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 June 1996.


- From an idea by Sophie

This was embarrassing - too embarrassing for words.

Julian Bashir paced nervously back and forth. His long fingers restlessly clutched the dark blue robe he wore still more tightly about himself. His hazel eyes darted about the room as if searching for a means of escape and then dropped to stare morosely at his slender, bare feet. The young doctor's pacing threatened to wear a hole in the patch of carpet he repeatedly traversed, but he was too keyed up to stay still.

Oh God! Why did I let Dax talk me into this? More to the point how did I let her do it? Damn her and that oh so innocent invitation of hers! I should have known she had an ulterior motive when she took me to Quark's and plied me with all those drinks...

And I even believed her when she told me it was a new type of synthale that Quark had brought in. The expression on that damned Ferengi's face should have warned me. Well, if I'd been able to focus on it after the fourth glass maybe it would have done. I will personally break every bone in both their bodies - if I get through this without dying of terminal embarrassment! Oh God, I feel so stupid...

If it had been anyone else but you, Jadzia, I would not be here now!

As if summoned by his agitated thoughts the lovely Trill strolled casually into the room. Julian started like a scared rabbit at her arrival and Dax grinned at the young man's obvious discomfiture. So he was still embarrassed about doing this little favour for her. He'd get over it! In spite of the reproachful look he threw her she felt not the slightest twinge of remorse at the underhand way in which she had manoeuvred Julian into helping with the art class she had recently started. The doctor had been the first person she had thought of for the task. Well, she had briefly considered Benjamin, but she doubted he would have been so forgiving as Julian!

"Come on, Julian, it's time to meet your public." Dax winked at him teasingly. His only reaction was to retreat even further into the folds of his robe.

"Jadzia... Look, I'm sorry, but I can't - I just can't do this. I know I said I would and you have the class all set up, but..." Julian shrugged his shoulders helplessly. Dax leaned over and gave him a quick, affectionate peck on the cheek.

"Of course you can, Julian, there's nothing to it. All you have to do is lie there and look picturesque. Besides, the class will be so disappointed if I tell them you've backed out now." She smiled at him encouragingly. "They've been so looking forward to this. Using a holographic model really isn't the same."

"Looking forward to it... I bet they have," muttered Julian. "And that's what I'm afraid of." Dax gave a snort of laughter.

"It's only a life class, Julian. Anyone would think you've never taken your clothes off in front of a few people before," she said airily. Julian's mouth dropped open and he stared at Dax in utter disbelief. She sounded so damned matter-of-fact about the whole thing.

"Of course I haven't!" spluttered Julian indignantly. "What do you think I am? Some kind of closet exhibitionist? Wait a minute... Are you trying to tell me you have?"

"Oh, not since I became Jadzia," replied the Trill off-handedly, "but Curzon used to go to some interesting parties in his younger days." Dax smiled, remembering some of Curzon's more memorable exploits fondly. Julian shook his head.

"I don't think I want to know..." he groaned. Dax flashed him another devilish smile and then reached out to grab his wrist.

"Anyway, even if you haven't done it before I am not letting you back out on me now, Julian. A promise is a promise," insisted Jadzia.

"Even when made under duress? Or at least under the influence of a rather large amount of alcohol?" Julian reminded her pointedly. Dax brushed off the accusation calmly.

"Give it a few minutes and you won't even notice they're looking at you," she assured him brightly.

It was obvious there was no way he was going to be allowed off the hook Julian realised. Dragging things out wasn't going to help his nerves either. He might as well just get the whole humiliating experience over with as quickly as possible. With a deep sigh and a resigned look at the Trill Julian meekly allowed Dax to lead him out into the main section of the cargo bay which had been adapted to create an impromptu studio.

He immediately wished he hadn't. It was entirely full of budding artists and more pairs of eyes than Julian cared to count followed him as Jadzia marched him to the raised dais which had been set up at the far end of the room. Only the knowledge that he would never hear the last of it if he did so kept the doctor from giving in to the impulse to turn tail and run out of the place as fast as he could. Julian finally registered the fact that Dax was speaking and with an effort he focused his attention on her words.

"Ladies and gentlemen, for our life class today we have a special treat. Doctor Bashir has very kindly consented to be our model this evening. I'm sure you'd all like to express your appreciation to him for sparing the time. Thank you, Julian," finished Dax with a brief nod in his direction. From somewhwere Julian dredged up a smile which he desperately hoped would cover his extreme self consciousness. If they figured out just how nervous he really was his carefully constructed reputation as the confident man-about-the-station was going to be shot to hell!

Dax pointed towards a low couch draped with a creamy silk covering. Julian realised she expected him to remove his robe and lie down on it. With dragging steps the young doctor moved over to the couch. As surreptitiously as he could Julian pulled the Trill across with him.

"Jadzia, you told me only three or four people ever attended these classes of yours," he hissed. "It looks like half the station is sitting out there!"

"Well, I guess word of our special attraction may have got out..." Dax shrugged her shoulders defensively. "Anyway, I would have thought you'd be flattered by all the attention."

"Quark told everyone you mean," grated Julian. "As for being flattered... Jadzia, I will never forgive you for humiliating me in front of all these people like this."

"Oh don't be silly, Julian, of course you will," scolded Dax, smiling at him prettily. "Especially when all those lovely young ensigns drop by the Infirmary wanting a date with the dashing, handsome doctor," she added teasingly.

Julian closed his eyes and shook his head helplessly. The irritating thing was he knew she was right - at least about the fact that he wouldn't be able to stay annoyed with her for long!

"Now," Dax continued briskly,"if you'll just let me have this robe we can get on with things..."

Before Julian could protest the Trill had caught hold of the edge of the robe and deftly yanked it down off his shoulders. Left suddenly naked and shivering in plain sight of Dax and the rest of the assembled class Julian flushed an interesting shade of scarlet. He wondered how he would ever be able to face any of them again. It didn't help his acute embarrassment when Jadzia appraisingly swept her pale gaze over him from head to toe - and all points in between.

God, please let the floor open up and swallow me now, begged Julian silently. He was startled as Dax's voice whispered playfully, close by his ear.

