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 1995.
Several weeks had passed since his return to Deep Space Nine from his unexpectedly eventful trip to Risa, and Julian Bashir was finally settling back into his normal routine. By mutual agreement he and Garak spoke about their ordeal as little as possible. Dwelling on their unpleasant experiences served no useful purpose, and as far as anyone else on the station was concerned nothing untoward had happened to them while they were away. All had seemed to be well, until Julian, glancing through a list of ships due to dock at the station over the next few days, had learned something that brought the memories of his and Garak's capture and imprisonment flooding back.
As soon as his shift was over Julian escaped from the Infirmary and headed along the Promenade to Garak's clothing shop. It was already closed, but the doctor was privy to the tailor's security code and quickly let himself in. The Cardassian was seated at a work table, fussing over a garment he was altering, all the while clucking his tongue and muttering to himself in irritation. At the sound of Julian's approach he looked up and smiled, his eyes lighting with a look of genuine pleasure.
"Ah, my dear Julian, I hadn't expected to see you so soon," said Garak with surprise. "Which isn't to say I'm not glad to see you, you understand," he added teasingly. Normally his light, affectionate banter would have drawn an answering smile from Julian, but today the doctor was on edge Garak noted. He set down his work and rose, walking quickly across to where Julian stood twisting his hands nervously. "What's wrong?" he asked, searching the doctor's face anxiously.
"Elim, I've got something to tell you," he said at last, very aware of the tailor's sudden concern. "I don't think you're going to like it any more than I did."
"And what might that be?" enquired Garak, catching hold of Julian's hands in his own to still their restless movement.
"It's Dukat," said Julian shortly. "He's coming here - to DS9. It has something to do with the peace treaty. I'm not sure of the exact details." He looked up to meet Garak's clear blue eyes, seeing a reflection of his own unease mirrored there.
"Ah, I had heard that a Cardassian delegation would be coming to the station soon," admitted the tailor. "My - sources didn't see fit to tell me that Dukat would be with them though. Do you happen to know when they will be arriving?"
"The day after tomorrow," replied Julian with a sigh, "he's due to be here for about a week. Elim, do you think he'll say anything to anybody?" Garak considered for a moment and then shook his head.
"No, I don't believe he will," said the Cardassian thoughtfully. "After all, to do so would be to risk revealing his own disgrace in being deported from Risa. As I understand it, he's been able to keep that particular piece of information from the Central Command so far because the trip was made in a private, rather than an official capacity. If the truth were to be made known it would seriously damage Dukat's standing with the Central Command."
"Are you sure?" asked Julian anxiously. Garak laughed humourlessly.
"With Dukat one can be sure of only two things, my dear Julian," he said with a grimace of distaste. "One is his ambition and the other is his antipathy towards myself. We can only hope that, on this occasion, the former will outweigh the latter." The tailor squeezed Julian's hands reassuringly, trying to lift his spirits. He could well understand the doctor's reluctance about encountering Dukat again. He could hardly claim to be approaching such a meeting with equanimity himself.
"That really doesn't make me feel a great deal better, Elim," observed Julian drily.
"I'm sorry," said Garak with the faintest hint of a smile. "Perhaps dinner would take your mind off things for a while. Shall we say 1900 hours in my quarters?"
"Yes, I'd like that," agreed Julian, finally relaxing a little. "1900 hours it is then." The doctor gently disengaged his hands from the tailor's grasp. He leaned forward, brushing his lips softly against Garak's for a brief moment, just long enough to send a bolt of arousal through the Cardassian's entire body. Then he pulled back and turned away, leaving the shop without another word.
Garak stood and watched him depart in silence, his mind racing nearly as fast as his pulse. He didn't relish the possibility of coming face to face with Dukat again so close on the heels of their last encounter. Unconsciously one hand strayed to his chest, as if the cracked ribs still pained him. It was unlikely that Dukat would attempt anything overt whilst on Deep Space Nine, for the reason that Garak had given Julian. Nevertheless the tailor had an uneasy feeling that he wouldn't let his visit pass without trying to exact some sort of revenge for the Risa debacle. And if that were the case it didn't bode at all well for himself, or Julian for that matter.
