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 July 1995.

NOTE: This was written long before the revelations of "In Purgatory's Shadow" so please forgive any inconsistencies.


Garak had lost count of the number of times since his return from the Gamma Quadrant that he had stood thus, looking around at the ashes and charred wreckage that were all that was left of his shop. He knew that he should be starting to think about cleaning the place up, rebuilding his business - his life, but somehow he didn't have the heart for it. It wasn't just his shop that lay in ruins about him...

For a brief, glorious time the possibilities of his life had seemed limitless. His exile had been rescinded and he had been on the verge of going home, standing shoulder to shoulder once more with his erstwhile mentor. And yet, something had been different; when it came down to it his feelings hadn't been as he had expected them to be...

Garak sighed. There was no point dwelling on such things. The possibilities had been snatched away from him once again, his world was reduced back to - this. You're a coward, Elim Garak, the tailor berated himself silently. You're afraid to look into your heart, to examine your feelings. You're terrified of learning how much you've changed, been influenced by these Bajorans and humans around you.

The tailor pushed the errant thought away. He was being ridiculous, maudlin. That was all it was, just a momentary weakness. Yet Garak had to admit that despite Constable Odo's recent, and quite unexpected, overtures of friendship he felt terribly alone, more so than he had done in years. And if he cared to be honest with himself he knew why. The one person he had truly cared about, pledged himself to, was gone: Enabran Tain - his mentor, his inspiration through so many years. It was ironic, given the circumstances surrounding his departure from Cardassia, but with his loss Garak knew his exile to be more absolute than ever. Another deep sigh - time to start picking up the pieces...

"Garak?" A soft voice sounded tentatively behind him and the tailor tensed fractionally. He turned slowly to see the slender figure of Julian Bashir, framed by the distorted doorway of the shop, watching him anxiously. "Are you all right?" asked the doctor with concern, stepping carefully into the ruined interior of the shop, picking his way through the scattered debris.

Garak watched warily as the doctor approached. He hadn't spoken to him since the Defiant had returned to Deep Space Nine. He hadn't been in the mood for lunch just lately. Now, however, he felt an unexpected rush of gratitude towards the young man for his intrusion. Perhaps he wasn't quite as alone as he imagined. The doctor had been his first and truest friend on the station. He had reached out in friendship and compassion more than once - and here he still was, looking back at Garak with his velvet brown eyes full of concern, and perhaps a hint of something more.

"Doctor, it is good to see you," said Garak truthfully. "I'm sorry I haven't joined you for lunch sooner, but as you can see..." The tailor gestured around him at the destruction.

"I'm sorry too," replied Julian softly. "I've missed you, Garak. Lunch with Chief O'Brien really wasn't the same."

The tailor regarded the young man with surprise. He had missed him? With an unexpected jolt Garak realised that he had missed the doctor's company a great deal as well. It wasn't just the philosophical discussions and lively literary debates over lunch, but the beautiful, earnest face and the soft voice... Garak drew in a sharp breath. He hadn't realised until that moment just what the doctor truly meant to him. How could he have been so blind?

As the shock of realisation faded a little another equally pressing consideration occurred to the tailor. Did the young man have any inkling of his feelings? Had he already guessed at what Garak was only now beginning to admit to himself? The tailor suddenly recalled their parting at the airlock before he left on his ill-fated expedition with Odo - the doctor's earnestly expressed desire to help out in his absence, the unexpected gift of chocolates... And he had turned the whole thing into a joke, teasing the young man - playing the spy for him once more. Garak groaned inwardly. Had he misread the entire encounter? Was it possible...?

"Doctor," Garak wasn't entirely sure of the words he wanted, but he needed to know if his sudden intuition was correct. An idea occurred to him that would allow him to test his theory with a minimal risk of damage to his friendship with the doctor if he were proved wrong. "Would you care to join me for something to eat? I'm afraid I'm not really in the mood for the Replimat today though. Perhaps we could eat in my quarters instead."