"Hmm, maybe I have been missing out by turning you down all this time..."
With as much dignity as he could muster in his exposed state Julian turned his back on Dax and stalked to the couch. Nursing various murderous thoughts about the infuriating Trill and her Ferengi accomplice the doctor lay down and posed as modestly as his nakedness allowed. The art class
Click for full size illustration

Nearly a week had passed since the life class debacle and Julian could now almost ignore the giggles and sly glances which followed him every time he walked along the Promenade. Dax had been right about the number of young ladies, and several young men, who suddenly seemed to find him quite irresistible and appeared in the Infirmary on the flimsiest of pretexts. Julian had patiently treated their non-existent complaints, but he hadn't accepted any of their invitations. He preferred his relationships to be a little more meaningful than any of these had promised to be.

Also Julian had thus far resolutely refused to forgive Jadzia for tricking him into acting as a nude model. He wasn't sure how much longer he would be able to keep it up, but so far he had turned down a number of invitations from her to share dinner or lunch.

This particular morning Julian's mind was on a batch of test results he needed to analyse as he walked into his office at the start of his shift. He didn't look at his desk as he sat down and it was only as he reached to activate his terminal that he noticed the neatly wrapped package lying there. His first thought was that it was from Dax - a form of apology for setting him up - but there was no label on the parcel. Julian was quite sure there would have been if it were from Jadzia.

His curiosity piqued Julian picked up the package, which seemed to be about the size of a large data padd. Carefully he removed the meticulously folded, plain wrapping. When he was finally able to see what it was that he held the doctor drew in a sharp breath, his eyes wide.

It was a painting. To be precise it was a portrait - of himself. From the pose it was evident that the painter had been present at Dax's life class. It was also readily apparent that the artist had both a considerable talent and an eye for their subject.

Julian held the painting up before him and stared at it for a long moment. It was beautiful. Whoever had done this had gone to a great deal of effort not just to copy the pose, but to imbue it with life. It was uncanny. The doctor almost felt as if he were looking into a mirror, not at a purely two-dimensional canvas. Julian's eyes searched the picture for a signature, anything that would give a clue to the identity of the artist, but there was nothing he could see.

For a long while Julian sat, simply admiring the exquisite representation of himself artfully posed on the silk draped couch. It was the strangest sensation, seeing himself in such detail through another's eyes. Was his skin really that shade of burnished gold? Did the dark curls fall just so onto his forehead? Were his limbs quite so long and slender?

It was at that moment that Julian finally realised that what he was looking at was more than just a painting. There was a definite - emotion emanating from the canvas. The portrait had been not just a gift, but a labour of love on the part of the artist. Julian knew with a deep certainty that it was imperative that he discovered who that was. And at the moment he could think of only one person who might be able to tell him the identity of the painter. Reaching out he opened a comm line. At once Dax's face appeared on the screen.

"Julian, what can I do for you?" she asked with a smile.

"Dax, could you come to my office for a minute?" said Julian his forehead creasing in a slight frown.

"Of course, is there a problem?" enquired Jadzia.

"No, no problem, but I have something I want to show you," the doctor replied.

"Oh? Now you have me intrigued," grinned Dax. "I'll be right there."

As good as her word it was only a few minutes before Dax appeared in Julian's office. Wordlessly the doctor held out the painting for her inspection. She took it from him, holding it so the light fell on it and studying it appreciatively.

"Julian, it's beautiful," she said admiringly. "Who gave it to you?" Julian shook his head.

"I have no idea," he admitted. "I was rather hoping you might know your students well enough to be able to tell me. There was nothing at all in the package to say who sent it."

Dax returned her attention to the painting, looking at it more closely. There was genuine puzzlement in her voice when she spoke again.

"It's very strange, Julian. I looked at just about all the drawings people were doing while you were posing and frankly none of them were this good. Let's face it, most of them were only there to admire the view, not to learn how to draw the male form! And yet whoever painted this was obviously there - the pose..."

"I know," interrupted Julian, "and believe me I have not done any repeat performances. The last one was embarrassing enough to last me a lifetime." The doctor's hazel eyes fixed on the Trill accusingly.

"I'm sorry, Julian," said Dax contritely. "I really didn't think you would mind so much."

"Jadzia, I do not make a habit of taking my clothes off in front of people!" Julian protested indignantly. "Besides it was the underhand way you went about it. You knew I'd say no if you just asked so you got Quark to give me all those drinks with real alcohol in them and claimed it was a new improved synthale!" he added reproachfully. "I had a God awful hangover the next day too and what would have happened if I'd had an emergency call?"

"Well, however it came about it seems we've unearthed an artist with real talent here," said Dax, quickly changing the subject as she knew Julian had made a valid point. It had been a foolish thing to do and she would make it up to him she promised herself. For the moment she tilted her head, regarding the portrait once more thoughtfully.

"You know, whoever did this had a real eye for their subject, Julian," Jadzia's gaze locked with Julian's and he knew perfectly well what she was hinting at and it matched his own instinct.

"I know," he admitted with a sigh. "I got the same feeling. It's why I have to find out... But before you ask, no I haven't been to bed with any of the people who attended your class. Which isn't to say I haven't had the offer... The ones who have approached me weren't serious though. Whoever painted this is I think."

"Maybe our mystery artist saw this as the only way to approach you," suggested Dax. "Perhaps they wanted to - test the water so to speak. It's really rather romantic if you stop and think about it." Julian smiled slightly.

"I suppose it is," he agreed, "but if I don't know who did this how can I thank them? Or decide if there might be anything between us?"

Dax frowned, holding the portrait up and studying it minutely again. She peered over the top of the frame at Julian then dropped her gaze back to the canvas. Finally she turned the picture around so he could see it once more.

"The more I look at this the more I can't help but think that the artist is someone who knows you well, Julian," said Jadzia at length.

"What makes you say that?" he asked curiously.

"Just look at the detail in the face," Dax instructed him. "The person who painted this couldn't possibly have got that much from the sitting you did the other day alone. No one was close enough to see every line and curve of your face for one thing. Nor was there enough time. No, someone has been making quite a study of you, Julian, and they've put everything they've observed into this picture. I'd guess our mystery painter has probably been trying to pluck up enough courage to say something to you. This must have seemed an ideal opportunity.

"But you said nobody who was there has made a serious attempt to talk to you since. And I don't recognise the style..." Dax shook her head. "It doesn't make sense. Though I suppose the cargo bay was big enough for someone who didn't want to be noticed to be able to keep out of sight."