Three days later Julian sat in his office, staring at the screen in front of him with rapt concentration. The newly published paper he was studying made fascinating reading and so caught up in it was he that at first he didn't notice when someone else entered the small room. A slight sound alerted him and all at once his instincts kicked in, making him abruptly aware of being watched. He glanced up apologetically.
"I'm sorry I didn't notice you there; can I help..." The polite greeting died on Julian's lips as his eyes registered the tall, imposing figure standing at ease on the other side of his desk. He swallowed as his throat became suddenly dry and ran his tongue nervously over his lips before continuing. "Gul Dukat, this is - unexpected," he finished, eyeing him warily. The last time he had seen Dukat the Cardassian had tried to kill him and only Garak's timely intervention had saved his life. Knowing that this time he was back in the safe, familiar surroundings of DS9 did little to ease his nervousness.
"Doctor Bashir," said Dukat expansively, "how could I come here to Deep Space Nine without taking the opportunity to see you to apologise."
"A-apologise?" stammered Julian in surprise.
"Of course, doctor, my actions the last time we met were quite inexcusable. I allowed my personal feelings to cloud my judgment; that is not a mistake I intend to repeat I assure you." Dukat smiled with apparent sincerity, but Julian couldn't help noticing the predatory look in his eyes - a look quite at variance with his conciliatory words. "So, doctor, will you accept my apology? I really don't want there to be any - misunderstandings between us."
Dukat placed his hands on the edge of the desk, resting his weight on them as he leaned forward, waiting for Julian's reply. The doctor swallowed hard again, trying to maintain his composure. The Cardassian's proximity and intent stare were vaguely disturbing. Julian pushed his chair back from the desk and got to his feet, anxious to put as much distance as possible between himself and Dukat.
"I - I'm grateful for your apology," he said at last, acutely aware of how ridiculous this whole situation was. How could a few meaningless words wipe away all the pain and anguish of those days on Risa? But right now all Julian wanted was for Dukat to leave; the Cardassian's imposing physical presence and direct gaze were unnerving him more and more with each passing second.
Dukat straightened, inclining his head in acknowledgement of the doctor's words.
"I'm glad that we've cleared the air, doctor," said the Cardassian warmly. "I hope that in future our meetings will be more - pleasant for all concerned." Dukat's gaze swept Julian appraisingly from head to toe and he favoured him with another smile, his sharp white teeth briefly visible, before turning to leave. "Good day to you, Doctor Bashir," he called back over his shoulder as he departed.
Once he was out of sight Julian sank back into his chair, shaking with reaction. He felt like some small, helpless creature being stalked by a sleek hunting cat, the image of a panther flashed unbidden through his mind. It seemed as if he were being toyed with, released for a moment to run free until the hunter was ready to continue his pursuit. Julian shuddered at the all too vivid mental image and then glanced down at himself in shock. The front of his jumpsuit bulged revealingly with the tell-tale signs of an erection. How could he have become so aroused he wondered, horrified. Dear God, had Dukat seen...? Julian brought his hands up to cover his face, feeling his cheeks burning with shame at the realisation that the Cardassian's sharp eyes could hardly have missed his heightened state.
Dukat stepped from the Infirmary onto the Promenade, a pleased expression on his face. The good doctor had proved far more responsive to his initial approach than he could possibly have hoped for. Of course he had been nervous and mistrustful, but his body had betrayed him all unknowingly. Evidently the time he spent with Garak had given him a taste for things Cardassian! Dukat smiled lazily; the next few days could prove quite diverting he decided. Doctor Bashir was by no means unattractive when aroused...
Setting aside that entertaining notion for the time being Dukat turned his steps in the direction of Garak's clothing shop. The tailor would not be as easy to deal with as the naive human, so he would need all his wits about him! As the door of the shop slid aside at his approach Dukat allowed himself a moment of vicious contemplation. I may not be able to kill you, tailor, but I can destroy the only thing of value in your miserable life, he thought with satisfaction. And I intend to derive great pleasure from doing precisely that, you traitorous old fool!
Dukat surveyed the interior of the shop contemptuously as he allowed his eyes to adjust to the pleasantly subdued lighting. He would never understand why these humans and Bajorans felt the need for such garishly bright illumination. His reverie was interrupted by the sound of soft footsteps behind him. He turned to find Garak watching him, poised, his expression wary.
