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 January 1998.

Author's notes: This story takes place shortly after Bashir et al are rescued and returned to the starbase. When I wrote this I hadn't seen the episode "The Magnificent Ferengi", though I did know its outcome, so if there are any inconsistencies my apologies. I have assumed the G/B relationship to have been ongoing for some length of time at this point. Also, please note that there are two possible endings - there is a link to the second at the end of this version.

Julian Bashir studied the medical readouts one final time and nodded his approval. He was glad to have something useful to do to occupy his time while he and the others awaited reassignment - and quite apart from that Bashir hated to leave a job half done. The surgery this time had been completed much more to his satisfaction - and without the grandstand audience! With the full resources of a starbase infirmary at his disposal he had been able to improve considerably upon his first surgical efforts to repair the Vorta's injuries. On that occasion he had admitted to employing nothing more than cellular microsutures and a lot of hope - but it had been enough to save Keevan's life until more permanent repairs were possible.

If he were honest with himself Bashir still had mixed feelings about having done so. The doctor in him could not have stood by and watched the Vorta die, but knowing how Keevan had then callously betrayed the Jem'Hadar unit assigned to him - allowing them to be slaughtered without the slightest trace of regret - Bashir harboured more than a few uncharitable thoughts about him. And now the Vorta was a prisoner of war, destined to be held in comfort and safety until the war was over. The injustice of it galled the doctor.

Pursing his lips in irritation Bashir snapped his medical tricorder shut. In repose the Vorta face seemed incongruously peaceful, innocent even. How could someone who looked so beautiful on the outside have such an uncaring, ugly heart? The doctor shuddered. He would be glad to see the back of Keevan. He found the soft-voiced Vorta profoundly disturbing.

And not just because of his callous attitude to his men it seems, whispered a treacherous voice inside Bashir's mind. You did call him beautiful after all...

Horrified by the errant thought the doctor snatched up a hypospray and pressed it against Keevan's neck with far more force than was warranted. The sooner the insidious creature was awake the sooner Bashir could dismiss him from the infirmary and hand him over to security. It was no wonder the Founders used the Vorta as their ambassadors to other races, he decided. The Vorta's ability to be ingratiating and utterly charming, even when they were completely insincere, was beyond compare.

Keevan's clear eyes fluttered open and he stretched experimentally. No pain accompanied the movement, a considerable improvement. As he slowly turned his head the Vorta noticed Bashir standing, hypospray in hand, watching his return to consciousness.

"Ah, Doctor Bashir, I promise there will be no self-diagnosis this time. I should hate to displease my physician again. However, permit me to say that I feel much better after this surgery than I did the first time." Keevan smiled disarmingly, but received only a frown from Bashir in return.

"Yes, well, the conditions were rather less conducive to effective treatment the last time I operated on you," conceded Bashir. "The repairs should be permanent now."

"Should be?" queried Keevan, surprised.

"Well, it depends if you manage to get yourself injured again, doesn't it?" said Bashir coolly. "At any rate you'll be enjoying an enforced convalescence until the war is over. You're fit enough to be released into the care of security now."

"Of course, I understand." Again the Vorta offered the doctor one of his most engaging smiles. "I am grateful to you for saving my life."

"It was my job to do so," replied Bashir flatly. He shrugged his shoulders dismissively, allowing just a little of the distaste he felt for Keevan and his actions to show in his face. "It was nothing."

"Nevertheless, Doctor Bashir..." The soft voice grated on Bashir's nerves. It seemed to twist its way into his soul, insidious, beguiling. With a faint shudder the doctor turned and stalked into the office to call security. Consequently he didn't see the way the smile on Keevan's face broadened, became speculative, calculating. It was probably fortunate that he did not, for the sight would have chilled his heart. The Vorta looked for all the world like a hunting creature that has finally scented its prey...


