Led From Darkness

  By: Diana Bloomfield


(copyright 1997)

  "There you go. That will be good as new in no time," Doctor Bashir replied to Jake Sisko, running an osteoregenerater over his arm. "I suggest next time you decide to go skiing in the holosuite, you stick to the beginner's slope. What made you use the expert's program anyway?" Julian asked admonishingly.

  "Well . . . I wouldn't have if Daliah hadn't been with me," Jake replied, sheepishly avoiding Julian's eyes.

  Bashir gave the boy a knowing smile. Daliah was a rather pretty, dark-haired Dabo girl. He would have been tempted to try to show off for her himself, had he been a sixteen year old. "Come now Jake, there's got to be a less painful way of impressing her than breaking your arm," he teased.

  Jake was glad he couldn't blush. "May I go now?"

  "Sure, just be careful from now on," the doctor replied, punching the information into the data padd.

  Jake hopped off the biobed and headed towards the door, "Jake, next time try reading her one of your poems," Julian advised, and couldn't help grinning when Jake rolled his eyes. After Jake left, Julian realized his shift was over. He tried to give serious consideration to the articles he had collected on the newest anticoagulant that was discovered. He had meant to read them days ago, but the thought of what waited for him was too tempting to be put off for some unimportant reports.

  The doctor entered the habitat ring and walked towards Garak's quarters. He idly reflected on how good it felt to be coming home. He thought it odd how easily he had come to think of Garak's quarters as 'home'. He couldn't figure out the precise moment that his and Garak's relationship had taken the turn towards cohabitation. It had started so gradually at first, with Julian staying the night several times a week. Then of course, he thought it had only made sense to bring some changes of clothing, so he wouldn't have to rush around in the mornings. Before Julian had realized it, they had spent every night together for two solid months, and most of his belongings had mysteriously made their way there one by one. He had no doubt that everyone on the station knew where he spent his nights, and he really didn't care. Some of the people he knew were glad to see him and Garak happy, nevertheless there was the majority who still hadn't developed the trust for the Cardassian that Julian had. Those people, Julian didn't let bother him in the least. Or at least he tried to convince himself of this. It had been years since Julian had felt so secure in a relationship and he wasn't going to let the ill feelings of a few dampen his happiness. Julian initiated his personal code and entered the quarters after it beeped. He noticed Garak sitting on the sofa reading a data novel.

  "You're home early today," Julian remarked, walking over to give the tailor a quick kiss on the lips.

  "Business was a bit slow today, so I decided to close the shop up a couple of hours early," Garak replied, reaching up to grab the back of Julian's neck to deepen the kiss. When they broke the kiss, Garak ran his hands up and down Julian's back. He noted that the doctor's muscles were tight and knotted. "Doctor, why don't you take a shower to help you relax while I prepare some dinner for the both of us,"

  "I can think of better ways to unwind than taking a shower," Julian replied coyly, as his lips grazed the ridges of the Cardassian's neck. "And as for dinner . . . I can't think of anything on the menu that could be any tastier." Garak gasped when Julian nipped him with sharp teeth.

  He ineffectively tried to put a hand to Julian's chest to stop him. "Ah, ah, ah, Doctor. If the matter was left in your hands, we never would receive any nourishment."

  Julian, paying little attention, continued to busy himself with the other side of the tailor's throat, "What can I say, so many appetites to be sated."

  "Well, I for one, need sustenance if I'm going to keep up with you," the older man replied, becoming slightly more insistent in trying to push Julian back.

  Julian feigned annoyance and gave him an overly exaggerated sigh. "Fine, I get punished just because I happen to have higher stamina." He gave Garak a quick kiss before turning towards the bathroom. "Do me a favor though, at least make it something light because I had a large lunch with Chief O'Brien today."

  "I'm sure I can come up with something suitable to your taste, Doctor," Garak replied, pinching Julian on the rear, and bit back a smile when Julian yelped.

  As Julian undressed and ducked his head under the warm spray of the shower, he had to admit to himself that it did feel good. The tight muscles of his shoulders and back felt relieved when the warm spray ran down the length of his body. As he lathered up his body, his mind went back to the thoughts of what his friends thought of his involvement with the tailor, and to a conversation he happened to overhear by accident a few weeks ago on the Promenade.


  "What do you mean Julian has been seeing Garak?" Major Kira asked leaning in closer to Chief O'Brien.

  "That's what I said. He's been seen coming out of Garak's room first thing in the morning every day for the last week," O'Brien replied taking a sip of his coffee.

  "Does Captain Sisko know anything about this?" Odo asked, deciding not to remain silent in this particular conversation.

  "I doubt it. He tries to stay out of the business of his officers' personal lives," Kira answered. "I personally think Julian needs his head examined for getting involved with a Cardassian in the first place."

  "It's probably just some phase he's going through," O'Brien suggested, "I really doubt it will even last. None of his relationships in the past have anyway."

  "Even so, I think the Captain should be aware that a Starfleet officer having romantic relations with a former Cardassian spy could cause a security risk," Odo replied, making a mental note to speak to him as soon as possible.

  Jadzia slammed her coffee cup down on the table causing everyone to jump. "I've heard about all of this I can stomach," she replied, the anger evident in her voice. "Kira, can you honestly tell me that you would be so opposed to Julian seeing Garak if he wasn't Cardassian?" Kira said nothing, but averted her eyes. Dax then turned her attention to the Chief, "Miles, you call yourself Julian's friend? Just because Julian doesn't have the best track record, why does that automatically mean he isn't capable of having something that lasts with the right person? Just how was your track record before you met Keiko?" Jadzia took delight at the nice shade of crimson he was turning, before she eyed her next victim. "And Constable, can you give me any hard evidence that Garak has done anything Order related since he's been here? I didn't think so. He may be a former spy, but at least he has the courage to admit his feelings." Odo opened his mouth as if he was about to say something, looked over at the Major, and promptly shut it again. "It's been years since Garak first came here, and instead of coming to think of him as family, you keep insisting he jump through hoops at your convenience to prove himself over and over again. I for one, am glad to see Julian and Garak both happy for a change. I think all of you would agree if each of you would grow up and stop being so close-minded." At that she got up from her chair, leaving the group with their mouths agape. She turned to walk out and ran straight into Julian's chest. They had all been so preoccupied, none of them had noticed his arrival.

  "Julian . . ." Jadzia gasped in surprise.

  "That was some tirade," Julian commented, taking Jadzia's arms to help her recover her balance.

  "Well, they needed to be set straight." She looked over her shoulder at the table, where her friends had realized Julian had overheard the entire conversation and decided it was time to leave. As they each passed Dax and Julian, they gave the doctor a sheepish smile and didn't even dare to glance at the Trill.

  Julian led Jadzia over to another empty table, took a seat, and motioned for her to do the same. "I want to thank you for standing up for us back there, even though you didn't have to. It means a lot to me to know I have your support and I know Garak would feel the same way," Julian said, reaching over and squeezing her fingers.

  "I don't stand up for things unless I believe in them, and I meant every word I said just now. I think you really are good for each other," Jadzia replied, giving Julian a reassuring smile. When Julian didn't smile back, she knew he was still upset more than he let on, "What's wrong?"

  "I was just surprised at what they said. I thought they were my friends," Julian replied, a touch of bitterness in his voice.

  "They are your friends Julian." Julian arched an eyebrow skeptically, and Dax continued, " Now don't get me wrong, I don't regret what I said, but you have to keep in mind that this is seen as a rather strange combination to most people," this made Julian smile a bit, "and it still is new, so it's going to take some time for people to adjust to seeing the two of you as a couple."

  Julian let out a sigh of frustration. He couldn't disagree with her, but he was still bothered by something else as well. "Jadzia, it bothers me that some people still act so suspicious of Garak all of the time. He's been here years now, and yet some people still treat him as if he has the phage, and others treat him like he's an Alvarian dung beetle," he had confided in her glumly.

  "Well Julian, not everyone thinks as much of him as you do. Besides that, you know how hard it is to overcome prejudice. Deep-rooted ideas, whether right or wrong, don't disappear over night," Dax replied. Julian had no idea that Jadzia had just talked to Garak hours before. She had gone to see him under the guise of having a skirt altered. She then had proceeded to threaten him with graphic detail on how she could creatively alter his anatomy if he ever hurt Julian. Dax had believed him when he simply laughed and told her he had no desire to hurt the doctor in any way if he could help it. She had then surprised him by kissing him on the cheek and congratulating him on his happiness. "Let me ask you this. Does he make you happy?"

  "I never felt this happy before," he said without missing a beat. "It's going so well that it sometimes scares me."

  Jadzia gave him a beautiful smile. "Well, if you're happy and he's happy, then what does it matter what anyone else thinks?" she asked, making it sound so simple.

  Julian realized that it could be that simple, if he let it. "You're absolutely right," he concluded.

  "Good. Now I've got to go because my shift is starting in Ops, but if you ever need to talk, you know where to find me," Jadzia replied, with a squeeze to his shoulder and then left.


  Julian squirted shampoo onto his head and began scrubbing his hair. He thought how funny it was that since that day on the Promenade, Kira, Odo, and Miles had been much friendlier towards him, and he was glad that he knew that he could turn to Jadzia if he needed someone to confide in. He really didn't know why she was so supportive of his and Garak's relationship, but it felt good to know she was. The only thing Julian could speculate was that with Dax's past, she too knew what it was like to be involved with someone when everyone around her disagreed with it. With that thought in mind, he finished rinsing off all the soap suds, and began to dry himself off. While he dressed in a black polo, and black slacks, he realized that he did indeed feel much better than when he first came home. He walked into the living area to find the table set and Garak waiting patiently for him.

  "Mmm, this looks delicious," He said, taking his seat. Garak had replicated a bowl of Plomeek soup, Loraman crackers, and a glass of ice tea for the doctor, while ordering himself some Sem'hal Stew with Yamok sauce and a glass of Rokassa juice.

  "I thought you would approve." Garak replied, taking a bite of stew.

  Julian noticed that Garak had become unusually quiet, which for him usually meant he had something on his mind. Julian wondered whether or not he should probe the issue, but decided it would be better for Garak to tell him of his own accord. He made small talk about upcoming medical conferences, the latest holo-novel he had acquired, and a few other topics that the tailor showed little interest in. Garak's occasional nod was the only indication to Julian that he was even being paid attention to.

  "Okay Garak, what's going on?" Julian finally asked, pushing his empty soup bowl to the side.

  Garak's spoonful of stew stopped half-way to his mouth, "I beg your pardon, Doctor?"

  "Something has been bothering you since we sat down to eat and I'd like to know what it is," Julian replied, taking a sip of ice tea. "Have I done something to make you cross with me?"

  "Of course not, Doctor," Garak replied finishing his bite of stew. "It's nothing, really."

  "Garak, it's obviously something and I intend to find out what it is. I thought we had an agreement not to keep things from each other," Julian replied, reaching across the table and lacing his fingers through the Cardassian's.

  "We did, but I assure you that it's nothing of importance," the tailor replied, wanting to change the subject.

  Julian decided he wasn't going to be easily deterred. "If it's important enough to bother you then it's important enough for me to know about it."

  Seeing that determined look on Julian's face, Garak knew he wasn't going to give up on this particular train of thought. "There have been some things that have been on my mind recently. "Garak said with a sigh, getting up to move towards the sofa. Julian took the cue and followed him.

  "All right, what is it?" Julian gently prodded, seeing the reluctance on his lover's face as he took a seat next to him.

  "Well, I was just concerned that maybe . . ." Garak looked everywhere except at Julian's face. He took in a steadying breath before forging ahead, ". . . that maybe you've started regretting our intimate relationship," the tailor said, the uncertainty apparent in his cool, pale eyes.

  It took a minute for Julian to gather his thoughts. He didn't know what the tailor was going to say, but that had to be last on the list of possibilities. "Elim, why on Earth would you think that?" Then an unwelcome question formed in his mind, "Are you starting to regret it?"

  "Of course not, Doctor. These last two months have been absolutely wonderful for me," Garak replied with confidence.

  "Well, it has been just as remarkable for me too, so I don't understand where the problem lies." Julian replied, with confusion in his voice.

  Garak let out another weary-sounding sigh, "The problem is, I still can't understand why you want this to continue. I've seen how some of your fellow peers have been treating you of late. Also, I know that you must have had some concerns about the apparent differences in our ages, not to mention that I highly doubt Starfleet will allow you to advance in rank when you're associated with a former Cardassian spy."

  "I hadn't realized you've given this so much thought," Julian replied. He himself, had not allowed these concerns to bother him.

  "Well it's quite difficult not to," Garak replied, gently brushing Julian's cheek with the back of his hand. "I want nothing more than what's in your best interest and I'm not entirely convinced that it's me."

  Julian captured the tailor's hand and brought it to his lips to gently kiss the palm. "Elim, I don't know what to say to convince you that being with you is in my best interest. First, chronological age has never meant anything to me where love was concerned. As for advancement in Starfleet goes--I'm quite satisfied right here on DS9 and have no plans on leaving anytime soon. As for my colleagues, I have not lost any of their respect as a doctor, and my friends are starting to adjust to us being a couple." Julian leaned over so close to the tailor's ear, that the older man could feel the doctor's warm breath on his skin, "So, Mr. Elim Garak, you'll have to try harder than that to get rid of me, because as far as I'm concerned, you're stuck with me." He then gently tongued the outer ridge of Garak's ear, causing him to moan. "Do I hear any objections?"

  "Not in the least, Doctor, but as you've pointed out in the past, I have a tendency to be rather stubborn, so it may take quite a bit to persuade me of your intentions," the tailor replied, his voice suddenly becoming husky.

  Julian looked up, and his hazel eyes locked with the tailor's pale blue eyes. "It would be my pleasure to reinforce that particular lesson as often as needed." Then his head bent down to seize the Cardassian's lips with his own, forcing the tailor to open his mouth against the probing tongue. Julian loved the exotic taste of the tailor's warm mouth. Garak's hands came up to stroke the back of the doctor's neck, entangling his fingers in the soft hair at his nape. Julian slid his fingers under the Cardassian's tunic, reveling in the feel of the cooler gray skin under his fingers. Garak gasped when Julian gently started rolling one of his nipples between his index finger and thumb. Garak trailed soft, feather-light kisses over the doctor's neck, and around to the front of his throat where he started sucking. Julian let out a soft moan, and the tailor smiled to himself against Julian's soft skin. He knew that come morning, it wouldn't be the first time Julian would be grateful that the Starfleet uniform also came with a turtle-neck. Julian turned his attention to gently start kissing and licking the spoon-shaped indention on the tailor's forehead. He knew that this was one of the Cardassian's strongest erogenous zones. Garak's sucking of the doctor's neck became harder, and he leaned back on the sofa and pulled Julian's body on top of his. The tailor ran his hands up and down the length of Julian's lithe body, gently manipulating the muscles of the doctor's neck and back, and downwards to knead Julian's rear. Julian in turn, began grinding his pelvis against the tailor's. Garak whined in frustration. Garak stopped kissing Julian's throat and looked up at him. The doctor's skin was flushed, his breathing was as labored as Garak's own, his lips pouty from kisses, and his eyes were half-closed with desire. Garak thought to himself how beautiful the doctor looked, and a sense of pride ran through him at the thought that it was he who was getting this reaction from Julian. The knowledge that it was his touch, his lips, that Julian craved was almost too much for him. Having enough of the teasing, Garak grabbed Julian into his arms and lifted him up with a surprising ease and headed towards their bedroom.

  Once by the side of the bed, Garak lowered Julian to the ground slowly, their bodies rubbing together until Julian's feet touched the floor. With a lack of finesse, Garak grabbed two handful of Julian's shirt and ripped it off of him and tossed it to the floor.

  " A little impatient aren't we?" Julian teased, his voice husky with want.

  Devilment danced in Garak's eyes as he ran his fingers across Julian's chest, playfully tugging at the tight ebony curls and followed the sparse thatch down until he came to rest at the top of Julian's pants. He unfastened the buckle, pulled the zipper down, and pushed the material down past his hips to rest at his feet. "Don't worry my dear Julian," he whispered into the younger man's ear, while helping him to step out of his pants. "I happen to know a very talented tailor." He then proceeded to graze his tongue over the doctor's ear and kissed from his jawline, down the expanse of his throat as his hips rubbed against Julian's. He was pleased to feel Julian growing as hard as he was.

  "And just what talents does this tailor of yours possess?" Julian asked as his hands traveled over the Cardassian's broad back and downward to give his rear a hard squeeze.

  Garak gasped. "Many, Doctor . . . and I'm sure you could persuade him to demonstrate them," he promised putting his hands to the doctor's chest and urging Julian back onto the bed.

  "I definitely hope so." Julian smiled up wolfishly and pulled the tailor's mouth down upon his.

  "Now who's the one being impatient?" Garak teasingly asked taking gratification when he received another moan for an answer.

  "Are you wanting something Julian?" he asked, slowly reaching to massage Julian's testicles. "Tell me what you want," he murmured wanting to hear the words.

  "I want you," Julian managed to reply reaching to try to capture the Cardassian's hand.

  Garak pretended to ponder it for a moment. "What exactly is it you want me for? To discuss the theology of Cardassian politics with you? Or perhaps mend your shirt, or . . ."

  "GARAK!!" Any further protest was interrupted when his mouth was covered in another deep, lingering kiss.

  Garak knew he couldn't keep teasing the poor doctor, especially since his own control was starting to falter. He slipped his finger inside the band of Julian's white briefs and worked them past the doctor's lean hips, down his legs, and off, then threw them on top the slacks. He noticed that Julian's erection was hard and already had a drop of moisture collected at the tip from the excitement. Not being able to resist, the tailor bent his head down, and barely touched the tip of his tongue to the head of Julian's organ to collect the fluid. Julian moaned and arched his back to bring more contact from the Cardassian's mouth, and groaned in frustration when he pulled away. Julian eyes pleaded with the tailor, but he still stayed back. Licking his lips, the tailor quickly reached down and pulled his tunic up over his head, adding it to the growing pile on the floor, then discarded his own slacks and briefs.