"I suppose so, but who do I know who could have spent enough time studying me to produce something this good and without me realising?" mused Julian. He stared unseeingly at Dax, going through the possibilities in his mind. "You know, I was thinking earlier that looking at this painting was almost like looking in a mirror... Oh my God!" Julian stopped abruptly his hazel eyes wide with a shocked realisation.

"Julian? What is it?" asked Dax, concerned. The doctor's eyes met hers and she could read a stunned disbelief in their depths. He spoke slowly, laying his thoughts out carefully as if he might be able to arrive at a different conclusion by doing so.

"Who is the one person I have spent at least an hour with week in week out for pretty much the whole of the past four years? With me just sitting across a table from him while we talked - and he watched me...

"Who do I talk to about the things that have been happening to me? Someone I would have been sure to mention receiving this painting to. Musing with him about who could be responsible - because he just might really still be a spy and know who it was that put the package in my office..." Julian's words trailed away and Dax's eyebrows arched upward as she understood who it was that the doctor was referring to.

"Garak?" It was less of a surprise to the perceptive Trill than it seemed to have been to the young human.

"Garak," agreed Julian, "but could he really have done something like this?"

"Designing clothes is an art," Dax reminded him, "and Garak is certainly very good at it." She paused a moment in thought. "You know, if it is him - well it makes perfect sense."

"Yes. I do know," sighed Julian.

"You do?" The doctor's admission surprised her rather more than the fact that Garak might be the one who had painted the portrait. "I didn't think..."

"Jadzia I am not blind." Julian sounded faintly affronted at the implication of naivety. "I've always been - aware of his interest. It's just this is so... I didn't think he would ever make an issue of it."

"Then why didn't you pursue it?" asked the Trill, frankly curious. "He, as you say, was interested in you and if you knew it... Why just ignore it?"

"Oh I know; I know," said Julian defensively, "but it wasn't that simple. The idea of Garak being attracted to me has always scared the hell out of me. You know what he's like, Jadzia. I'm not sure that I could ever trust him completely."

"You do feel an attraction to him too though, don't you? The fact that he's male - that isn't what bothers you, is it?" observed Dax shrewdly.

"I think you know me better than that, Jadzia," said Julian with a lop-sided smile. "No, I don't have any qualms just because he's male. It's what Garak is - or rather was - that bothers me. Even by Cardassian standards his reputation is..."

Julian shrugged helplessly, hating himself for his own doubts even while he knew they were probably justified at least at some level. Yet most of what he knew was based on rumour and hearsay. Though he knew what Odo had learned from first hand experience - what the tailor was capable of when the situation demanded it of him. The thought of it chilled Julian and if Garak wouldn't give him straight answers to his questions...

"He's told me so many lies and half truths during these past four years, Jadzia. I'm not sure exactly who I'd be getting into a relationship with."

"Someone who thinks a great deal of you if this is anything to go by," said Dax thoughtfully, indicating the painting. "Don't you think you should at least talk to him? You owe it to him - and yourself. He put a lot of himself into this picture too and that can't have been easy for someone like Garak."

"I know, but what if we're jumping to the wrong conclusion?" asked Julian, clearly prevaricating.

"We're not," Dax replied bluntly.

"Then I have to go and see him, don't I?" said the young doctor slowly. Dax nodded. "Oh well, I suppose there's no time like the present."

"I quite agree," said the Trill with a friendly smile. She patted Julian affectionately on the arm. "Good luck!"

Julian refrained from replying. He picked up the painting, carefully rewrapping it. Then he tucked it securely under his arm and headed out onto the Promenade. Taking a deep breath he turned his steps in the direction of Garak's shop.

There were no customers in the tailor's shop when Julian arrived and somewhat hesitantly made his way inside - for which he was inordinately grateful. The doctor was feeling far too agitated to wait patiently while the Cardassian went through his sales pitch. Garak looked up from his work, an expression of genuine delight gracing his features as he saw who his visitor was.

"Doctor, what an unexpected pleasure..." he began in his usual charming manner, but Julian quickly cut off the flow of words.

"A pleasure perhaps," said the doctor with feeling, "but unexpected? No, I don't think so,Garak."

"Doctor?" If he knew what Julian meant the tailor gave no outward sign of it.

"Garak," sighed Julian, "please will you just indulge me for a moment and close the shop. There's something I think we need to discuss."

"But of course," agreed Garak equably. He pressed a button underneath the counter, activating the 'Closed' sign and opaquing the shop's windows. "Now, tell me, doctor - why so serious? What is it you want to talk to me about?"

"This," said Julian bluntly. He took the bundle from under his arm, unwrapped the painting and set it carefully on the counter in front of the Cardassian. Without further comment he looked up at the tailor expectantly.

"Why, doctor, what a fine portrait," said Garak calmly. He displayed not the slightest reaction at being unexpectedly presented with a nude representation of the man standing before him. It was a bravura performance. If Julian had required further confirmation that he was indeed face to face with the mystery artist the lack of surprise from the tailor provided it.

"I'm most flattered you would ask my opinion on something so personal, doctor," continued Garak, "but..."

"Oh for goodness sake, Garak!" cried Julian in exasperation. "Stop playing coy with me, I know you painted this. I didn't see you at that ridiculous life class, nor did Dax, but you must have been there - somewhere. That was the only place this particular pose could have come from. Though, of course, whoever drew this didn't do it just from that one sitting. That person has been looking at me for much longer...

"It is yours, isn't it?"

Garak sighed, but did not answer at once. He turned his back on Julian, walking to one of the nearby displays and absently straightening the already perfectly arrayed garments.

"Yes, doctor," he admitted finally, "the painting is my work, but I didn't think you would know. I didn't sign it - and we've never spoken about this particular hobby of mine. How did you guess?"

"Instinct," said Julian simply. Garak swung back to face the young man a question in his bright blue eyes. The doctor smiled before elaborating. "Dax and I both felt the - emotion that had gone into the painting. Oh, the basic drawing came out of seeing me model at that class - at least I assume it did." Garak nodded. "So there were plenty of candidates on that basis, but the details... No. They come from a much longer, closer study - say over lunch every week for the past four years.