Bashir received the summons from security with surprise - and a measure of irritation. The Vorta was complaining of feeling unwell and had insisted that Bashir be called to attend him. The doctor was tempted to refuse and have one of the starbase medics check on him instead, but in the end his conscience led him to comply with the request - personal feelings aside, Keevan was his patient. Nevertheless the necessity of seeing the Vorta again annoyed the doctor. He had been looking forward to spending a much needed, uninterrupted, evening relaxing with Garak. He seemed to have had precious little opportunity to be with his lover for far too long now and he resented this intrusion on his limited free time. Duty overrode Bashir's faint thoughts of rebellion though - it was probably a false alarm and he could be finished in just a few minutes - and he presented himself at the guarded guest quarters which had been assigned to Keevan.

The Vorta was lying on the couch, covered by a blanket. As he took a quick visual inventory Bashir had to admit Keevan did look rather pale, even for a Vorta. He retrieved his medical tricorder from the medkit, approached Keevan and began to scan him.

"Thank you for coming to tend to me, doctor," said Keevan gratefully. "After the way you left this afternoon I wasn't sure that you would."

"I told you, it's my job," replied Bashir automatically, neglecting to mention that he had been sorely tempted not to come. He studied the tricorder readings carefully. "Hm, you do have some unexpected fluctuations in your blood chemistry. I can give you something to stabilise the levels and then you should feel a lot better. It appears you have a mild allergic reaction to one of the painkilling drugs I gave you earlier. I suppose it's not entirely surprising as I know nothing of your previous medical history." The doctor quickly set about preparing the necessary hypospray, grateful it hadn't turned out to be a more complex problem. He wouldn't miss much of his evening with Garak after all.

"Doctor," observed Keevan thoughtfully, "forgive me for mentioning it, but you seem - uncomfortable in my presence. I can't help wondering why." Bashir turned abruptly, staring at the Vorta in surprise. Had he really been so transparent in his dislike?

"I don't know what you mean," he replied shortly, not wanting to get into a conversation with Keevan now.

"Oh, I get the feeling you find me - disturbing in some way," continued the Vorta, his almost colourless eyes wide, their expression insouciant.

"Is that so surprising?" snapped Bashir as he discharged the hypospray into Keevan's neck. Against his better judgement the doctor continued. "After what you did to those Jem'Hadar... How can you live with yourself?"

"Ah, now I understand." Keevan nodded sagely. "You presume to judge me by your human standards."

"No, not only humans would find what you did repugnant," Bashir disputed. "Any decent, civilised..."

"I did what was necessary." There was an edge of steel to Keevan's voice as he interrupted the doctor's tirade. "And remember, if it weren't for the comm system I provided, you and your fellows would still be stuck on that miserable planet with a group of desperate Jem'Hadar soldiers - if you had managed to evade them and remain alive, of course," he finished with a hint of smugness.

"I don't accept that!" retorted Bashir. "Any of it! We would have found the means to send a message anyway. As you pointed out once, we had one of those 'famed Starfleet engineers' with us." How did the Vorta know so unerringly which buttons to push, a part of the doctor wondered? But, even knowing that he was being manipulated - though to what end he wasn't sure - Bashir declined to back down.

"It's not your insufferable sense of superiority that really gets me though," he persisted angrily. "It's your utter disregard for... You had the complete loyalty of those Jem'Hadar. They wouldn't disobey you even to save their own lives. Did you know Captain Sisko told them you had betrayed them by revealing their attack plan? It made no difference to them though. They still followed your orders, obeyed without question until we had shot every last one of them down. And why? Not because you were a good commander or a fair leader - simply because you were a Vorta and that was 'the order of things'."

"It was as it should be," countered Keevan. "I was wrong about one thing though. I should have made Remata'klan First. He was deserving of the honour."

"I don't believe you!" cried Bashir. "None of it means anything to you." Keevan watched Bashir dispassionately and noted the anger flaring in the hazel eyes. However, he remained unmoved by the doctor's words.

"Of course it means nothing, doctor," Keevan replied at last. "It's bred into them. They know nothing else." Bashir shook his head in disbelief at the Vorta's calm, even offhand dismissal of the Jem'Hadar.

"They're not animals..." he whispered.

"No, but they are dependant upon the White. Disloyalty to us would have severe consequences - and they're intelligent enough to know that, doctor," the Vorta pointed out reasonably.

"Does anything touch you?" asked Bashir with a frown. He felt suddenly very tired and jaded. Why was he having this conversation? Keevan merely gave a dismissive wave of his hand.

