The next morning, Julian made his way slowly towards Jadzia's quarters. He had thought and thought about who to talk to about his problem and Dax was the only one he knew who would take him seriously. Upon coming to her door, he hesitantly rang the chime. He entered the room when the door opened to admit him.

  "Julian! What are you doing here, are you alone? Come, sit down." Jadzia Dax cleared a space on the sofa for Julian. Helping him raise his legs to rest on the coffee table, Dax placed some pillows around him to offer some more comfort for her pregnant friend.

  The Trill looked closely at the doctor. "You're pale, do you need anything?"

  Julian smiled at her concern. "Just a friend," he responded.

  Dax's interest was piqued. "What's wrong, Julian?" she asked gently. "How can I help?"

  "Will you listen to me? I need some advice and you're the only one I can turn to," Julian replied with evident sorrow in his voice.

  Sitting next to her friend, Jadzia placed an arm about his shoulders. "I'm here, let's talk."

  Choosing his words cautiously, Julian began to talk. "Jadzia, I think there's a problem between Elim and me." He paused waiting for a reaction. However, Dax only gave his shoulders a squeeze and nodded her head for him to go on. "It's been three days since Elim's been back home, after being gone for almost two months, and. . .well, he. . .we. . ." He looked up at the Trill. "I'm sorry, Jadzia. I shouldn't be here, bothering you with my problems." The doctor started to raise himself up, but was held down by stronger arms.

  "Julian, no. Don't run from the problem, tell me what's wrong. I will help you as best I can, but you have to tell me what it is first," Dax's voice held an air of concern.

  Julian stared at Dax for several more minutes, waging a battle within his mind. Finally, he sighed and leaned back and started once again. "No matter what I do and how much I try, Elim doesn't respond to me, not like he used to anyway."

  "Julian, what are you talking about?" Jadzia questioned.

  "He won't touch me. Oh, there's the hugs and kisses, but not the special touches. . ." he paused looking at the questioning look in the Trill's eyes. "He won't make love with me," he stated firmly. "I've tried everything I know, when I try to initiate something, he just grabs my hands and holds them tightly away from his body. When I try to go beyond just the tender kisses, he pulls back. Jadzia, what am I going to do? Elim doesn't love me anymore." The exasperated cry tore through Dax's heart.

  "Julian, have you talked with Garak about this?" she inquired.

  The young man nodded his head. "Yes, I've tried. He says he loves me and that there's nothing wrong. He says that I'm just overreacting because of the hormones."

  "Are you? Are you overreacting?" she asked quietly.

  Julian turned and looked at her with large sorrowful eyes. "I am not that far gone, Jadzia. I know when my husband wants to make love and when he doesn't. I am not overreacting. There's a problem and he won't share it with me. It's like he thinks I have to be treated delicately because I'm pregnant."

  Jadzia leaned over to embrace Julian. "Maybe he's afraid that he'll hurt you if the two of you have sex," she suggested.

  "That's ridiculous, I'm not some dainty little flower. I do know my limits and am capable of judging what I can or can't do," Julian responded lividly.

  "Yes, yes, but maybe that's not what Garak is thinking. He's been locked up for almost two months, and all he heard about was how you weren't taking care of yourself. . ." She held up her hand to stave off the protest Julian was beginning. Dax hugged him a little closer. "You know. . ." she looked up as the doors opened admitting her husband.

  "Worf? What are you doing home, I thought you were on duty," Jadzia stated as she rose to meet the Klingon.

  Worf stood in the middle of the room glaring down at Julian. He then looked at his wife. "It is very apparent that you thought I would not be home." He glowered at Julian as he continued. "It would also appear that I have interrupted a surreptitious assignation. I had been wondering what the two of you have been hiding."

  "Worf, what are you talking about?" Jadzia questioned. "Look, we've already had this conversation, and I told you before there's nothing going on between Julian and me."

  The Klingon stared at his wife, then with a low growl in his throat he turned and stalked out of the room, leaving an opened-mouthed Jadzia and stunned Julian behind.

  Julian struggled to get up. "I am so sorry, Jadzia. I just wanted to talk, and now Worf thinks we're. . ." He searched for the right word.

  "Having an affair," Jadzia concluded. "Of all the ridiculous notions that stubborn Klingon has ever come up with!" She was furious at the implication. Turning her attention back to Julian, Jadzia's voice softened. "Julian, you go on back home and I will go find Worf and have another talk with him. Once I settle this situation, I'll stop by and we can talk some more." She hugged the doctor and left before he had a chance to respond.

  Back in his own quarters, with Garak back at work in his shop and Rochosh with the captain, Julian had a chance to think about what had just occurred. Thinking back on the hug Dax had given him, just as the Klingon had entered the room, Julian could understand why the man had jumped to the wrong conclusion. Laughing softly, Julian automatically responded when the chime rang.

  Without turning to see who it was, Julian began to talk. "That was fast, Jadzia. Did you explain. . ." His eyes widened as he turned around to face a direly enraged Klingon standing in the middle of the room.

  "So, you were expecting Jadzia?" Worf accused.

  "Ah. . .Commander. . .I. . ." Julian's stammer worsened as he continued.

  The enormous Klingon took several menacing steps forward, as Julian took several backwards. "We were just talking, that's all. There's nothing going on, honest," Julian words flowed hastily out of his mouth, as he began sneezing uncontrollably.

  "That is not what I saw," the Klingon countered. "Do you deny trying to hide something from me?" Worf was now standing directly in front of the smaller man. Leaning forward, a low growl emanating from his throat.

  Julian gulped between sneezes, "It's. . .not. . .what. . .you're. . . thinking,. . .Commander. I. . ."

  Suddenly, the Klingon was pulled back as Julian nearly collapsed, preventing himself from doing so by grabbing hold of the back of a chair. Worf turned to face the intruder and was faced with an equally incensed Cardassian.

  "Commander, I demand to know why you are assaulting my husband?" Garak requested in a calm voice. The calmness in his voice was accentuated by his demeanor. Garak stood at his full height, neck ridges flared and icy blue eyes staring at the invader in his home.

  Worf drew himself up, the guttural noises continuing. "Your husband has been meeting covertly with my wife."

  Moving slowly, constantly facing the Klingon, Garak scrupulously placed himself between the Klingon and his anxious husband.

  "Julian, what is the commander talking about?" the Cardassian asked softly, keeping his eyes on Worf.

  "We were talking in her quarters, Jadzia just hugged me that's all. Honestly, Elim, I wouldn't lie to you," Julian stated as strongly as one could while sneezing.

  Garak smiled. "I believe you, Julian. Commander, don't you think that there's been a misunderstanding?" he asked Worf.

  Eyes glaring, Worf stepped closer. Garak remained immovable, while Julian continued to sneeze, but also did not budge.

  "I know what I saw and what I have seen," the commander retorted angrily. "While you have been incarcerated, Jadzia and this. . .your husband have been getting very close. I will not put up with this flagrant disregard for marriage vows any longer. You, Cardassian, should not be so trusting of your mate."

  Garak smiled broadly. "Why, Commander, what makes you think that it is 'my' mate who is being unfaithful?"

  Worf reached out to grab hold of Garak just as Jadzia came running into the room.

  "Worf, stop it! You don't understand what's going on," she shouted.