"No one else I can think of has ever taken the time, or for that matter had the opportunity, to study me so thoroughly, Garak. In the end I realised it could only have been you. Still, I never knew before that you were an artist. That came as something of a surprise to me. Though as Dax pointed out, what you do here," Julian's sweeping hand gesture encompassed the interior of the shop, "is art - of a sort."

"There is a great deal you do not know about me, doctor," said Garak his voice neutral. "And much of it is doubtless not at all what your inventive mind would imagine."

"So I'm beginning to find out!" Julian laughed softly. Garak looked down at his hands where they rested lightly on the edge of the counter, pondering his next move.

"I'm sorry, doctor," he apologised quietly after a long pause.

"Don't apologise. It's a beautiful painting - and a lovely gift. Thank you," said Julian earnestly. The Cardassian glanced up in surprise.

"You're not offended?" he asked disbelievingly.

"Of course not," exclaimed Julian, "why do you think I would be?"

"It's a very - personal thing," said Garak slowly."To paint you like this - it was a mistake I think."

"Garak, half the station personnel seemed to take it upon themselves to come along just to see me without my clothes on. Though God alone knows why," muttered Julian self-deprecatingly. "The only thing I don't understand is why you didn't come to the class openly. I doubt anyone would have remarked upon it in the circumstances."

"Perhaps not, doctor, but if I had I fear too many others would have seen what you now see. I'm quite sure it would have been there in my eyes." Garak smiled sadly. "I do not think that would have been wise."

"You may be right," conceded Julian. "But whatever other people might say or think I am glad you gave me this picture. It answered a question for me."

"Oh?" Garak's eye ridges raised in question.

"You just mentioned what would have been there in your eyes for all to see when you were painting me. For a long time - well, I was never sure if I could believe what I thought I saw in your eyes week after week as we shared lunch. Now that I've seen this," Julian indicated the portrait with one slender hand, "I know that I can."

"And what is it that you thought you could see?" asked Garak in a quiet voice.

"Interest - in me," replied Julian equally softly.

"You saw and yet - you said nothing." There was a clear note of doubt in the Cardassian's tone.

"I didn't know if I could trust..." Julian broke off abruptly. He needed to justify his hesitation to the tailor who stood motionless, only his eyes betraying a momentary pain.

"What did I really know about you, Garak?" The doctor spread his hands in mute appeal. "For that matter, what do I know about you now? You're a Cardassian - well there's no disputing that. You were very probably once a spy, a torturer too - Tain told me you were a part of the Obsidian Order and he had no reason to lie to me. Besides, what Odo learned on his little trip with you rather confirms it, wouldn't you agree? And now you're a tailor. Beyond that everything else is pure conjecture. It's hardly enough to base a meaningful relationship on."

"And is that really what you want, doctor?" asked Garak pointedly. Julian pulled a face at the tailor's somewhat sceptical tone.

"Contrary to what you seem to be implying about the way I approach my relationships I do not jump into bed with someone just because - well, they have a pretty face or whatever," protested Julian. "I am not that shallow - and I don't think you really believe that of me either.

"To be honest though I was afraid all you wanted from me was sex. I thought maybe you were just curious - about what it would be like with a human," admitted Julian. "And of course there aren't many opportunities for companionship for a Cardassian on a Bajoran space station... If that is all you want then I won't be your lover, Garak. I don't think that would be being fair to either of us. But I think - I hope - there is more to it than that.

"This portrait, when I look at it - I can't help feeling that there is, or at the very least could be something more. Am I right?"

Garak smiled affectionately at the young man. Julian's face was flushed after his little speech and the tailor wondered if he had any idea just how desirable he looked at that moment.

"To me you were never simply another conquest to be made, doctor. If that is truly what you fear," observed Garak shrewdly. "But I think we have been friends for too long for you to really believe that of me. I think what you do fear is my past; though you do not need to. All that is behind me now and I am only what you see before you..."

"A plain and simple tailor," finished Julian, his lips curving into a smile. Garak bowed his head in amused acquiescence.

"Yes, as you say, now I am only a tailor," agreed the Cardassian without rancour. "As to my feelings towards you, doctor, of course I desire your body. Believe me, it was the most exquisite torture to see what I had so long aspired to laid out before me - and yet to be able to do no more than etch the details into my memory and then commit them to canvas. Every brush stroke is filled with my desire for you - and that is the honest truth, doctor." Garak allowed his eyes to seek out Julian's, trying to read the young doctor's thoughts in those pellucid pools of liquid warmth. "But let me reassure you, my friend, that it is all of you, body and mind, which attracts me - that has always attracted me."

"And if I were to ask you to come to my quarters tonight?" asked Julian intently. "What would you do?"

"I would come, of course," said Garak, his eyes shining with a deep longing. "Yes, I would come and I would make love to you, doctor - if that were what you wished of me."

For a long moment Julian regarded the Cardassian, his expression unreadable. Then without speaking he reached out to the painting lying on the counter. His long fingers quickly rewrapped it and he took it up, hugging it to his chest. The doctor hesitated a few seconds more, as if he were weighing something only he could see in the tailor's steady gaze. Then he turned away, heading for the door.

Garak's face fell, the light in his eyes dying. He accepted the crushing of his hopes in silence, making no attempt to call the young man back. Julian paused in his progress towards the door, seeming to sense the Cardassian's disappointment. The doctor glanced over his shoulder, a shy smile on his lips.

"Shall we say 2000 hours then? My quarters?" he asked softly. Garak gaped at him foolishly, doubting the evidence of his own ears. Finally the tailor regained sufficient presence of mind to nod his agreement fervently. "I'll look forward to it then," called back Julian as he exited the shop. Behind him he left one shocked but delighted Cardassian.

As the appointed hour approached Julian found himself pacing the floor of his quarters anxiously. His heart was already pounding in anticipation of what might be in store for him at Garak's hands. He couldn't remember when the mere thought of a lover - or rather a potential lover - had set his body on fire so thoroughly.

And we haven't even so much as touched yet! But for all that there is a bond between us already. With the thought Julian's gaze fell on the painting once more. He had propped it up on his desk and his eyes returned to it at regular intervals. It still astonished him that Garak had created this beautiful thing. Is that truly how I appear to his eyes? I can't believe that's really how I look...