Garak watched the doctor's face intently, searching for the tell-tale signs that would give him his answer. He saw clearly the mixed emotions which chased one another across his expressive features. For a long moment the tailor hardly dared to breathe, so afraid was he of rejection. When had he become so vulnerable to this young man? Another fear suddenly gripped the tailor. Would the doctor truly understand what it was that he was asking? He didn't want to risk driving him away by presuming too much. The moment seemed to stretch into an eternity, but finally the doctor looked up at Garak and smiled. The faintest hint of - something shone in his dark eyes and his cheeks flushed slightly - yes, he understood - but his voice was steady as he replied.

"I'd like that, Garak," he murmured quietly. The tailor let out the breath he had been holding in relief.

"Would - now be a good time?" asked Garak with a diffidence he didn't feel.

"I think it would be perfect," replied Julian lightly.

It was with considerable hesitation that Garak finally ushered Julian into his quarters. The memory of the only other time the doctor had entered this room had suddenly forced its way to the forefront of the tailor's mind - it wasn't something he cared to remember. He had been in the throes of withdrawal from his addiction to the endorphin- producing implant in his brain and he had treated the doctor abominably - taunting and sneering at him, even attacking him physically. And yet the compassionate young man had stayed by his side, supporting him when the pain became too much to bear, even forgiving him for the unspecified sins of his past. What had he, "plain and simple" Garak, ever done to command such trust and understanding from the young doctor?

If Julian felt any similar hesitancy he gave no sign of it as he accepted Garak's invitation to sit down and make himself comfortable at the table. His eyes followed the tailor as he moved to the replicator and began to program a selection of the doctor's favourite foods. Finally he seemed to make a decision of some kind within himself.

"Garak, I want you to know - I'm truly sorry things didn't work out for you. You deserved the chance to go home - to end your exile." He paused briefly, choosing his words with care. "I didn't realise before just how - close you were to Enabran Tain." The tailor tensed abruptly at Julian's subtle probing. He had forgotten that the doctor had himself crossed swords with Tain.

"My dealings with Tain were a long time ago and they are all necessarily in the past now, doctor. He is gone," he said at last. "I see no sense in dwelling on things I cannot change."

"Then why have you been hiding yourself away?" asked Julian gently. "If you've really put the past behind you why haven't you done anything about cleaning up the shop, reopening the business?"

"My dear doctor, your imagination is running away with you today," said Garak, just a little too quickly. "I haven't been hiding, and making the arrangements to rebuild the shop takes time..." The excuse sounded trite, unconvincing even to the tailor's own ears.

"No, Garak, I think there's more to it than that," persisted Julian. "I - read the report you wrote for Commander Sisko, but somehow I get the feeling that isn't the whole story. Oh, all the cold, hard facts are there, but something is missing."

"On the contrary, doctor," Garak demurred as he turned and carried a tray of steaming dishes and utensils over, setting it on the table in front of Julian. "My report was quite thorough. Everything that happened is included - every last sordid detail." The tailor seated himself, selected a bowl of soup from the tray and without looking at the doctor began to eat.

"You mean your interrogation of the Constable," said Julian slowly, ignoring the food arrayed before him.

"Precisely," agreed Garak curtly. "You really should eat your soup, doctor - before it cools." Julian regarded the Cardassian thoughtfully, his gaze steady and without any trace of censure. He took his bowl of soup and scooped up several mouthfuls before he spoke again.

"It disturbs you that I know about it, doesn't it," said Julian simply. "I'm not sure why though. You did what you had to do, Garak. If you hadn't agreed to do the interrogation Odo would have been handed over to the Tal'Shiar - and I doubt they would have released him as you did."

"Doctor, it's very good of you to ascribe such altruistic motives to my actions, but I'm afraid your generosity is unwarranted," insisted Garak harshly. "I agreed to carry out the interrogation because Tain didn't trust me. It seemed the only way to prove to him that he could. I'm sorry to once again shatter your illusions, doctor." The tailor's brilliant blue eyes met Julian's soft brown ones defiantly.