  Julian couldn't take his eyes off the Cardassian. He found that no matter how often he watched Garak's nude form, he still found himself fascinated by the muscular physique of the tailor. The broad chest, the flat planes of his stomach, and the firm, well-rounded behind were just a few attributes Julian looked upon with admiring eyes. He never cared much for muscles, but he decided he quite liked them on Garak. He reached out a hand to Garak, who willing allowed himself to be pulled down on top of the doctor. Their lips sought each other's, hungrily taking all the other had to give. Julian rolled and maneuvered himself so that he was now on top of Garak. Julian captured the tailor's wrists and held them pinned down by Garak's sides and leaned in for a slow, exploring kiss. He then traced both of the tailor's eye ridges with the tip of his tongue, then followed one of the neck ridges around to the center of his throat. He felt the low, soft rumbling Garak was making, rather then heard it. The doctor continued down the tailor's sternum, taking one charcoal colored nipple into his mouth, teasing it to puckered hardness. Garak groaned when Julian pulled his mouth away, only to sigh when it was quickly replaced, giving the other nipple attention. Julian continued downward, showering butterfly kisses over Garak's stomach, stopping to tongue his navel. Julian then proceeded to kiss and lick Garak's hips. He released Garak's hands so he could part Garak's legs. He alternated between using his tongue and teeth on the inner folds, taking satisfaction from Garak's sharp intake of breath. His hands slowly worked the muscles of Garak's legs as he bent his head down and blew a cool rush of air with his mouth over the Cardassian's heated manhood. Garak was now writhing against the sheets.

  "Julian," Garak warned, then immediately forgot whatever he was going to say when Julian's hot mouth closed around his swollen organ. He ran his tongue over the thick head, and worked it over the shaft, while he tenderly teased the tailor's testicles with his fingers. Garak's own hands came to rest in Julian's hair, lightly tangling themselves in the dark mass. He resisted the urge he had to pull the doctor's head down farther. Julian relaxed his throat muscles to accommodate the tailor's girth, and took the entire length of the tailor into his mouth until his nose touched Garak's stomach. He then started a steady up and down motion, occasionally allowing his teeth to scrape against the tailor's shaft. He knew it didn't hurt the Cardassian, whose skin was thicker than his own. To keep from pulling Julian's hair, Garak's hands were now twisting the sheets, his hips bucking upward in time to Julian's mouth. Garak was now crying out loudly, even though he couldn't hear it over the rushing in his ears and the pounding of his heart against his chest. He opened his eyes to look down at Julian's twinkling hazel eyes. The desire he read in them let him know that Julian was getting as much pleasure from this as he was and the very idea of this mixed with the delicious stimulation of Julian's mouth, was enough to send Garak over the abyss. Crying out Julian's name, he came filling the doctor's throat. Julian made sure to clean off any excess from base to tip, and then sat up. Garak looked at him and smiled when the doctor suggestively licked the corners of his mouth. He pulled Julian beside him and wondered seriously if the doctor wouldn't start purring, as contented as he was looking. Garak let his hand lazily travel up and down Julian's hips and stomach. When he ventured lower and came in contact with Julian's still hard erection, he realized there was still a part of Julian that hadn't gotten any satisfaction. He was determined to remedy it immediately. Just the mere thought of it had Garak's desire stirring again.

  "Why, Doctor, it seems we have a problem here. Would you like me resolve it for you?" Garak asked rubbing his hand firmly against Julian's organ.

  "Not if you're too tired," Julian replied sincerely, although not trying to stop the tailor.

  "Dear Doctor, you surprise me. Do you think I would really be that selfish?" he asked with mock indignation. With a smile, Garak got up, dug around in the top drawer of the night stand, and pulled out the familiar amber vial of massage oil. Julian got up on his knees and and elbows. Garak positioned himself on his knees behind Julian, poured a generous portion of the liquid onto his hand and thoroughly coated his member with it. A shiver of excitement ran through Julian's body. The tailor let a small dollop of the lubricant fall into Julian's cleft. Garak tenderly ran a finger around the muscular opening. Julian couldn't fight the moan that escaped his lips when Garak inserted his finger, gently grazing his prostate. He stretched him enough to fit two fingers in. Then he ran his hands over Julian's flank, and when he felt sure Julian was relaxed under his touch, he pressed the tip of his head to the puckered ring. Julian pushed back against him, impaling himself on the tailor's erection. Garak grasped Julian's hips and began a gentle rocking motion. Julian adored the feeling of being filled so completely. In the beginning, he felt like Garak treated him as if he was fragile, and it had been a rather odd sensation to get use to, since none of his former lovers ever treated him with such kid gloves. He felt he had to coax Garak to become more aggressive at times. Over time, he managed to convince the tailor that he wasn't going to hurt the doctor. Now Garak felt comfortable rocking to and fro, pushing himself as deeply into the doctor as he could. Julian pushed himself back with his arms to meet every thrust. The tailor slipped one arm under Julian's stomach to provide support, while the other hand came around to firmly grasp Julian's swollen erection. The tailor began to pump his hand up and down in time with his thrusts. Sweat dripped down into Julian's eyes and down his chest. His arms lost their strength and he buried his face in the pillow, tossing his head from side to side. He and Garak were both moaning quite loudly and he found it difficult to tell whose cry belonged to whom. His heart was pounding against his rib cage and his skin felt like it was on fire. Suddenly Garak came crying out Julian's name, and emptied himself into the doctor's hot body. This feeling was enough to make Julian lose it. His ejaculate seeped through the tailor's fingers, some getting on Julian's stomach.

  When they both had their breathing back down to nearly normal, Garak eased out, and pulled Julian on his chest. They laid there in silence for what seemed to be an eternity. Julian was contented to lay there, listening to the Cardassian's slower heart beat. Garak had one arm wrapped protectively around Julian's midsection, while the other hand lightly played with his tousled hair, occasionally outlining the ridge of his earlobe with his finger.

  "I hope you can come to understand and accept the fact that I'm right where I want to be Elim," Julian said finally, snuggling in closer to the warmth of the tailor.

  "I think I'm beginning to, Doctor," Garak replied frankly.

  "Well, I'm glad to hear it," Julian replied, kissing the tailor's chest, before settling down to close his eyes. Julian felt the steady rise and fall of Garak's chest against his cheek. He realized the tailor had slipped into sleep and he soon followed, allowing the sound of Garak's heartbeat to lull him to slumber.

  The next morning, Julian was rudely dragged into consciousness by an incessant, shrill sounding noise. When he reached over to shut off the alarm on the chronometer, he remembered that he had the day off and hadn't set the alarm. That's when it dawned on him that the beeping was coming from his com badge on the night stand. He reached over Garak, who was still softly snoring, to pick it up.

  "Bashir," he said into the badge, with more than a touch of annoyance. 'This had better be good,' he thought to himself.

  "Doctor, I'm sorry to wake you on your day off," Julian recognized the voice of his head nurse Jabara immediately. He also noted the sound of urgency it contained. "but there has been an accident on Bajor and they need all available Starfleet medical personnel there immediately."

  "I'm on my way. Bashir out," Julian replied, jumping from the bed, searching for his uniform. His quick motions woke the tailor.

  "What's all the commotion, Doctor?" Garak asked, stretching his arms over his head, and letting out a yawn.

  "Sorry I woke you up," Julian replied, sitting on a stuffed arm chair, pulling on his boots. "There's been an accident on Bajor and I've got to get down there as soon as I can." He grabbed his medkit and walked over to the side of the bed. "I'm not sure how long I'll be gone, but I promise to contact you as soon as I can." He leaned over to brush his lips against the tailor's and then turned to leave. Garak grabbed his hand causing him to turn around.

  "Be careful, Jahkim," Garak said, using the Cardassian term of endearment meaning 'beloved'.

  "Always," Julian replied, kissing the tailor's fingers. "I love you."

  "I love you too," Garak responded, and watched as the door slid shut behind the doctor.

  Garak opened his shop on time, but found it difficult to concentrate. He was grateful that it wasn't in between seasons when everyone wanted a change of wardrobe. He only had three customers before noon and looked forward to his lunch break. When he got back, he tried to get some of his inventory done, but he thoughts kept going back to Julian. This wasn't the first time Julian left on an away mission, but Garak was absolutely miserable whenever Julian was away from him, and he constantly worried until he got back. He made sure never to let Julian know that though, because he didn't want Julian to worry about 'him' while he was gone. He wanted to make sure Julian's full concentration was on his patients. He kept reminding himself that he had known full well what he was getting himself into by getting involved with a Starfleet medical officer from the beginning, but it didn't offer much consolation. Garak knew Julian was proud of his position as a doctor, and Garak was as well. Julian was a talented doctor and helped a great number of people, and Garak would never even consider asking Julian to ever give up his practice, but he couldn't help but wish Julian didn't have to go on away missions. 'Stop being foolish. It's part of his job,' Garak scolded himself at his thoughts. Being truthful with himself though, the tailor realized that if he could have his way, he wouldn't let the doctor out of his sight. Come 15:00, he toyed with just giving up all pretense of getting anything accomplished and just call it a day. He was just entering his code to lock the door when his com badge beeped at him.

  "Garak here," he said answering the beep, hoping to hear Julian's voice.

  "Mr. Garak, would you please come to my office." Garak was disappointed when he realized it was Captain Sisko.

  "I'll be there in just a moment. Garak out," the tailor replied, already on his way.

  Once inside the office, Garak noticed the concerned look on Benjamin's face. "You wanted to see me Captain?"

  "Yes, Commander Dax informed me that this concerns you," Sisko replied, motioning for the tailor to take a seat. When he did, Benjamin continued, "I'm sure you're aware that there was an accident on Bajor." Garak nodded. He tried to ignore his suddenly dry mouth, and the queasiness that was settling in the pit of his stomach. "The reason Doctor Bashir was called was because a large group of scientists from the Bajoran Central Archives discovered a cavern that had been hidden since the Occupation and thought that it would contain valuable artifacts. They were excavating the site, when there was a cave-in that injured the majority of the scientists. While Doctor Bashir was attending to the injured, there was a second cave-in. Right now he in the Infirmary and. . . ." Whatever else the Captain was going to say was lost on the Cardassian who was already out of his seat and running full-speed down the corridor. Adrenaline was rushing through the tailor's veins, his feet pounding the floor, moving on what seemed like their own accord. Somewhere in his mind he barely acknowledged that Sisko was yelling his name, it sounded faint and far away to him. 'Great Gul, please don't take him away from me, not now, not after we've just found each other. I know I don't deserve him, but not yet, not like this,' he silently prayed to himself, skidding to make the turn onto the Promenade. His stride wasn't even broken when he accidentally collided with Rom, who was sent sprawling against a bulkhead.

  When he finally made his way to the Infirmary, he was out of breath. His eyes searched wildly for Julian. Garak saw the doctor laying on a biobed, and felt a chill spread through his body. Julian was laying motionless with electrodes attached to various parts of his body, his uniform was ripped to shreds, his skin was pale, he had a multitude of bruises and cuts running the length of him, his arm was twisted in an odd direction that even Garak recognized to be indicative of a compound fracture. Worst of all was the pool of blood that was gathering behind Julian's head. Several nurses, including Jabara, and the Vulcan doctor, who usually filled in for Julian on his days off, were all hovering around Julian, passing instruments over him that Garak didn't recognize.

  "Julian," Garak called out, taking steps towards the biobed. Nurse Tagana spotted him and intercepted.

  "You really shouldn't be in here, Mr. Garak," she replied, taking his arm and heading back towards the door.

  " I want to know his condition," he said, suddenly feeling very tired.

  The Bajoran nurse walked with him into the hallway. She knew that the doctor and the tailor had been involved for awhile. "He has a compound fracture of the radius, and he's had internal hemorrhaging in his liver. He also broke several ribs, and punctured the lower quadrant of his left lung."

  "Is that the worst of his injuries?" Garak dreaded the answer he felt sure was coming.

  "No," Tagana answered honestly, "what might cause us the most problems is the laceration he sustained to his occipital lobe, along with the swelling it's induced." Garak leaned back against the wall and rubbed his hands over his face. Tagana saw the concerned, frustrated look on his face and couldn't help but feel sympathy for the Cardassian. She rested a hand on his shoulder. "Garak, I know you're worried, but we're doing the best we can. The best thing you can do for him right now is let us do our job." She noticed he was far from satisfied with that idea. "I promise to personally come and find you when we're ready to induce consciousness, if that would make you feel better," she offered.

  Garak gave her a half-hearted smile. "Thank you, I would greatly appreciate that," he answered, patting her hand, "I'm sure he's in capable hands." The nurse gave a nod of her head and walked back inside to resume her post with the others. Garak knew he wouldn't be going anywhere. He started a steady pattern pacing up and down the hall. He occasionally took a second to peek in the window of the door, but his view was always obstructed, and the staff was speaking too low to be heard from where he stood. After the first half-hour, he walked to Quark's to order a glass of Rokassa juice to help soothe his parched mouth. He took the glass back with him, and resumed his pacing methodically taking three steps, sighing, taking three more steps, sipping his juice, turning, and repeating the process. While he was pacing, he kept saying prayers silently to himself. If there was some way to take Julian's injuries onto himself, he willingly would. Another hour went by without a word. Garak was starting to grow quite irritable, and was feeling very impatient. He was in mid-turn when Tagana poked her head out of the door.

  "We're ready to bring him around now," she said, opening the door wide to allow him to enter, which he did quickly. "It took us awhile to run the tests needed to make sure his neural pathways were all working properly, not to mention the reconstruction done on his hepatic artery," she explained. "Now, after we bring him to, he's going to be tired and still in some pain, so I don't think you should stay too long."

  "I won't," he promised, not knowing whether or not he would be capable of keeping it. He came to stand by Julian's side, taking the doctor's smaller hand inside his own. Garak noted that Julian looked remarkably better. His arm was no longer twisted, and the vicious cuts now had healthy looking pink skin covering them, as did the cut to Julian's head. He also noticed that the bruising was gone, as was all the dried blood from earlier. He watched as the Vulcan doctor pressed the hypospray to Julian's throat. Julian let out a low moan, and shook his head wanting to clear the cobwebs, but instantly stopped when he discovered that it caused him a great deal of pain.

  He coughed, clearing his throat. "Elim?" His voice was very weak and scratchy. Garak had to strain to hear him.

  "I'm here, Jahkim," he answered, trying his best to sound comforting. "I'm right here."

  "Where are you?" Julian asked. "I can't see you."

  "What do you mean?" the tailor asked with confusion.

  "I can't see you, Garak. I can't see you," Julian replied, his voice getting more hysterical by the second. "Why can't I see you? Why can't I see? Garak!" "Shhh. . . everything will be fine soon, love," he promised soothingly, caressing Julian's face, reinforcing his presence. Garak noticed the nurse looking worriedly from Julian to the Vulcan doctor. "What's going on here? What's wrong with him?" he asked, turning his attention to the doctor and nurses. Jabara could tell the tailor was fighting to keep a tight control on his rising anger.

  The Vulcan doctor was now running a medical tricorder over Julian's body and arched his eyebrows at the readings he was getting, "I can see no logical explanation for Dr. Bashir's loss of eyesight."

  "Did you perform a neural imaging scan, Dr. Dulix?" Julian asked, his voice still not sounding quite normal.

  The Vulcan looked a little amiss at being questioned. "The results from the neural imaging scan I ran to test your visual cortex indicated that there was no damage sustained."

  "Well, obviously something wasn't done right," Garak interjected. He knew he was wearing his welcome thin, but he really wasn't concerned about it. He just wanted answers.

  "In the unlikely event that something was missed, I will reevaluate my readings on the tests that we ran for the neural pathways," the other doctor replied, in a monotone voice.

  "Does he need to stay here for observation?" Garak asked, wanting to get Julian home if it was possible.

  "I don't see why he should have to stay in the Infirmary as long as he makes himself available for testing if it's deemed necessary. I'm sure this condition is only temporary," the Vulcan answered.

  "I'll be in my quarters if you need me," Julian replied, taking the tailor's hand to pull himself up off of the biobed. Garak took Julian's elbow and led him towards the door.

  "Will you be needing a pain reliever or sedative hypospray?" Dr. Dulix asked before they reached the door.

  "I'll let you know," Julian answered taking a firmer grasp of the Cardassian as they headed down the hall. While they walked towards the habitat-ring, neither said a word, both occupied with their own thoughts. Julian was still having a hard time getting use to the feeling of not being able to see where he was going and depending on Garak to lead him. He was feeling very weak and exceptionally tired. He heard a door swoosh open and felt himself being led to the sofa. He put his feet up and laid back against the cushions.

  "Do you think you feel up to having some dinner?" he heard Garak ask.

  He thought about it for a minute. His stomach didn't seem to feel particularly queasy and he knew he should eat since he hadn't eaten on Bajor. "I think so."

  Garak was glad to see he had some appetite. He saw it as a promising sign. "What would you like?"

  Julian thought about some of his favorite dishes, many that were Vulcan,Klingon, and Bajoran, when he heard himself say, "How about a grilled cheese sandwich and bowl of tomato soup?" He felt silly asking for it, but realized that was what his mother always gave him when he wasn't feeling well. This would definitely qualify as one of those times. He heard Garak order it from the replicator, adding a cup of Tarkalean tea double sweet. Julian heard the dishes being set on the table and stood up. Garak led him to his seat and handed him the spoon. Once Julian's hand found the hot bowl, he kept his hand by it while he sipped his soup. After the first sip, he realized how empty his stomach really had been. He bit into the grilled cheese sandwich with relish. He soon, had finished everything in front of him and he didn't know that Garak was smiling with satisfaction.