With an effort Julian willed himself to calmness. He had earlier poured himself a small measure of brandy to steady his nerves and now he lifted the glass for another sip, just enough to wet his lips and slide soothingly down his dry throat. The warmth of the alcohol inside him was comforting though and Julian quickly took a second much larger mouthful before setting the glass back on the table.

To distract himself Julian glanced around his quarters. He had done his best to make it appealing to the Cardassian. It had seemed important to him to do so. The lights were low and he had raised the temperature several degrees above his normal preferred level. As a result the doctor was already quite hot, his skin slightly flushed. Julian had also scattered a number of large, soft cushions on his couch and the floor surounding it. Unbidden images of himself and Garak sprawled across those cushions rose to fill the doctor's mind and he felt his sex hardening in anticipation.

Julian drew in a deep, steadying breath, bringing his errant emotions back under control. Until tonight he hadn't truly realised how strong his desire for the Cardassian was. It was as if learning that his own previously buried feelings were reciprocated had allowed him to give free rein to his passion for the first time. The thought sent another shiver through the doctor's slender frame.

The door chime sounded and Julian ran his hands over the loose, casual clothing he wore, smoothing away imaginary creases. He swallowed hard before calling the door open. Garak stood on the threshold, his own face betraying a mixture of apprehension and desire.

"Doctor," he said softly as he stepped inside, the door closing behind him. Julian quickly set a privacy lock in place. Tonight he wanted no uninvited guests.

Garak stood uncertainly, but his eyes followed Julian's movements intently. As his gaze took in his surroundings the tailor noted with pleasure the fact that the doctor had chosen to leave the portrait, his homage to the beautiful young man, on display. Garak's eyes returned to the inspiration for that image as with a hesitant smile Julian stepped close to him.

"Aren't you going to greet me, Garak?" he asked quietly. Julian tilted his head in invitation. With equal hesitancy Garak reached out with one broad hand, laying the smooth palm against the silken warmth of Julian's cheek. The doctor leaned into the touch, his hazel eyes encouraging.

"What kind of - greeting did you have in mind?" Garak enquired finally. Julian could see the laboured rise and fall of the Cardassian's chest and knew that the older man had been anticipating this meeting as much as he had.

"I think - a kiss would be a good place to start," replied Julian with sudden eagerness. His lips parted without conscious volition and the pink tip of his tongue stole out to moisten them in readiness. The sight was almost enough to stop Garak's heart. The Cardassian slid his hand round to cup the back of the doctor's head, his thick fingers enlacing themselves in the silky softness of Julian's hair. Gently the tailor drew the other to him and with tender possessiveness claimed the sweet mouth for his own.

Julian returned the firm pressure, tasting the Cardassian's smooth lips and sucking softly at Garak's invading tongue. As the kiss deepened Julian brought his arms up to encircle the tailor's waist, pulling the stocky, powerful body against him with a growing enthusiasm. Garak responded by devouring the doctor's mouth still more avidly. He had dreamed of exploring its alien warmth, its exotic sweetness for too long to relinquish it so soon.

At last Julian pulled away from the Cardassian, panting hard. It seemed as if Garak were prepared to go on kissing him until all the breath had been stolen from his body! Julian regarded the tailor in something like awe as he noticed the other man seemed not remotely out of breath.

"Dear God, Garak," he panted out at last, "that was quite incredible. I hardly dare ask what you do for an encore."

"What would you like me to do?" teased Garak. The tailor smiled slowly, one fingertip absently tracing the contours of Julian's lips, rosy and swollen from their passionate exchange. "But to be serious, doctor," continued Garak with quiet intensity, "you forget that I have been waiting for this moment for a very long time. If my restraint is sorely tested surely you can understand why.

"My dear doctor, I didn't hurt you, did I?" asked the Cardassian abruptly, an expression of contrition suddenly crossing his face. He drew back to study the young human anxiously.

"Hurt would be the wrong word, Garak," Julian assured the tailor with a smile. "It would be fair to say you took my breath away though - literally I mean!"

"I will try to remember that humans are not made of such stern stuff as we Cardassians," promised Garak.

"It would be appreciated," retorted Julian, laughing. With sensual grace the doctor stepped away from Garak, moving across the room to sprawl invitingly on his cushion-strewn couch. The Cardassian surveyed the reclining form with hungry eyes.

The lithe frame was not clothed in the habitual Starfleet uniform tonight Garak noted. Instead Julian had selected a loose shirt of pale, creamy coloured cotton which revealed a portion of his smooth, golden-brown chest. This accompanied dark trousers of some soft fabric which draped the doctor's slender figure elegantly, outlining every contour of the body beneath. And at that moment the material had much to reveal. The tailor's intent gaze did not miss the unmistakable hardness which bloomed in Julian's lap.

"Do you really only wish to look?" asked Julian huskily. He was perfectly aware of Garak's eyes focused on his groin. "The painting was a wonderful gift, but I was hoping for some more direct, albeit less tangible, evidence of your feelings for me tonight." The doctor glanced down at his fabric shrouded erection. "See what a single kiss from you has done to me, my Cardassian friend. Imagine what the touch of your hands on my bare skin might do..."

Garak could imagine all too easily. Although he could scarcely bring himself to believe the invitation implicit in Julian's words. The tailor was breathing hard now. His pupils were dilated, almost entirely covering the bright, blue irises as desire tightened its grip on him. A dark flush stained his cheeks as he took the few stumbling steps which brought him to Julian's side. Garak sank to his knees amongst the cushions scattered at the young man's feet.

The Cardassian tilted his head up to meet Julian's understanding gaze. His eyes begged for permission and the doctor's warm smile willingly granted it. Garak's eyelids drifted shut and he lowered his face to Julian's lap. It was not precisely what the doctor had expected, but there was something touching about the gentle reverence of the gesture. Garak laid his cheek against the hard, cloth covered length of the human's erection. Even through the soft material he could feel the warmth radiating from it and his sensitive nostrils caught the musky, masculine scent of Julian's arousal.

Garak luxuriated in the simple sensation of being close to the object of his desire for a long moment. He knew this would not be what Julian had been expecting of him, but the tailor was determined to absorb every single detail of this experience. He had been alone and wanting for too long to be able to accept in his heart that tonight might be just the first of many such nights. Garak had known too many disappointments in his life. But whatever was to come the Cardassian had determined that his memories of this night would be as complete as he could make them. Should Julian decide that he did not care to repeat the experience Garak's recollections would be enough to comfort him for a very long time to come.

