Garak tossed and turned in the small single bed. Fighting with the covers and pillow to try and get comfortable, he finally flipped over and looked at the chronometer. It read 02:35. This looked like it was going to be the fourth night in a row that he wouldn't be getting any sleep. After tossing and turning for another thirty minutes, he finally got up out bed and pulled his tunic and pants on. He was feeling suffocated and helpless in the room and he knew he had to get out for awhile.

  As he walked out the door, he really had no idea where he was walking to. The ship was dark and strangely quiet for having a large crew aboard. The light in the corridor was faint, but that suited Garak's eyesight well. He often disliked the brightness of DS9, and still wasn't accustomed to it after all the years he had been there. He made his way down the corridor in almost a trance-like state, just following the act of putting one foot in front of the other until he found himself in front of Commander Dax's assigned quarters. What was he doing there in the middle of the night? She was probably sound asleep by now, so he should just leave. So why was he watching his hand come up and sound the chime? When he heard movement inside the compartment, he knew it was too late to turn back.

  The door slid open to reveal a very dazed looking Trill in a nightgown and robe. "Garak? What are you doing here?" she asked sleepily and covered a yawn with her hand.

  Garak couldn't help but feel guilty for waking her up. "I'm sorry. I found that I couldn't sleep and...well, I'm sorry to have disturbed you. I'll go and let you get your rest." he turned to start to leave.

  "Garak?" she called, stopping him. "Seeing as how I'm already awake now, why don't you go ahead and come in for awhile," she said giving him a half smile and moved to the side to let him through the door.

  As he entered the compartment, Garak took a seat on the bottom bunk of the standard bunk beds in each quarters, while he watched Dax walk over to the replicator. "Rokassa juice?" she offered.

  "Yes, please." he was still unsure of just what had brought him there and was still trying to figure it out as she handed him the glass of juice.

  Dax sat down beside him pulled a pillow onto her lap to rest her arms on. "Okay, what's troubling you?" she asked. "Besides the obvious of course," she added as an afterthought.

  Garak leaned backed against the sofa and let out a long sigh. "I can't stop thinking about what Ruygo could possibly be doing to Julian," his voice lowered slightly, "and how it's my fault that he was dragged into this."

  "How is it your fault when Ruygo is the one who's out for vengeance?" Jadzia asked him.

  " he blames me for killing his father," Garak answered back.

  "Do you want to talk about that?" she gently probed. Garak looked at her with uncertainly. The only one he had ever confided into before about Rochosh was Julian. He didn't know if he really wanted to relive the painful memories that came every time he thought about his late lover. Maybe Jadzia was right. If he talked about it, maybe it would easy his troubled thoughts. "His father killed my lover because he wouldn't accept a deal to turn me over to Tain for having a relationship with a fellow agent. He wouldn't give in to the blackmail."

  "And you took his life because of it," Jadzia commented, more of a statement than a question.

  Garak nodded in reply. "Now Julian is paying for an act that I carried out."

  He watched as Jadzia studied the bottom of her empty juice glass for several minutes. " Garak, if you're looking for someone who can condone what you did, I can't. But I can sympathize. I remember when I wanted nothing more than to take that Albino's life so badly that I could taste it." she reached over and placed a hand on his leg. "I know what it feels like to lose someone you love to a murderer and want to take justice in taking their life as well."

  " Julian shouldn't have to bare the burden of my past though, but yet there he is, his life in danger because of me," he said wearily, shutting his eyes briefly.

  "Don't be too hard on yourself Garak. Yes, you may have done some terrible things in your past, but the man that did that no longer exists. You're not the same person from years're not even the same person that came to stay on the station," Dax replied, sitting back and taking another drink of her juice.

  "Maybe if I was the same man from years ago, this never would have happened because I would have been more aware of what was going on and would have been able to stop it in time," Garak remarked, still with his eyes shut.

  "You're right, I don't think this would have happened if you were the same man from years ago," Jadzia replied, "but not because you would have been more aware of what was going on, but because Julian never would've gotten together with you in the first place - he never could have fallen in love with that man. You've changed and grown over the time I've known you and it's that man that Julian is in love with, so don't go wishing you weren't," Jadzia smiled slightly. "Besides, we're going to find Julian and he's going to be fine."

  "How can you be so sure?" Garak mumbled quietly. Jadzia's smile broadened a little more. "Can you believe for a second that someone as stubborn as Julian can be would just give up? He's too much of a nuisance for that."When Garak didn't answer, she looked over at him. His chest was going in and out in a very steady rhythm and his eyes were shut. " Garak?" she called softly. The only response she got was the tailor's soft snoring. She heaved a sigh and got up and pulled Garak's legs onto the bunk bed so he was laying down. She grabbed a blanket off the top bunk and threw it over him. As exhausted as he had looked, it wasn't a surprise to her when he didn't even stir.