  "You still look very exhausted, Doctor, so why don't we retire early tonight," Garak suggested, and took Julian's hand as he walked to the bedroom. Julian was still a little unsteady, so Garak helped him to undress and to the bed. Garak removed his own clothing and climbed into the bed and pulled the doctor as close to him as possible before shutting his eyes. It didn't take long for Julian to drift off. Garak's hand rested on the doctor's chest, finding comfort in the regular beating and the steady rise and fall of his chest. The last thought Garak was conscious of was one of being grateful that the Great Gul had seen fit not to take Julian away from him.

  The next morning Julian awoke to the sound of Garak moving about the room. Julian felt a pounding ache behind his eyes. He gave a cat-like stretch and then rubbed the bridge of his nose wanting the pain to leave. Garak watched this with some concern. "Are you all right, Doctor?"

  "Yes, I'll be fine in a little bit," Julian replied, after a yawn.

  "I have several shipments of supplies coming in today, so I must open the shop, but if you need me for anything I can be hailed," Garak replied with some remorse.

  "I'll be fine," Julian assured him.

  "Well, if you're certain. I took the liberty of replicating some breakfast for you." Garak bent his head down to peck Julian's lips and headed towards the door. Before he walked out, he looked at Julian once more over his shoulder.

  Julian got out of bed and felt his way to the bathroom and into the shower. He reached for his Starfleet uniform that he always hung in the same place and slipped it on. He then found his way over to the table and began to eat the breakfast that Garak had ordered for him. By the smell, Julian could tell that the plate was full of scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast. His hand brushed across a glass that he brought up to his mouth. The burst of bitterness from the orange juice cause Julian to make a face. He was chewing a mouthful of egg, when he heard the door beep.

  "Come in," he said after swallowing. He wondered who would be coming to pay him a visit.

  "How are you doing this morning, Doctor?" Julian recognized Captain Sisko's deep timbered voice immediately.

  "As well as can be expected, considering," Julian remarked without emotion at hearing one of the chairs being pulled back. "Would you like anything?" he asked, hospitably.

  "No, that's fine," Sisko responded. "Dr. Dulix sent me a report on his assessment of you." Sisko had no desire to even be having this conversation, but he knew it was inevitable and it was his responsibility. "I just wanted to let you know that until they find the cause and solution to your condition, you will be relieved of duty until further notice."When Julian didn't respond, Benjamin stood up and placed a hand on Julian's arm. "Julian, if there is anything I can do for you, all you have to do is ask. I'm sure this won't last long."

  The comment offered Julian little solace. "Thank you," he replied flatly. He heard the Captain stepping across the floor and the door closing behind him, and knew he was alone. He felt his way over to the sofa, laid back, and ordered the computer to play some soft music from a Bajoran band that was a favorite of his. He thought how the Captain's visit hadn't really come as a surprise. Actually he had expected it, seeing how he was unable to perform his duties. As long as he could remember, being a doctor was the only thing that had meant anything to his life. He had worked his whole life to obtain that goal, and now it had been stripped away from him. Because of one ridiculous act of God, Fate, Prophets, or whoever, everything been lost to him. Almost everything, he amended, thinking of the tailor. Would this change things between them he wondered? If so, then how? He wondered if Garak might come to resent having to help care for him. Then another thought came to mind of wondering how his friends would react to his condition. He knew that there were many things he wasn't going to be able to do that he use to when socializing with colleagues. He mildly even wondered if O'Brien would even have anything to do with him without the racquetball games and the challenges of darts. In his years of medicine, he had seen numerous counts of people with disabilities become all but invisible to their friends because their friends didn't know how to deal the change. Julian started to get chilled and ordered the computer to increase the heat by ten degrees. Another sharp pain shot through Julian's temples, lasting longer in duration than before. This time however, it it was accompanied by a wave of nausea rolling through his stomach, threatening to cause him to lose his breakfast.

  As the afternoon wore on, Julian canceled the music program and had the computer read a novel out loud for him. He was starting to get antsy and didn't know what to do about it. He knew he didn't know his way around the station well enough to go anywhere, and even if he did, he didn't know what it could be that he could do. He had never realized how much he had taken his eyesight for granted. Yesterday, Julian had been so tired, that all the complications from his condition hadn't registered. Now, with a sudden abundance of time on his hands and lack of activities at his disposal, he couldn't escape the thoughts running through his mind. What about his job? He couldn't see much of a future in Starfleet for someone unable to see. What made Julian the angriest, though, and what he couldn't understand was not knowing why this had happened when he was down there helping people. He had been doing his job of easing people's pain and suffering and he had been punished for it! Then again, wasn't that always been the route his life had taken? Being everybody's good boy? The obedient son, the diligent student, the dutiful officer? He started growing angry at all the little holes people tried to peg him in all of his life. What had he ever gotten in return? Sorry Jules. You're not good enough for your old man, so I have to medically enhance you. Sorry Doctor, you can't see so you're not any use to us in Starfleet anymore. There was a chance he could regain his eyesight, but Julian knew better than most, how slim that possibility was. Julian decided that he would take a nap to try to get the voice inside of his head quieted down. He was still cold, so he pulled a blanket up around him and settled to sleep on the couch. He vaguely thought about the fact that he skipped lunch, but the thought of food was not appealing to him in the least.

  He would have slept peacefully if he hadn't been kept awake with the now, constant, intense pain behind his eyes that so sharp that it caused bolts of white light to appear behind his eyelids. His stomach was churning. Waves of nausea tumbled over him, cresting higher and higher each time. Each bout was worse than the last. He swallowed hard to force it down each time it threatened to pass his throat. He moaned as the pain kept increasing instead of getting better. Unable to fight it anymore, Julian tossed the wet, sweat-soaked cover off of him and pulled himself to a sitting position. The initial wave of dizziness crested in perfect harmony with the nausea. He stood up quickly, one hand over his mouth, his other hand using the walls to guide him to the bathroom. His hand searched until he felt cool ceramic surface of the stool. He dropped to his knees and his breakfast instantly came back up. He grasped the side of toilet with white-knuckle strength, as he gasped for breath in-between heaves. His stomach had emptied all of it's contents and then he started heaving up gastric acid, but it still didn't ease up. 'God. Make it stop!' he thought weakly. It ebbed for a few precious seconds and he dimly thought about calling for Garak, but then it started up again.

  Garak was in his shop finding a place to put all the fabric that had been on the last cargo shipment. He had been doing an adequate job so far of keeping his mind focused on his tasks, but occasionally his thoughts would steal back to Julian. The tailor knew that the only reason Julian was so compliant and agreeable last night had to do with the fact he had still been in shock. The tailor couldn't help but wonder how Julian would react when the realization of what had happened finally hit him. He knew that if this would become permanent, that Julian would need as much support as Garak could offer. He only hoped he knew how to be as supportive as Julian needed. In Garak's life, he had never remembered a time when he had to assume the role of a supporter. No one had ever trusted him enough in his past to cast him in the role. Julian was the first person since Rochosh, who Garak had allowed through the layers of defenses that he had built up over his lifetime. It wasn't as if the wall he put between himself and others was a deliberate act. It had been forged from myriad events in his life that had reinforced the idea that if he allowed himself to care and trust, he would undoubtedly regret it. First, his father who didn't want anything to do with him, a marriage that had ended when his wife informed him she had been having an affair for several years, and many more incidents he chose to surpress. At first he hadn't wanted to let Rochosh into his life, but he had never regretted that action, but forces out of his control took Rochosh's life, leaving Garak alone again. Garak had been prepared to be alone for the rest of his existence, but then in walked Dr. Julian Subatoi Bashir. The enthusiastic, idealistic, intelligent, occasionally stubborn man had captivated him from the beginning. Garak had told himself in the beginning, that the tentative friendship they had was enough to satisfy him, but it hadn't taken long to realize that was hardly the case. He had never allowed himself to dream though, that the feelings would be reciprocated. Now he was allowing himself to even contemplate a future with the doctor. Now that future was threatened with the introduction of the doctor's lost eyesight.

  Garak had tried to put it out of his mind, but he knew he couldn't avoid the thought that blindness, if not able to be reversed, would undoubtedly change the doctor and their relationship. He wasn't sure of just how it would change the doctor's personality, but he knew it could cause their relationship to strengthen because they would share the tribulations that this condition would inflict upon them. Or, in the second, more frightening option, Julian would regress, pull away from him and what support he could offer, and tear them apart. Garak didn't want to consider the last option, but he realized it was as real of a possibility as the former.

  The tailor realized that Julian hadn't contacted him all afternoon and he had a nagging suspicion that perhaps he should check on the doctor. All of his shipments had already came in, so there was nothing keeping him in the shop. With his mind made up, he left for home. He initiated the access code to his door and entered. He was slightly worried when he didn't see Julian at first.

  "Julian?" he called out, confused as to where Julian could have possibly went. He heard a soft moan coming from the other room. Going into the bathroom he saw Julian sitting on the floor, his back hunched against the wall. The doctor was extremely pale, his skin looked clammy, and his eyes were red and puffy. "What's the matter, Doctor?" Garak asked coming to rest on his knees in front of Julian.

  "Got sick. . . head hurts," Julian managed weakly, his voice sounding horse. Garak placed a gray hand to the doctor's forehead. Even with the Cardassian's naturally cooler skin, Garak could still tell Julian was extremely feverish.

  "Doctor, you're burning up. Did you try to hail me earlier?" he asked, trying to keep the irritation and fear out of his voice.

  "Couldn't," was all Julian was able to say at that point because suddenly he turned back towards the toilet to go into a convulsion of dry heaves, his stomach not having anything left to offer. Garak stood up and got a glass of water from the sink and tried to give Julian a small sip of it, which the younger man immediately spit back up.

  "Come, Doctor, I think we should go to the Infirmary," Garak said in a tone that told Julian he didn't have much choice in the matter. "Can you walk?" the tailor asked, slipping an arm under Julian's to help him to a standing position. When it looked like Julian's legs were threatening to buckle underneath him, Garak reached down and lifted the doctor into his arms and headed for the Infirmary. Julian wanted to protest, but found he didn't have the strength to offer any resistance.

  The nurses and the Vulcan doctor looked with surprise when Garak came walking briskly into the Infirmary with Julian resting his head against his chest. He laid his precious cargo down on the biobed and looked at the doctor.

  "He's been vomiting, has a high temperature, and was complaining of his head hurting," Garak told them, still keeping a hold of Julian's hand.

  "As I was expecting, although not this soon," Dr. Dulix responded, pointing a tricorder over Julian.

  "What do you mean 'as you were expecting'?" the tailor asked with animosity.

  The Vulcan doctor walked over to Julian and administered a series of three separate hyposprays to the doctor's throat. "I readministerd a set of serology scans of the doctor's blood sample an hour ago and discovered that the doctor had acquired a viral infection through the injuries he had sustained on Bajor."

  "Why didn't you detect it earlier?" Garak asked, taking the cool towel that nurse Jabara had offered him, and placing it on the heated skin of Julian's brow.

  "We didn't detect it previously because, normally the pattern buffers of the transporter detect viral particles, but apparently these were too small to be picked up during his transport off of Bajor, and the microbes were too few in numbers to be picked up on a tricorder reading," the Vulcan replied, punching his readings into a data padd, not even bothering to look at Garak. "I have come to the conclusion that it is the virus that is effecting the doctor's sight."

  "What can be done about it?" Garak asked, feeling slightly relieved to finally know the cause.

  "I have administered an antiemedic for his nausea, an antipyretic for his fever, and a medication to help restore his electrolyte balance to help with his dehydration, but for now, that is all I can do," Doctor Dulix replied solemnly.

  "That is just helping the symptoms. Is there nothing you can do for the virus itself?" Garak asked, getting more and more irritated.

  "I am afraid that is the best I can do at the moment. I am not familiar with this virus and neither is the data base," the doctor replied handing his data padd to the nurse. "I have, however, taken the liberty to contact Dr. Louis Zimmerman, who is currently vacationing on Risa. He is renowned for his research in virology. He would be much more suitable in assisting Dr. Bashir in his recovery than I."

  Garak knew that when Julian started feeling better, he was not going to be receptive to the idea of accepting Dr. Zimmerman's help. Ever since the LMH fiasco, Julian had not cared for Dr. Zimmerman in the least. Dr. Zimmerman had come DS9 to interview Julian for the long-term medical hologram program he was creating, and ended up uncovering a family scandal involving Julian's father, and there had been no love lost between the men. Still, if he was Julian's only hope for regaining his eyesight. . . "When does he arrive?"

  "He is scheduled to arrive on the next shuttlecraft from Risa." the Vulcan replied. "He shall be here in a few hours."

  Julian had pulled himself up to a sitting position on the the biobed. He had heard the entire conversation. He disliked Dr. Zimmerman with a passion and felt humiliated at the thought that this man, who in his opinion had the moral integrity of a slug, could be the only one that may be capable of saving his eyesight. "May we go now? I'd like to get some rest."

  "Of course, Dr. Bashir." Nurse Jabara replied, helping him to stand. She stood in front of him for a minute to make sure he was no longer suffering from vertigo. "I'll let you know when Dr. Zimmerman arrives and is ready to talk to you." Julian nodded as Garak helped him out the door.

  Once back in their quarters, neither Julian nor Garak spoke much. The tailor realized that Julian had a lot on his mind and couldn't think of an appropriate topic of conversation that didn't appear trivial to him. He thought about the virus that was creating havoc on his lover's body. He could only hope that Dr. Zimmerman had the answers they were seeking. He looked over at Julian, who was now resting quietly on the couch. He was gratified to see the doctor's color had returned to it's natural, warm, glow, with his fever being broke. Also, there had been no more incidents of nausea. Julian's body had been through so much in the last two days, he wondered how much more the doctor was capable of handling. By all outward appearances, the doctor didn't appear to have a great deal of strength physically, but Garak knew that looks can be deceiving and would never underestimate the doctor. What the doctor lacked in muscular strength in comparison to other species like the Klingon or Jem'Hadar, Julian made up for in conviction and tenacity. He knew Julian to be a fighter, especially for others, so he hoped the doctor didn't sell himself short. He had every faith in the doctor that he would indeed find a way to triumph over the organism that had invaded his body. They spent several hours in peaceful silence, just enjoying the presence of the other, when Julian's com badge beep.

  "Bashir here," Julian replied into his badge.

  "Dr. Zimmerman is ready to talk with you now," he heard Jabara reply.

  "All right, I'll be there shortly," Julian replied and took Garak's hand." Would you like to come with me?" he asked with a weak smile. "Of course," Garak replied trying to sound encouraging.

  Julian took a seat on the biobed and waited for the arrival of Dr. Zimmerman. He still couldn't help thinking how he wished that he would never have to endure the man's presence again. True, he had never been exceptionally close with his father, but he still couldn't help feeling resentment towards the man that had led to his father's incarceration. He knew that if he wanted a cure though, he was going to have to make an effort to get along with the man. He heard the heavy sounding footsteps of the doctor approach.

  "Dr. Bashir. It's been awhile. How have you been, not considering recent events, that is?" he walked in asking. He spotted the tailor, who was standing behind Julian, and possessively resting his hands on the doctor's shoulders. "Who are you?" he directed the question to the Cardassian.

  "He's with me," Julian replied simply. A small smile creased his mouth. He wished he was able to see the look of shock and surprise that he knew was on the doctor's face. The last time Dr. Zimmerman had visited DS9, Julian had been involved with Leeta. Zimmerman had become smitten with the Dabo girl and it had irritated Julian quite a bit. He seriously doubted he had to worry about the doctor developing any fascination in his current romantic interest, which suited him just fine.

  "Umm. . .yes. . .all right," Zimmerman stammered and then recovered quickly. "Of how much did Dr. Dulix inform you?" he asked, settling into his professional mode.

  "That Julian was inflicted with a virus," Garak replied.

  "That is correct. The virus is called the Oshiqui, named after the Bajoran scientist that discovered it," the doctor responded.

  "I haven't heard of that before," Julian observed. He considered himself fairly knowledgeable in the study of virology, especially that of Bajoran virology. He had to be, considering how many Bajoran viruses he had seen since coming aboard DS9.

  "It's not that surprising. It's a rather rare virus," the doctor commented. "It affects the. . ." he started to explain the pathology and then looked at the Cardassian. He realized that Julian's 'friend' probably didn't posses the medical knowledge that Julian did. "All right, humanoid eyes have two different types of visual receptors. These are cones, which allow people to see sharp images, and rods which are more sensitive to light and allow people to see more general outline of images. The projections off of these receptors usually extend into the pigmented layer of the retina. Normally, the ganglionic cells of the retina transmits the impulses from these receptors through the optic nerve to links in the thalamus and finally through to the occipital cortex. Each nerve cell contains a covering called a myelin sheath that help the impulses move through the body." Zimmerman looked again at the tailor to make sure he was still being understood. The tailor seemed to be comprehending so far, so he continued, "The virus that is affecting Dr. Bashir is very specific, in that it only appears to be attacking the myelin sheath of the nerves going from the thalamus to the occipital cortex, and thus inhibiting the transmission of the visual impulses."

  "Does it affect everyone in this way?" the tailor asked.

  "No, it has been on Bajor for some time and many of the inhabitants have become adapted to it. When they do become infected with it, the symptoms are those of a minor fever and blurred vision," the doctor responded.

  "Is there any Bajoran antibiotics that would destroy the virus?" Julian asked. Considering it was a Bajoran ailment, it was reasonable to expect a Bajoran cure.

  "The Bajorans do have a course of antibiotics that cure them within a week, but I am afraid that it wouldn't be effective with your blood chemistry," Zimmerman responded.