"Why do you always try to push me away, Garak?" asked Julian, setting his spoon down with an exasperated sigh. "Whenever we stray from the purely impersonal you go on the defensive or try and show yourself to me in the worst possible light. Why? There's no need for that. I know now - a little of what you've done, who you were, but that's past. What matters to me is what you do now - the person you are now. Why won't you trust me, Garak?"

The tailor could see the hurt in the doctor's eyes and wondered himself why he was suddenly trying to distance himself from the young man when he had just gone to the trouble of drawing him here. What exactly was it that he was afraid of?

"I'm sorry, doctor," Garak said at last, a little more sharply than he had intended. His appetite gone, the tailor pushed the half eaten bowl of soup away from him. "But it is not in my nature to trust easily."

"I know that," acknowledged Julian without rancour, "and maybe I can even understand it, but I'm your friend, Garak. I'm not some Cardassian, not a member of the Obsidian Order, you have to be constantly on your guard against. You can trust me. I know that what's happened can't have been easy for you... What I'm trying to say is that if you need someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on even - well, I'm here. I - care about you, Garak. I thought you'd realised that."

Julian held the tailor's clear eyes with his own, trying to convey to the Cardassian the sincerity of his words. Garak had no doubt of it and dropped his gaze abruptly to the tabletop. He stared at it unseeing, weighing the advisability of what he was about to say.

"Do you know, doctor," he observed conversationally, "what the one thing was that I learned from this whole sorry affair?"

"No - I don't. Why don't you tell me," prompted Julian gently. He stared intently at the Cardassian's bent head, but Garak refused to look up and meet his gaze.

"What I learned, doctor, was that I had been deluding myself by believing that I could ever go home - back to my old life." Garak paused, surprised that the doctor made no attempt to contradict him. He risked a quick glance at the young man and found him sitting quite still, watching him steadily. Looking back down the tailor continued with an effort. "To my surprise I discovered I wasn't the same man who used to follow Enabran Tain's orders without question, who took pride in his ability to extract information from the most uncooperative subject. Oh, don't misunderstand me, doctor, I still have - feelings for Tain and I doubt they'll ever go away altogether, but I found that I was no longer able to ignore the promptings of my conscience. Now I am truly an exile from Cardassia, doctor, and do you know why?" Julian shook his head dumbly. "I've changed, doctor," the note of desperation in Garak's voice was unmistakable. "You changed me..." The tailor's head snapped up, his eyes pleading with the doctor for understanding.

"Me?" Julian's eyes widened in stunned disbelief. "Garak - I don't understand."

"Ah, my dear doctor, how could you? I barely comprehend it myself," admitted Garak. "When I first approached you my only thought was to obtain information, but to my surprise I found something else instead - friendship. You were the first one on this station to deal with me as - as simply another person, not a Cardassian, to be shunned, my presence barely tolerated. You treated me as an equal. And when my life was threatened you showed me compassion, gave me a lifeline to cling to - even when I didn't deserve it. You have shown me the best that humanity has to offer, doctor. Now I find that a little at least of that has rubbed off on me. My soul is no longer entirely Cardassian..."

Garak's voice trailed off awkwardly. Julian stared at him in shock. Whatever he had been expecting to hear it certainly wasn't that. He licked his lips nervously.

"I - Garak, I don't know what you're expecting me to say," he managed at last. "I'm sorry if you feel I've made things harder for you." Garak shook his head emphatically.

"Doctor, it wasn't my intent to make you feel as if you were at fault in any way," he said hurriedly.

"Then what was your intent, Garak?" asked Julian suddenly, his eyes boring into the tailor's. "When you invited me here today what was going on up here?" The doctor reached across the table, his slender fingers tapping gently at the Cardassian's temple. Garak swallowed hard, dropping his gaze evasively.

"I was simply inviting a friend to join me for lunch, doctor," he said unconvincingly. "Why would you think I had some hidden agenda?"

"Because, despite your best efforts, I've come to know you quite well over the last three years," replied Julian softly. "Why won't you look at me, Garak? What is it that you're afraid of?"