  The Klingon and Cardassian were locked together with Julian desperately trying to pull them apart. Dax joined in and managed to come between the two combatants. Pushing with all her might, she succeeded in separating Klingon and Cardassian. Jadzia held onto Worf as Julian moved in to take hold of Garak.

  "I said stop it!" the Trill declared once again. When the Klingon stop struggling, Jadzia released her grip. "How many times do I have to tell you there is nothing between Julian and me. When will you ever learn to trust me?!"

  Worf remained irate, staring at the grinning Cardassian and his precious mate. As Garak turned to move Julian out of the way, Worf lunged forward once again, this time propelling Julian into the back of the chair and onto the floor.

  Jadzia screamed and lambasted the Klingon, sending him over the sofa. Garak was instantly by Julian's side.

  "Don't move, Jahkim. Commander, get Dr. Slovik." Garak was soothing his husband, while checking as best he could for broken bones.

  "I'm all right," Julian asserted. "Just help me up."

  When neither Garak nor Dax moved to help him, Julian's face turned red with his own rage. "Stop treating me like some kind of doll, I said I was all right. The baby's fine, I'm fine. Just get me up!"

  Worf was standing, watching in silence as Garak and Dax helped Julian to stand. Both still checking the doctor over for any signs of bleeding, and observing his face for signs of pain.

  Once convinced that Julian was indeed all right, Jadzia turned back to her husband. "You insensitive bully. Just what do you think you're doing? Julian hasn't done anything to you."

  "You and he. . ." Worf did not get the chance to continue as Jadzia interrupted with fury.

  "Julian and I what? Are friends? Have a close bond? Yes, we are friends and we are close and there's nothing that you can ever do about that. Julian came to me for help and all you can do is accuse us of having an affair and then pick a fight? Big strong Klingon trying to fight a pregnant man." Jadzia glanced over at Julian and Garak. "I apologize for my husband's behavior."

  The Klingon stood observing Julian. "Did you say, pregnant?" he asked his wife.

  "That's right, Commander. Julian is pregnant and you almost caused him to lose our baby, a fact that I shall never forget," Garak answered instead, as he stood to face the commander. Jadzia moved to step between the two men.

  "I was not aware of his condition," Worf responded. Looking at his wife he asked, "That is what you have been hiding?"

  Dax nodded her head. "That's why I've been spending so much time with Julian. With Garak locked up in a holding cell, Julian needed someone to help out."

  The Klingon hung his head as he thought of what had happened. Then straightening his back he faced Garak and Julian once again. "I apologize for my behavior, it was not my intention to harm the child."

  "No harm done," Julian responded as Garak shook his head.

  "Come on, Worf. Let's get out of here," Jadzia encouraged her husband.

  As the two were leaving, Garak called out to Worf, "Commander, I will not forget this." The two men faced each other. Finally, Worf nodded, and quickly left.

  Garak turned back to his spouse. "Are you sure that you are fine? Should we have Dr. Slovik check you out anyway, just to be safe?" He was by Julian's side helping him back to the sofa.

  "No, I told you, Elim, I'm fine. I didn't fall that hard," Julian responded with a slight smile.

  The Cardassian pulled his spouse into a tight embrace. Julian sighed a settled in closer. They sat together with Garak holding his love and tenderly stroking Julian's back.

  "Jahkim?" Garak began.

  "Hmm?" came the muffled response.

  "Commander Dax said that you came to her for help. What kind of help?" Garak questioned the doctor while continuing to gently rub his back.

  Julian stiffened slightly, then pulled himself away from the gentle ministrations of his husband. Eyes lowered, Julian's hands began to smooth his tunic and massage his abdomen.

  "Jahkim, what is wrong?" Garak questioned again.

  The younger man looked up, tears shining in his expressive eyes. "Elim, do you love me?"

  The Cardassian sat back and stared at the doctor. "Julian, I have told you before, I do love you. Now, what is wrong?"

  Julian shook his head in bewilderment. "No, no, you don't. I can tell, you don't love me, not anymore."

  'Where is all this coming from?' Garak thought to himself. Reaching over, he once again pulled his spouse into a tight embrace. "What has gotten into you, Julian? What makes you think that I don't love you?"

  Trying to control his voice and anger, Julian responded with vexation. "It's all right, Elim, I understand. How could you still love me? Just look at me! I'm so fat I can't even see my own feet! I can't seem to do anything right. I even cry for no reason! I can understand how embarrassing I must be to a Cardassian husband. I can't even pick up my own son. . ." Unwanted tears began to flow steadily down Julian's face, as he irritably wiped them away. "See, I'm just one big mess! I don't blame you for not wanting me, it's all my own fault." He pulled away and sat back against the sofa.

  Elim Bashir-Garak gazed fondly at his young mate. Julian presented such a heart-rending portraiture, so innocent and completely unaware of the profound effect he had over the tailor. Elim almost smiled at his husband's petulant image, but refrained from doing so, instinctively knowing that it would only make matters worse.

  Leaning in closer and gently running his fingers through Julian's soft hair, Garak decided that he had to find the reason for this latest bout with self-doubt that his husband was experiencing. "Jahkim, why is it you believe I don't want you? Have I done something to make you think that?" he coaxed.

  Julian looked over at his mate, then without warning leaned in to capture the Cardassian's mouth, forcing the supple lips open with the force of his tongue. Pushing Garak back, Julian pressed his body forward, hands roaming over the tailor's chest. For an instant, Garak responded, returning the kiss and moving his own hands down Julian's back and finally possessing the taut rump.

  Abruptly, Garak gently pushed upwards, moving Julian back until they were both in a sitting position. The tailor then captured Julian's hands and kept them from any further exploration of his body, while at the same time, he forced himself to pull away from those tempting succulent lips.

  Julian reeled back as if slapped. "See! You don't want me!" he shouted hoarsely. He gingerly raised himself up from the sofa and stomped into the bedroom, where he threw open the closet doors and began pulling out his belongings.

  Garak followed his distraught spouse and casually watched as Julian began to gather his possessions in a pile. "Julian, what are you doing?" he finally asked.

  "Well, what does it look like?" Julian responded angrily. "I'm leaving, you don't want me, so why should I hang around?"

  The Cardassian walked over to his husband and took hold of his arms, compelling the younger man to sit down on the bed. Kneeling before Julian, arms wrapped around his mate's waist, Garak placed his head on the doctor's swollen stomach. He remained as such, until he felt Julian's short gasping breaths return to a more normal steady breathing.

  Raising his head, Elim spoke quietly yet firmly. "Jahkim, I have been as patient as I could be with you. Now, it is your turn to listen." His hold around Julian's waist tightened as the young man began to squirm.

  "First, since when does my loving you depend only on whether we have sex? Julian Garak-Bashir, for having an enhanced intelligence, you can be so slow at times! Haven't you gotten it into your head yet, that 'you' are the most important thing in my life? Do you realize just how difficult it is for me to deny myself the pleasure of your body? You certainly have not made it easy." Garak moved to sit on the edge of the bed, continuing to hold Julian about his waist.

  "It has been two long months, my dear husband. I want you so much, but for me to take you now, I am afraid that I would lose control and cause some damage to you and our daughter. I cannot allow that to happen. I would never forgive myself if I were to hurt you in any way. Can you understand what I am saying?" Garak's eyes searched the younger man's face.

  Julian's anger towards his lover was slowly dissipating. He nodded his head as the words failed to come.