"In this situation there was nothing to..." he began.

"No, I don't just mean in circumstances like those," said Bashir quickly. "I mean - life in general. Does a Vorta ever actually feel anything? Your reactions, they always seems so studied, just a facade."

Bashir stared at the composed and, yes, beautiful face of the alien lying motionless on the couch and felt again the thread of unease inside himself. Where had that question come from - and more to the point why had he voiced it? He had done everything that was required of him as a doctor so why hadn't he left? Why did he feel compelled to remain, to try and understand what was going on inside the Vorta's head?

Keevan smiled as he saw the faint confusion in Bashir's expression. This line of conversation was worth encouraging.

"Are you implying, doctor, that the Vorta have no emotions - that we are heartless?" enquired Keevan. His tone gently mocked the doctor.

"I don't recall noticing you had one - a heart that is," muttered Bashir, "- and I don't mean while I was operating on you."

"So, we're back to this again," sighed Keevan. "I thought we had already established that you don't approve of what I chose to do. Must we really cover old ground once more?"

"I am a doctor. It's my job to save lives. I never approve of senseless, needless killing," stated Bashir flatly.

"There was no other choice," insisted the Vorta irritatedly.

"No." The doctor shook his head denying it. "I could have sedated them, slowed down the effects of withdrawal..."

"I don't think so," scoffed Keevan. "Your knowledge of the Jem'Hadar is necessarily limited."

Bashir almost opened his mouth to tell Keevan that his knowledge was a damned sight more extensive than the smug little bastard knew, but he clamped his lips shut with an effort. No, it would be a strategic error to reveal the studies he had done on the young Jem'Hadar who had been found on DS9. It would be a still greater mistake to let the Vorta know that he had once met a Jem'Hadar who no longer needed Ketrecel White to survive - even though the temptation to throw that in Keevan's face was almost overwhelming. Bashir realised he'd come much too close for comfort to letting it slip - the Vorta could provoke him too easily - he needed to take care. Controlling the impulse he simply murmured -

"I could at least have tried." Keevan smiled beatifically at Bashir.

"Your persistence is most commendable, doctor," he said softly. "But without the White the Jem'Hadar were already as good as dead. I merely granted them a quick, relatively painless death. And they died serving the Founders."

"It was all for your benefit, not theirs!" Bashir snapped back.

"Nevertheless you should be grateful to me. A Jem'Hadar deprived too long of White is a dangerous, uncontrollably vicious creature..." Keevan pointed out. Bashir would have none of it.

"...and without the White you have no hold, no control over them," he sneered. "They would have killed you too!"

"That is very true," conceded the Vorta, "and as you already well know, I have no desire to die. Which leads me once again to express my gratitude to you, doctor, for saving my life."

"And forgive me," said Bashir, his voice dripping sarcasm, "if I remind you that, coming from you, that really doesn't mean a great deal to me."

"You certainly don't like me very much, do you, doctor?" Strangely Keevan's voice held a definite note of amusement.

"Not really," agreed Bashir coldly, "but I fail to see why you find that funny."

"Oh, it's just that when you are with me your body language sends such mixed messages, doctor. With your words you tell me that you dislike me, and yet some part of you is - curious. Not only that, but you find that fact, shall we say, unsettling." Keevan's pale eyes regarded the doctor with interest.

"Curious?" echoed Bashir, staring back at the Vorta doubtfully.

"I have noticed you - observing me," elaborated Keevan, "especially when you believed I would not notice you doing so."

"You're imagining things," said Bashir with a harsh bark of laughter. "Most likely I was just taking medical scans; that's what doctors do."

"Without a tricorder? Oh, I do disturb your equilibrium, doctor, don't I?" pressed Keevan a trifle smugly. "Tell me, why did you leave the infirmary so abruptly earlier?"

"Because I was sick and tired of listening to your incessant chatter," snapped Bashir, "and frankly I'm beginning to get the same impulse right now! Your readings are returning to normal. You have no further need of my services as a doctor so, if you don't mind, I shall bid you good evening, Keevan."

