest bowl, reaching into it and presenting the piece of meat he pulled out to Julian. The thick sauce trickled down his grey-skinned fingers as he held out the tidbit.

Delicately the doctor took the food, closing his mouth over the strong fingers and using his tongue to retrieve every last trace of the savoury sauce. The piquant flavour of Szechuan cuisine - Garak had chosen one of the spicier dishes on the table - mingled with the alien taste of the Cardassian's smooth skin creating an exotic combination. As the young man drew away he licked Garak's hand one last time, deliberately, caressingly. Julian could feel his heart beating wildly and his trousers were suddenly unaccountably tight. Gods, that felt so good...

With a quick gesture Julian discarded his own chopsticks and picked up another bowl. He scooted his chair around until it was close beside Garak's before making his next offering to the Cardassian. Garak trapped the doctor's slender hand in his broader one, taking the proffered food and then treating the golden skin to a thorough, and largely unnecessary, cleansing with his own eager tongue. He lingered over each of the soft fingertips in turn and then traced arcane patterns on the smooth palm.

Julian groaned as his arousal grew with the continuing gently intimate contact. Garak raised his head and leaned close, whispering softly into the doctor's ear.

"Perhaps there is something else here you would like to taste?" Julian twisted around and quickly captured Garak's mouth in a tender but thorough kiss. His tongue probed the smooth lips, seeking entrance and it was freely granted. For a long moment human and Cardassian duelled, each exploring the alien climate of the other's mouth. Finally the need to breathe drove them apart, panting hard.

"Well, that certainly tasted very nice," observed Julian with a pleased smile.

"Ah, but it wasn't precisely what I had in mind..." Garak's eyes narrowed slightly, his gaze dropping significantly to his lap. As Julian's own eyes followed the same path Garak moved in the chair, swivelling his hips just a little to give the young man a clearer view. The bulge at the Cardassian's groin was unmistakable now and the doctor swallowed hard as the tailor's meaning finally became apparent to him. When Garak knew he had Julian's attention where he wanted it he thrust upwards with his hips suggestively.

"Oh..." breathed Julian as he wondered what it would be like to do what Garak was asking of him. His own erection got harder at the thought.

"Well, doctor...?" murmured Garak in his most seductive tone.

Before he could think better of it and change his mind Julian was on his feet and moving to the other side of the room. Quickly he pressed the button which would effortlessly bring the apartment's wide, comfortable bed into view. Garak was at his side in a moment and as soon as the cushion-strewn divan stopped moving he backed the doctor towards it, pressing him down onto the soft mattress.

Julian made no protest. His body's needs had become paramount and they were leaving him in no doubt that this was what he wanted. Needing all his strength to manoeuvre the heavier form he pulled at Garak, drawing him more firmly on top of him. The movement caused a delicious friction as their erections rubbed together, straining at the confines of their clothing.

The Cardassian moaned aloud at the delightful sensation and Julian took the opportunity to ravish his mouth once more. He thrust his tongue between Garak's lips urgently, tasting the sweet warmth of him. The tailor responded eagerly; his own explorations just as ardent, just as thorough. They kissed for a long time, delighting in the simple pleasure of it. They paused only to snatch a breath here and there until their bodies began to make other, more insistent demands on them. They drew apart, chests heaving as they eyed one another speculatively.

"Are you ready for the next course yet, doctor?" asked Garak with a sly grin.

"Oh yes," breathed Julian as he reached between them to squeeze the bulge at Garak's groin firmly. "And I definitely think that you are..." The tailor closed his eyes, the smug look abruptly wiped from his face. He fought the dizzying sensations that swept over him. The doctor's touch felt quite exquisite.

"Julian..." he gasped, finally giving in to the temptation to address the young man by his given name. The doctor smiled in delight, rewarding Garak by caressing him again and sending him into a paroxysm of pleasure. "Please, Julian, you know what I want..."

Pushing Garak off of him with an effort Julian sat up, using his long, clever fingers to strip the old fashioned suit from Garak's body. He'd had enough practice whilst using this holosuite program to allow him to dispose of the clumsy fastenings with brisk efficiency. The doctor was eager to see the tailor naked. He'd seen him unclothed as a patient of course, but never like this and he felt a keen sense of anticipation. It took only a few moments to remove all of Garak's clothing, discarding the garments on the floor.