  "You are so tempting, my Jahkim. Your exotic beauty so enticing that it is very difficult for me to even talk about it without arousing certain feelings." He glanced surreptitiously at the developing bulge in his pants.

  Finding his voice, Julian spoke slowly, lest his emotions take over once again. "Elim, I am perfectly capable of letting you know if you're causing me any pain. I am a doctor and I know what I am capable of and what I am not capable of even during a pregnancy. Trust me." Forming a very seductive pout on his lips, Julian leaned into his husband's body. "As you have said, it has been two 'long' months, and 'your' exotic beauty is 'so' enticing to me." His hand found Elim's swelling organ and he gave a hard squeeze for emphasis.

  "Julian. . ." Garak began in his warning voice.

  "Where's my adventurous husband? Come on, Elim, I can take anything you've got and match it." Julian smiled as he began licking and sucking on the Cardassian's neck ridges. Nuzzling even closer Julian started to open Garak's tunic.

  "Julian, I don't know if I can control . . ." Garak started to say as his lover captured his mouth in a long and tender kiss.

  Breaking apart for air, Julian replied in a husky voice, "If I were you, I'd be more concerned about whether 'I' can control myself." With a triumphant laugh he pushed his husband further down onto the bed, and straddled him. Garak could feel the baby move as Julian laid on top of him.

  "Are you sure this is safe for the baby?" Garak managed to get out between the onslaught of kisses Julian was applying to his lips.

  "Mmm, yes," came the muffled reply as Julian began to move his mouth over the tailor's neck.

  "Well, in that case," Garak responded, as he grabbed hold of Julian's waist and gently flipped the young man over onto his back. Raising up to avoid Julian's stomach, Garak leaned in for his own assault on Julian's body.

  Julian was writhing and moaning in pleasure when Garak suddenly stopped and released the Terran.

  "No! Not again!" Julian lamented. Then he stopped as he realized why Garak had ceased.

  "Jayta! Daddy!" the familiar voice of their young son called out from the other room.

  "We're back," the captain added.

  Garak helped Julian up off the bed as both men hurried to straighten their clothes and regain control of their bodies. Fortunately, Garak had made Julian's tunic long and big and it was able to hide the telltale signs of his passion. Elim stood behind Julian as Rochosh came running in. "We'll continue this later," he whispered into Julian's ear.

  Later on that night, after making sure Rochosh was tucked in soundly, Julian laid in bed, waiting for Elim to finish taking his shower. He had just closed his eyes and started to drift off to sleep before he felt the bed shift and move. Julian kept still and quiet as he felt Garak curl up behind him, pulling him into his chest. The younger man laid listening to his mate's steady breathing, feeling it on the nape of his neck. As Julian waited patiently in the comfort of Elim's arms, he started to wonder if tonight would end as the last three had, wondered if the tailor might have forgotten his promise of earlier.

  A mixture of disappointment and hurt was starting to encompass him when Elim whispered, "Julian, are you asleep yet?"

  "No," Julian whispered in return.

  "Turn around here," Elim whispered huskily.

  Julian did so, and even in the dim lights, Elim could still read his mate's eyes. They continued to be filled with vulnerability and uncertainty.

  Garak brought his fingers up to caress Julian's cheek. "You know, I still don't understand how you could have doubts about my affection for you."

  Julian closed his eyes and rubbed against the warm gray hand. "I know I really shouldn't, you've never given me any reason, but I can't help it sometimes. With the baby, your arrest. . ." Julian's words trailed off and Garak leaned in to brush his lips across the younger man's.

  "I understand completely," Elim told him. "You might not believe this now, but I was going through similar feelings when I was carrying Rochosh."

  "You were?" Julian asked in surprise, his eyes searching Garak's.

  "Of course, with the changes my body was going through, and the problems you were having to deal with, let's just say that I didn't feel at my most attractive state," the tailor informed him.

  "You never said anything," Julian stated simply. That wasn't a complete surprise, as he knew that at times his spouse could still be very secretive when he chose to be.

  "I know, and that's why I should have realized how you might have perceived my actions the last couple of days," Garak replied, and leaned in for another kiss.

  After the kiss was broken, he continued, "You see though, don't you, that there's absolutely nothing wrong with you." Garak's hand traveled over the bare skin of Julian's chest, lightly stroking with his fingertips. "You are as sexy to me as the first day I laid eyes on you in Quark's." He emphasized his point with another slow, lingering kiss. "It's just that if anything happened to our daughter because of something I inadvertently did to you, I wouldn't be able to live with myself."

  Julian started caressing the tailor's neck and back, kneading it with his fingers. "Well, I won't deny that I've given you cause to worry on several different occasions, a couple of which scared me too, but I think our little girl is going to be just fine," he assured the Cardassian, startled at the fact that 'he' was starting to believe it himself.

  "Is that the opinion of Starfleet's most brilliant and attractive doctor or my husband?" Garak asked with a teasing smile.

  "Both," Julian replied, leaning in for another taste of soft gray lips.

  After he broke the kiss, Julian asked, "Elim. . .what exactly 'did' attract you to me that first day?"

  "Hmm, let's see, that's a rather difficult question." The Cardassian pretended to pause and think it over. "Perhaps it was when I first looked into those eyes of yours." Saying that, Garak placed butterfly kisses on each of the doctor's eyelids. "Or maybe it was that mouth of yours that liked to talk so much." Garak leaned in and kissed Julian soundly, letting his tongue taste all of the hollows and nooks inside. "It could have even been your pleasing voice," he said after breaking the kiss, moving his lips to the secret place behind Julian's ear that sent shivers down the doctor's back. As that voice let out a small helpless moan, Garak smiled and moved down the slender neck.

  "Actually though," Garak replied against the tender flesh, his hands sliding down to cover and squeeze Julian's rear." I believe it was the whole package that won me over."

  Julian's hands came down to run over the Cardassian's muscular thighs. "Elim?"

  "Hmm?" the tailor murmured as he gently pushed Julian onto his back so he could continue his kissing and nibbling down the younger man's chest.

  "Prove it."

  Garak looked up to meet shining umber eyes and an impish smile, which he met and matched. "Why my dear Doctor, I do believe I was just given a challenge." As he spoke, Garak leaned over and moved his hips ever so slightly so that his hard need was rubbed against it's Human counterpart.

  Julian moaned softly. "One you feel up to accepting?" he asked, his voice becoming ethereal with growing anticipation.

  "What do you think?" Garak replied huskily, and moved to cover those soft lips once again.

  He continued kissing Julian so long and so hard that he left the doctor gasping for breath before returning to the younger man's chest to slowly suck and nip at the taut nipples, turning Julian's gasps into restless groaning. Julian's fingers tangled in Garak's thick hair as he held the mouth to the small pert peaks that hardened in the cool air as the Cardassian's mouth moved from one to the other and back again.

  Garak began kissing and licking down the fine trail that led from the center of the doctor's sternum, down the middle of his stomach, which he lovingly rubbed, and down further. Slowly he continued homing in on the aching need between the younger man's thighs, the aching need that grew under his caressing of it's owner's body, that arched for him, beckoning his touch, just as his member did for Julian's.