  "So what treatments are available?" Garak asked. He had started massaging Julian's shoulders that were suddenly stiff.

  "I was thinking of trying a combination of multi-drug therapy along with immunotherapy," he explained, turning his back for a moment to pick up a tricorder, "There is one complication though."

  "What is it?" Julian asked. He was hoping it wasn't anything too serious. He knew Garak must be worried, even though he couldn't see his expression.

  "There is a strong possibility that if we don't find the cure quickly, the damage could become too substantial, and the condition could become irreversible," the doctor replied, stating the worse case scenario.

  "What are we talking about here? Days? Weeks?" Julian asked starting to get worried.

  "There is no way to be certain at this point. The sooner we start the therapy the better your chance of recovery will be." Zimmerman explained. The doctor then dismissed them, leaving orders for Julian to be in the Infirmary first thing in the morning, when they would get started.

  In the days that followed, a steady pattern developed. Garak would walk with Julian to the Infirmary every morning for his treatments and at Julian's insistence, Garak would open his shop, knowing that one of the nurses would see Julian back. Garak didn't know how to go about cessation to the anxiety he was feeling for Julian. Ever since Dr. Zimmerman had told Julian that the condition had a chance of being permanent, Julian had become quiet and reserved. Julian scarcely spoke to him when he arrived home any longer, and hadn't seen any of his friends since the accident. When Garak had suggested they attend a symphony performance in the holosuite of Bach and Tchaikovski, which were not two of the tailor's particularly favorite Terran composers anyhow, Julian had declined saying he wasn't 'feeling up to it'. Even when he had told Julian that Keiko, Miles, Dax, Kira, Odo, and Sisko would be attending, the doctor still refused and went to bed early--without him.

  That was something else that was troubling the tailor. He and Julian had not attempted to make love since Julian returned from Bajor. At first, Garak knew the doctor had still been in some pain, and even after speaking with Zimmerman, he accredited it to shock from finding out there may be no cure. He didn't mind giving Julian his space in the least, even if it did mean many unbearably cold showers, but he couldn't help but to wonder if Julian might not be using it to put distance between the two of them. Garak wanted to talk to Julian about this and his distancing of himself from his friends, but he didn't know how to approach Julian about it. He didn't want the doctor to feel he was being put on the defensive, but he wished Julian would open up and share his feelings with him. He wasn't sure of how Julian was feeling or what he was thinking, and even wondered if the doctor knew himself. He was feeling frustrated and helpless, and these were not emotions the Cardassian knew how to deal with well.

  Something else that disturbed him, was that he didn't have anyone on the station with whom he felt close enough to confide in about this. He was more tolerated on the station than accepted, therefore had not made any close associations outside of his friendship with the doctor. He was hoping he was adjusting to Julian's affliction well, but when he stayed extremely late at his shop doing inventory for the third time inside a week, Garak knew he was avoiding the situation. Lying to himself wasn't going to get him anywhere, he decided, so he was going to have to do something to get through to the doctor and soon.


  "What is taking so bloody long in finding a cure?" Julian said irritably at Zimmerman. He had been poked, prodded, and scanned everyday for nearly two weeks with no results in sight. He had been spending nearly as much time in the Infirmary as a patient, than he had when he was practicing.

  Zimmerman let out a weary sigh and ran his fingers through his receding dark hair. "As I've explained on several occasions now, Doctor, this particular virus seems to be mutating at sporadic intervals. We're not sure what is causing the mutating and until we do, it's going to make things harder," he replied curtly. "Also, you are well aware that virus reproduce in phases. Prophase, metaphase, anaphase and finally telephase. I'm trying to find an antibiotic that stops growth in the prophase," he explained, sounding as if he was lecturing a child. He was starting to lose his patience with the other man. When Julian hadn't been receiving his treatments, he had been making himself a nuisance by staying under his feet, trying to find a way to help the doctor. He had on several occasions, been forced to have Nurse Jabara divert Julian's attentions and take him back to his quarters. "Your treatment is over for the day, so why don't you go back home and rest," Zimmerman suggested, sounding more serene than he actually felt.

  Julian was about to ask Jabara to assist him to his quarters, when he heard a beep. "Dr. Zimmerman here," he heard the other doctor state.

  "Two Bajorans are going to be beaming directly to the Infirmary. One was involved in a plasma explosion." Julian heard O'Brien say.

  "Understood," he heard Zimmerman say. "Nurse get biobed one prepared and all of the equipment I'll be needing."

  "Yes, Doctor," he heard Jabara comment. As soon as Julian heard the familiar buzz of someone beaming in, he felt the familiar rush of adrenaline coursing through his bloodstream, that always came to him whenever he was faced with an emergency. His heart was pumping hard against his chest, his breathing had become rapid and his mind instantly clicked into medical mode thinking about what would be needed for a plasma blast. It took several seconds for his mind to register the fact that he would not be helping the person in the biobed. He heard the nurses and the doctor moving quickly across the floor, the doctor yelling for the regenerator and a hypospray of epinephrine. It also registered to him that he heard the sound of a small child crying.

  "Mommy! Mommy! Wake up mommy. Please wake up!" he heard the child screaming, the voice sounded feminine, young, and very terrified. He didn't think the girl could be any older than five at the most.

  "Get that child out of here!" he heard Zimmerman yell at one of the nurses. Julian suddenly felt a tugging at his pants leg.

  "Mister, will you help my mommy?" the child pleaded through sniffles.

  Julian lifted the girl in his arms and wrapped his arms around her, and she immediately buried her head in the crook of his neck and clung on him tightly. "I wish I could honey," he said bitterly, running his hands over her hair and back. He made soothing sounds, holding her tightly, and rocked her, while heavy sobs racked her slight body.

  "I'm sorry, Dr. Zimmerman. We've lost her," Julian heard Jabara say, and Julian's heart sunk.

  " Please make a note of the time of death and that resuscitative measures were used, but it was too late. Internal damage was too extensive," Julian heard the doctor reply and his own hot, tears, started spilling out of his eyes and ran down his cheeks to damped the girl's hair. He hugged her tightly, choking on his tears for what seemed liked hours.

  Finally he felt a soft touch on his shoulder. "Dr. Bashir, we need to take the girl and try to contact her next of kin," Tagana said quietly in his ear. When he had calmed down slightly, he nodded and reluctantly relinquished his grip on the girl, whose own crying had settled down to whimpers. He took a towel and wiped off his face and smoothed his uniform, collecting himself.

  "If you're ready to go back to your quarters, I could help you," Tagara offered. Julian just nodded, feeling too tired and worn out to reply.

  Walking down the corridor, Tagara noticed Julian hadn't said a word since coming out of the Infirmary. "I'm sorry you had to be there for that, Doctor," she said sympathetically. Still, he said nothing.

  Once inside, Julian ordered a cup of Tarkalean tea and sat down on the sofa. He thought about the small girl that had been in his arms and he started feeling a sense of rage spreading through his body. He was angry at feeling of helplessness he had today. Knowing he could have helped in some way, but couldn't do a damn thing about it! The thought that some lousy microbe had completely incapacitated him, so now he was nothing more than a nuisance who couldn't do anything helpful for anyone, had him seething. That girl had asked him to help her mother and all he was able to do was sit there looking stupid. His whole existence seemed pointless to him at that moment and he couldn't think of a single thing that disproved the theory. He could have possibly saved that woman if he had his sight. The powerlessness he was feeling threatened to bring the tears from earlier back, burning the back of his eyelids. Instead, he picked up his empty cup and sent it hurtling towards a wall. He took little pleasure when he heard it shatter into pieces. The small act of vengeance helped him a little, but he still had the desire to lash out and beat something to a bloody pulp. He had managed to bring himself under control, somewhat, when he heard the door swish open.

  "Good evening, Doctor," Garak said pleasantly, coming over to press his lips against Julian's in a sound kiss. "I had a rather productive day."

  "How nice for you," Julian replied tartly.

  Garak raised an eye ridge, but decided to let the doctor's tone go. "Has Doctor Zimmerman come any close to a cure?" he asked, walking over to the replicator to order a glass of Kanar.

  "Not really," Julian remarked.

  'All right, time to change the subject,' the tailor thought to himself. "Would you like dinner? "

  "I'm not especially hungry right now. Besides, I'm perfectly capable of ordering a meal for myself," Julian replied tersely.

  "I never claimed otherwise, Doctor," Garak replied placatingly. He didn't know what was troubling the doctor, but he was resolute that tonight, they would finally get everything out in the open. Julian felt the weight of the sofa shift as the tailor took a seat. "Julian, I know something is troubling you, and I would like to talk about it."

  "I'm not in the mood for it tonight," he replied, turning slightly away from Garak's voice.

  If Julian wouldn't open up to Garak by him asking him to, Garak knew of one other option that usually put Julian into a very relaxed and talkative state. He only hoped it wasn't too soon. "Julian, I've really missed you today. I kept thinking how good it would be to come home to you and. . ." his voice trailed off as he leaned in close to Julian, gently brushing his lips against Julian's throat, his hands coming up to caress the doctor's chest. He enveloped him in his embrace and was surprised to feel Julian's body stiffen.

  "Will you just stop!" Julian said, the anger showing in his voice. He gave the Cardassian a hard shove, breaking his hold on him.

  "What's wrong? Is it too soon for you?" Garak asked, feeling completely confused.

  "Why does there have to be anything wrong, just because I don't happen to feel like dropping my pants for you?" Julian said bitterly.

  "We don't have to do anything you don't feel comfortable with," Garak said, wondering what was the cause for Julian's outburst.

  "And that's something else. I'm getting a little sick and tired of your false concern. I don't want or need you feeling sorry for me!" the doctor spat, standing up.

  "Doctor, I assure you, my concern is genuine and I do not feel sorry for you," Garak replied, his own voice starting to get louder.

  "I think you do pity me. And you know what?" Julian asked turning towards where he assumed Garak was still sitting, " Maybe you should. After all I pity you--I always have," he said venomously. "What else could I feel for someone who had to resort to threatening suicide to get me into his bed?"

  Garak felt like he had just received a physical blow to his gut. How could he say such a thing about their first beautiful night together? He had opened his heart to Julian and shared a part of himself that no one else knew about when he had told Julian about his deceased lover. He realized he had been staring dumbfounded at Julian. "I think you should leave," he said quietly.

  "I couldn't agree more," Julian replied walking towards the door. Garak watched as it swished shut behind him. Garak looked at the door for several minutes before he closed his eyes and squeezed the glass of Kanar, still in his hand, with such force that it broke. The action caused droplets of blood mingled with the Cardassian liquor to spill onto the floor.

  Julian found his way down the corridor and entered his access code to the door of the quarters that he hadn't lived in for the last two and a half months. He called for the lights to come on and then wondered why he even bothered. He managed to find his way over to his desk and opened the top center drawer and started rummaging through it. Finally, his fingers closed around what he had been searching for. He pulled out a fifth of a bottle of brandy his father had sent him on his last birthday. He worked the cork out with his thumb and raised the bottle up in front of him in a mock toast. "Here's to you father. Your all around screw-up son has done it once again." With that, he took a swallow straight from the bottle, not bothering to use a glass. He then set to the task of getting thoroughly inebriated. He wanted to get so drunk that he could no longer think straight, let alone feel anything. Halfway into the bottle, Julian felt his head spinning around. He thought how the feeling seemed to be intensified, considering he couldn't see. The spinning of his head quickly brought on a feeling of nausea and Julian wished he had eaten something before starting his drinking spree, but as he found himself bent over his bathroom sink, emptying his stomach, he was almost glad he hadn't. He washed his face off with a cloth, glad to be spared the sight of his blood-shot eyes. Stumbling towards the direction of his bedroom, he fell fully clothed onto his bed and passed out.

  The first thought that permeated Julian's alcohol laden mind was the fact that the other half of his bed was empty. The lack of someone in his bed wasn't the only thing that was off. Something wasn't quite right and Julian couldn't pick up on what it was. Then he realized what it was. The tailor's natural musky scent was missing from the sheets. Recollection from the previous day and evening came rushing to the doctor. Julian was aware enough to comprehend that the sudden, intense pain that channeled through his body had little to do with the physical discomfort stemming from his hang-over. Stringing a number of curses together, a collection of Terran and alien, condemning himself for his stupidity, he pulled himself to a sitting position on the bed. A wave of light-headedness hit him, letting him know that there was still quite a bit of brandy left in his bloodstream. He sat still until the spinning eased up, then made his way over to the replicator and ordered an extra large glass of orange juice. His mouth had the feeling of having been used as a cotton ball holder. He downed the bittersweet liquid within minutes and ordered another. Feeling slightly better from replenishing his body's lost fluid, he headed towards the shower. Getting the water as hot as he could stand it, he began washing. He realized that much of the loathing and hostility he had been feeling the night before was gone, only to be replaced by a feeling of despair. The initial feelings of frustration and helplessness were still with him, but coupled with that, was the profound feeling of remorse he starting to feel as he thought about Garak.

  The memory of his own voice, filled with anger and animosity, lashing out at the Cardassian, rang in his ears. The tailor had been undeserving of bearing the brunt of Julian's outrage. He hadn't known that he had possessed such a contemptible and vicious side to himself. He had always held a certain amount of pride for his even-temperness and good nature. He had proven to himself, just how little self-awareness he did possess. With one irrational comment, made in the heat of the moment, he had practically thrown away the only thing that had any meaning to him. It wasn't only thinking about losing a lover that bothered him, as much as the thought of losing Garak's friendship.

  With that notion in mind, Julian decided he was going to try to get out of his quarters for awhile. Digging in his almost bare dresser, he managed to find the only sweatsuit he owned. He then went out the door, and feeling his way by the walls, led himself to Quark's. Quark was extremely surprised to see the doctor there. To Julian's relief, the Ferengi didn't inquire much about what was going on with him. He rented a holosuite and initiated a simple exercising program that consisted of a step-machine, rowing machine, and treadmill. It wasn't normally the activity he would choose as a work out, but the equipment was manageable with his lack of vision. Since it had been awhile since he had last worked out, it didn't take long for him to work up a sweat. Maybe it was for the best anyhow, he thought to himself. Wouldn't Garak be better off without him anyway? The last thing the tailor needed in his life was to be responsible for an invalid. Wasn't that exactly he kept getting reminded he was? A helpless invalid? Garak deserved someone better than that to share his life with. Someone with something more to offer him than what he had. He knew that presumably, Garak would one day get his sentence of exile either lifted, or reversed. When that happened, Julian could not foresee Garak taking him to live with him on Cardassia Prime. He would have his old life, his old friends, and his own family back. There would be no place for Julian in his life anymore, and he didn't want the Cardassian to feel liable for him. Julian ended the program, feeling winded and sweaty, but not particularly better off than before. He decided that even though he had hurt Garak terribly, that in the end, it was in the Cardassian's best interest to get on with his life without him playing a part in it.

  Julian, feeling resolute with his decision, grabbed his towel, and headed back through the Promenade, down the corridor, to his quarters. As he entered his personal access code and entered the room, he somehow sensed he wasn't alone.

  "Hello, is someone in here?" he called out. He then heard light foot- steps coming from his bedroom.

  "Jules, it's so good to see you," he heard a very familiar feminine voice call to him as he felt himself being enveloped into a tight embrace.

  "Hello, Mother," he answered, with disbelief. "What are you doing here?" he asked, hugging her back quickly and then disentangling himself.

  "Now, is that any way to welcome your mother?" she asked chidingly.

  "Of course not," he responded placing a kiss on her cheek. "I'm glad to have you here."

  "That's much better son," she replied, kissing his cheek in turn.

  "Now, what are you doing here?" he asked again.

  Amsha Bashir let out an agitated sigh, " Captain Sisko informed me of your accident on Bajor. I booked passage on the first shuttlecraft here, so I could come see how you were first hand."

  Julian couldn't help but to feel touched by her concern, even though it had been some years since they had actually been close. "That really wasn't necessary, Mother." He took a seat on the sofa and felt her join him.

  "Nonsense, if my son needs me, then I'm going to be here," she replied. 'Why start with the concerned mother act now? A little redundant isn't it?' he thought to himself. "How long will you be able to stay?" Julian asked aloud.

  "I can stay here for as long as you need me to hon," Amsha replied. 'Great. In other words, you're going to be underfoot until I ask you to leave,' Julian thought wearily to himself. "Hmm, I seem to remember this place being smaller the last time I visited," Amsha commented.

  "I decided to get rid of a lot of my belongings I didn't have use for any longer," Julian replied dully. He had no intention of explaining to her that all of his other effects were currently still at the tailor's quarters.

  "That's odd, you never were one to throw things away when you were younger," she said with a touch of confusion.

  "I've changed a lot over the years," was the only comment Julian offered in way of an explanation.

  "Of course you have, son." Amsha replied, smiling to herself. She had no misconceptions of how her adult son had changed through the years, but no matter how she tried to fight it, she would always be reminded of the four year old, looking at her with huge, rounded eyes asking for help to get into his pajamas. "What did the doctor say about your eyesight?"

  He explained to her about the virus and the difficulties they were having with finding a cure. "So, what your telling me is that there is a chance for you to regain your eyesight if Dr. Zimmerman can find the cure in time," Amsha finally asked.

  "That's right, but the probability is pretty remote," Julian replied without much emotion in his voice.

  "But if the chance exists, then that's what you have to keep focused on," his mother replied trying to sound encouraging.

  "I prefer being realistic," Julian replied caustically.

  "You can be realistic and have hope as well, son," she pointed out.

  "I get a little tired of it at times," he replied honestly, running his hand through his hair. He became aware that he had not worked out all of his stress out on the machines earlier and knew if this discussion kept on it's course, he may very well get into another argument. At this point, he was not up to dealing with it. "Mother, have you had a tour of the station since you've arrived?"

  Amsha was well aware that her son was trying to change the topic of discussion. Seeing the uneasiness that her son was in, she decided to go along with it. "No, I haven't."