Bashir turned away and began to pack his instruments back into the medkit as fast as he could. The sooner he was out of this room the better he would feel. He drew in a deep breath. Damn right the Vorta was unsettling him, but just because Keevan had a pleasing face and a not unattractive body didn't mean Bashir wanted to fuck him. The doctor felt a chill run down his spine. Where the hell had that notion come from? Of course he wasn't interested in the Vorta in that way! He was with Garak, and happy to be so. He had no need of another lover - least of all an untrustworthy snake like Keevan!

"Doctor," the beguiling, honey-sweet voice seemed to wrap itself around Bashir like silk, "tell me something... The Cardassian - he is yours, is he not?" The doctor whirled, almost knocking the medkit on the floor in his shock. Was Keevan telepathic, to know he had been thinking about Garak?

"I beg your pardon?" Bashir was distressed to hear the quaver in his voice.

"Garak - the Cardassian who was with your unit - you and he are together, are you not?" There was what appeared to be a genuine note of interest in the Vorta's tone.

"I..." Bashir searched Keevan's face, trying to understand the Vorta's apparent curiosity about his choice of lover. "I don't see it's any business of yours!" he finally managed indignantly.

"Then it is true," said Keevan equably. "You would not be so defensive otherwise." He smiled pleasantly.

"And if it is? Why does it matter to you to know?" Bashir found his heart beating faster, suddenly afraid of the Vorta's answer.

"Oh, I like to get to know those around me - to understand them," Keevan replied. "Don't you? And the better I get to know you, doctor, the more fascinating I find you." Bashir shook his head, rejecting the Vorta's explanation. "Is it really so surprising that I would wish to find at least one friend in my captivity?" finished Keevan reasonably.

"No, I suppose not," admitted Bashir, wondering if perhaps he had been overreacting.

He turned away to regain his composure and Keevan allowed his lips to curve in triumph. The young doctor really was so easy to manipulate. He would be - useful, and it shouldn't require too much more manoeuvring to secure his co-operation.

"Keevan, how - how did you know about Garak and I?" Bashir asked, his curiosity piqued. "While we were on the mission we never..."

"Oh, I saw it in his eyes whenever the two of you were in the same place together. Your Cardassian speaks far more eloquently with his eyes than with his mouth," Keevan observed. He laughed as Bashir glanced at him, surprised. "Evidently you didn't need me to tell you that," the Vorta continued. "Actually though, I believe I knew it the very first time I spoke to him of you."

"You talked to Garak - about me?" Bashir queried disbelievingly.

"Not directly, you understand," Keevan explained. "It was when I sought medical help - back on the planet. When I asked the Cardassian if there was a doctor in your unit his reaction was - interesting. He obviously perceived a threat to you and his concern revealed itself in his face. I thought then it was unusual for one of his race to be concerned for the wellbeing of a human. It signified that there was more than met the eye to his connection with you. Of course, I understand it now."

"You're very perceptive," said Bashir carefully.

"Yes." Keevan accepted the compliment as his due. "It is necessary for a Vorta to be aware of everything going on around him." He propped himself up on one elbow, leaning towards the doctor. "We serve the Founders by facilitating their interaction with other races. To do that we must understand people, be capable of learning how best to fulfil their needs."

"Oh?" breathed Bashir. With an effort he broke eye contact with the Vorta, uncomfortable with the suddenly intense stare. Keevan sat back, allowing the withdrawal, but still watching the doctor closely.

"I notice, doctor, that you seem a little less hostile towards me now," commented Keevan conversationally.

"I wouldn't read too much into that," cautioned Bashir, a little confused by the apparent non sequitur.

"No? What should I make of the fact that your breathing has quickened appreciably then? Or the way that you seem to find looking at me, meeting my eyes, so disconcerting?" asked Keevan, and his voice was now low and persuasive. "I am not unaware of your species' need for physical gratification..."

"What?" Bashir reacted as if he had been burnt. He was incensed at what the Vorta appeared to be implying. His eyes flashed dangerously. "Let's get this straight, I have no intention of going to bed with you - or any other Vorta for that matter!"

"I wasn't aware that I had suggested you should," murmured Keevan innocently. Bashir glared at him sceptically.

"Anyway, I thought your people used cloning techniques. I wouldn't have thought that left any need for sex." Despite his irritation the doctor couldn't quite disguise his interest in the subject.