  With a steadfast resolve he wasn't aware he still possessed, he ignored the tempting delight, opting instead to run the palms of his hands in between Julian's knees, spreading his legs wide. Slowly, his lips ran the length of one leg up to the crease of a soft, golden, inner thigh before repeating the journey on the opposite leg. Julian moved restlessly, trying to get that mouth closer to the part of him that needed it most. A strong gray hand gently kneaded the soft sac of Julian's ballocks. Julian's head was bent back as he squirmed against the firm pleasure. Just before Garak could lower his mouth over Julian's firm, hot organ, he felt Julian's hands on his shoulders stopping him.

  "What is it?" the tailor asked, wondering with curiosity as to why he was stopped when he was so close to what he thought would please his spouse.

  "I want to taste you too," Julian replied in a soft, seductive voice. The very sound of Julian's voice and the images he was conjuring caused a deep stirring that went straight to Garak's groin.

  Obliging his mate willingly, he turned on the bed so that they were adjusted head to tail. Garak gasped as Julian wasted no time taking his hard, dark need into his wet, welcoming mouth. Garak moaned, realizing just how long those two months apart had been. His senses reeled with the feeling of that sweet, warm mouth surrounding him, the agile tongue that swiveled and swirled around the thick head and shaft. Julian looked on with satisfaction as Elim became so absorbed that he momentarily forgot his own desire to please the doctor. Julian didn't mind, as he loved watching the expression of joy and delight that played over his spouse's handsome features.

  Long, hard sucking interchanged with teasing kisses and licks soon had Garak writhing and squirming under the pressure of that delightful mouth. His hips twisted and moved as his hands combed through Julian's chestnut hair. As he felt the familiar growth of heat and desire pulsing through the very core of his body, the tailor knew that it would not take long before the peak was met and he wasn't quite ready for that to happen yet. With great effort, he managed to pull away from the capable warm, mouth, ignoring the pleading and need from his body for the moment.

  Julian looked at him curiously for a moment before Garak sat up, dug into the draw of the nightstand and produced the vial of lubricant they often used. Julian, also now on his knees, took the vial from him and moved in as close as his stomach would allow him, and began sensually rubbing the cool gel over the heated, erect member of his mate that was nearly turned black in arousal. Garak moaned low in his throat as his eyes closed and his head tilted back, just allowing himself to enjoy the nimble fingers that were stroking him, occasionally slipping down to cradle the tight sac of his scrotum.

  As he kept up the gentle manipulation, Julian leaned into Garak to give him a slow and languid kiss, meshing the soft, pliable lips with his own.

  "How do you want me?" the younger man asked with a raspy voice, after breaking for air, his body moving as to rub their groins together lightly in a teasing touch.

  Garak made a noise that was a mixture of a groan and a growl. His hands ran the length of Julian's supple back and down to take ownership of the taut, firm rear. A gray finger covered with the slippery gel found it's way down the crevice of Julian's rear to the opening of his body. The younger man wasn't able to suppress the shiver that ran the length of him.

  Releasing his younger mate, Garak answered the question by lying down on the bed on his side and reaching up to carefully pull Julian to where his back was pressed against the tailor's chest. Garak's hands roamed freely over Julian's chest, massaging the muscles, teasing the tips of his nipples with the pad of his thumb as his leg shifted Julian's. Julian moved willingly, allowing for easier access to his body's opening. Feeling the tip of Elim's member pressed firmly against it, Julian held his breath until he finally felt the ridged length enter him quickly and with ease then he pushed back to help. Julian let out a soft groan as he felt filled beyond satisfaction, basking in the pleasure of every recess being occupied by his lover's body. It had indeed been 'way' too long!

  Garak started a slow and gentle undulation of his hips, feeling himself sinking deeper and deeper into the warmth that his body ached so much for. How could Julian have ever thought he didn't want this? Had he no idea how glorious his body felt? How he could still get intoxicated by the touch, the scent, the feelings that represented nirvana for him? How could he not want to perform these sweet acts that went so much further in expressing his feelings than words ever could.

  Garak thrust with slow, easy strokes inside of Julian, wanting this to last as long as he could make it. His hand stole forward and started caressing Julian's still erect member, the weeping tip causing it to become slick in his hand. He gently started pumping the hard organ in a mimic of the slow pumping he was doing into Julian's body. Julian arched back and forth, trying to meet each force that was giving him pleasure. Julian moaned as Garak nibbled and sucked at the base of his neck, his rhythm slowly starting to take on a quicker pace.

  Faster and faster Garak's hips drove into Julian, his younger mate striving to match the increasing pace with ease. Garak was trying desperately to keep his desire in rein--afraid of his own lack of control, but with Julian's vocal encouraging and the fact that he had been denied his mate's delectable body, he felt his control faltering quickly. As Garak felt his body starting to tense up, he increased his vigorous pumping on Julian's member as well as the pumping of his hips. He fought against his own body until he felt Julian's body becoming strained as well. Quicker and quicker his hand glided over Julian's pulsing, sex, and as soon as he heard the sweet sound of Julian calling out in ecstasy, he let his own control loose, his hot seed filling and spilling from Julian's body just as Julian's hot essence spilled forth over his fingers and onto the cover beneath them.

  As they drifted slowly back to reality together, Julian held Garak's arms tightly against him, not wanting to move for any reason whatsoever. Garak didn't want to move either, completely satisfied staying right where he was, still enjoying being surrounded by his lover's warmth, and felt regret when his spent member finally slipped out from it's safe haven.

  With a slight groan, Garak moved to remove the damp sheet from underneath them, using it to gently clean Julian off, as well as himself, before tossing it to the floor at the foot of their bed. He then pulled the heavier blanket up over them, and settled back down and wrapped his arms lightly around Julian's abdomen. He felt such a sense of serenity as he felt the baby. . .their baby move and settle within his mate.

  "Elim," There was sleepiness in his spouse's voice.

  "Hmm," he replied.

  "I've missed you," Julian replied softly and turned over to his other side to wrap his own arms more securely around the Cardassian.

  "I've missed you too, Jahkim," Garak replied in the same hushed voice, "and I hope nothing keeps me from you again."

  Pulling Julian against him even tighter, he stroked the doctor's back lazily until they both fell asleep. *****

  Garak had been home for almost two weeks and slowly he and Julian were preparing for the arrival of their daughter. They had just brought out of storage the beautifully hand-carved crib that had been in the Bashir family for generations.

  "I don't know," Julian was saying thoughtfully. "How about moving it slightly more to the left, we wouldn't want the light from the other room to shine in on her face."

  Garak grunted softly as he moved the crib into its new position, for what seemed like the hundredth time. "Are you sure now, Julian?" he questioned, wiping the sweat from his face.

  "Yes, yes, it's perfect now. You know, I would have been glad to help you. . ." Julian started.

  "Then I would have had to be carrying you back into bed," the Cardassian interrupted.

  "Hmmm, would that have been so bad?" Julian remarked with a twinkle in his eyes.

  "Jahkim, you are incorrigible!" Garak responded as he pulled his young pregnant spouse into a warm embrace. Looking about the room, Elim continued, "It's getting a bit crowded in here."

  Julian pulled slightly away from his husband to take a look around. "Yes, but it will have to do for now."

  "Jayta? Daddy? What that?" Rochosh had came into the room followed by his grandmother.

  "Back so soon?" Julian asked his mother as she gave him a hug.

  "I have some errands I need to get done. But if you and Elim are too busy, I could keep Rochosh a little longer, Jules," Amsha replied.

  "That's all right, Mother. We need to have a talk with Rochosh anyway." Julian looked at Elim meaningfully before continuing. "With all that was happening, I just didn't know how to go about helping him get ready for the baby. It's time we took care of it."