  As she looked down into Garak's sleeping face, she honestly hoped they would indeed find Julian unharmed. She didn't want to fathom what would become of the tailor if he lost the doctor. The link they shared was a special one and she seriously doubted that either of them would know how to handle it if they lost the other.


  Julian's unconscious mind heard the rattling of the door to his cell and he woke up in time to see a young Cardassian woman walk in carrying a tray with more mutli-colored slop on the plate. She kept her eyes cast down onto the ground in front of her as she walked over to him and set the tray down in front of him. She seemed almost shy and nervous. She looked to be a few years younger than Ziyal.

  "Who are you?" Julian asked quietly, not wanting to startle the girl.

  "My name is Ticana," she said backing away from him quickly and started for the door.

  "Wait," Julian called after her and she looked back. "Are you one of Ruygo's servants?" he had an idea coming to mind, but he needed her to stick around for a few minutes if it was going to work. She nodded her head, still seemingly afraid to even look him in the eyes.

  " he's my master," she replied quietly and started to back away again. "I've been his slave for many years," she continued, still not meeting his eyes.

  "I'm not going to hurt you," he said quietly. She looked up at him a little more then. "Ticana, that is such a pretty name for such a lovely girl," he commented and flashed her a beautiful smile and she smiled back. "Ticana, could you stay and talk to me for a few minutes? I haven't had much company lately and I could really use a friendly face," he asked her.

  "I really shouldn't. Ruygo would become upset if he knew I was down here and stayed. He only wanted me to bring the food and leave," she relied.

  "Why didn't he want to bring the food down himself?" Julian asked curiously.

  " he said that you wouldn't accept it if he brought it down and he wants you to keep your strength up." her smile faded slightly. " he said you haven't eaten in days."

  "That's right. I've been here several days because Ruygo won't let me go," Julian replied, picking the plate up and taking several bites. He noticed she still hadn't left yet and that was a good sign. "Tell me something Ticana, why do you stay here with Ruygo?" he noticed she frowned and looked down at the floor again.

  "I have to. He took me in when I was just a girl. He's given me a home and kept me safe." she pause for a few seconds. " he really isn't a bad man once you get to know him."

  "Ticana," Julian said softly, " he want's to kill someone I love very dearly."

  She put her hands on her hips. " he wouldn't do anything like that. He's not that cruel of a man."

  "Could you come closer to me?" Julian asked. The cell was still extremely dark and he wanted her to see his injuries well.

  "I shouldn't," she said and turned slightly to the door.

  "Please. I won't do anything to you. I promise."Apparently she didn't view Julian as much of a threat in his chains because she came into the room further towards him. She gasped when she saw the horrid cuts, burns, and bruises covering his body.

  "What happened to you?" she asked, and hesitantly raised her hand to gently touch one of the burn marks on Julian's chest. He tried not to wince at the touch.

  " Ruygo did this to me," he said. "And he has much worse planned for my fiancé if he ever gets his hands on him."

  Ticana turned her back to him. "No, he wouldn't do anything like that."

  Julian couldn't help sighing in frustration. " he did. Just turn around and look at the proof for yourself." she did turn around, but instead of looking at his body, her face searched his eyes. He could see the innocent concern in them mixed with confusion. He decided it was a good time to play his hand. "Ticana, you have to help me get out of here. If you don't, he could kill me and my fiancé both."

  She looked away again. "I can't if he ever found out..."

  " he wouldn't," Julian interrupted. " he doesn't have to know that you helped me at all."Seeing that she wasn't fully convinced, he went on. "Has he ever hurt you like he has me?" She shook her head, but Julian still wouldn't give up. "Ticana, you don't have to be a slave to Ruygo for the rest of your life. I'm a Starfleet officer and with or without your help they will be coming for me sooner or later. It would be much easier if I had your help though," Julian implored. "Please, help me."

  "If Ruygo ever found out..." she started to say.

  "There are many places you can go to be safe from Ruygo. You would be under the protection of the Federation. He won't be able to do anything to you," Julian assured her. "Wouldn't you like being able to come and go anywhere you pleased, not having to obey anyone else's demands..?"

  She looked from him to the door and back again. "Anywhere I want to go and the Federation will protect me? "

  "Yes," Julian replied. "Starfleet won't let anything happen to you."

  Ticana walked over to the door and opened it slightly and pocked her head out to look around. She pulled her head back in and cautiously walked over to him. Reaching into her back pocket, she pulled out a device and Julian watched as she pushed a button. The shackles around Julian's wrists and ankles fell away from him. Julian stepped away from them and headed towards the girl.

  "Thank you Ticana," Julian said and placed his hands on her shoulder. "Don't worry. I'm going to try and find a way to contact my fellow officers from Starfleet. If they are too far away to be here soon, I'll come back so Ruygo won't know happened. Nothing is going to happen to you," he said trying to reassure her. "Now you're going to have to help me. Can you show me where the room is with the communications equipment?"