"Yes, the Vorta are cloned, but it hasn't always been so." Keevan could see that the doctor was curious in spite of himself. It made his task that much easier. "In fact the Vorta were always considered to have a certain - talent in the area of seduction and the giving of pleasure."

"I can imagine," murmured Bashir before he could stop himself. A hint of satisfaction crept into Keevan's expression. This really was too easy, like playing a fish on a line. He would allow the doctor the illusion of control and, when the moment was right, reel him in...

"We have learned to be - persuasive," continued Keevan. "And from time to time the Founders have found uses for these skills."

"So now you think you're going to use them to seduce me?" laughed Bashir. "I don't think so, Keevan."

"Are you really so sure about that, doctor?" The Vorta's large, pale eyes snared Bashir's. He smiled reassuringly, showing his even white teeth. "The experience would not be unpleasant I assure you."

"Why? What do you - want... from me?" asked Bashir haltingly.

"Want? I want nothing... but your pleasure." Keevan's musical voice seemed to come from a great distance.

Bashir blinked rapidly. Keevan's face seemed to fill his vision and all he could hear was that soft voice, gentle and encouraging. For some reason it was hard to think straight, but it didn't seem to matter to the doctor. He was so tired. He needed to sleep and that beautiful voice was speaking softly of rest... He really wanted to lie down. Vaguely Bashir was aware of movement at his side. Keevan had risen from the couch and taken hold of his arm. The Vorta was guiding him to sit. Yes, just for a moment...

"That's better, isn't it, doctor?" Keevan whispered as he pressed the doctor back against the cushions, one pale hand gently caressing Bashir's brow. "The past few months have drained you, emotionally and physically. You need time to forget. You want to put aside your cares, the realities of this terrible war, don't you?"

"Yes," Bashir murmured, entranced. His hazel eyes were unfocused and all he was consciously aware of was the sound of the Vorta's voice and the touch of his hands. Somewhere deep inside a small, rational part of Bashir's brain screamed that this was wrong - that he was being manipulated and used. However his body, which was now being swiftly and skilfully undressed by Keevan, simply didn't care. It craved the sensations being offered and gave no thought to the motives of the one providing them.

The Vorta carefully controlled the progress of the doctor's arousal. He watched the changes in the slender, dusky-skinned form with merely clinical interest. For Keevan this was simply a means to an end. He might be a prisoner of the Federation, but that did not mean that he was incapable of exerting influence. Bashir had already proved tractable and this would give him an even greater hold over the human. Once he was brought to release the doctor would remember everything with a terrible clarity...

For now Keevan concentrated on pleasuring Bashir, playing him like an instrument. The Vorta stimulated the long, slim cock until it was fully erect. He toyed with the doctor's sensitive, chocolate brown nipples until Bashir thrashed and moaned from the intensity of the sensations. Keevan's eyes glittered as he enjoyed his moment of triumph. To have the doctor so completely in thrall - so much for his antagonism and all those self-righteous denunciations now!

Judging his moment, the Vorta grasped Bashir's swollen cock with one hand, the heavy scrotum in the other and squeezed firmly. The doctor cried out; he arched up off the couch as he exploded into orgasm, his creamy seed pulsing out onto his stomach. Keevan sat back on his heels and watched Bashir's convulsions, observing him as if he were some laboratory specimen. As he did so, the Vorta's lips curved upward in a small, self-satisfied smile.

Slowly Bashir came back to his senses. With awareness came the dawning realisation of what had just happened to him. Heart pounding he pushed himself up on one elbow and found himself face to face with his tormentor, Keevan. The Vorta's smug expression was too much for Bashir.

"No!!" The doctor shook his head in vehement denial.

"No? I don't recall you saying that a few moments ago," observed Keevan significantly. Bashir glanced down at himself. The truth of the Vorta's words was apparent - the undeniable evidence lay pooled on his stomach, the semen gradually drying on his skin.

"You bastard!" he hissed furiously. "What did you do to me?"

"I would have thought that was obvious," countered the Vorta, "but it was nothing you didn't want."