  "I'm sure the two of you will prepare him just fine. He's really a very understanding young boy." Amsha reached out to her grandson, "Rochosh come give Yanna a kiss goodbye." The little boy ran over to his grandmother pressing a wet kiss to her cheek while giving her a big hug.

  "Yanna see Rochosh tomorrow?" he asked her.

  "Yes, darling, tomorrow." Amsha stood from her stooped position to give her son and son-in-law a kiss goodbye. She then left the room.

  "Jayta? What that?" Rochosh asked again, this time pointing to the crib.

  "That's the baby's bed," Garak replied.

  "Baby brother sleep with Rochosh? Rochosh happy!" He ran over to the crib and began to inspect it with his eyes and small hands.

  "Julian, didn't you tell him?" Garak asked his mate.

  "I wanted both of us to tell him," Julian responded quietly.

  Scooping his son into his arms and grabbing Julian by the hand, Garak led his family out into the other room. Settling them on the sofa, with Julian at his side and Rochosh on his lap, Elim smiled as he started talking.

  "Rochosh, your Daddy and I have something to tell you. You already know that Daddy is having a baby, but there is something that you do not understand." Garak looked down into his son's huge eyes.

  "Jayta help Rochosh understand?" the boy inquired.

  "Yes, Jayta and Daddy will help you understand," Garak responded looking back at Julian with a slight tilt of his head.

  Julian took his cue, and reached out to take his son's little hand into his own. "Rochosh, Daddy is going to have a baby girl. Soon you will have a little sister to play with."

  The boy looked from one parent to the other. "Rochosh no want little sister," he stated firmly. "Rochosh want baby brother."

  Garak gave his son a hug. "Rochosh, your Daddy and I need you, we need you to help us take care of your baby sister. Can you do that for us?"

  Looking up at his Jayta, the younger Bashir-Garak's lower lip pushed out to form a pout. "Rochosh want baby brother to play with," he stated again a bit more firmly.

  "Darling, we don't have a choice," Julian started. "Rochosh, we are going to have a baby girl. You can play with a baby sister. Your Jayta and I are very happy and we want you to be happy with us."

  Slowly, Rochosh leaned forward towards his daddy. Reaching down and patting Julian's stomach, Rochosh asked "Baby sister in Daddy's tummy?"

  "Yes, Rochosh," Garak answered, as Julian had suddenly leaned back into the sofa.

  "Daddy okay?" the little boy asked worriedly.

  Smiling, Julian took hold of his son's hand once again and placed it on his abdomen. Rochosh's eyes grew large and he took in a deep breath, as his mouth opened wide.

  "What move, Daddy?" he asked in wonder.

  Garak placed his larger hand over that of his son's. "That's your baby sister," he answered.

  The baby took that time to produce a well placed kick. "Baby sister hurt Daddy?"

  "Oh no, sweetheart," Julian answered swiftly. "She's just getting anxious to meet her big brother."

  "Rochosh big brother?" the boy asked. He smiled broadly as both parents answered affirmatively. "Rochosh like to be big brother."

  He then leaned back into his older fathers embrace. Looking into Garak's eyes, he added in a serious tone of voice, "Rochosh help Jayta and Daddy take care of baby sister."

  Both Julian and Garak smiled and each kissed the boy.

  After a few minutes, Rochosh looked up at his father. "Jayta?"

  "Yes, Rochosh," the tailor responded.

  "Next time you put baby in Daddy's tummy, you put baby brother in there for Rochosh, okay?" His voice was solemn and his expression serious.

  "I will try, Rochosh," Garak responded with equal seriousness.

  Julian smiled and shook his head. "Elim, you and I are going to have to think of a way to explain things better," he said. Then carefully lifting himself into a standing position, the doctor continued, "For right now, though, we have a room to get straightened up." He headed back towards the children's bedroom.

  Garak gave his son a hug, still holding Rochosh, the Cardassian stood and also headed towards the bedroom. "It's back to work, Rochosh. Daddy just doesn't know when to slow down, does he?"

  The little boy giggled before he replied. "I help too, then Daddy no have to work so hard."

  As soon as he was set down, the small lad was off to his toy chest. While his parents were busy setting up the changing table, he quickly picked up all his toys and was placing them neatly into the chest. When he had finished, Rochosh closed the lid and began to slowly push the chest away from the baby's crib and more towards his own bed.

  "There, now have room for baby sister's toys," the boy announced. He took a long look around the room. "Baby sister take lot of room," he pouted. "I sleep with Daddy and Jayta," he suggested.

  Garak sat on the side of his son's bed and pulled the boy over to him. "You have your own bed to sleep in, Rochosh," he gently cautioned.

  "Sleep with Daddy when Jayta gone," the boy contested.

  Garak glanced at Julian who was standing by the changing table with a slight smile on his lips. "Not all the time, just when he was upset," the younger father responded.

  Gazing down at his little boy, Garak spoke in a gentle, yet firm voice. "Yes, but now Jayta is back and you, young man, must sleep in your own bed. Besides we need you to let us know if your baby sister wants anything."

  Rochosh pondered his fathers words. Even at his tender years, he knew there was no getting around this particular request. "Okay, Jayta. I sleep in my bed, and watch baby sister." After hugging his father, the boy was back at the toy chest, this time pulling out his favorite toys.

  The tailor rose from the small bed, and was back helping his husband, when the little boy called out. "Jayta? Daddy? What name little sister?"

  Julian looked at Rochosh, then at Elim with a slight shrug. "I don't know yet, sweetheart. Daddy needs to talk with your Jayta about that." He glanced down at his hands as he felt Garak's stare.

  "Jahkim, did you not have any suggestions?" the Cardassian responded. "Surely you must have some idea."

  "Well, yes, but I wanted to talk it over with you. She is your daughter also," Julian answered quickly.

  Having already tired of the conversation, Rochosh turned his attention back to his toys. From experience, he knew his daddy and Jayta would be talking for a while.

  Now both parents sat on the little bed. Julian began to make circular motions with his hands as he rubbed his abdomen. Garak placed an arm around the younger man's shoulders, waiting patiently for Julian to speak.

  "I was thinking of naming her after my mother," Julian began. "But then, you might want to name her after your mother," he added.

  Garak gently squeezed the doctor's shoulders. "Julian, while the names Amsha and Mila are beautiful, I just didn't envision our daughter with either of those names. I had hoped for something unique, as I am sure she will be."

  Julian was nodding his head in agreement. "I'm afraid that I just don't have much experience with female names," he stated. Then with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes he added, "Unless you want me to name her after an old girlfriend?" He could barely keep the smile from his lips and the chuckling from his voice. "Leeta Bashir-Garak, now that's unique. Or I suppose we could try Jadzia or how about Nerys?" By this time, Julian was giggling uncontrollably.

  Garak sat next to his husband, trying to keep a serious face, but he too was soon laughing.

  Rochosh came over to his parents, "What funny, Daddy? Jayta?" When neither father could respond, the little boy just joined in the laughter and went back to play.

  "Julian!" Garak chastised, as he regained his composure. "That was not what I meant, and you know it!" He pulled his spouse into an embrace. "While I love the name, Mila--that is my mothers name. I have always liked her middle name "Jatara" it means "gift of love" in Cardassian."