  She nodded. "Let me check to see if it's clear first," she said and stepped out into the hallway and looked around in various directions. Apparently seeing no one, she waved Julian forward. He took her hand as she led him down several corridors and around several corners. Before entering each corridor, she would stick her head around to make sure there were no guards there.

  "Okay, it should be around this next corner," she told him and as they both looked around the corner, they saw a guard outside of the doorway. "Let me handle this,"Ticana told him and started to head for the guard.

  "What are you doing here?"Ticana asked the guard, who looked at her with surprise.

  "What do you mean girl?" he asked.

  " Ruygo wanted you on perimeter duty an hour ago," she replied.

  "But.." he started to protest.

  " he's in a very ugly mood today. You don't want to make it worse do you?" she asked him.

  "I guess not. Don't tell him okay?" he asked.

  "I didn't see anything," she assured him and watched as he left down the corridor opposite to Julian. After she could no longer see the guard, she gave Julian the all clear sign. "The room is empty,"Ticana replied when he got close enough.

  "I'd like you to come with me while I make the call," Julian told her. Now that she was an ally, he didn't want to risk her safety.

  "I could stay out here and warn you if I see anyone coming. They wouldn't think anything of seeing me around here," she replied. Reluctantly he nodded his head. "Okay, but I won't be long," he said and went into the room.

  As Ticana watched Julian start to work the controls, a slow smile came onto her face and her hand reached up to a communication device on her dress. "Assignment completed," she said.

  "Good work Ticana. You'll be well rewarded," she heard a familiar male voice from the other end say.

  Inside a small cubical of a room, Ruygo turned on the several servalence cams that surrounded him, and watched intensely as Julian work the numerous control panels. The doctor located the dampening field and mutual induction field and disabled them to allow for sensor readings and communications. Setting up the subspace relay, he started to transmit a distress call to DS9.


  On board the Defiant, Garak was busy pacing around the bridge, and ignoring the annoyed looks coming from Kira, Odo, and a few others that wished he would go back to his quarters. Garak had been on the bridge since they had entered the Treba system over an hour ago and he wasn't about to go back to his quarters, not while they were as close to Ratuka as they were getting. Suddenly he heard Dax's voice calling across the room.

  "Benjamin, DS9 is redirecting a distress call coming from Ratuka!"

  "On screen now," Sisko barked.

  Garak's heart jumped into his throat as Julian image was projected. His heart constricted in his chest as he took in the cuts and bruises he could see on his lover's body. His skin was dirty, his face stubbled with days worth of growth, but he looked absolutely beautiful to Garak. "Captain, tell Garak that I've been kidnapped by Ruygo Volech, he'll know who he is." Julian's voice came forth as scratchy and horse.

  "I'm here Jahkim," Garak called out, coming to stand in front of the screen, raising his hand as if to actually be able to reach through the screen.

  "Doctor, we know where you are and we're on our way there now," Sisko commented, although Julian seemed to look right past him without hearing him. His eyes lit up as he took in the sight of the tailor.

  " Garak, please be careful," Julian implored. " Ruygo is very dangerous."

  "Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. Stay safe yourself until we get there," Garak replied.

  A tender smile tugged at the corners of Julian's lips. "I'll be waiting for you... Elim, I love..."Suddenly the transmission was dead. ""What happened? Why had the transmission been cut? Abruptly the image of Garak and the others disappeared to be replaced with the ugly sneer of Ruygo's.

  "How so very touching Doctor," Ruygo said sarcastically. "I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for helping me to complete the final part of my plan. I knew you wouldn't help me willingly to lure Garak here, so I let you do it all by yourself. After all, I had to be sure he knew where to come since I wasn't sure if he was intelligent enough to pick up on the clues I left for him." Ruygo's icy stare penetrated Julian. "You've just helped to sign your lover's death warrant." he watched in delight as Julian's face drained of blood as the doctor comprehended what he was saying.

  Before Julian had the chance to react, five armed guards stormed the room. Julian did his best to fend them off, getting in kicks and punches where he could, but it didn't take long before he was overpowered. He was half carried and half dragged back to the cell where Ruygo was already waiting for him, along with Ticana who had her arm around his waist. The guards put the shackles back on him and let him fall to the floor. Ruygo walked over to him and grabbed him and hauled Julian to his feet. Pulling out the hypospray Julian had come to despise, Ruygo pressed it to his throat.

  "You've been most helpful Bashir, but I have plans to initiate for your lover's arrival. This should keep you quiet and out of trouble," Ruygo said as he injected the medication into Julian's system.

  Julian's eyes turned to icy steel. Ruygo could see the animosity and despise coloring them. "I would seriously reconsider you're thoughts of not killing me," Julian said in a deadly calm voice.