At length the tailor raised his head, meeting the quizzical look in Julian's eyes with an enigmatic smile.

"Ah, doctor, don't look so surprised," said Garak softly, his tone self-mocking. "It may be a closely guarded secret, but we Cardassians are capable of gentleness and sensitivity."

"I know that," said Julian his voice equally soft. "I just thought that - well, as you say you've been waiting for this a long time. I thought you would want... I'm sorry." The doctor flushed as the clumsy words tumbled out, but Garak did not seem at all put out.

"I told you before that desire for your body was not all that I felt," he murmured. "But now, I think, it would be unfair to you to make you wait any longer. Come to me, doctor..."

Garak held out a hand and Julian took it without hesitation, sliding down to kneel facing the Cardassian. With unhurried care Garak sought out the fastenings of the doctor's shirt. He admired the smooth, finely muscled torso he slowly revealed as the buttons came undone one after another. It appeared that Julian's body was the same delightful shade of brown all over. Finally the tailor removed the garment completely and tossed it carelessly aside. Garak trailed his hands over the slim chest. He delighted in the silky softness of the skin and the way the chocolate coloured nipples - strangely, to his Cardassian eyes, the body's only adornment - responded to his touch.

Bending forward Garak took one of the small nubs of flesh between his lips, sucking softly. Julian cried out in surprised delight as the tailor's warm, wet mouth worked its magic. After a few moments Garak switched his attention to the other nipple, meting out the same treatment.

Julian felt a definite sense of disappointment when Garak's lips eventually withdrew altogether and a low whimper escaped him. Soothingly the tailor leaned in to place a trail of kisses from the young man's jaw, down his slender neck to the hollow at the base of his throat. Julian arched back, offering Garak easier access for his leisurely ministrations.

All the while the Cardassian's hands and mouth were intent on Julian's upper body the doctor's own hands had been providing gentle encouragement to his growing erection. One slim palm cupped the swollen member through the soft fabric of Julian's trousers. The other had dipped inside the loosened waistband to bestow more direct stimulation to the smooth shaft.

Garak's gaze suddenly lighted on Julian's restless movements. With a sharp cry he dropped his hands to cover the doctor's, stilling them.

"Ah, my sweet Julian, wait!" begged Garak. "Please don't deny me this pleasure."

"Garak, I'm sorry," murmured Julian. "You made me forget myself so much I didn't even know..." The tailor smiled understandingly and brushed his cool lips against the doctor's flushed cheek in a soothing caress.

"I won't deny that I should enjoy watching you pleasure yourself for me," admitted Garak, "but not this time. I want it to be my hands, my lips, my tongue which bring you to your delight this first time that we make love, my dear doctor."

Julian shivered. The idea of touching himself, bringing himself to completion while Garak looked on, his brilliant blue eyes devouring the sight, was highly arousing. But the thought of the tailor's warm, wet mouth enveloping the hard length of his erection was even more so.

"Oh yes, Garak," Julian breathed. "I want to feel your mouth surround me, your lips sucking - oh God, yes!"

The hazel eyes were lambent with desire as Garak carefully set about removing Julian's trousers and briefs. Once they had been discarded the Cardassian settled the doctor comfortably on a bed of cushions, admiring the beautiful picture he made. The young man's head was thrown back in abandonment and his slim hips thrust upward in need. Julian's erection had grown to its full length. It was tinted a delicate, rosy red and its tip was crowned with a jewel of moisture.

Garak's clever fingers explored the treasures laid bare before him. He quickly learned the touches which drew forth the greatest reaction from Julian. The sweet voice cried out in desperate entreaty as Garak's hand cupped the soft curves of the doctor's balls, nestled amidst the dark curls of hair at his groin. As the tailor closed his hand more tightly Julian moaned his delight.

Gently the Cardassian drew his fingertips across the very tip of Julian's sex, spreading the sticky wetness over the plump head and down the firm shaft. The doctor's back arched convulsively as he sought more of the elusive stimulation he so craved.

A faint sheen of sweat gilded all Julian's limbs as he tossed fitfully under Garak's teasing touch. The tailor exulted in the uninhibited passion the young man exhibited. Julian was everything he had dreamed of and so much more. The scent of the doctor's arousal filled Garak's nostrils, exotic and so alien to the Cardassian's senses, as he leaned down finally to taste the enticingly beautiful sex.

The tailor lapped delicately at the pooled wetness which had once again gathered at the tip of Julian's erection. It was quite unlike anything he had tasted before and he savoured it. Garak felt the doctor tense, driven almost to the point of no return by the maddening touch of the tailor's tongue. Parting his lips the Cardassian lowered his mouth over the trembling sex. He began to suck firmly, his teeth grazing the swollen shaft as he bent to his task.

Almost immediately Julian exploded into orgasm. His hips thrust up from the cushions and Garak put out his hands to steady the young man's wild movements. The tailor rode the storm with his lover, his lips and tongue working to prolong the pleasure for the human. The moment of completion came and Julian's frantic motions stilled. He froze in place, his expression strangely triumphant. Garak gratefully accepted the gift of the doctor's seed as the salty liquid filled his mouth.

As Julian's ragged breathing slowly calmed Garak gently released the softening organ. He bestowed several tender kisses on the damp skin and then drew back to look at the doctor's sprawled body. The supine form lay almost motionless. A rosy flush suffused the sweat dampened limbs and Garak's heart went out to the young man stretched bonelessly before him, utterly vulnerable.

At length Julian stirred, moving himself into a more comfortable position curled amongst the cushions. His eyes opened slowly, looking up into Garak's with a totally contented expression radiating from their depths.

"That was certainly worth waiting four years for," observed Julian lazily. "You really are very good at that. A skilled artist, an even more skilled lover - what other hidden talents do you have, Garak?" The tailor smiled back at him conspiratorially.

"My dearest Julian," he purred, "that is the very least of what I am capable of I assure you."

"Mm, that sounds promising," sighed Julian contentedly. "But right now what I want is for you to undress for me. I'd do it myself, but I fear you've quite exhausted me," he added, stretching languorously. "I believe an aroused Cardassian is quite a sight to see..."