"No, that's a lie! I had no control. You did - something to me," shouted Bashir angrily. "I didn't want - this!" One hand gestured helplessly, indicating the sticky aftermath.

"Your body appears to have thought otherwise," Keevan pointed out reasonably. Barely in control of his temper Bashir scrambled to his feet, glaring down at the still kneeling Vorta in utter distaste.

"I should - so help me, but I should kill you for this!" Bashir's voice was like ice. Not one of his friends or colleagues would have recognised the doctor, with the look of undiluted hatred which currently contorted his handsome face.

"I think you should leave, doctor," said Keevan, equally coldly. "I do not like to be threatened. If you do it again I shall have no choice but to call the guards..."

"You wouldn't dare... I..." whispered Bashir.

Before Bashir knew what was happening the Vorta threw himself across the floor at the doctor's feet. With quick movements of his hands Keevan ripped open his tunic and trousers, baring his body to Bashir's uncomprehending gaze. He glanced up at the human, an expression of triumph on his face.

"If I cry out now, doctor, what will they think?" asked Keevan coolly. "In our current state, which of us would appear to be the aggressor - to uninformed eyes?"

"Damn you to hell, you bastard!" Bashir's voice cracked as he stared at the Vorta in impotent fury. Keevan's intent was now only too clear and the doctor had to admit that it was the perfect set up.

Wanting only to get as far away as possible from the Vorta as quickly as he could, Bashir turned on his heel and snatched up his clothes. He pulled them on viciously, without attempting to clean away the evidence of his encounter with Keevan first. As soon as he was dressed the doctor grabbed his medkit and stormed from the room, not caring about the odd looks the security team gave him as he strode away. Belatedly Bashir realised the guards would probably check on their prisoner after his abrupt departure, but he could do nothing about that now. He was in Keevan's hands - as the Vorta had intended he should be.

When, as Bashir had suspected they would, the security men investigated they simply observed Keevan straightening his clothes, his back to the door. The Vorta's face wore a satisfied expression as he assured them that nothing was amiss - he and the doctor had merely had a difference of opinion over his treatment, owing to the human's lack of knowledge of Vorta physiology. It was a perfectly reasonable explanation and the guards accepted it at face value and left.

Bashir hurried blindly back to his quarters. They were, blessedly, empty. Garak must be out on some mission about the starbase still, perhaps a further debriefing session. Whatever the reason the doctor was grateful to find himself alone as he dropped his medkit onto the table and hurried into the bedroom. With trembling hands he stripped off his uniform, wadded it into a tight ball and hurled it with all his strength into the corner of the room.

His head ached blindingly. How had Keevan managed to control his actions like that? It was as if he'd been drugged and entirely without volition. Was it some telepathic talent the Vorta possessed? Or pheremones? Bashir had no idea, but his total capitulation had been utterly humiliating. Shaking his head in an attempt to clear it, the doctor headed for the shower. He felt unspeakably dirtied - in body and mind. Perhaps the water could somehow wash away the growing feeling of guilt along with the dried semen still caking his skin.

Five minutes later, as Bashir stood under the cascade of scalding hot water, the outer door to his quarters opened and Garak stepped in. He had been searching for Bashir in the communal areas of the starbase when he hadn't returned as arranged to meet the Cardassian. Still unable to trace the doctor - none of his crewmates seemed to have seen him - Garak had finally decided to return to their shared quarters. The Cardassian had been allocated a room of his own, but Bashir's suite was more than big enough for two people and so Garak's accommodations remained unused. As he walked through into the bedroom Garak heard the shower running and smiled. Julian had evidently been called upon to work late tonight and only just returned.

Garak decided not to announce himself. Instead he would let Julian come out of the shower - refreshed and glowing from the hot spray - and find his lover ready and waiting in bed. The idea of surprising the doctor was appealing and the Cardassian allowed himself a brief, anticipatory fanatasy of just how Julian might greet him as he began to undress. As he bent to remove his boots Garak noticed Bashir's crumpled uniform on the floor. He shook his head at Julian's untidiness and picked it up to throw it into the cleansing unit with his own clothing. As he did so, Garak noticed a familiar scent rising from the material. He frowned and straightened out the wadded up uniform.