  Julian gave her a genuine smile, "Why don't I get Constable Odo to show you around then."

  "That would be very nice," she responded, pleasantly.

  Julian hit his com badge, "Bashir to Constable Odo."

  "Odo here. What can I do for you, Doctor?" Odo answered.

  "If you're not busy Constable, would you able to show my mother around the station?" Julian asked hopefully.

  "It would be my pleasure, Doctor," Odo responded, "I will be there shortly."

  "Thank you very much," Julian replied with gratitude.

  Amsha smiled slightly at her son, " Well, now that is set, I think I should change clothes. I'm in desperate need of a shower after the long flight here."

  Julian tried not to let his smile falter, "Um. . .will you be staying here?"

  Amsha's smile broadened. She leaned over to give her son's cheek a kiss. "No son, I'll be staying in the guest quarters as long as I'm here." Julian got up and followed her to the door. "I would like to have breakfast with you in the morning though. If that's all right with you."

  " That would be fine," Julian responded, giving her a quick hug before he heard the door open. After she left, he thought about his mother's presence on the station. It wasn't that he didn't love his mother, on the contrary, he loved his mother dearly. He just didn't seem to have much in common with the woman. His relationship with his mother had been shaky during childhood, then when he became a adolescent, he grew even more distant from her. Now as an adult, he felt he hardly even knew her. He didn't like dwelling on the thought, and usually he was able to not focus on it because he hardly saw her. Now, with her here, it would make it impossible to ignore it.

  Amsha Bashir felt remarkably better after showering and putting on a fresh pair of navy-colored slacks and a flowered blouse, only slightly wrinkled from being in the suitcase. She appraised her appearence in the mirror. Her auburn hair was pulled up into a dignified bun, and her skin held a natural rosy huge to it. She had never considered herself a beauty by any means, but she was far from homely. For being a woman in her mid-fifties, she thought that she had carried her age well. Her eyes, slightly creased at the corners, showed signs of many smiles, and she had felt she had done a adequate job of keeping her body toned over the years. The few strands of gray that were sprinkled through her hair, giving it a peppered look, she attributed half to her precocious Jules and the other half to her adored Richard.

  She felt a slight twinge of sadness at the thought of her husband. She missed him terribly and couldn't wait for him to be released from prison. She had only been able to visit him a handful of times because of the long trip it took to get to the prison, and every time she saw him, she wished he could come home. She was coping fine on her own, having no problems managing their affairs, but after thirty-some years of marriage, she didn't like living in a empty house. She knew it would only be a matter of time before he was released, but that wasn't much comfort to her when she woke up alone every morning. At times she thought it would be easier for her if she could simply be angry at her husband, but she knew that he had genetically enhanced Julian because he only wanted the best for him. He had no idea how misguided his good intentions had been until it was too late, but at least he accepted his retribution with dignity.

  Amsha knew that her son still did not fully understand Richard's intentions and didn't know if he ever would. She knew Julian had felt so betrayed and hurt when he had been forced to carry the secret of his enhancements, that he hadn't seen the guilt Richard had to deal with. Julian had inherited his stubborn streak from his father, so it was no surprise that the two hadn't spoke since the last time they had all been gathered on DS9. She hoped that one day Julian would be able to let go of his misgivings he had for his father and come to understand him and feel compassion for him once again. Maybe someday when Julian was a father himself, he would finally come to understand what could possess a man to resort to unethical means if he thought it would be an advantage to his child's well-being. Amsha hoped for understanding for Julian, she also hoped he never had to act on those instincts. Her thoughts turned to the image of Julian carrying a little boy with chestnut hair, that looked just like him in his youth and smiled at the thought of being called 'Grandma'. That image was still running in her mind's eye when she heard someone at her door. She opened it up to find the Constable standing there patiently waiting for her with his hands behind his back.

  "Hello, Mrs. Bashir, are you ready for a tour of the station now?" Odo asked clearing his throat.

  "That would be lovely," she replied with a charming smile, "And please call me Amsha, Constable. I don't feel old enough to be called Mrs."

  "As you wish, Amsha, as long as you call me Odo," he smiled back briefly, " Shall we go?"

  "Lead the way," she replied and fell in step beside him. She was escorted through Ops, Engineering, the Docking Ring, past Odo's security office, the Assay Office, and the Information Kiosk. Odo gave her a brief description of each facility and introduced her to some of the people that worked in each one. She was very interested in finding out as much about where her son lived and worked as she could. Finally, the tour came to a end on the Promenade. When they passed the Celestial Cafe, she saw a familiar Bajoran face.

  "Odo, this has been a most informative and entertaining tour, but would you mind terribly if I left you to talk to someone I recognize?" she asked with a smile.

  "Of course not, Amsha. If I could be of a help to you during your stay here, please don't hesitate to ask," Odo replied amicably.

  "Thank you, Odo. I will definitely keep that in mind," she responded as she entered the cafe and made her way over to the woman she recognized.

  "Leeta, how are you doing dear?" Amsha asked as she came up behind her.

  "Mrs. Bashir!" Leeta exclaimed, standing up to hug the older woman fiercely, "This is such a surprise. What's brought you here?" she asked, finally letting her go and pulling out a seat for her.

  "I've come here to stay with Jules for awhile. How have you been doing? It's been so long since I've last talked with you," Amsha asked, taking the proffered seat. She had first met the Bajoran Dabo girl when Julian was going out with her. She had become fast friends with the girl she had once hoped would become her daughter-in-law, and still had a lot of affection for the bright, energetic girl.

  Leeta smiled brightly, "Did Julian tell you I was going to get married?" she asked.

  "He most certainly did not! How wonderful for you. Tell me all about him," she responded smiling back with enthusiasm.

  "He's this very sweet Ferengi. His name is Rom and he's wonderful." she responded, beaming with pleasure.

  Amsha frowned slightly, "Ferengi? Aren't they the race that believes that all women should be kept in the house naked, and who are more concerned with making a profit than anything else?"

  Leeta's smile didn't falter in the least. "Rom is not your typical Ferengi. He believes in equality in the sexes, he works at the station as in the maintenance department, and gave up all of his profit to the Bajoran Orphan Fund when his brother tried to convince him to make me sign a prenuptial contract."

  Amsha looked at her with astonishment. "You're right. He doesn't sound anything like all the Ferengi I've ever heard about. It certainly sounds like you found yourself a catch."

  "I'd like to think so," she replied with a dreamy sigh.

  "Of course, I think he is just as lucky. I always said that Jules was a fool to let you slip through his fingers," Amsha responded, affectionately patting the girl's hand. She hadn't found out until her last visit to DS9 that Julian and Leeta had broken up.

  "Thank you, Amsha, but the decision to break up was completely mutual," she responded fondly, "Besides, it's for the best because recently, we both found someone that made us happy."

  Amsha's ears perked up at this, "Oh really, what do you mean dear?" So, her little boy had an romantic interest? That could explain a lot about his recent behavior.

  Suddenly realizing what she revealed, Leeta began to look decidedly uncomfortable. "Umm. . .maybe you should ask him about it." She didn't know exactly how much Amsha knew about Julian's unconventional liaison with the station's tailor.

  "Oh, come now dear, Jules has a tendency to be closed mouthed about his relationships since I am his mother," Ashma replied assuringly.

  Leeta shifted slightly in her seat. "I don't really feel like it's my place to," she insisted, briefly casting a glance towards the tailor's shop.

  The glance went unnoticed to Amsha. "I can respect that, Leeta," she replied. She assumed that Leeta, even though she was engaged, still felt a little jealous towards the new woman in Julian's life. "Now, tell me more about Rom."

  She began smiling again, glad for the change of subjects, "Well, do you know that when we first started dating, he. . . .


  Garak found himself staring dejectedly out the viewport. The tailor had spent most of the evening trying to box up most of Julian's belongings when he had returned to his quarters--finally. The tailor had not relished the thought of coming home to empty quarters. When he finally did, he realized his trepidation had been founded. He had ordered some dinner and tried to concentrate on the Cardassian novel he had began earlier, but every time he looked up, he saw something that reminded him of the doctor. A data padd on the coffee table with his research, his racquetball racquet in the corner, a shirt of his laying on the floor, the toothbrush in the bathroom--there wasn't a room that didn't carry some evidence of Julian's presence.   When it ultimately became too distracting, he decided to do something about it. That's when the Cardassian began filling a large cardboard box he had found. He figured that he could beam them back to Julian's room when he was in the Infirmary for his treatments. Each object brought back certain memories surrounding Julian, and it caused a dull aching in the hollow of his stomach.   Now at the viewport, he closed his eyes, he could still picture Julian's smile, the smell of his skin, how his eyes turned from a hazel to a dark umber when he was feeling passionate. . . . "Stop it right now you foolish exile! You are being absolutely ridiculous," he scolded himself, turning from the viewport back to the box. His gaze did a quick survey of the room to make sure he hadn't missed anything. He looked over at the one of the dressers and noticed a familiar small stuffed animal sitting there. He walked over and picked it up. The bear's brown fur was matted and worn, one of the ears had been shabbily sewed back on, the left eye was barely still attached, and it looked like some of the stuffing was ready to come out.   He knew that this was one of Julian's favorite childhood toys and had meant so much to him, that he had kept it close throughout adolescence and adulthood. He even knew the bear's name. Julian had named him Kukalaka when Julian was five. Garak could even recall Julian telling him a story one night of how Kukalaka had been his very first patient when the bear needed his ear stitched back on and how he had went through major surgeries as Julian grew up. Garak looked into the bear's glassy eyes and sighed. "You know him well, why is he doing this?" That was one thing Garak had yet to fully understand. He felt certain that Julian's harsh words had only been cover for something that ran deeper than Julian was willing to talk about.   "Well, there isn't much to be done about it right now. Even if there was something more behind his anger, he still made it perfectly clear how he felt. Terrans don't often say things in anger that hasn't been on their mind and I refuse to go to him when my presence isn't wanted. I knew it was too good to last on any sort of permanent basis anyhow. I'm not as angry with him as much as at myself for being naive enough to put any faith in it. After all, loving someone has only served to cause me nothing but trouble all my life anyhow. It had been too easy to believe him though. . . ." He let his voice trail off and then looked at the bear, who looked back unblinking. He shook his head in disbelief. 'Elim, you're worse off than you thought to be standing here having a one sided conversation with an inanimate child's toy,' he told himself, and then walked over to the box and laid the bear with care on top of the rest of Julian's belongings.

  Feeling drained of energy, he decided to get some rest, so he undressed, showered, and climbed into his empty bed. Automatically, he laid down on the right side of the bed. For some reason, Julian had preferred the left side when he first started staying the night, and Garak hadn't quite gotten use to having the entire bed to himself again. He pulled the blanket up around his shoulders and closed his eyes and tried to relax. He found that he couldn't find a comfortable position. He tossed, turned, and then pounded the pillow with his fist, but that didn't seem to help in the least. He thought about ordering a glass of Kanar to calm himself down, but then remembering the events that occurred the last time he drank it to calm himself on the anniversary of Rochosh's death, he decided against it. He then had an inane idea. He wrestled with it for several minutes before heaving a sigh and got himself up from bed to march into the living area. Once there, he took the stuffed brown bear out of the box, back into his bedroom, and tucked it in on Julian's side of the bed. Once he settled himself, he closed his eyes and fell into a dreamless sleep.


  Firm lips made contact with Julian's. Julian willingly allowed his mouth to open under the pressure of the warm, insistent tongue that invaded his mouth. Julian kissed back with a fierce hunger, his wandering hands traveling over soft skin of a broad back. He felt strong arms pulling him to a solid frame. Sure, agile fingers came around to release the robe he was wearing. He felt the hands travel downward to stroke his hips and around to firmly stroke his posterior. Julian murmured when he felt the tongue leave his mouth to fasten onto one of his nipples. His fingers tangled into velvety hair. The mouth came from his nipple back up to gently nip and suck at his throat. He wanted to reciprocate the caresses, but found he wasn't able to because the figure backed off every time he tried to do so. A demanding palm came down to apply pressure between Julian's legs. He helplessly let out a loud moan.

  His eyes flew open. After his labored breathing had settled down and he regained his equilibrium, he realized his own moaning must have woke him up. The sheets were tangled all about him, and his body was damp from perspiration. His body continued to feel the remnant of the yearning and desire the vivid dream had caused in him. Julian had not had a dream so distinct in since before he and Garak had become involved. He hadn't really had any doubt who the mysterious figure in his dream had been, but thinking about the tailor left no question of who had aroused him so thoroughly. He knew his body still showed painfully obvious evidence of that arousal. He asked the computer what time it was and it told him he had about two hours before his mother would be coming over for breakfast. He groaned in frustration and ran a hand impatiently through his mussed hair. He knew that in all probability that it was pointless to try to get anymore sleep, so he didn't even try. Instead, he thought that maybe doing some of his meditative exercises could help, or at least it couldn't hurt. So he got himself up out of bed and dressed in his uniform.

  He positioned himself in the middle of his living room floor, sitting crossed-legged. Closing his eyes, he started out by relaxing his toes, trying to let all of the pent up anxiety work itself out of his body. Breathing in a slow, steady rhythm he worked his way up, letting the energy drain from his legs, to his hips, to his stomach and up until he finally let his neck fall limply to rest his chin on his chest. He tried concentrating on the sound of his breathing instead of paying attention to any thoughts that ran through his mind. Unfortunately, the thoughts were not allowing themselves to be ignored. His mind's eye brought forth the image of the first time he and Garak had made love. The tenderness and passion Garak had shown that night had surprised Julian at first, but Julian had come to realize that Cardassian or not, Garak was capable of more tenderness than many Terrans. ' Roh'lam kah eim adentra jahkim.', he remembered Garak saying to him. He had never been called someone cherished beloved before and at that moment, Garak had truly made him feel beloved and cherished. He then remembered the rose and poem that had waited for him the next morning in the Infirmary. Garak always had a way of surprising him when he was least expecting it. He then thought about all the simple things that had surprised him when he started staying at Garak's all the time, like how cleaning up the quarters had become fun when they shared the task. Even though the love making had always been wonderful, Julian was amazed to find that he enjoyed just being in the same room with Garak, regardless of what they were doing. They had never run out of topics to discuss and he was always at ease with the Cardassian. In his past relationships, he had always felt like he had to put on a performance of what they expected him to be in order to keep them interested. More times than not, what they wanted and who he truly was had not been compatible. His relationship with the tailor was the first time he hadn't felt that need to put on an act. He knew Garak accepted him as he was. Even with all these thoughts running through his mind, he did not regret his decision that Garak was better off without him in his life. Wasn't he? Of course he was. Julian, in his current state would only hold him back in the future and Garak deserved better than what he could give him. He felt resolved in his convictions and was feeling almost, but not quite, peaceful when he heard his door chime.

  "Enter," he called out and heard the door slide open as he got up from the Indian style position he had been sitting in. He had sat for so long that his legs felt like they would buckle on him as he walked across the floor.

  "Good morning, son. How are you doing this morning?" he heard his mother ask entirely too cheerfully for Julian's taste. Before he could respond, she continued. "Did you sleep well last night? You still look a bit tired."

  'Not as well as I could have,' he thought to himself. "I slept just fine mother. I trust you slept well?" He couldn't see the incredulous look his mother shot him.

  "After the trip I had to get here, I slept like a baby. You wouldn't believe how crowded and noisy that shuttle craft was," she commented.

  "Well, I'm glad to hear you found your quarters comfortable," Julian replied walking over to the replicator. "What would you like for breakfast?"

  She gave it a thought for a minute. "I think I'd like a cinnamon and raisin bagel and a nice hot cup of coffee," she finally replied. Julian ordered himself a Devin fluff pastry and something to drink himself. Amsha raised a questioning eyebrow as he set the plates down on the table. "Jules, are you all right?" she asked taking a seat across from her son.

  "Of course, Mother. Why do you ask?" he questioned, taking a large bite of the sweet pastry.

  "Because you despise Rokassa juice, or at least you use to," she casually replied.

  He swore silently to himself. He hadn't even noticed the simple mistake." I use to order it for someone all the time. I guess I just got into a habit of ordering it. Nothing important," he replied taking the glass back to the replicator and ordered the milk he had originally wanted.

  "If you say so, son," was the only comment Amsha made. They ate in silence for the most part. Amsha would occasionally comment on her tour and told Julian about how she had met up with Leeta. Julian talked a little about how Dr. Zimmerman was coming along with a cure, or rather a lack of one, but Amsha could tell that her son's concentration was not with the conversation.   For some reason, she found herself thinking back to when Julian was younger and had been involved with his first love, Palis Delon. When they had broke up, Julian had been devastated. Even though he tried not to let it show how much it bothered him, Amsha noticed the signs when he had come to stay at home for a couple of months. He had been sullen, moody, not wanting to talk to anyone, he had taken to not eating much, wouldn't see any of his friends, and had spent hours to himself.   Suddenly thinking back to what Leeta had said earlier, Amsha suspected what was wrong with her son. At first she thought his behavior had been odd because of his illness. Julian always was testy when he was sick, but now she attributed to something entirely different.

  "Jules, I have promised Leeta that she could show me a favorite holo- novel of her's today, but before I do that, I'd like to talk to you for a little while," Amsha said after they had finished breakfast, walking over to the sofa. Julian followed her and sat down beside her.

  "What did you have in mind Mother?" Julian asked scrupulously.

  Amsha decided that the direct approach was the most favorable way where her son was concerned. "Have you broken off a relationship with someone recently?"

  Julian was only mildly surprise. Ever since he was a small child, his mother had always known when something was bothering him and was usually good at guessing just what it was. "A little while ago," he responded.

  "How long were you involved?" she asked.

  "We've known each other for years, but only got involved a few months ago," he replied, starting to feel a little uncomfortable.