"Dukat! What an unexpected - visit this is," said Garak ingratiatingly. "I certainly can't say it's a pleasure," he added acidly just loud enough for Dukat to hear. "It's not often that a fellow Cardassian patronises my humble establishment these days. To what do I owe the honour?"
"Ah, Garak, as gracious as ever," remarked Dukat, his eyes narrowing at the tailor's insolent tone. "I simply dropped by to see if you had recovered from your unfortunate injury."
"I'm touched by your concern," said Garak evenly, "but I'm sure you must have far more pressing matters to attend to." The tailor's clear blue eyes caught and held Dukat's. He stared fixedly at the other man, trying to fathom the true intent behind this inconsequential verbal fencing.
"Not at all," Dukat demurred. Judging his moment carefully he continued casually. "I needed to visit the Infirmary, but that's taken care of now." His words had the desired effect. Garak couldn't entirely mask his concern and Dukat took a perverse pleasure in seeing the momentary flash of fear that crossed the tailor's face. But Garak was an old hand at this sort of game and his impassive expression was quickly back in place.
"You're not ill, I trust," he murmured with manifest insincerity.
"Oh no," said Dukat affably, "but I felt I really should see Doctor Bashir and clear up that distressing misunderstanding which occured on Risa. He was most gracious."
"I'm sure he was," agreed Garak neutrally.
"Yes, we had a most - stimulating conversation," continued Dukat blithely. An unmistakable glint lit his pale eyes as he leaned closer to Garak, lowering his voice conspiratorially. "He really is an intriguing young man don't you think, Garak, with unexpectedly exotic appetites. I can understand your interest in him."
As the import of Dukat's words sank in Garak's whole body tensed. He clenched his hands into fists at his side, struggling to control his anger. The tailor wasn't much given to physical violence, he preferred to achieve his aims by less direct means, but at that moment his restraint was sorely tested. With an effort he forced himself to stop and think. Surely this was simply a lie, designed to provoke him... and yet, if Julian were attracted to him then why not to Dukat as well.
"What have you done, Dukat?" he finally forced out between gritted teeth.
"Done, Garak? I haven't done anything - yet." The threat implicit in his words was not lost on the tailor. An unpleasant smile curved Dukat's lips and he leaned in closer, his breath hot against Garak's cheek. "I didn't need to do anything to - arouse the good doctor's curiosity. I think he's in need of someone a little younger, more challenging. So, look to your laurels, tailor!" With a mocking flourish he blew a kiss in the infuriated Garak's direction, an amused expression crossing his face as the tailor backed away in disgust.
"You're lying!" Garak snarled angrily.
"You think so?" said Dukat smugly. "Well why don't you ask your loyal doctor about it?" Knowing that he had accomplished all that he had set out to do Dukat turned on his heel and strode from the shop without a backward glance. Garak stared after him, anger and fear warring for supremacy within him. What if Dukat's words were true? What if Julian really were tiring of him? The tailor closed his eyes, fighting for composure. He wouldn't give Julian up; he couldn't. A wordless cry of pain escaped him, and before he could think better of it he found himself hurrying from the shop and heading for the Infirmary.
For the second time in less than an hour Julian found his studies interrupted. He was grateful for the intrusion; since Dukat had left his concentration had been erratic to say the least, and it had taken him some time to bring his treacherous body back under control. A slight shiver ran through him again now as he looked up to see Garak standing on the other side of his desk, an anguished expression on his face.
"Elim, whatever is the matter?" Julian asked, concern evident in his voice. He rose quickly from his seat, moving around the desk to the tailor's side. He reached out to lay a hand on Garak's arm, but to his surprise the Cardassian pulled away, avoiding his touch. Julian backed off uncertainly. "Elim?"
"I just had a most - enlightening conversation," said Garak stiffly. "Gul Dukat dropped by the shop. He told me he had been to see you first."
"That's right," said Julian carefully. "He came to apologise to me, that's all."
"Are you sure that's all, Julian?" Garak's piercing eyes fixed on the doctor's and the younger man found himself acutely uncomfortable as the specifics of Dukat's visit ran through his mind once more.