The front of the undershirt was damp and sticky inside. The cause of the stain was quite obvious to Garak. On one or two occasions when they had been particularly impatient Julian's uniform had suffered a similar fate... The Cardassian's eyes darkened with pain. It couldn't be true - his Julian was late home because he had been in some secluded place having sex with someone else? No, Garak refused to believe it. Why then would the doctor have so carelessly left the evidence for him to find? Or could it be that he simply didn't care if the Cardassian learned of it?

Appalled at the implications of this if it were true Garak hurried back into the main room, clutching the blue shirt to him like a talisman. Using skills that would have horrified the Starfleet security staff had they been aware of them the Cardassian tapped stealthily into their systems to track Bashir's movements over the past few hours.

What Garak discovered did nothing for his peace of mind. Julian had gone to the quarters assigned to the Vorta prisoner and had remained there until just a short time ago. Recalling an image of Keevan's face the Cardassian could see how his pretty features might have caught the doctor's eye. So, no wonder Julian was in the shower - he was washing away the traces of his Vorta lover! Pain and anger warred for supremacy in Garak's heart at the thought of such a betrayal. How could Julian have done this to him?

Garak heard footsteps in the bedroom and the anger won out. He turned and stalked into the other room to confront the doctor with what he had discovered. Bashir was standing naked in the middle of the floor, staring at his uniform, which Garak had left draped across the bed. He looked up with a guilty start as the Cardassian entered. Julian's eyes were huge in his unnaturally pale face. He regarded the blue undershirt as if it were a particularly venomous snake as Garak brandished it in his direction.

"Garak..." he began uncertainly. His gaze flicked nervously between the shirt and Garak's stony features. The doctor had hoped for comfort from his lover, not this hostile reception. As the Cardassian continued to advance Bashir took a step backwards, heart pounding in sudden fear. In all the time he had known Garak he had never seen a more menacing expression on his face - not even the violent rage during his withdrawal from the implant had been as frightening to Bashir.

"My dear doctor," hissed Garak icily, "I'm afraid I really do prefer my lovers to be faithful." Bashir gasped in horror as he realised the conclusion the Cardassian had jumped to. Did Garak trust him so little...?

"Garak you don't... Elim, I promise you, I always have been," insisted Julian as his thoughts whirled chaotically. "This..." Dear Lord, does he really believe I wanted this?

"Lies too? Oh, Julian, how could you think I wouldn't learn of your tryst with the Vorta?" Garak shoved the stained blue material under the doctor's nose again. "You have, after all, hardly been discreet!" His pain at Julian's apparent betrayal was evident in the Cardassian's voice.

"Keevan... How did you...?" Bashir's expression told how distraught he was at this turn of events, but Garak could not see beyond his own hurt.

"Ah, so now you recall it," said Garak bitterly. His eyes closed as if he could no longer stand to look at the cause of his anguish. "While you were supposed to be with me - as I was searching this benighted place for you - you were sporting with the Vorta!"

"No!" Julian protested. Garak shook his head sadly. He glanced up for just a moment at the naked human standing dejectedly such a short distance from him. How he had cherished that lithe body...

"If this is your idea of being faithful..." snorted the Cardassian derisively. "Tell me, is this the first time you've made a fool of me this way? Or were you simply a little too careless on this occasion? Have there been others before Keevan I didn't find out about? Well?"

"No, Elim..."

"Don't call me that! You no longer have the right to use that name!" snapped Garak. The doctor recoiled from the bitterness in his voice, but unwilling to antagonise Garak further he acquiesced.

"Garak, I swear it. Please believe me, there is no one else - only you!" Julian was frantic. How could he convince the Cardassian he was telling the truth? If he described what had happened with Keevan would Garak accept that it had been totally out of Bashir's control? "Garak, please, let me explain; this isn't what it looks like. Do you believe me?" Garak's eyeridges rose sceptically.

"What I believe is irrelevant. Clearly something happened between you and the Vorta - that is undeniable - and somehow I doubt you had any plans to tell me about it," said Garak coldly. "I'm sorry, my dear Julian, but frankly I expected better of you."

"Garak," Julian begged, "please listen to me. I would have told you - had you given me an opportunity to do so without jumping to conclusions! I did not want this. I'm still not even entirely sure how it happened..."