  "Tell me a little about her," Amsha prodded, laying a hand on her son's leg.

  "Him," Julian corrected.

  "Pardon?" she asked, thinking she had heard him wrong.

  "It's a him, not a her. He's the station's tailor. I believe you met him the last time you were on the station," Julian replied.

  Ah, now she understood why Leeta was hesitant to tell her about Julian's latest interest. "So what happened?" she asked finally.

  Julian cocked an eyebrow. He was expecting a bigger reaction out of her than that. "We got into an argument."

  "What was it about?" she asked getting up to get another cup of coffee.

  Julian thought about it for a minute. "Nothing really, but I said something I really had no right to and then I left," he admitted finally.

  "Then what's keeping you from apologizing to him if it was your fault?" she taking another sip of the hot liquid and patiently waited for his answer.

  "Because he's better off without me," Julian replied irritably.

  Amsha simply sat back and looked at her son. "What makes you believe that?"

  "Because he's doesn't need to have to worry about taking care of an invalid," Julian replied quietly.

  "Did he actually tell you that? Is that how he sees you? " she asked.

  "He didn't have to say it, I think it's pretty obvious, don't you?" he replied with bitterness in his tone.

  "Jules, do you think that not being able to see has changed who you are?" she inquired.

  "Hasn't it? Think about it Mother, all I've ever done or wanted to do was be a doctor. Now, if there's no cure, then there is no chance that I'll ever be able to practice medicine again," he responded.

  "If you really love him, don't you think you have more to offer him then some medical degree?" she questioned. "Jules, you're my flesh and blood and I love you dearly, but when it comes to relationships, you still have a lot to learn."

  "What would you know about what I'm going through anyway?" he asked defensively.

  Amsha let out sigh," I'm going to tell you how I know what you're going through, or at least how I know what he's going through," she responded, settling back against the cushion. "It was two months after I turned sixteen. I was spending the summer with my aunt and uncle. One night I went out with my cousin Carolyn and met this handsome Starfleet cadet who was home from the Academy. His name was Daniel, and we spent almost every day together after we met. He asked me to marry him before he went back to the Academy. I was thrilled and said yes, because I was very much in love with him by then. So on the day he was suppose to go back, he gave me a small engagement ring," she had no idea that a reminiscent smile was playing on her lips. "He was training to be a pilot and a few weeks after getting back to Starfleet, he was in the middle of a training exercise when his shuttlecraft malfunctioned. When it crashed, his legs had been crushed so badly that they weren't able to be repaired and he was never able to walk again. As soon as I heard about the accident, I had my aunt take me up to see him. That's when he informed me that he wanted to break off the engagement because he thought I could find someone better than him to marry. He didn't want to hold me back while I was still so young. I tried talking him out of it, but he wouldn't hear of it, so the next day I left for home with my aunt, feeling helpless and broken hearted."

  Julian was quiet for a minute, taking in everything his mother was saying. "Do you ever think he might have been right? After all, you did get together with Father," he inquired finally.

  Amsha smiled fondly at her son, "Yes, I did get together with your father and had you and haven't regretted any of it. I love you both dearly, but to answer your question, no I don't think he was right. We could have made a life for ourselves if he would have let me love him."

  "But you did eventual get over him right?" Julian insisted.

  "Did I?" she asked, patting her son's cheek. "As much as I love your father, there is a large part of my heart that still belongs to Daniel and always will. Do you know what his last name was?"

  "No, I don't," he answered.

  "Subatoi," Amsha replied simply. Julian said nothing for the longest time. "So you see, no, I never did get over him completely." Julian still said nothing. "I told you this so you can realize that I know full well what it is like to be in love with someone who pushes you away. It took me a long time to come to realize that I hadn't done anything wrong and that there had been nothing that I could have done to change things. I thought for the longest time that if I had just done this or that he would still love me. The problem though was that it wasn't that he didn't love me, it was that he didn't love himself." Amsha reached over and gave her son a brief hug. "Now there are two things I'd like you do."

  "What?" he asked when she broke the hug.

  "First, I want you to take a long hard look at what exactly it is that you want from your life and decide what is most important to you."

  "And the other thing?" he prodded.

  "It's a piece of advice to keep in mind." She placed her hands on both of his shoulders stressing the emphasis, "Remember, if you keep trying to push away the people who love you, eventually they will get tired of trying to fight you. Decide if that's really where you want to be." Kissing him on the cheek, she got up. "I've got to go. I don't want to keep Leeta waiting." Julian walked with her to the door. "Will you think about everything I've said?"

  "I will," he promised. He really didn't know what else to say.

  "I love you, Jules," she said kissing his cheek again.

  "I love you too, Mother," he returned. Before she walked out the door, he stopped her with a hand on her shoulder. "Mother, does it bother you that I'm involved with a man?" he asked with some reluctance.

  "If it doesn't bother you, then why should it bother me? All I've ever wanted is to see you happy," she replied with sincerity, as he heard the door close behind her. After his mother left, Julian took up his position for meditation again. He had a multitude of thoughts and emotions to sort out and he wanted a clear mind to deal with them.


  Garak was sitting at his desk with his head bent over a data padd containing financial reports. It had been an unbearably slow day and he had spent the last hour looking at the reports. The numbers were now nothing but a large blur. He briefly shut his eyes and rubbed his aching neck. He heard the door to his shop ring as someone entered. 'Finally, a customer,' he thought to himself as he got up to see who was the patron. Jadzia Dax smiled when she saw him.

  "Ah, Commander Dax," he exclaimed with a touch of pleasure in his voice. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?"

  "Well, I was hoping you could come up with something beautiful for me to wear to Leeta and Rom's wedding," she replied, smiling at the tailor.

  Garak looked thoughtfully at the ceiling, his mind working through the different bolts of fabric he had in his shop. He snapped his fingers together. " I think I have the perfect thing," he said finally, then led her over to the wall that had the particular bolt of fabric he had in mind. "This is Rigellian velvet and I think it would be absolutely lovely on you," he said pulling out of bolt of soft, cranberry colored material. "I think with some trimming in maroon, it would be beautiful."

  Jadzia reached out and took the cloth between her fingers. "I think this would be wonderful. What styles would you suggest?" she asked happily.

  "Come, let's see what we can pull up on the computer," he replied.

  A half an hour later, Jadzia found herself standing on a stool in a lace slip while Garak took her measurements. They had spent some time going through different computer screens of styles until she found one that she had thought would look flattering on her. "So, how has Julian been since the accident? I've been wanting to visit him, but either I've been busy, or he's had something to do."

  Garak looked up from his computerized measuring instrument. "Commander, if you don't mind, I would prefer not discussing Dr. Bashir at the moment."

  Jadzia was slightly taken aback by the tailor's request. She lowered her arms and turned to face the tailor. "Garak, is something wrong between the two of you?"

  "Commander, will you please hold still? I can't get proper measurements if you keep fidgeting," he commented, straightening out her arms and turning her head to face in front of her.

  "If you're worried that I might start gossip, you don't have to be, you know," she prompted.

  Garak lowered the measuring instrument. He had the impression that the Commander would be persistent. He knew that people would be talking soon enough, so he might at least have someone who knew the truth. " If you really must know, I came home the other day and we got into an argument and he moved out," Garak briefly summarized.

  "What was the argument over?" Jadzia asked, with a concerned interest.

  "He accused me of feeling sorry for him," he replied cutting to the gist of the matter.

  Jadzia nodded her head knowingly, "Ah, that makes sense."

  Garak shot her a quizzical glance, "Well, if you understand it Commander, please feel free to enlighten me."

  "Well, it just makes sense to me to think that right now with him not being able to see that he would be feeling frustrated and helpless. Generally speaking, most human men don't know how to deal well with those emotions and they feel they can't control it. To gain control, they'll convert it to anger because they're more familiar with how to deal with anger. That anger usually gets directed towards someone they care for. It only stands to reason Julian would take his anger out on you," Jadzia replied turning to look the Cardassian in the eyes. Garak found he really couldn't provide an adequate defense.

  "What would you suggest doing if you were in my place?" he queried.

  "Absolutely nothing," she responded.

  He looked at her with a puzzled expression, " Nothing?"

  She gave him an encouraging smile, "That's correct. Right now, he has a lot to work through and until he adjusts to the changes, anything you do, is going to be seen as you putting pressure on him and will make him want to push you away even more."

  "Patience has never been one of my strongest virtues, Commander," Garak responded.

  Jadzia looked at him with understanding, "Garak, it's never easy to just stand back and do nothing when it's the last thing in the world you want to do, but sometimes it's the only option that will work."

  "And if it doesn't?" Garak asked, still not entirely convinced.

  "I'll sic Worf on him," Dax retorted with a quick wink. She gave him a broad smile that Garak found infectious and couldn't keep from smiling back. She stepped off the stool and came to stand near the tailor. "Honestly though, Garak, I am absolutely positive that Julian loves you, and whether he's changed physically or not, that's one thing I don't see changing."

  "How can you be so certain?" Garak implored.

  "You don't live eight lifetimes without learning a thing or two about love," she commented with confidence, " Even if it is an ongoing lesson."

  Garak slide his gaze away from the Trill, feeling slightly self-conscious at his granting her insight to his emotions. He cleared throat and decided to address a topic that was less distressing. "Commander, your dress should be ready by the end of the week. I could have it delivered if you would like."

  "That would be wonderful," she responded, "I'm sure it's going to be absolutely beautiful." She grabbed her uniform and headed for the dressing room.

  "Thank you, Commander," Garak said before she closed the drapes.

  "No problem, I consider you both my friends, so anytime you need to talk with me, don't hesitate," she offered through the closed curtain.

  Quark was wiping down the top of his bar when he saw the Cardassian tailor take the last seat at the end of the bar. One look of Garak's face and Quark immediately knew what was troubling the tailor. As a bartender, he knew that everyone suffering from relationship problems always had the same expression on their face, regardless of species. He couldn't help thinking that everyone would be happier if they were more like Ferengis-- dealing with profit was better than dealing with matters of the heart. Besides, profits never caused heartaches like the one the Cardassian was obviously nursing. Wordlessly, Quark filled a glass with Kanar and brought it down and sat it in front of the tailor.

  "So, I hear that you and the Doc have been having some problems," the Ferengi finally commented when Garak still hadn't said anything.

  "What would you know about it?" Garak asked defensively. Quark was the last person on the station he wanted spreading any gossip and if he learned of anything, it would be around the station before the night shift was finished.

  Quark held his hands up placatingly, "Hey, don't get angry with me. I just thought you might like a little free advice." He looked Garak in the eyes, "So would you?"

  The very thought of Quark giving anything away for free was almost enough to make him laugh. He also knew free advice was often worth what was paid for it. "Not particularly, but I suppose you'll tell me anyhow," he replied, taking a drink of his beverage.

  At the look Garak gave him, he continued, "If you ask me, what I would do if I were you, would be to take a trip some place." Garak raised an eye ridge questioningly. "I'm sure you could afford to take a bit of a vacation and it would do you some good to get away for awhile. It will help cheer you up and make you feel better."

  "And just where would I go?" he asked, skeptically.

  Quark leaned in towards Garak conspiratorially, "Well, I happen to know of a cargo shuttle leaving for Risa in little over an hour. You could be there by morning."

  Garak gave consideration to what the Ferengi was saying. Maybe it would do him some good to put some physical distance between himself and the doctor. After all, he hadn't been having a great deal of business as of late, and it did sound more appealing than sitting in his quarters where memories of Julian still continued to torment him. "Actually, Quark, I think you may have just had a sensible idea." Quark gave him a self-satisfied smile. "By the way, why would you be so concerned with my well being?"

  "Because, your moping around is depressing my customers," Quark responded earnestly. Garak simply rolled his eyes and left for his quarters packed his travel bags and headed for the docking bay.


  Julian stirred slowly into wakefulness. He yawned and stretched out his limbs, encouraging more circulation. He had a smile on his lips as he thought about the peaceful night's sleep he'd had. His smile broadened at the thought of reason behind his restful night. He had spent the previous day reflecting on what his mother had said to him and he had come to the decision that he was not going to let another day go by without trying to make his apologies to the tailor. His mother had been correct on many accounts, and when Julian thought about living his life without the Cardassian as part of it, he realized how foolish he had been. He hastily dressed in his uniform and ordered a quick breakfast of a muffin and coffee. Now that he had decided what it was he needed to do, he was not going to procrastinate. He only hoped that the Cardassian would be receptive to his plea of forgiveness. He would not be able to blame the tailor if he didn't want to have anything to do with him any longer. After all, there had been no suitable excuse for his behavior.

  "Computer, locate Elim Garak," Julian called out. He wasn't sure if Garak was still in his quarters or the shop. Wherever he was, Julian was determined to talk to him.

  "Mr. Elim Garak is not currently on the station," the computer answered back.

  'Not on the station?' Julian hit his com badge, "Julian to Chief O'Brien."

  "Chief O'Brien here," he heard Miles respond.

  "Chief, do you know where Garak is?" Julian asked.

  "Yeah, he left for Risa last night on a cargo ship," Miles replied.

  Julian thought for a minute, " Miles, would you be able to get me to Risa today?"

  "Today? It's a little short notice, but I suppose Dax can watch over things here for awhile. When were you wanting to leave?" O'Brien answered.

  "When can you be ready?" Julian questioned back.

  "Hmmm, meet me in the docking ring in a half an hour." Miles replied.

  "Thanks, Bashir out." Julian quickly grabbed his travel bag and packed the bare essentials he would be needing. He grinned as he thought of how Risa would be a very nice location to make up with the tailor. Soon enough, he found himself waiting on the docking ring with Miles.

  "Ready, Julian?" he heard the Chief ask him, coming up behind him.

  "Ready," Julian answered.

  "You know, Sisko was not too happy to hear that I would be chauffeuring you around today, but Dax apparently said something that calmed him down," Miles commented and Julian could hear the amusement in his voice.

  "I really appreciate this, Chief," Julian replied.

  "Yeah, yeah, yeah, let's just get going. The sooner we leave, the sooner I get back," Miles said cheerfully.

  He started to lead Julian to the shuttlecraft when the doctor's badge sounded. Julian let out a curse before hitting it. "Bashir,"

  "Doctor," he recognized Nurse Jabara's voice, "Dr. Zimmerman has been running some tests on the cultures he's created from the virus and he believes that he may have found the combination that will lead to the reversal of your blindness. He would like to see you as soon as possible."

  A cure? Could it be that he could get his eyesight back? He then thought about the tailor and realized what had greater priority to him. "Tell Doctor Zimmerman that I have something I have to take care of first."

  "But, Doctor Bashir, you know that the longer the virus is in your system, the worse your chance is to recuperate," Nurse Jabara tried to appeal to him.

  "I know that, but this can't wait," Julian replied stepping into the shuttlecraft.

  "Dr. Bashir, is this task more important to you than your eyesight?" he heard Dr. Zimmerman ask. Apparently, he had been listening in.

  "Yes, it is," he replied, fastening his belt, "Bashir out." He then turned to where the Chief would be sitting. "I'm ready if you are." He felt the shuttlecraft leave the docking ring and enter into warp drive.

  "Julian, are you sure you want to do this?" Miles asked eventually.

  "Yes, Chief I'm sure," Julian responded, making himself comfortable against the seat.

  "Mind if I ask you what's so urgent that you have to go to Risa now?" O'Brien inquired.

  "I need to apologize to Garak and that's where he's gone," Julian replied simply.

  "You're going to risk your eyesight for that?" Miles asked incredulously.

  "That's right," Julian responded, starting to get slightly agitated.

  "You must really love that Cardie," the Chief said as he punched the course to Risa into the shuttlecraft's computer.

  "The 'Cardie's' name is Garak and for your information, yes, I do love him," Julian replied defensively.

  Miles busied himself with the controls for a time before he finally turned back to Julian, " I'm sorry Julian, but I just don't see what you find so captivating about him."

  "I don't suppose you ever will, but I guess you could say that I feel everything for Garak that you do for Keiko," Julian replied getting up to feel around for the on-board replicator and ordered himself a cup of Tarkalean tea.

  Miles could just not comprehend how that could be possible, but decided against saying much more on the issue because he felt he was walking a very fine line where the Cardassian was concerned to Julian. He could tell that the tailor was important to Julian even if he couldn't understand why, and he was not willing to possibly ruin their friendship by having a disagreement about it. Julian must feel like there was worthy reason to go through all this trouble for Garak. He looked over at Julian, who was visibly fidgeting in his seat, and tapping a foot impatiently on the floor. He then started drumming his fingers on the arm of the seat, folded them in his lap for several seconds, then started drumming them again.

  "Doctor Julian Bashir, you're not nervous are you?" Miles teased.

  Julian sheepishly put his hands in his lap. " t's just that when I asked you to take me to Risa, all I cared about is getting the chance to talk to Garak. Now that we'll be there soon, I realized I have completely no idea what on Earth I'm going to say to him," Julian replied guiltily. "That is, assuming he will even be willing to hear me out," he added.

  "Well, you could always do what I do when I've made a mess of things with Keiko," Miles offered.

  "What would that be Chief?" Julian asked, willing to take any advice he could get at the moment.

  "Start with ' I'm sorry,' and go from there," the Chief replied thoughtfully.

  "That's easier said than done sometimes," Julian commented.

  "That it is, but no matter how many stupid stunts I've pulled with Keiko, she's always loved me enough to forgive me," Miles said with a grin as he thought of just how many times he'd had to ask for Keiko's forgiveness. He knew from experience that Starfleet sofas on the station were not made to get a good night's sleep on. "And chances are if the Card. . . Garak feels for you as strongly as you for him, then I don't see why he wouldn't take you back."

  "Even though I was blatantly spiteful with him when he had not done anything to deserve it?" Julian implored.