"That sounds almost like a challenge, doctor," observed Garak thoughtfully, his hand straying to the swelling bulge at his groin. The tailor didn't for one moment believe that Julian was as exhausted as all that, but he was more than happy to indulge the young man.

"Perhaps it is," agreed Julian, his eyes fixed on the tailor's restless hand as it encouraged his erection still further. "Now, while I have to admit I'm enjoying the show I really do think it would be even more impressive without your clothing in the way. Strip for me, Garak. I want to see *exactly* where all those ridges go to, my reptilian friend."

Garak chuckled at Julian's teasing words, but the seductive note in the doctor's voice coupled with his intent stare was igniting the fire in the Cardassian's blood. Garak climbed to his feet and with deliberate precision began to unfasten his clothing. The intricate nature of the Cardassian tailoring, the multiple layers of material, allowed him to put on quite a show for the entranced human. There was something provocative, a definite sense of exhibitionism, in the slow removal and discarding of each garment.

Julian was breathing hard long before he was able to see any significant detail of Garak's body. Almost without realising he was doing so the young man began to make small, encouraging sounds which only served to further inflame the tailor.

At last Garak stood quite naked before Julian. The doctor sat up, his earlier pretence of total exhaustion discarded. The Cardassian was certainly worthy of closer inspection. The intricate, heavy clothing had concealed a stocky, muscular body. Garak evidently kept himself in better shape than he liked those around him to know.

The ridges at the tailor's neck continued along his shoulders and down his upper arms. At his elbows they faded into a flatter pattern of scales. The strong forearms bore smooth, grey skin. The upper portion of Garak's torso was also heavily patterned with scales in ornate designs. Julian's eyes traced out the flowing lines of the patterns, admiring their beauty. The broad chest was crowned with two large, charcoal-grey nipples which the doctor rather looked forward to tasting and teasing to erectness. About the solid waist the tailor's skin again smoothed out, its texture like the finest kid leather.

Julian allowed his gaze to drop lower. Garak's buttocks were also decorated with scales. They were firmly muscled and the young doctor imagined they would be quite delightful to caress and knead with his fingers... The trail of scales continued from Garak's backside down the powerful thighs and calves all the way to his feet.

Finally Julian permitted himself to look at that portion of the tailor's anatomy which most intrigued him. Garak's sex was fully erect and an impressive sight. While the leathery erection was no longer than Julian's own it was definitely thicker. The plump tip was a deep, smoky grey and it leaked a slick trail of a dark, clear liquid. The doctor could not stop himself from wondering what it tasted like. But his main attention rested on the thickened shaft. It too was patterned, but these patterns curled around Garak's sex from base to tip and they were raised from the smoother surrounding skin.

Julian slowly looked up, finally meeting the tailor's clear blue gaze and seeing the question in those eyes. Garak was worried. He wondered if the doctor found him attractive.

Gods! As if there could be any doubt of that. He looks magnificent, every inch of him aroused and wanting - me!

Julian made another slow, deliberate visual inspection of the Cardassian. He leaned back against the cushions, propped up languidly on one elbow. He nodded thoughtfully, his tongue stealing out and moistening his pouting lips.

"I'm impressed, Garak," he said at last and was aware of the faint relaxation in the older man's stance. "You've certainly been keeping some of your best secrets under wraps."

"If I had known you would so appreciate their - unwrapping," countered Garak, "then I would have done it long ago." Julian smiled at the Cardassian teasingly.

"But, Garak, you were the one who taught me that to truly appreciate something one should take one's time in discovering it..." His hazel eyes sparkled with laughter.

"I believe in this case I would have been prepared to reconsider that approach," sighed Garak.

"Hm, but if you had offered - this sooner," Julian gestured towards the tailor's groin, his expression suddenly more serious. "I'm not sure I would have been ready to accept. Now however..." The doctor leaned forward again, leaving himself only a scant few inches from the tip of the Cardassian's jutting erection. Julian licked his lips, almost giving in to the temptation to reach out just a little more and taste the alien hardness. But no, there was something else he wanted more from Garak.

"Now..." prompted Garak as the doctor's words trailed off. His whole being was on fire with the need to have Julian touch him, explore his body - and to make his own further explorations of the young man's slender frame.

"Now I find myself wondering just what something so - big and so powerful would feel like inside me," whispered Julian. He glanced up through his downcast, silky lashes at the Cardassian, frankly flirting. "All those scales and that wonderful pattern spiralling around it... Oh yes, I can just imagine it rubbing exactly the right place deep inside, pleasing me..."

Garak could also imagine it - all too vividly! The images dancing behind his closed eyelids - he couldn't even remember having shut his eyes - threatened to make him come right then and there without a single touch from the maddening, teasing human. Julian smiled broadly as he saw the state the tailor was in. He had bedevilled the poor Cardassian enough.

Julian rose silently and glided around behind Garak. He placed his lips against the tailor's ear, nibbling lightly at the small ridges which ran down to the jawline. The doctor was gratified by the shiver which promptly rippled through the stocky frame. Garak's eyelids flew open and he turned his head to look at the smiling young man.

"The table beside the couch," said Julian softly as their eyes met and held. Garak's brow creased in puzzlement. "The small tube - lubricant," elaborated the doctor with a slow, devilish grin. "I thought you might want it."

A low, animal moan escaped Garak's throat as the light dawned and he needed no further prompting. He snatched up the small container and hurriedly turned back towards Julian. The tailor was still afraid that if he waited a second longer the delightful young man would change his mind and his dream would be denied him. Julian had settled himself back amidst the scattered cushions and was beckoning to Garak seductively. The Cardassian could not have refused him. He fell to his knees beside the doctor and bent his head to kiss him once more, deeply, passionately.

"Julian," Garak murmured at last, "why don't you turn over and make yourself comfortable. I don't think either of us is in a state to wait much longer for this." The Cardassian's words were the plain truth for the doctor's own sex was firming, lifting again with renewed interest.

"Oh, I agree we're both more than ready, Garak," conceded Julian, his voice husky. "But I'm not going to just roll over and lie here while you take me. I want to see your face as you make love to me - as we love one another, my Cardassian friend. We've been hiding what we feel from each other for much too long." Julian could not help but smile at Garak's slightly startled look. "Trust me, Garak," he said in a low, sexy voice, "I'm quite flexible enough to accommodate you."