  Julian sobered quickly. "Elim, that's a beautiful name for our daughter. My mothers middle name is 'Jynell' I don't know what it means, but it is a beautiful name. 'Jatara Jynell Bashir-Garak'" Julian spoke the name slowly, letting the words roll off his tongue. As he said the name, he glanced at Elim. He didn't want to spoil the Cardassian's suggestion, but somehow, he didn't care for the sound of this name for his daughter.

  Elim listened as Julian, in his beautiful lilting accented voice, said the name of their daughter. He frowned slightly, it just didn't sound right to him. "Jahkim, for some reason, the name just doesn't fit," he said cautiously, not wanting to upset his pregnant mate.

  Instead of being disturbed by what was said, Julian just smiled. "I was thinking the same thing, something's just not right." He repeated the name several times. "It just doesn't. . .doesn't 'flow' right," Julian replied.

  After a few more minutes in contemplation, Julian then said, "Jynell Jatara Bashir-Garak, that's it, Elim! Jynell Jatara Bashir-Garak." The pregnant man hugged his husband in joy.

  For his part, Garak repeated the name to himself, then formed another frown. "Julian, you are the one carrying this child, the baby should carry your name."

  "She does, Bashir-Garak," Julian answered.

  "No, Jahkim--I meant that the baby should be named Garak- Bashir," Elim replied. "She should be named 'Jynell Jatara Garak- Bashir,' that is what I think and what I desire," he continued.

  Julian stared lovingly at his husband. The Cardassian never ceased to surprise him, even after all of these years together. With a nod and a smile, Julian indicated his approval of the suggestion.

  They sat together entwined in each others arms watching their firstborn play, looking forward to the newest addition to their family, Jynell Jatara Garak-Bashir.

  Later that night, in the early hours of the next day, Julian slipped out of the comforting embrace of his spouse and padded softly into the living area. Settling himself on the sofa, wrapped in a warm quilt, Julian began to eat the snack he had replicated for himself. Funny he had never cared much for gelatin before, but now he craved it almost constantly. Savoring the rich lime flavored gelatin mixed with onions, he took another bite of the sour dill pickle he had also replicated.

  "Julian, whatever are you eating?" the tailor's question interrupted the solitude Julian had been enjoying.

  "I just had a craving for some lime gelatin, want some?" the young man inquired.

  "What is that?" Garak asked indicating the pickle. "Great Gul, Julian no wonder you kept throwing up if you were sneaking out here to eat that stuff." The Cardassian released a shudder at the thought of what his beloved mate was putting into his stomach, and nourishing their daughter with.

  "I didn't sneak out here," Julian protested. "Besides you used to eat that Yergish pie with Yamok sauce all the time!" This time the doctor shuddered.

  Garak sat next to his husband on the sofa and gently removed the bowl and the pickle from Julian's hands.

  "I'm still hungry," Julian insisted.

  Rising from his seat and carrying the offensive food with him, Elim soon returned and handed his beloved a tall glass of milk and a plate of cookies. Julian's eyes lit up and he smiled brightly. Garak laughed inwardly as he remembered that old Terran saying, Sisko was so often repeating, "Like father, like son."

  Soon Julian shifted a little closer to his spouse and rested his head on Garak's chest, while nibbling on his cookies. Elim put a strong arm around Julian and was content to sit there holding his Jahkim in silence.

  "Mmm, this is nice," Julian whispered. Finishing his snack he cuddled even closer to the sturdy Cardassian body. He lifted his legs up onto the sofa and carefully twisted around until his head laid on Garak's lap.

  Gently running one hand through his love's soft hair and the other hand massaging Julian's distended abdomen, Elim leaned down for a kiss. "I love you, Jahkim," he spoke quietly against the soft pliant lips.

  Bringing his own arms up and around the Cardassian's corded neck, Julian murmured in return, "I love you too, Elim." The kiss was long and tender, and soon both men were left breathless.

  Raising himself up slightly as Garak supported his back, Julian moved into a more comfortable position. "This is one thing about being pregnant that really irks me," he said abruptly.

  "What's that?" Garak asked.

  "I can't get comfortable, something always hurts, or I can't move my body into the right position, my stomach gets in the way, my legs swell. Oh I could go on and on," Julian added dryly.

  Garak smiled, remembering his own difficulties when he was pregnant three years ago with Rochosh. He lifted Julian into a sitting position across his lap, and encircled the doctor's body with his arms. "Better?" he asked.

  "Much," Julian replied, leaning his head against Elim's shoulder.

  "Jahkim, have you given any thought to the Naming Ceremony for Jynell?" Garak tenderly hugged the younger man.

  The doctor reddened. "Well, I was. . ."

  ". . .waiting for you," they both finished in unison.

  "Julian, what would you have done, if I was still incarcerated?" Garak asked solemnly.

  The pregnant man shrugged his shoulders. "I guess we'd be having this conversation in your holding cell," he responded.

  Garak kissed the pouting lips and ruffled the soft mahogany hair. Shaking his head, he smiled at his procrastinating husband.

  Julian returned the smile, and then continued on with the discussion. "So who do you want for Jynell's Dehara?"

  The Cardassian thought for a moment, 'Who would be a good female role model for my daughter. Commander Dax is already the Dehara to Rochosh, I can't ask her again.' Then he smiled as he remembered. "Ah, Jahkim. If I recall, it was I who chose the Dehara last time, it is now your turn to chose the Dehara. I will choose the male protector, Jynell's Dahora."

  The doctor stared at his husband. "Can't think of anyone, huh? All right, let me think. Jadzia is already Rochosh's Dehara, so that leaves her out. Let's see who's left."

  One by one the young man rattled off names of the females he and Garak were both acquainted with. Julian had to laugh at the facial expressions from his spouse as certain names were mentioned.

  "So what do you think, which one?" Julian questioned.

  "As I have already stated, I will not make that decision, Jahkim. Choosing the Dehara is to be your choice." Inwardly, Garak hoped desperately that his mate would not choose that former Dabo girl and ex-girlfriend, Leeta. He had no desire to explain her relationship to Julian someday to his daughter.

  Julian could recognize the reservations Garak was withholding. He had gone through a similar routine when he had to choose Rochosh's Dahora several years ago. He felt confident that he knew what his husband was thinking.

  "I can narrow it down to two," the doctor finally responded. "Jabara or Kira." He watched Garak's face for any signs of doubt. Both women were Bajoran, it would be a very embarrassing situation if he chose one of them and Elim was not accepting of her.

  Sensing no antagonism, Julian continued. "Personally, I am leaning towards Nerys. She is your Bonding Patron and she has been such a wonderful help with Rochosh. Is it all right with you if I choose Kira?" He waited with uneasiness as his Cardassian husband considered the option.

  Garak smiled and pulled Julian in for another hug. "The major is an excellent choice, Jahkim. She will be perfect."

  Julian relaxed his tense muscles. "All right, your turn. Who will you choose for the Dahora?"

  The Cardassian pondered the question in silence for a moment. "I have no doubt that Jynell will have all of her "uncles" looking after her. In essence they will all be her Dahoras. However, there is one man with whom I have just recently realized his importance to our family. You might even say that without him, we would have no family."

  The doctor raised his eyebrows in question. "I don't understand, Elim, there's really only a few choices, Miles, Worf, and Odo. I can't think of how any of them have been so instrumental in our family."

  Once again, Elim hugged his spouse. "I mean Doctor Slovik."