  "I never said it was going to be easy, but the most important thing to remember is to tell 'im everything you're feeling," Miles said looking out of the corner of his eye at the doctor. "Whenever I use to get in a bad mood and took it out on Keiko, there had usually been something else that was bothering me besides what I was arguing about with her. Eventually she'd get me to tell her what the real problem was and she'd usually understand. Now, she's got me where I just tell her automatically when something's not going right and we talk it through."

  "It sounds like you have a very special wife," Julian commented.

  Miles couldn't help smiling fondly at the thought of his love. There were many times he felt he was a very lucky man to have someone like her in his life, "That she is. Relationship are a lot of hard work, but the benefits are definitely worth it."

  They spent the rest of the uneventful flight in companionable silence. Each having their mind occupied with thoughts of their loved ones. Julian started thinking about his mother and how her attitude and the story from her past had surprised him. He appreciated her support where Garak was concerned, but he still didn't know how he felt about his middle name coming from another man in his mother's past who wasn't his father. He vaguely wondered if his father was even aware of where his middle name came from. He didn't really feel much concern for anything involving his father, but still couldn't help wondering if his father knew, and if he did, if it bothered him. He quickly shook the thought off and started rehearsing in his mind what it was he wanted to say to Garak when he saw him. He ran a myriad number of scenarios through his mind of how Garak could react and how he would react in turn. When the craft was finally set down on the pleasure planet, Julian felt relatively confident of how he wanted to go about saying what needed to be said. The hatch opened and Miles helped him out.

  "Do you need me to stick around for awhile? I could if you needed me to," Miles offered.

  Julian shook his head, "Thanks, Chief, but I don't know how long this may take, and I don't want to keep you from Engineering any longer than necessary."

  "All right, if you're positive," Miles agreed.

  "I am, and thanks for the advice," Julian responded.

  "No problem. You're my friend, and even though I still question your sanity with this, I've no right to make any judgments, so I thought I could try being helpful," O'Brien stated honestly.

  "It was appreciated," Julian replied and turned when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

  "May I show you to the main hotel sir ?" he heard a female voice ask him. He assumed that it was one of the many Risan servants that took care of the clientele.

  "Actually, I don't think I'll be needing to check in," 'Hopefully' Julian added silently, "but I could use your help in finding someone here."

  "I think I could be of some help to you," the woman responded, "Who is it that you're looking for?"


  Garak looked around the spacious, contemporary room and started to regret his decision to come to the vacation planet. He had forgotten how much of Risa was devoted to the idea of accommodating lovers, but one look at his surrounding quickly refreshed his memory. In the middle of the room was a lovely four-post brass bed with a canopy that had a lacy covering draped over it. The same lace created the curtains that adorned the windows around the archway that led to a balcony. Next to the bed was a table that had a bucket of ice sitting on it with Champaign chilling in it and two long-stemmed wine goblets beside it. In the other smaller room off to the side, he heard the bubbling jets of a spa. He walked over to doors that led to the balcony and threw them open to let the fresh air and abundant sunlight in. Both of the planet's mid-morning suns were bright overhead and Garak's sense of smell told him that there was a garden near by. Usually he did not care for the bright light that the planet's duel suns were giving off, but he did enjoy the heat that radiated over his body. The tailor couldn't help but wish that Julian was here with him to enjoy the beauty and indulgences the planet had to offer. "Elim, you came here to forget about the doctor for awhile, so do it," he lectured himself aloud. 'As if you could,' the little voice inside him mockingly answered back. He was interrupted from his errant thoughts when he heard a knocking on his door. He presumed that it was probably one of the hotel workers checking to see if he had everything he needed for his stay.

  He opened the door and stared in astonishment as the object of his thoughts stood before him in the flesh. "Doctor, this is a surprise," the tailor said, clearing his throat to find his voice, "May I inquire as to what prompted this visit?"

  Julian gave the Cardassian a tentative smile, " I've come to talk to you." He hoped his voice didn't betray the nervousness he felt. Hearing the Cardassian's voice for the first time since the argument had sent a rush of feeling through his body. "May I come in, or must we have this discussion in the hallway?" Julian asked when the Cardassian had said nothing.

  "As you wish, Doctor," the tailor responded warily, standing aside to grant the doctor entry.

  The doctor stepped through the doorway. As he passed the tailor he could smell the musky, familiar scent of his body. He knew it was going to take a great deal of concentration to accomplish his objective. He felt around the room until his fingers found the plumply stuffed sofa and sat down. "Please sit with me," Julian asked the tailor and felt the sofa shift under the Cardassian's weight. He noticed that the tailor was not saying much, but that didn't bother him much, because he could simply say what he needed to and leave if he had to. He took a steadying breath before beginning. "Look, Garak, I don't know if it will do any good or not, but I want to apologize for my stupidity the other night. I was feeling angry and helpless and I took it out on you and I had no right to do so. I'm not trying to make excuses for what I said, but I was under a lot of stress and I'm hoping that maybe you could see past my mistake and possibly forgive me."

  Garak took his time before speaking. "Why did you wait to mention this? You had ample opportunity to apologize before now."

  "Until recently, I felt that maybe our breaking things off might be for the best," Julian replied honestly.

  "Why would that be?" Garak asked trying to keep his voice void of any emotion.

  "Because, I thought you deserved a better future than to be condemned to take care of an invalid," Julian replied.

  "Invalid?" Garak asked in disbelief, "So, Doctor, what you're telling me is that without even knowing for certain that your condition was permanent, you took it upon yourself to decide something that affected my future without even considering my thoughts on the subject," Garak surmised.

  "I thought what I was doing was for the best," Julian responded defensively.

  "Forgive me, Doctor, if I don't see it that way," Garak replied evenly, "What caused you to change your mind?"

  "Someone gave me advice to think about what I considered important in my life, and you want to know something?" Julian asked, his throat was starting tighten with emotion.

  "What?" Garak asked, his tone becoming hushed.

  "You are my life. The most important part of it anyway," Julian said, trying to keep his voice from wavering. "I hate the thought of not waking up next to you, or the idea of coming home and you not being there. I want your companionship. I miss our talks and hearing you laugh," Julian reached out and sought the tailor's hands, taking them in his, he continued, "Have you ever wondered why I've had so many relationships that haven't worked out?" Julian asked and went on when Garak didn't respond "Every relationship I've ever gotten involved with before, has always been with others that cared for me more than I did them because it was safe. I knew I wouldn't get hurt that way. Then if things started to get too serious, I always backed out. That was, until I got involved with you. I have never cared for anyone as strongly as I do you, and quite frankly it scares the hell out of me," Julian feverantly wished he could read the expression on the Cardassian's face. He wasn't sure if he could adequately be able to explain just how vulnerable he was where the tailor was concerned. "Then, when I lost my eyesight, it built on that fear. After all, what did I have left to offer you? Being a doctor is my entire identity."

  "Now what do you think about that, Doctor?" Garak asked, his voice becoming horse.

  "The only thing that really matters is having you in my life. Getting my eyesight back and resuming my practice is meaningless to me if I don't have you to share it with," Julian replied with sincerity. "I don't want to lose my best friend. You're the one that brings out the better part of who I am."

  Garak had to cough and clear his throat before he trusted himself to speak. He desperately wanted to believe everything the doctor was saying, but he wasn't sure if he could, "Doctor, you've told me you've cared about me before, and then you insinuated that you've only tolerated our relationship out of sympathy. I think you can understand how I'm finding it hard to trust the validity of your words."

  "I'm here, aren't I?" Julian countered.

  "What exactly does that prove Doctor?" Garak queried.

  "Right before I left, Dr. Zimmerman told me that he thought he had found the cure for the virus," Julian explained.

  "And you came here when you knew it's crucial to your recovery to get the antidote as soon as possible?" Garak asked with frank disbelief.

  "The cure could wait. Talking to you couldn't," Julian simply stated.

  The Cardassian didn't say anything for several minutes. To Julian, it seemed an eternity. Finally, the tailor said, "Doctor, I've heard what you've had to say and I fully intend on continuing this conversation, but for now, I think it would be wise to get you back to the station and to the Infirmary as soon as possible."

  Julian was disappointed that Garak hadn't addressed anything he had previously said. He still had no idea how the Cardassian felt. "Will you accompany me?" If the serum truly did restore his eyesight, Julian wanted the tailor to be the first person he would see.

  "If you so desire it," Garak replied. Julian could not tell by the tailor's tone what his reaction was to what he had said. With his training in the Obsidian Order, Julian knew that Garak could be very ambiguous when he wanted to be. Apparently he either wasn't certain how he had felt about what Julian had said, or he was and decided he didn't want to talk about it at the moment.

  "Shall we go to a shuttlecraft then?" Julian offered. Garak was glad he hadn't bothered to unpack. Wordlessly, he picked up his bag and with the other hand to the small of Julian's back, ushered him through the door. Once on the shuttlecraft, Julian had hoped to have the opportunity to further discuss matters with the Cardassian. Those hopes were immediately impeded when he heard the voices of at least four other couples that were sharing the shuttle craft with them. Not wanting to have an audience, Julian decided not to say anything about the previous discussion. Garak had not attempted to take his hand as he normally would, or make any other attempt to initiate their previous closeness. In fact, Garak had not said two words to him since they had taken their seats. Julian had feared earlier that the tailor would be less than receptive to his apology, but now the fear seemed to become more real to him. What if Garak still didn't want to have anything to do with him even after his trying to make amends? Could he really blame him if he didn't? Then again, the tailor had agreed to come with him back at the station and that was a good sign wasn't it? He realized that was not necessarily so, considering that Garak could simply be coming with him to make sure he received the treatment--only to tell him later that it was over anyway. Well, if the tailor did that, Julian would have only himself to blame. He decided to cease his anxious thoughts for now until he knew for certain how the tailor felt. He recognized the fact that Garak may have been taken off guard by his admissions and just needed some time to sort through his own feelings on the matter. His anxiety abated--slightly-- for the remainder of the trip.

  Once back on the station, Garak directed the doctor directly to the Infirmary. When nurse Jabara first caught sight of the doctor, a look of relief flooded across her face.

  "Doctor, I'm glad to see that you're back." Jabara shot Garak a grateful look and the tailor realized how concerned the woman had been for the doctor. "I'll let Dr. Zimmerman know that you're here." Julian nodded and heard her walk off. Minutes later, he heard the heavier footsteps of the other doctor.

  "Well, Dr. Bashir, I'm glad you found time in your busy schedule to try to save your eyesight," Dr. Zimmerman commented sarcastically, completely oblivious to the threatening glare coming from the Cardassian.

  "What have you come up with?" Julian was not about to let the other doctor have the pleasure of flustering him.

  "A combination of two Byzalian antibiotics along with Corophizine has been proven to reverse the effects of the virus. There are both pros and cons to the treatment though," Zimmerman replied.

  "Which are?" Julian asked with more calm than he actual felt.

  "The reversal is almost immediate. The draw back of it is that if it doesn't work, the blindness with be completely irreversible." His professional demeanor didn't falter in the slightest.

  Julian knew he didn't have much of an option. If he wanted his eyesight back, he knew he had to have the treatment, even if there was a risk that it would cause the loss of his eyesight to be a permanent one. "Garak, are you still here?" he asked. The tailor hadn't made his presence known by touch or word and Julian wanted the reassurance that he was still there.

  "Yes, Doctor, I'm here." Julian felt a hand rest on his knee for a fraction of a second before it was briskly removed again.

  "Let's get on with it then, shall we?" Julian said to the other doctor and felt the pressure of a hypospray being pressed against the skin of his throat. He heard the release of the spray being injected into his system. Instinctively, his hand reached out to take the tailor's. As he held it and waited, he noticed that the tailor's hand was limp, not squeezing back. Julian could almost feel the antibiotics coursing through his body, quickly seizing the offending microbe and draining the life from it. The first thing he noticed was that the blackness that had been surrounding him had turned to a dark gray. More light kept filtering in until he could see large, dark forms. The forms then took on the shape of blurry blobs. Gradually the shapes and objects around him started coming into focus. Colors and lines were slowly becoming defined. He blinked several times to readjust his sight. He focused his eyes on the Cardassian. His gaze took in the tailor's thick, dark, slicked-back hair, the spoon-shaped ornamentation on his forehead, down to cornflower eyes that were watching him intently. "I can see Garak," Julian said with a tightness in his throat.

  "That's wonderful, Doctor," Garak replied with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. Nurse Jabara grabbed the doctor, in an unusual display of affection, into a tight hug.

  "I'm so happy it worked," she responded.

  "Of course it worked," Zimmerman commented with a self-satisfactory smirk on his face.

  Several more of Julian's colleagues, including various nurses and several medical technologists, came forward to offer the doctor their congratulations. He looked around to try to see Garak just in time to watch the tailor as he slipped out the door. 'He can barely stand to be in the same room with me any longer,' Julian thought ruefully. By the time he worked his way through the small crowd of people to the door, the tailor was no where to be seen. Garak had said he wanted to finish talking to him. Had he changed his mind? As he walked down the corridor to the habitat-ring, he wondered how he should proceed. Should he try to find Garak? No. Garak would know how to reach him when he decided what he wanted. Julian had told Garak, with no holding back, exactly how he felt and if Garak didn't want things to continue between them, then he would not coerce the Cardassian into tolerating his presence if it wasn't wanted. As he entered his quarters, he decided that he would simply wait to find out what the tailor had to say. Julian looked around his quarters and was immediately reminded how empty it was since most of his belongings were still at the tailor's quarters. He looked out of the viewport and drank in the beauty of it. He had never realized just how much he had taken his sight for granted until he had lost it. He swore that he never would do such a thing again. He then sat down on his sofa and picked up the data novel he had started months earlier and never finished. "I will be patient," he muttered the mantra aloud to himself, trying to convince himself of the fact.

  ******* Garak had a glass of Kanar in hand, looking out the viewport. He felt guilty about slipping out of the Infirmary earlier, but he had not known what it was he wanted to say to the doctor. He was very pleased that the doctor had made a complete recovery, but it still didn't change things between them. He walked into the bedroom and over to the closet. With some effort, he reached in to the very back of the top shelf until he felt what he was looking for. With care, he took down a box, the size of his palm, that was covered in black felt. He set it down on the bed and opened the hinged top. A gold bracelet, with intricate designs carved in it, glistened in the artificial light of the station. He had bought the bracelet a month prior to the argument as a gift for the doctor. It had seemed the right thing to do at time, considering how well things were going between them, but now it served as a reminder of the discord between them. He picked the bracelet up in his fingers and thought how ironic life was. As often as Garak had misled Julian in the past about his history, he would never had guessed that it would be the doctor's honesty in question and possibly separating them. It was however, because Garak didn't know if he could truly allow himself to believe the doctor's words of earlier. The trust he had instilled in Julian had not come easily for the tailor and after doctor's comments, he was apprehensive to do so again. He felt that Julian had been sincere when they were on Risa, but could he risk putting his faith back into the doctor again? What were his alternatives? He carefully placed the item of jewelry back in it's box. As he snapped the lid shut, he knew what he needed to do. With purpose, he strode back into the living area, and standing with his back to the viewport, he hit his com badge.

  "Bashir," he heard the doctor respond. The richly accented voice sent a shiver through him.

  "Doctor, if you have time, I would like it if you paid a visit to me in my quarters," Garak requested in a cool, steady voice.

  It was several seconds before a response came. "I will be down shortly," Julian replied, not letting a trace of anything he was feeling to be betrayed by his voice. "Bashir out."

  Garak began straightening up his quarters and a half an hour later, he heard the door chime. "Enter," he called out. As the door slid open, his breath caught in his throat as his eyes came to rest on the doctor. Julian had taken the time to change out of his uniform before stopping by. He was now wearing a silk shirt of deep hunter's green that clung to his muscular expanse of his chest. The color set off Julian's own natural glow quite nicely. Garak's eyes traveled down to come to rest on pair of black trousers that fit rather snugly to his form. Judging from the tailor's reaction, Julian knew that the time he spent in choosing his outfit had not been in vain. As quickly as the look came to the tailor's eyes, it was as quickly masked to a look indecipherable to the doctor.

  "You wanted to see me?" Julian asked, his initial confidence faltering slightly. He noticed a large box sitting next to one wall and he knew without asking that it contained his belongings.

  "Yes," Garak conceded, moving towards the sofa. "Please come in and have a seat." Julian did as requested, still trying to read the expression on the Cardassian's face.

  "What did you want to speak to me about?" he asked finally when the tailor made no move to initiate the discussion.

  "Doctor, today on Risa I allowed you to speak your mind. I'm asking you now to extend me the same courtesy," Garak said in an even tone.

  "Of course Garak," Julian granted, turning to face him.

  "Doctor," Garak started, trying to think of exactly what he wanted say, "Do you remember the first night we consummated our relationship and I started calling you my Jahkim?" Julian nodded, the memory playing in his mind. "Do you realize how hard it was for me to admit my feelings to you?" Garak asked sliding his glance away from the doctor. It was difficult enough for him to share his thoughts without having to look the doctor in the eye. "The word 'love' has never taken a very positive meaning in my life. My father didn't want anything to do with me, as you well know, and my ex-wife preferred my best friend's company to mine." Garak ran a tired hand through his hair. "Even Rochosh's love for me ended up costing him his life." Garak stood up and started pacing across the floor, "So, you see, trust doesn't come easily for me, but even so, I opened myself up to allow you into a place inside me that's been devoid of feelings for years." He stopped pacing long enough to stare with intensity into Julian's eyes, "So, my dear Doctor, don't think you're the only one that finds this relationship disconcerting." When there was no comment, Garak continued, "I've told you I love you and that hasn't changed, but I'm having a difficult time trusting you after what you've said."

  Julian came to stand behind the Cardassian and turned him to face him and placed his hands on the tailor's shoulders. "Garak, I know I've abused your faith and that it will take some time to rebuild it, but if you give me the opportunity, I know that I could."