Another deep shudder of need took Garak. He fumbled the tube of lubricant open and quickly coated his aching length with a generous application. As he did so Julian shifted his position on the cushions, drawing his knees up to allow Garak access to the small opening to his body. Having prepared himself the tailor turned his attention to the doctor's slim, inviting form.

With hands that trembled more than he had expected Garak carefully explored. Julian wriggled sensually as the Cardassian first stroked the inviting curves of his buttocks, learning the texture of the silky skin. Then Garak let one fingertip brush lightly over the puckered opening and the doctor sighed in anticipation. Gently the tailor slid the broad digit into the tight, dark place. The movements of his hips, and the small sounds which came from Julian's throat as his body opened to the Cardassian's questing finger were clearly indicative of pleasure. With his heart pounding Garak made the doctor ready, applying the lubricant with care.

Finally the tailor tossed the tube aside and positioned the head of his sex at the entrance to the young man's body. Julian smiled up at him encouragingly. Garak braced himself and slowly pressed inside. The doctor raised his hips from the cushions giving the Cardassian a better angle, allowing Garak to penetrate him more deeply. With a groan of pleasure the tailor felt himself sliding further into the tight warmth of Julian's body.

A moan of delight burst from the human throat too as the thick, patterned Cardassian sex breached him. Julian felt wonderful - stretched and filled by the hot length of Garak's erection. Also, as the doctor had speculated, the raised pattern of scales along the shaft felt quite incredible inside him as the tailor finally buried his entire length in the warm, welcoming human depths.

As he gradually gathered his scattered wits Garak found the presence of mind to start to move. Gently at first he let the pumping of his hips fall into a slow rhythm, withdrawing almost the whole way from Julian's warmth only to slide firmly back in to the hilt. Soon the doctor began to mirror his thrusts with considerable enthusiasm and Garak stepped up the pace. Julian arched his long, slender neck, crying out his pleasure and satisfaction at finding himself so intimately joined to the tailor at last.

Garak stretched himself over the golden, sweat-sheened body of his lover. His lips were now able to leave a trail of kisses beginning at the sweet mouth and moving down to the elegant neck and the heaving chest. Julian repaid the compliment by bringing his hands up to caress Garak's muscular shoulders, his fingertips kneading the ridges - which had softened as the tailor's arousal increased - to the Cardassian's intense delight. The change in position also had the happy side effect of squeezing Julian's erection between their joined bodies with every thrust. The doctor's appreciation of that fact became increasingly vocal.

The Cardassian was quite aware that he was on the verge of losing control and sliding over the brink into orgasm. Julian felt it too in the trembling which ran through Garak's limbs. He slid his hands up, brushing them across the sensitised neck ridges until he cupped the tailor's face between his smooth palms. The two men's eyes met and held.

"Let go now, Garak," whispered Julian with a sweet smile. "Don't try and think - just feel..." The doctor punctuated his soft words by clenching his muscles around the tailor's erection. It was too much. Garak thrust hard one final time and came. His seed spurted out into Julian and the doctor welcomed the warm feeling deep inside the heart of himself. The tailor's eyes had closed at the moment of his release, but Julian could still read enough in the usually enigmatic face to reassure him. He had done the right thing in allowing Garak this close.

Slowly Garak began to move again. The hard length of Julian's sex still pressed against his abdomen and the tailor was determined the young doctor would share the same joy he had just experienced. Julian was close enough that only a few more moments were required before a shuddering climax overtook him. His warm, creamy seed spilled out, coating his own stomach and Garak's.

Carefully the Cardassian withdrew from the comforting haven of Julian's body. Small sounds of regret escaped both men's throats as he did so. The doctor slumped bonelessly against the disordered cushions. His face was flushed and his dark hair in total disarray. To Garak he had never looked more heartbreakingly beautiful. A thought struck the tailor as he sat back on his heels and surveyed his young lover's supine form. An involuntary smile curved his lips.

"What are you thinking, Garak?" asked Julian curiously as he noticed the Cardassian's introspective expression.

"I was merely reflecting that if I were to have to choose the perfect pose in which to draw you... Well, I would choose to paint you exactly as you are now - every detail." The tailor's smile became more proprietary. "This is how I should always like to remember you. To - immortalise you so to speak."

"Exhausted, sweaty and with my hair all over the place?" queried Julian, his lips twisting in a self-mocking grin. "That seems a rather strange way to want to remember me!"

"Ah, Julian, have you no romance in your soul?" chided the tailor with a sigh. "I look at you now and what I see is an utterly desirable young man, flushed and content from making love - with me. What could be more memorable?"

"I didn't think of it like that," admitted Julian slowly. Coming from Garak the sentiment was also quite unexpected, but the doctor refrained from saying so. In fact it warmed him that the tailor was prepared to share his thoughts. "I - I'm sure I have something around here you could sketch on, if you'd like to..." he added hesitantly.

"Would it please you to have me draw you then?" asked Garak softly, his eyes widening in surprise. Julian certainly had not seemed to relish his initial experience of sitting for his portrait!

"Well, the first drawing certainly produced some pretty unforgettable results, didn't it," said Julian huskily. "Who knows what a second one might lead to..."

There was a definite promise in the words. Garak rather hoped it would lead to Julian doing to him what he had just done to the young man, but for now he kept that thought to himself. Instead the tailor climbed to his feet and went searching for something he could use to sketch on. If this was what Julian wanted he need not ask twice.

The doctor stretched lazily and settled himself into a more comfortable, but still undoubtedly provocative, pose. Being an artist's model really was not so bad after all he decided - provided one was working with the right artist. Julian's eyes followed Garak's progress around the room, admiring the Cardassian's naked body anew. Perhaps he would ask the tailor to teach him to paint.

The young man smiled at the whimsical notion. He knew he had no artistic talent whatsoever, but it would be fun to do it - just to have the pleasure of seeing the Cardassian pose nude for him. Julian was quite sure he would easily be able to convince Garak that he needed a great deal of practice. And if the tuition were very personal in nature, well, the doctor was certain neither he nor the tailor would have any complaints at all.


The illustration is by BGM and is used with grateful thanks.

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