  Raising himself up a little higher on Garak's lap, Julian looked at his mate in surprise. "Slovik? I never thought of him, and you're right without him we would have lost you and Rochosh. Yes, he is an excellent choice. Do you think he will accept?"

  Garak thought back to the strange conversation he and Slovik had while he was in the holding cell. "Oh yes, Jahkim. I do believe that he will accept and take his role very seriously. Our children are very fortunate to have so many cultures to influence their lives."

  "Then it's settled, tomorrow we'll speak with Kira and Dr. Slovik." Julian leaned back against his husband's broad chest. Within minutes, the young man had fallen asleep.

  Caressing his mate's back and arms, Garak sat for a while longer, enjoying the moment. He was holding in his arms the most precious treasure he could have ever hoped for. This Terran who had captured his heart so many years ago and for whom he would gladly imprison his heart over and over again. Kissing his sleeping husband's forehead, Garak carefully rose from the sofa, his precious love still in his arms. Ever vigilant of Julian's well-being, he carried the younger man back to bed. *****

  Amsha had received a message from Jules that he wanted to talk to her. Knowing full well that he probably wanted to discuss Richard and her plans of divorcing, she prepared herself to set him straight once and for all. She loved her son dearly and was pleased that Elim was once again back home where he belonged, but the circumstances between her and Richard had not changed and the sooner Jules came to terms with it, the quicker he could start to adjust to it. Lifting her hand to the control pad, she sounded the door chime.

  "Come in," she heard her son say as the door opened with a swoosh.

  She saw Jules sitting on the sofa, and as she suspected, right next to him was Richard. "Hello, son, you wanted to see me?" She figured it would be better to go ahead and get it over with at the beginning rather than drawing it out.

  "Yes, Mother, I was hoping I could convince you and father to sit down and talk about your differences instead of continuously avoiding each other," Julian replied.

  Amsha took a seat on the sofa next to her son. Taking his hands in hers, she looked him deeply in the eyes. "Son, I know this is hard to accept, but your father and I have already said everything to each other that needs to be said."

  "I don't believe that," Julian told her. "I still think the two of you have a lot left to say to each other if you'd only be willing to listen."

  "Please try to understand, honey. . ." Amsha began, but didn't get very far.

  "No, I'm tired of trying to understand. This nonsense has gone on for too long." Julian got up with difficulty from the sofa and began pacing the floor. "As long as I can remember, the two of you have always loved each other. Sure, there have been difficult times. . .I could always hear the arguments even when you sent me to my room, but you always made up. I refuse to think that you'd ever give up on one another."

  Amsha watched as a flush crept up into Julian's face. "Darling, please come sit down. Don't get yourself worked up like this."

  "Don't get worked up? You're talking about destroying my family and you tell me not to get worked up." Julian shook his head as he continued pacing. "I just did get Elim back. Do you know how much that scared me to think about watching him spend the rest of his life in prison? With all the hard work that I put into getting this family back together again, I'm not about let the two of you take it away from me again because you can't resolve your differences."

  Richard noticed beads of sweat breaking out on Julian's forehead. "Jules, maybe your mother's right, we can talk about this after you sit down."

  "No, I'm not finished yet," Julian remarked, not deterred from his train of thought. "Maybe it sounds like I'm being selfish in wanting this. If so, so be it, but I don't think it's selfish to want a complete family. Since Rochosh was born and since I've started carrying this little one. . ." A small smile formed on Julian's lips as his hands rubbed his protruding stomach. ". . .I've come to realize how important family is." Julian's eyes sought out his fathers. "Dad, you and I really only have started to become closer over the last couple of years." His eyes shifted to his mother. "Mom, you know how important you and Dad are to Elim too. He needs you as much as I do."

  "Honey, you know that if your father and I separate, that isn't going to mean that we will treat you, Elim, or Rochosh any differently. We both still love all of you very much and nothing is going to change that," Amsha said reasonably.

  "But Mother, can't you see that it would change things? That it would. . ." Julian's voice trailed off as his face suddenly drained of color and his eyes grew huge.

  "Sweetheart, what is it?" Amsha asked as she and Richard both stood up at the same time. Suddenly, Julian's arms tightened around his stomach and he let out a huge moan of pain.

  "Oh GOD!! It hurts, it hurts," Julian cried out.

  "What's wrong son?" Richard asked, coming to stand by his son and take him by the arms as Julian grasped his hand and squeezed it with nearly bone breaking force as another pain seared through him.

  "Stomach. . .hurts," Julian panted. "Something's wrong. . .with the baby. . ." Amsha could see the pain and fear in her little boy's eyes.

  "Richard, call for Dr. Slovik and Elim," Amsha ordered as she pried her baby boy's hand off of Richard's. Richard started to put through a voice transmission as Amsha guided Julian to the bedroom. She helped Julian on to the bed and took his hand in hers.

  "It's going to be okay sweetheart, your father is getting Elim and Dr. Slovik right now," she said soothingly as her hand stroked his sweat soaked hair.

  Tears pooled in his hazel eyes. "I'm scared, Mother, I know something's wrong. . .I don't want to lose this baby. . .I can't lose this baby."

  "Sshhh, I know you're scared but it will be okay, sweetheart. Dr. Slovik is a wonderful doctor and he's not going to let anything happen to you or your baby," she said soothingly.

  "This baby means so much to me and Elim, and I. . ." Julian couldn't go on over the choked sobs that were trapping his voice.

  Amsha sat down on the bed and took him in her arms and held him tightly as he cried. She silently prayed that her baby boy and his child were being watched over and protected, and wishing fervently that Elim and Slovik would show up soon.

  "They're both on their way," Richard said as he entered the room. Taking a seat on the other side of Julian, Richard gave his son a gentle hug and rubbed his shoulders as Amsha continued to hold him. "Don't worry, Son, the baby is going to be just fine. She's going to be a fighter, just like her fathers and brother." Even as he spoke the words that were meant to be comforting, Richard's dark brown eyes reflected the fear and concern he saw in his wife's eyes.

  Within minutes, both Slovik and Elim came rushing into the room. Amsha let out a sigh of relief when she saw the two men.

  "Jahkim, what happened?" the tailor asked, taking Amsha's place on the bed.

  "Something's wrong with the baby, Elim, my stomach started cramping badly," Julian told him as he took his hand. Garak kissed him on the forehead as Slovik ran a medical tricorder over Julian.

  "Mrs. Bashir, could you and Mr. Bashir please wait in the other room while I see to Dr. Garak-Bashir's medical problem?" Slovik requested of her. Richard nodded his agreement. Giving his son a kiss on his cheek before leaving his son in the care of the Vulcan doctor.

  Now that Elim was with him, Amsha felt confident that Jules would be taken care of, and not wanting to be in the doctor's way, she agreed as well. Coming up beside the bed, Amsha spoke to her son. "Darling, I'll be right outside if you need me. Right now you're in good hands." She gave an encouraging smile to her son-in-law before leaving.

  She walked into the living room where Richard was staring out the viewport. "Do you think he'll be all right?" he asked when he heard her approach.

  "He should be fine now that Elim and Dr. Slovik are there to take care of him," Amsha answered.

  "This is all your fault you know," Richard said, turning to meet her eyes.

  Amsha's eyes grew large and angry. "My fault? And just how do you suppose that?" she demanded.