Before the tailor had a chance to answer he was startled to feel Julian's fingers slide caressingly over his cheek. A moment later the doctor's other hand joined the first, gently exploring the contours of Garak's face. He was on the verge of protesting when Julian's soft fingertips began to stroke firmly across his eyeridges. It was too much. The tailor's eyes fluttered shut and a strangled cry escaped his lips.

"Doctor, do you have any idea what you are doing to me?" he asked plaintively.

"I have a reasonable knowledge of Cardassian anatomy and physiology these days," admitted Julian lightly. "Do you want me to stop?"

"No - please don't," said Garak pleadingly. "I just want to be sure that you know what you're doing. And that it is what you want." He steeled himself to open his eyes and meet the doctor's gaze. He was rewarded with an affectionate smile and an expression of surprising understanding.

"Garak, unless I'm much mistaken, this is precisely what you had on your mind when you asked me to come here, and in case you've forgotten I came here willingly," said Julian gently. "There's one thing I don't understand though. Why didn't you ever say anything before?" Garak's expression became faintly embarrassed.

"I don't think I ever realised before today," he confessed reluctantly, "and I certainly didn't know you felt anything for me."

"Well, neither did I," said Julian honestly, "at least - not until your shop blew up. Then, later when you were gone, and I didn't know if I was going to see you again... I finally admitted to myself that I had - feelings for you. I really did miss you, you know, Garak." The tailor reached up, capturing one of Julian's hands in his own and bringing it hesitantly to his lips.

"I'm here now, doctor."

"I know... Garak, I think I should tell you - it's a long time since I had a relationship with another man." Julian's brown eyes met the tailor's frankly. Garak smiled reassuringly.

"I understand, doctor. I won't hurt you, I promise you that," said Garak gently. The tailor stood up, drawing Julian with him. "I'm sorry that my quarters aren't more - comfortable," he added lightly, looking pointedly at the room's narrow Cardassian bed.

"We'll manage," smiled Julian, stepping closer to the tailor. Tentatively he slipped his arms around Garak, felt the Cardassian mirror the gesture. The tailor's body was solid, firmly muscled - Julian pressed closer to him, feeling his own body beginning to stir in response to the pressure. His heart began to beat a little faster as he became aware of Garak's increasing arousal - the unmistakable hardness matching his own.

A little shyly Julian sought out the tailor's mouth, brushing his full lips against it in a gentle caress. As he prepared to pull away Garak forestalled him, capturing his mouth in a tender kiss. His lips parted instinctively and the Cardassian's questing tongue immediately slid between them, gently exploring the taste and texture of the young human's mouth.

Remembering Garak's earlier reaction Julian brought one hand up to resume its leisurely exploration of the Cardassian's face. His fingers roved over the ornamented ridges around the tailor's blue eyes, eliciting a sigh of contentment. Inquisitively he probed at the curved protrusion in the centre of Garak's forehead and was startled by the intensity of his immediate response. The tailor moaned low in his throat and his hips thrust fiercely against Julian's. The doctor withdrew his hand as if it had been stung.

"Garak, are you all right?" he asked anxiously.

"Never better, doctor," replied the tailor breathlessly, "but why did you stop?"

"I - I thought I'd hurt you," said Julian uncertainly. His eyes betrayed his confusion as Garak began to shake with sudden laughter. "Garak?"

"You didn't hurt me, my dear doctor, quite the contrary," the tailor assured him. "We Cardassians do have our - sensitive spots though." Realisation began to dawn on Julian and his cheeks reddened in embarrassment.

"Oh! Well, that's one thing they didn't include in the Cardassian medical database," he mumbled indistinctly. Garak hugged the discomfited young man to him apologetically.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have laughed," he said contritely.

"It's all right - I just feel a bit stupid for not working it out myself," sighed Julian. "Why do I always seem to end up making a fool of myself?"

"You haven't," Garak assured him. He kissed the doctor's flushed cheek tenderly; all the while his hands kneaded at the defensively tensed muscles of Julian's back. Under the tailor's persuasive influence the doctor slowly began to relax once more. As he forgot his embarrassment he again became aware of his arousal - and Garak's. Carefully he rubbed his body against the tailor, feeling an answering movement from the Cardassian. Julian bit his lip to suppress a moan as the swell of his erection pressed against Garak's hardness. As he drew away slightly the tailor's hands dropped to clasp his backside firmly, renewing the contact and sending a thrill of pleasure up his spine.