"Don't make things worse with more lies," sighed Garak. "Keevan is a prisoner - hardly in a position to force you into his arms unwillingly."

"I was called to his quarters on a medical matter," insisted Bashir. "You can check that with the Infirmary records if my word isn't good enough for you!"

"It would have been simple enough to arrange with him in advance for you to be called out. That's the beauty of being a doctor, isn't it, you have the perfect excuse for making house calls at any time of the day - or night." Garak shrugged dismissively. "And whatever other 'evidence' you have, this -" Again the undershirt was pushed at Bashir. "- shows you engaged in sexual activity with the Vorta."

"Yes, he made me come," admitted Bashir, "but I took no active part in what went on. I'm not even sure if I was conscious the whole time - though I suppose I must have been. I can remember it now..." The doctor held out a hand to Garak in mute appeal. "But it was almost as if Keevan drugged me. I had no will of my own. I didn't recall the act until it was all over. And then all I wanted to do was kill him, but he threatened me - said he'd accuse me of rape! I - I just had to get away from him - that smug smile... I had to get back here and out of that uniform. I - I felt so - used..."

The flow of words ceased abruptly. Julian looked up to meet Garak's eyes steadily, willing him to believe. He could see doubt in those blue depths. The Cardassian was torn...

"Garak, I swear to you I am telling the truth. Surely you know I would never be unfaithful to you. I love you. You're the only thing keeping me sane through this war... I would never jeopardise what we have." Julian fell silent again and regarded his lover solemnly.

For a long moment Garak held the doctor's gaze; then he turned away, shaking his head in denial.

"No, I can't..." The Cardassian stood ramrod straight, his eyes staring at nothing. He had been let down, betrayed, too many times in his life. In the end everyone he cared for left him... "When we began this you asked me to trust you - promised me that I could." Garak's voice was bleak. "You knew how hard that was for me to do. All my past experiences warned me... I should never have believed! In my heart I knew I was a fool." Abruptly the Cardassian turned back to face Bashir, his gaze sweeping the doctor's slender form from head to toe.

"How could I ever have imagined that such a young, beautiful creature would be content with me?" Garak laughed bitterly. "I had even seen the signs - how you changed once you were free to exploit your genetic enhancements. In the face of such brilliance what could one aging, exiled Cardassian possibly have to offer you? No, I always knew that in time you would want more than I could give."

"My genetic alterations have nothing to do with this," insisted Julian. "You're using that as an excuse to try and rationalise the fact that you just don't want to trust me. You've never given any sign until now that you had a problem with my enhancements. Well, maybe you didn't like the fact that I was better at keeping secrets than you thought... Anyway," added Bashir pettishly, "if anything they've worked to your advantage - given me enough stamina to keep up with your natural Cardassian strength! Look, Garak, I understand that it's hard for you to trust - you've been let down before and..."

"'I will never hurt you, Elim.' I can still hear you saying those words to me, doctor." Garak cast a sad look at Bashir. "How foolish of me to think it would be so. There is always pain... but why subject myself to more unnecessarily? I regret the necessity for this; I thought what was between us... I'm only sorry I was not enough for you."

"Garak, that isn't true," cried Julian."I have no interest in Keevan or anyone else. I love you. Please - don't leave me. I need you."

"I will return to the quarters that were assigned to me, doctor. I really think it would be for the best," said Garak stiffly. "Why prolong this now that you have tired of me?" He looked down at the crumpled blue material he still clutched in one grey hand. With a grimace of distaste he tossed it at Bashir. Instinctively the doctor put out a hand and caught the shirt. "I'm sorry, but I won't act the fool for any longer than I have already. Good day to you." Garak gave a stilted bow, then turned on his heel and walked away.

Bashir simply stood and stared after the Cardassian, bereft. With a note of finality Julian heard the outer door to his quarters swoosh shut. Shock made the doctor's knees buckle and he sank to the floor.

"No!" The word came out as an anguished wail. "No, Garak, please... Come back!" Tears threatened as Julian fixed his gaze on the door which had closed on Garak's retreating figure.

It did not reopen.

THE END

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