Then the Cardassian attempted to return the favour. The jacket he slid easily from Julian's shoulders, but the shirt's small buttons frustrated his thick fingers and the strange knot in the tie mystified him even with his long familiarity with clothes of all types. Taking pity on the tailor Julian directed Garak's efforts to removing his trousers while he quickly divested himself of the shirt and tie.

Finally naked the doctor found himself given no time for a leisurely exploration of the Cardassian's body though as Garak abruptly pushed him back amongst the cushions. Then the tailor was straddling him. His long, sturdy erection brushed at Julian's smooth cheek. The doctor closed his eyes, absorbing the sensation of the warm, damp skin touching him and inhaling the spicy scent of the Cardassian's arousal. His eyes flew open again as Garak shifted position until his sex nudged at Julian's lips, seeking a haven.

For just a moment Julian hesitated, but the pleading look in Garak's clear eyes overcame any last doubts. The doctor parted his lips, allowing the tailor to thrust into the warmth of his mouth. Garak's strong fingers slid into Julian's dark hair, curving round to hold his head steady. As the Cardassian's thrusts quickly became more frantic the doctor reached out to grasp his hips, forcing him to a slower pace. Garak breathed deeply, fighting for control. If he wasn't careful it would all be over far too soon.

With an effort the tailor accepted Julian's restraining touch. The slower glide of his sex between the doctor's lips gave the young man a chance for a more thorough exploration. His tongue learnt the texture and form of the patterns running along the shaft and discovered with surprise and delight the sensitivity of the softer skin at the head. As Julian sucked and nibbled at the hardness which filled his mouth he familiarised himself with the exotic taste and scent of his lover.

Garak's gasps and small, wordless sounds of pleasure guided Julian. He released his hold on the tailor's hips, allowing him to thrust more forcefully again. The human could feel the growing tension in Garak's muscles and knew how close he was to completion. He increased the pressure of his lips and the Cardassian froze in place, his head thrown back and his eyes tightly shut. Sheathed to the hilt in the delightful depths of Julian's mouth Garak came. The doctor accepted the tailor's offering, warm and sweet-tasting, and sucked him dry.

Carefully Garak pulled free, sliding down to cover Julian's slight, golden-skinned body with his own heavier, sweat-slick frame. He captured the doctor's sweet mouth that had brought him so much pleasure in a deep and tender kiss, expressing his gratitude wordlessly. Julian writhed sinuously pressing himself up against the tailor, seeking his own fulfilment. Garak reached down to curve his large hand around the doctor's waiting sex. It took only a few moments to coax the young man to the brink. Julian's moans were silenced with another kiss as the tailor's expert fingers teased him into a shuddering climax. The damp warmth of the doctor's seed spilled over Garak's hand and as Julian's body relaxed the Cardassian rolled off him, gathering him close against his side in a fiercely protective embrace.

Slowly Julian felt his heartbeat return to normal and his breathing resume a steadier pace. The solid warmth of the Cardassian body beside him was reassuring. With a slight shock the doctor realised that despite the unexpectedness of it all there really wasn't any other way he would rather have spent his lunch hour! He felt marvellously relaxed and deeply satisfied. He stretched lazily, easing his muscles and Garak loosened his hold on him fractionally. Julian tilted his head until he could see the Cardassian's face clearly. It wore a wide, contented smile which Julian rather suspected was mirrored on his own lips.

"So, Elim," he said drowsily, "is that something they taught you in the Obsidian Order?" Garak's eyes widened. He hadn't realised that Julian had seen through his deception regarding his own given name. Also the young man's words appeared to make no sense.

"I beg your pardon, what do you mean?"

"I mean, spy, is that how you customarily go about neutralising other secret agents?" Garak's expression was still puzzled and Julian's lips quirked up in a teasing grin. "Well, I think it's pretty effective anyway. You just take them to bed and make love to them until they're too damned exhausted to fight you!"

As Julian's meaning finally became clear Garak threw back his head, laughing in delight. He leaned down to kiss the young man lingeringly.

"Oh no," Garak assured Julian, "this technique is quite unique. If you like I could teach it to you though. I think Julian Bashir, Secret Agent might find it of value."

"Is it easy to learn?" asked Julian breathlessly.

"Not at all," replied Garak with a knowing smile. "You're going to need a great deal of practice."

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