  Garak looked into doe-brown eyes that were filled with such veracity, silently imploring him with a look of earnest hope. He fought a silent battle with himself. He knew that Julian was leaving the decision in his hands as to how they would proceed from now on. Garak took a deep breath to calm himself, "Julian, if you hadn't given me your confidence when we first started our friendship, we never would have made it as far as we have. I have no choice but to give you my faith along with my heart. You've stolen it long before now."

  Emotion choked Julian's throat preventing him from saying anything, so without a word said, Julian tenderly took the tailor's face in-between his palms and bent down to barely touch the Cardassian's lips with his own. As he deepened the kiss, he tried to express all of the blissful joy he was currently feeling. Garak's arms came around to pulled the doctor close to him, feeling gratification and comfort in the doctor's warmth. Finally, the need for air caused them to separate, both requiring great effort to catch their breath. Garak looked with loving eyes upon Julian, whose own eyes reflected the same love and desire.

  "Doctor, since it seems this matter is settled permanently, I have something for you," Garak said mysteriously.

  "What is it?" Julian inquired.

  "Wait here," Garak ordered as he pulled away from Julian. Julian did not want to relinquish his hold. He watched as the Cardassian walked into the bedroom and then came out less then a minute later with a black box in hand. "I purchased this a month ago, but never found the right time to give it to you," Garak said approaching the doctor and extending his hand. "I'd like for you to have it now."

  Julian reached out to take it and opened it with deliberate care. His eyes widened in surprise. "Wha. . .Garak, is this what I think it is? he asked taking it out and dangling it on his slender fingers.

  "That depends," a demure smile crossed the Cardassian's face, "If you think it is a Bajoran Betrothal bracelet, then yes, you would be correct."

  "Then that means. . . " Julian started to say.

  "That means, Doctor," Garak interrupted, " that Cardassian's have no symbols to announce engagement and that I would be very honored to have you as my husband." His smiling face then turned serious, "That is, if you'll have me."

  "If I'll have you?" Julian asked then propelled himself into the tailor's arms and covered his mouth in a firm, lengthy kiss. Julian wrapped his arms around the Cardassian's neck, still clutching the bracelet in his fingers.

  When they pulled apart, Garak looked at Julian with unhidden amusement. "I take it Doctor, that was a yes?"

  Julian couldn't keep himself from laughing, "Yes, Garak. Yes, I will be honored to marry you." Garak reached to take the bracelet from Julian and took the doctor's hand and slid the bracelet onto his wrist and closed the clasp. As he started kissing Julian again, the tailor thought the doctor's eyes had looked suspiciously moist, but was too overjoyed to comment on it. The kisses that were showered in happiness soon gave way to those with a more desirous intent. Julian's hands came down to rest on the tailor's hips, drawing him closer to rub against his own. Garak brushed his lips against the sensitive skin of Julian's throat. Julian tilted his head back to allow him easier access, his own hands coming up to caress the tailor's chest through the heavy fabric of his tunic. Julian's hand then circled around behind the tailor, disappearing under the tunic to scrape his nails across the Cardassian's back.

  "I want to make love to you," Julian said barely audible, but loud enough for the Cardassian to catch.

  "Then follow me, Jahkim," Garak replied huskily as he led the doctor towards the bedroom. They stood together by the side of the bed. With a tailor's efficiency, Garak began pushing the delicate buttons of the doctor's shirt through the holes, depossessing him of the fabric. As he pushed it past the doctor's shoulders, Garak leaned over to gently graze his tongue over the exposed flesh, pushing it the rest of the way off to create a silken pool by his feet. His thumbs came up to gently stroke the delicate nubs of skin of Julian's nipples. Julian moaned when Garak's mouth replaced one of his thumbs. The doctor's hands came down to grab the bottom of Garak's tunic and pulled upward with purpose, wanting to rid him of the garment. Garak ceased what he was doing long enough to lift his arms over his head to allow Julian to release him of the shirt. The tailor then reached with deft fingers to unbutton and unzip Julian's trousers. Julian took over to push them off and stepped out of them, while the Cardassian busied himself with removing his own pants. Both were still wearing their briefs, and Julian reached out to pull the Cardassian to him. He loved the feel of the tailor's skin as he rubbed his chest against that of the older man's. Garak's hands came behind Julian to work their way past the band of his briefs to cup his firm rear. Tension and desire were building between them as the friction between their bodies grew more intense.

  Without much effort, Garak maneuvered Julian onto the bed. He then lowered his own body on top of the younger man's. Julian let his hands roam over Garak's form. The doctor looked at his lover as if his eyes had never truly seen him before. Julian labored to learn each curve and nuance of the tailor's body anew, utilizing both his eyes as well as his fingers to burn the image into his mind. Julian had apologized with words and Garak had forgiven him, but he still felt the need to have the feel of the tailor's weight and touch as affirmation that everything was going to be all right. He was determined to show Garak through his lovemaking how much he cared for him. He kissed him reverently, allowing his tongue to explore the various crevasses, taking time to savor the sweet taste that was unique to the tailor. Gently, he began nibbling and licking the ridges of the Cardassian's neck, making sure that each ridge in turn received due attention. Julian's fingers found the tailor's dark nipples, and teased them by flicking them with his fingernails until they were as hard as small pebbles. He was gratified to hear the tailor suck in a sharp breath. Garak trailed kisses down the doctor's sternum, paying special attention to the chocolate brown nipples, leaving a path of inflamed skin in his wake as he continued downward. Garak rubbed his hips against Julian's, the hardness of his body pressed firmly against the answering hardness from the doctor's body. Garak sat up on his knees and pulled the remaining clothing off of him, letting Julian see the effect his body was having on him. Julian in turn, removed his own briefs, both wanting and needing the feel of skin on skin. As if reading his thoughts, Garak laid down next to the doctor and rolled him on top of him. Julian raised himself up on his arms and sought the tailor's lips and began undulating his pelvis, rubbing his pronounced erection against the similar erection of the tailor's. Garak brought his hand up to cup the back of the doctor's head, moaning into Julian's mouth, while the other hand reached over to Julian's hip, pulling him even closer. The tip of Julian's tongue lightly flickered over Garak's ear ridge, evoking another groan from the Cardassian. Julian sat back on his knees and started caressing the tailor's body, while the tailor laid still and allowed the ministrations. He stroked his broad shoulder, down his arms, over his chest and stomach, downward to his hips. Skilled surgeon's finger closed around the tailor's shaft and began a methodical pumping rhythm. He gradually increased the pace, Garak's moans showing his pleasure. He bowed his head down and teased the head of Garak's organ with the tip of his tongue. As the pumping became quicker, Julian took more of the tailor into his mouth in time with his hand. Garak drove his hips upward, matching Julian's pace. Garak's hands reached behind him to grab a hold of the headboard, fingers clutching it with white-knuckled strength. The tailor decided to give up his battle with control and closed his eyes, letting the building passion sweep him over the edge. "Jahkim," he called out as his life-force filled the doctor's mouth. White stars played behind the tailor's closed eyelids as waves of pleasure crested and swelled throughout his body. Julian watched as the feelings played on Garak's face. He wanted to remember Garak looking like this always, knowing he was the reason behind the pleased, satisfied expression. He thought how beautiful the tailor was to him and wondered how he could have ever hurt this gentle, loving man. He felt unworthy and grateful for the love he had found. An onslaught of pain roll through him and settled in his chest at the thought of how he had almost lost it.

  When the tailor finally opened his eyes, he found the doctor staring at him, his eyes wide, with an anguished cast to them. "Jahkim, what's wrong?" he asked, reaching up to stroke the doctor's soft cheek.

  Julian closed his eyes and turned to the touch, "I never meant to hurt you," his wavering, horse voice finally managed.

  The fingers stroking his cheek came to rest on his lips. "Let the past stay in the past, Doctor. Now is the time for fresh starts," Garak said, letting his hand drop down to Julian's wrist to idly play with the bracelet around it. "After all, we're going to have a lifetime to make things up to each other." Julian gave him a watery smile and Garak reached up to pull his head down to the Cardassian's mouth. Garak turned it so he could whisper into the doctor's ear. "Now is also the perfect time to feel you inside me."

  Julian found that his capacity for speech had fled from him. Looking into ice-blue eyes, he knew that the tailor's request was a testimonial to the level of trust he was willing to bestow upon him. By putting himself in a submissive position, Garak was proving that he was able to look beyond the past and show Julian that he hadn't lost confidence in the doctor. Julian was not about to disappoint him. Reaching over to the bedside table, Julian picked up the flask of massage oil. Garak took it out of the doctor's hand and poured some of the oily liquid into his palm, then after warming in his hands, he began spreading the substance over Julian's ridged shaft. Julian couldn't stop himself from groaning as the tailor's talented fingers glided over the heated skin. He granted himself this pleasure briefly, before taking the flask and pouring some of the liquid into his own hand. When Garak started to turn over, Julian shook his head negatively. Garak realized what he wanted and settled onto his back again. Julian reached down underneath the tailor. Exploratory fingers ran the length of the Cardassian's cleft and he felt an involuntary shudder run through the tailor. Julian's probing fingers found the muscular entrance. Upon entrance of the first finger, Garak let out low growl and began squirming against Julian's hand. With relaxed finesse, Julian slowly worked the finger, making sure the tailor's entrance was well-coated, then introduced the second finger. With infinite care, he began stretching the tailor's body. Looking into the Cardassian's cornflower eyes for assurance of his readiness, Julian saw eyes shining with seductive longing looking back at him. Needing no further encouragement, Julian hooked his arms under the tailor's sturdy legs and brought them up to rest on his shoulders. In one fluid motion, Julian entered the tailor's yielding flesh. Julian was instantly taken in and surrounded by the heated warmth of Garak's body. He was always amazed at how well the Cardassian's body accommodated him perfectly. He began moving inside the inflamed depth of the tailor's body torturously slow at first, wanting to give the tailor as much pleasure as he could. When Garak couldn't endure the achingly delightful torment any longer, he reached up to grasp the doctor's biceps and started increasing the pace by driving his hips upwards. Garak wanted as much of the doctor inside him as he get and more. Feeling the urgency in the Cardassian's motions, Julian accommodated him, driving himself in completely and then pulling almost, but not entirely out again. Garak moaned and arched against him to meet every trust in harmony. Beads of sweat glistened on the doctor's chest and forehead and Garak's hands strayed over the slick flesh, losing himself in the musky scent that was solely the doctor's. Julian felt himself on that familiar brink that only Garak could lead him over. Determined to take the tailor with him, he reached down to the tailor's organ, finding it had reawakened to rigidity. Manipulating the throbbing flesh, Julian called Garak's name as his seed filled the tailor. Garak, moaning loudly, followed soon afterwards, his warm seed creating a viscous glaze on the doctor's fingers.

  Julian with heedfulness, worked himself out of the tailor's body and settled down into the crook of his arm. Garak gathered him close, resting one hand over his hip and rear. Julian let a finger tip travel the length of Garak's chest, and playfully circled his navel. His eyes again resting on the gold bracelet around his wrist. "I still can't believe you want to marry me," he commented finally.

  Garak lovingly brushed a strand of hair off the doctor's forehead, "Well, believe it because I want there to be no doubt on the station about how much you mean to me." A mischievous smile played on his mouth, "All of your many admirers will just have to find someone else to devote their attention to."

  Julian grinned back, "That's right because I plan to devote all my attention to only one admirer that suits me quite well." He devoured the Cardassian's mouth in another leisurely kiss.


  The next evening, Julian was busily setting the table while Garak brought different bowls of food out to him. Julian was still surprised to have been able to find a table that would seat eight. Counting Garak and himself, that would be how many that would be coming to dinner this evening. He had extended an invitation to Major Kira, Odo, Miles, Sisko, Dax, and his mother and all said that they were available to attend. He was absorbed in rearranging the flowered centerpiece when Garak came in carrying a bowl of steamed vegetables.

  "Julian, there is no need to be nervous," the tailor commented, setting the bowl down.

  "I just want everything to go well," Julian stated looking down at the dishes and tried to decide if he had time to find his great-grandmother's china.

  Garak gave him a disarming smile, " Doctor, sometimes I think you worry far too much."

  Before Julian had a chance to respond, he heard the door chime. He opened it to find their first guests to be Sisko and Dax. "Hello, Captain, Jadzia," Julian said amicably," I'm glad you could make it tonight."

  "I don't remember you ever having a dinner party before, so I was definitely curious," Sisko said with a smile. He then handed Julian a bottle of wine that he had brought, " I hope you like Bajoran Red."

  "Thank you, Captain, that should compliment dinner well," he said moving to the side, " Please come in and have a seat." Sisko didn't see the knowing wink Jadzia gave Julian, who just grinned in return and disappeared into the other room.

  Once seated in the living area, Sisko turned to Jadzia, "Do you have any idea why they're throwing a dinner party?"

  Jadzia gave him her most innocent look, "I don't have a clue."

  Sisko looked suspiciously at her, "I think you're hiding something from me, Old Man." Before he could question her any further, the door chimed again. Seeing neither host present, Benjamin got up to let his Chief of Engineering in.

  "Captain, how are you doing this evening?" Miles asked coming in and walking over to the table to set down the apple pie he had brought with him.

  "I would be much better if I knew what was going on here. Do you know anything?" Sisko asked hopefully.

  A slow smile spread across his features, "Well, I have my suspicions, but I don't want to say anything right now in case I'm wrong."

  Sisko was under the definite impression that there was a conspiracy going on around him when the door chimed for the second time since he had been there. He wondered where the hosts had disappeared to when he opened the door to Odo, who had the Major on one arm and Mrs. Bashir on the other. Odo stood back allowing the ladies, who were talking avidly about Rom and Leeta's upcoming nuptials, to enter first. The women gathered in one section of the living area, while the men conversed in another. After a few moments had passed, Garak and Julian both came walking out of the other room.

  Julian was the first to speak, "I'm glad that you've all been able to come this evening."

  "Yes, I agree," Garak added, "Now why don't we partake of some of this delectable food before it grows cold," he suggested, gesturing to the table full of dishes.

  The men held the chair out for ladies while Julian went around the table filling the wine goblets. Once they were all seated, Garak started passing the first dish. Jadzia didn't bother hiding her pleasure when she discovered that it was steamed Anza. The next dish that went around was one of the Chief's favorites, Fricandeau Stew. There was also Hasperat for Kira. Once everyone had their plates filled with their desired food, they began eating. Jadzia and Miles tried not to notice the tender looks that were exchanged between the doctor and tailor, while Sisko obliviously talked to Kira about the upcoming Peldor Festival on Bajor. Odo was telling Amsha Bashir what it was like to be a shape-shifter, and even though she was paying attention to what he was saying, she still noticed when Julian bent over to whisper something to Garak, who whispered something in return and Julian nodded in agreement. The doctor and tailor both stood, their hands linked, drawing the attention of all present. A hush fell over the room.

  "We've asked our friends and family to come here tonight because we have an announcement to be made," Julian said looking over to Garak.

  "That's right. The doctor and I have decided to become engaged," Garak said, unable to keep the happiness out his voice.

  "Julian, Garak, that's fantastic!" Jadzia exclaimed beaming with excitement.

  Garak was taken off guard when Miles came up to him and grabbed his hand. "Congratulations you two," he said pumping the Cardassian's hand enthusiastically and slapping him on the back.

  "My congratulation to the both of you," Odo said shaking Julian's hand.

  "May you have the blessings of the Prophets," Kira said quickly kissing Julian on the cheek, but still unable to look Garak in the eyes.

  Julian watched as his mother stood and came over to take Garak in her arms for a hug. "Finally, someone who can get Jules to settle down," she said happily, "I want to be the first to welcome you into our family." She pulled back to look the tailor in the eyes, "Now, I have two sons," she said with an expression of adoration and acceptance that the tailor had not expected.

  "Thank you Mrs. Bashir," he said finally after clearing his throat to find his voice.

  "You may call me mother," she corrected.

  "Thank you, Mother," Garak said and looked at Julian who was gazing at him in delighted contentment.

  "Have you two set the date yet?" Sisko asked, happy to have the mystery solved.

  "We were thinking about doing it next week. We would be honored if you would perform the ceremony," Julian replied.

  "I would be honored to perform the ceremony. Just let me know when so I can plan for it," Sisko said shaking Julian's hand.

  "Next week?" the Major exclaimed, "Isn't this rather sudden?"

  Garak slid his arm possessively around the doctor's waist, "It may seem sudden to some, but we decided that this should have happened a long time ago and we don't want to waste any more valuable time."

  "A week doesn't leave much time for planning," Julian's mother remarked, "There's the invitations, the flowers, the tuxes, the shower. . ."

  ". . . the caterer for the reception, the cake, planning the honeymoon, finding attendants, booking the band. . ." Jadzia added, ticking the items off on her fingers. Garak and Julian looked back and forth at the two women who were talking excitedly between themselves, then looked at each other and smiled shaking their heads.

  When everyone had finally bid their farewells, Julian and Garak had started clearing the table of the leftover food. When they were finished, Julian walked over to look out at viewport. Garak came up behind him and wrapped his arms around the doctor's waist. He nuzzled the doctor's neck and rested his chin on Julian's shoulder.

  "What's on your mind, love?" Garak questioned.

  Julian turned in his arms and linked his hands around the tailor's broad neck. "Just how happy I am right now," he admitted honestly.

  "Well, my Jahkim, this is only the beginning of our happiness together," Garak replied, bending his head to cover Julian's mouth with his own. Julian's eyes fluttered shut as he gave himself up to the kiss, sighing in contentment at the thought that the Cardassian would always be there to share life's adventures with him. ' Only the beginning,' his mind repeated, losing itself in the unspoken promises.    

  The End.