  "It's your fault because you're insisting on causing stress in the family and it's having a bad effect on Jules," Richard stated simply.

  Amsha wanted to laugh in his face. She tried hard to suppress her rising anger. "Did you stop to think that there wouldn't have been any stress to contend with if it wasn't for you?"

  "Don't try to blame this all on me, Amsha, I've tried talking to you about this, but you're too stubborn to listen!" Richard replied, his voice growing louder.

  "'I'm' being stubborn? If you had just sat down and talked with me when I wanted to, this never would have happened!" she threw back.

  "I tried talking to you, but you stormed out before I had the chance and now you won't listen to reason," Richard responded.

  "What reason could you possibly have for having an affair?" Amsha questioned, angry tears threatened to come forth.

  Richard stared at his wife for a long moment before saying anything. "Is that what this is all about?" he asked quietly.

  "What else would it be about?" she questioned. "If you want to go to someone younger and prettier, then that's your right, but don't go pretending that it's something else. At least be honest with yourself if no one else." She turned her back on him as the tears started falling heavily.

  Richard walked up to her and placed his hands on her shoulders. She tried to shrug away from him, but he held tight. Turning her around, he pulled her against his chest. "Sweetheart, is that really what you've been thinking all this time?" She didn't answer him, only sobbed against his chest. He put a hand on her chin and forced her to meet his eyes. "After over forty wonderful years together, do you actually think any one else is capable of turning my head?" She tried to look down, but he wouldn't let her. "Don't you know by now that you're the only woman I've ever loved? I'm not capable of loving anyone else."

  "Then why do you go to her then?" Amsha asked through ragged sobs.

  "Who darling?" Richard asked as his thumbs brushed away her tears.

  "You know very well 'who', that partner of yours, that's who!" she replied, her voice filled with resentment.

  Richard led her over to the sofa and pulled her to sit down with him. "I've told you, she's nothing more than my business partner."

  "Then why all the secrets? Why didn't you tell me about her before? Why haven't you ever introduced her? . . .Why the lies Richard?" she asked.

  Richard took a deep breath and looked down at the floor in front of him. "I didn't want to tell you this, but if it's going to cost me my marriage, I guess I don't have a choice." He settled back against the cushion as he pulled her into his arms. "Remember when I was working on the Robrian account?" Amsha recalled how excited Richard had been when a very powerful corporation run by the Robrian contracted with Richard's architectural firm to develop some business centers on their home planet.

  "Yes, I remember. It was all you could talk about for weeks. You said it was the break your business needed," Amsha replied.

  Richard nodded. "Well, what I didn't know was that Joshua had been embezzling funds from the project and replacing top quality building projects with cheaper, less substantial materials." Amsha gasped in surprise. She had met Richard's business partner, Joshua Long, several times and he always seemed to be a honorable, trustworthy person to her. She had even had him and his family over for dinner several times. "The buildings were constructed and soon afterwards Joshua left with the money. When the chain of buildings didn't pass inspection, it was up to me to rectify the situation. I had to somehow come up with the funds to rebuild the chain from the ground up." Amsha looked up into her husband's sad eyes. "I would have been ruined if Rebecca hadn't agreed to become my partner by buying forty- nine percent of the shares of stock in the business. Once all of my stock holders found out what Joshua had done, they all pulled their money. She saved me from bankruptcy"

  "Why didn't you think you could tell me about this?" Amsha asked softly.

  "Because I'm tired of seeming like a failure! For the first time in my life something was going right for me and I didn't want you to know how I almost lost everything we've ever worked for. I wanted you to think that you had a husband worth being proud of," Richard replied.

  Amsha looked deeply into her husband's dark eyes. "Richard, have I ever told you that I didn't think you were worthy of being proud of?"

  "You never had to. It was obvious when you had to live with me making one failure after another. I've never been the businessman my father was and it's made me feel like I've failed you," he responded.

  "Honey, I've always stood by you through all of the problems we've had over the years. I've shared the majority of my life with you. Do you really think I would be capable of doing that if I thought you were a failure?" she asked him, taking his hands in hers.

  "Yes, you have. Lord knows you've put up with more from me than any other woman would have. . .that's why I love you so much. . .why I would never be capable of loving any other woman. . .why I want to do right by you and give you the kind of life you deserve," he replied.

  "Richard, the man I married was generous, kind-hearted, sometimes stubborn, but always caring. You've been a wonderful husband to me and are turning out to be a wonderful father as well. What more could I possible ask for or want for that matter?" Amsha asked with a small smile.

  "But," Richard started.

  "No buts Richard Bashir, I married you because of who you were, not what you could ever give me. If you want to know what you've given me though. . .how about a wonderful family to start with, hmm? What about all the years of love you've given me? I'd say that's more than a lot of people get in life, so I think I'm pretty lucky, don't you?" she asked.

  Richard shook his head in disbelief. "Aren't you ever going to get tired of putting up with me?"

  "If I was going to, don't you think I would have by now?" Amsha asked with a smile. "I love you, you stupid stubborn old fool. When are you going to get that through your head?"

  "Maybe one of these days if I'm lucky," he replied and bent his head to kiss her lips. "Will you ever forgive me?"

  "On one condition," Amsha said, turning very serious.

  "Name it, my dear," Richard replied just as seriously.

  "You have to promise me that you will never keep anything like this a secret from me again. If something is bothering you, or something important like this ever happens again, you've got to trust me enough to let me know. If we can't support each other, then we don't have a strong marriage," she replied and settled into his arms.

  "I promise you, darling, that you'll be the first to know. I hated keeping it a secret from you anyway. It tore me up inside every time I had to make some excuse after another," Richard remarked.

  "As well it should have!" Amsha replied. "We're married, that means we're suppose to be partners in everything we do in life. You knew it was all or nothing when you married me."

  "And I've never regretted it for a moment. I've always thought that marrying you was the one thing I actually got right in my life." He placed a kiss on her forehead.

  They both looked up when they saw Slovik walking out of Julian and Elim's bedroom.

  "How is he doctor?" Amsha asked, her voice was filled with concern.

  "Dr. Garak-Bashir is resting at the moment. It seems that there was a slight rupture in the embryonic sac and he had started to hemorrhage," the Vulcan replied. "Fortunately though, the rupture was easily repaired and neither Dr. Garak-Bashir nor the baby were injured. They are both doing quite well now actually."

  Richard stood up and extended his hand to the doctor. The doctor shook it lightly. "I just want to thank you for helping Jules. This baby means everything to him and I know he appreciated your help."

  "You are most welcome Mr. Bashir, but I must remind you that I was only doing what is required of my job as his obstetrician," the Vulcan doctor replied.

  "Nonetheless, we thank you," Amsha replied. Slovik nodded and left the quarters with his medkit in hand.

  Richard turned once again to his wife. "Should we tell Jules about the news?"

  "There's plenty of time for that. He needs his rest right now," Amsha replied. "I do think I'll tell him we're leaving though," she replied as she headed for the bedroom.

  "Honey?" Amsha stopped and looked over her shoulder at her husband.

  "What?" she asked.

  "I'm glad you're coming home," Richard stated simply.

  Amsha merely smiled. "So am I, dear." She started to move again, but stopped in mid-stride to look back once more. "Oh, and count on me asking Rebecca over to dinner when we get back." She then walked into her sons' bedroom, leaving Richard to marvel once again at the woman he married who never ceased to surprise him.