"I...I'm not sure what you're asking," he said evasively, unable to meet the tailor's intense, and suddenly accusatory, gaze any more. To Garak the doctor's discomfiture spoke volumes; an involuntary cry forced its way past his lips, causing Julian to look up, startled.
"Then it was true," cried Garak painfully. "You did want him!"
"No!" protested Julian. "I didn't, but he - he caught me off guard.... Elim, I didn't even realise until he was gone, but he must have seen. I - I couldn't help myself."
"Why, Julian? Why aren't I enough for you?" Despite his intention of remaining aloof Garak reached out, catching hold of Julian and pulling him close. "What more do you want?"
"Elim, I don't want anything more. I have everything I could possibly ask for. And I certainly don't want Dukat," he concluded, his lips twisting in disgust.
"If that's the truth," persisted Garak unsteadily, "why were you aroused by him?"
"I honestly don't know," admitted Julian. He pressed his slender frame still more firmly against the tailor, desparately anxious to reassure him and, somewhere in the back of his mind, needing to convince himself that what he had felt in Dukat's presence was of no consequence; that it was Garak's closeness that set his body on fire. With a long exhalation of breath he continued. "Frankly I was terrified by him. I didn't know what he wanted, what he was going to do..."
"You know he wants you, don't you," said Garak miserably.
"That's ridiculous, Elim. Of course he doesn't," insisted Julian. "He's just trying to make you jealous. He wants to come between us, can't you see that's what all this is about?"
"And do I have cause to be jealous?" Garak's hands gripped Julian's arms more tightly, until the doctor winced in pain.
"Elim, you're hurting me!" he protested. "Please stop this - I thought you trusted me. I love you, Elim, you know that."
"Do you, Julian? Or is it all just words to you?" Abruptly Garak released him and turned away, twisting his hands together restlessly. "What can a beautiful young man like you possibly want with a foolish, old exile such as myself?" With a soft sigh Julian moved to stand close behind Garak. He slipped his arms around the tailor's waist and laid his cheek against his shoulder, not caring that anyone walking into the Infirmary could now see them through the open door of the office.
"I don't know what I can say to make you believe me," he said quietly, "but for what it's worth I don't see you as foolish, or old. And I thought what we had was special - to both of us." To emphasise his words Julian began to caress the ridge at the side of Garak's neck with slow strokes of his tongue. The tailor gave a muffled moan and turned quickly, drawing the doctor back into a tight embrace. He sought out Julian's full lips with his own, kissing him with a desparate passion. The doctor returned the kiss eagerly, feeling Garak's body trembling as he pressed against him. As a swelling tide of arousal swept over both men Julian slid his hands down inside the tailor's waistband, caressing the Cardassian's firmly muscled backside. The feel of the warm, leathery skin under his fingers inflamed him further and he thrust his hips vigorously, his erection rubbing enticingly against Garak's own.
The discreet sound of someone clearing their throat came from the direction of the office door. Panting hard the two men pulled guiltily apart and Julian saw one of his nurses, Sedi Jarelle, standing outside, studiously avoiding meeting his eyes and trying unsuccessfully not to stare in disbelief at the sight which greeted her.
"Doctor, your next patient is here," said the young woman still refusing to meet his gaze. Julian cleared his throat in embarrassment.
"Of course, Sedi, I'll be right there," he replied as calmly as he could, attempting to regain some shred of composure and professional detachment before facing his patient. He turned quickly to Garak. "Elim, I'm sorry, but I have to go. I'll see you later though, won't I?"
The tailor was still breathing hard, battling his frustration and trying to bring his body back under control. He nodded, not trusting himself to speak. Flushed, caught off balance and still undeniably aroused Julian had never looked more lovely in Garak's eyes. How could I ever deny you? he thought helplessly. The doctor smiled and paused just long enough to kiss the tailor's forehead lightly before heading out into the Infirmary.
After he had gone Garak dropped down onto a chair and buried his face in his hands. Damn Dukat and his half truths! He'd nearly managed to ruin the one relationship that made his miserable existence on Deep Space Nine bearable. The tailor sat for a long time, slowly composing himself, before he finally slipped unnoticed out of the Infirmary and returned to his shop.
Continued in Part Two