"Are you ready, doctor?" whispered Garak.

"Yes," breathed Julian. The tailor's hands deftly unsealed the front of the doctor's jumpsuit, sliding it off of his shoulders and down to his hips. Julian grabbed at the bunched material, tugging it the rest of the way down and stepping out of it, discarding his boots at the same time. Garak urged the doctor to raise his arms and quickly pulled the lavendar undershirt over his head, leaving him clad only in his briefs. Reverently the tailor bent and removed them as well, standing back to admire Julian's naked body, slender and golden skinned. His breath caught in his throat as he surveyed the young man.

"You are - truly beautiful... Julian," Garak murmured hesitantly. The doctor's face lit up, both at the compliment and the Cardassian's use of his first name.

"Thank you," he said fervently. "And now it's your turn, Garak. What delights have you been hiding from me?" Julian stepped up to the tailor, quickly finding the clasps and fastenings that held his garments in place. Garak stood passively, allowing the doctor to undress him. As the last of his clothing was removed Julian took a moment to study him.

Garak's body was still firm, the muscles sleek under his grey skin. The doctor admired the ornate ridges running down each side of his neck to his broad shoulders. The upper part of the tailor's body was ornamented with reptilian looking scales, but his limbs and lower torso were smooth, like the finest leather. Julian's gaze dropped lower, encompassing the Cardassian's erect sex. He had to admit that Garak was impressively endowed, but the structure of his body seemed similar to the doctor's own, the most obvious difference the total absence of body hair. Slowly Julian's eyes travelled back up to Garak's face. The tailor was watching him affectionately.

"I hope I don't disappoint you, Julian," he said lightly. Julian shook his head emphatically.

"Not at all, Garak," he said sincerely, "on the contrary I - I think you're beautiful too."

With a warm smile Garak reached out and caught Julian by the hand, drawing him over to the couch. He lay down, pulling the young man on top of him. The doctor pressed against him enthusiastically, rubbing his erection firmly along the length of Garak's. The movement seemed to inflame the Cardassian and he thrust his hips up forcefully, almost dislodging Julian. The doctor clasped his thighs more tightly around the tailor and bent to trail kisses along his neck ridges, working his way up to his face. He lingered briefly over Garak's mouth, kissing him hungrily, sucking at the sweet softness of his tongue. Finally he resumed his upward progress, tracing a path from the tip to the bridge of Garak's nose with long strokes of his tongue, teasing him until his lips at last made contact with the centre of the tailor's forehead.

As before the result was immediate and intense. The Cardassian's arms tightened convulsively around Julian's body and Garak began to thrust his erection firmly against the doctor's, rocking his hips faster and faster. Abruptly Julian felt the tingling beginning in his hands and feet, spreading along his limbs, and he writhed against Garak, trying to bring as much of his skin into contact with the Cardassian as possible. Beneath him the tailor was trembling uncontrollably and with one final thrust he came. The sudden pulsing of his sex triggered Julian's climax and he arched his back, crying aloud as he spilled his creamy fluid to mingle with Garak's.

Finally spent, the doctor slumped forward, his head resting on Garak's broad chest. The warmth and the unfamiliar spicy scent were strangely reassuring. Absently one of the tailor's hands moved to caress Julian's disordered hair, tenderly smoothing the damp curls back off his forehead. The doctor gave a contented sigh and settled himself a little more comfortably.

"Thank you, Julian," said Garak softly, breaking the silence between them. The doctor shifted until he could see the tailor's face. He regarded him with surprise.

"What for?" he asked, puzzled.

"For being here - with me," replied the tailor slowly, "and for making me feel a little less like an exile." An understanding smile crossed Julian's face.

"With me you don't have to think of yourself as an exile," he said firmly. "Welcome home, Garak."


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