  Ruygo gave him a disdainful grin. "Now why would I want to do that?"

  "Because if you do anything to Garak and I survive, I will hunt you down like the animal you are and won't rest until I have your rotting corpse," Julian stated calmly, his glaze never wavering from Ruygo's.

  Ruygo clicked his tongue at him. "Such venomous words coming from the mouth of a healer," he walked over to stand nose to nose and foot to foot with Julian, "Does it look like you frighten me Doctor? Someone so gullible and simple minded as you poses no threat to me." Ruygo then reached behind Julian and inserted his hand inside Julian's briefs and roughly caressed the bare skin of his rear, sliding his finger up and down Julian's cleft. Leaning in close, he whispered, "But don't worry, after Garak's dead, I'll make sure to take care of you."Turned on his heels, he walked out the door. Ticana took this time to walk up to him herself.

  "Sorry Bashir, but big brother's right. Elim deserves to die for what he did to father," she remarked and patted his cheek before taking off out the door. After she was gone, Julian slid down the stone wall and wrapped his arms around his legs, drawing them up around his chest.


  Garak didn't pay any attention to commotion that was now going on about the bridge. His Julian was alive. He knew that now for a fact and felt a joy in it, but he also knew that Ruygo had caught him sending the call. What was Ruygo going to do to him now? Could he get there in time? Sisko's deep voice suddenly brought Garak's attention around.

  "All right people. It seems like we now have proof we need that the Doctor is there," he turned to Dax. "How soon before we reach Ratuka's orbit?"

  "Less than and hour," Jadzia replied. Sisko nodded. "Chief, drop the cloaking device and raise shields. I don't know what we're going to be encountering when we get there, but I'm sure it's not going to be friendly."

  "Yes sir," O'Brien replied and initiated the orders.


  "You've really made a mess of it this time didn't you Jules?" Julian remarked out loud. How could he have been so inanely inept and naive enough to not be able to see he was walking right into a trap? As easy as it had been to change Ticana's mind into helping him? Nobody else would've been so stupid to have fallen for that - nobody but him that was. This wasn't some holo-program where the lead female fell for any line he tossed out. He should have known better. Ruygo's sister? Gods, after all the time he had spent with Garak he would have thought he would have picked up a thing or two about not trusting an innocent looking face! And he didn't even want to consider what Ruygo meant by that remark to 'take care' of him. And what about Garak? He knew Garak was being led into a trap, no thanks to him, but there wasn't a way to warn him to stay away! All his fault. Garak was possibly going to die and Ruygo was right, it was all his doing. ' You brainless idiot. No wonder your father was always disappointed in you. Enhanced intelligence? Ha that's a laugh. If you have it, how come you never use it!?!' the voice inside his mind harped again. "Oh Garak, I'm so sorry," Julian moaned aloud. He only hoped the tailor would be around so he would have the chance to make it up to him somehow.


  Ruygo watched Julian's crumpled form on the screen with amusement. He hadn't planned on things working out as well as they had, even though his plans had been years in the making. He had even had a few surprises along the way, the biggest one being the Doctor himself. He was still watching the screen when he heard soft footsteps coming up behind him.

  " he is a rather interesting Human isn't he?"Ticana asked him. Ruygo raised an eyerige at her. "What are you getting at?"His eyes holding a dangerous glint to them.

  Ticana took no notice of it. "It's rather obvious brother. You've become captivated by him." she paused to take in a long glimpse of the form on the screen. "Not that I blame you anyhow, he does have quite a few noteworthy 'attributes'."

  "Ticana, don't be ludicrous. You know my main objective for him was to drive him insane in order to take away the one thing Garak holds precious." Ruygo replied.

  "Yes,"Ticana agreed, "But I think since then, your objectives have changed somewhat."

  The corners of Ruygo's mouth turned upward. "I never could pull anything over on you could I sister?"Ticana smiled in return. "Yes, it's true that originally I was just going to kill Elim's fiancé after he fulfilled his part in the plans, but I can't do that now," Ruygo replied.

  "Why not? You've never deviated from any of your other plans," Ticana remarked.

  "Maybe not, but Bashir has been so corrupted by Garak's evil that he needs someone to show him the monster Garak truly is," Ruygo replied.

  "And that someone is going to be you?"Ticana asked skeptically.

  "No one is more familiar with Garak's evil than I am. Yes, I do believe he needs my guidance," Ruygo replied.

  "If you kill Garak, Bashir isn't going to be thanking you brother. He's going to want you dead - he said as much,"Ticana pointed out.

  "True, but at this point he still has very misguided loyalties. After enough time has passed, he'll come to see how I'm doing this for his own good,"His smile widened more, "Besides, with what I have planned for him, he's not going to be in a state to argue matters much."

  "What about Starfleet?"Ticana asked.

  "After Garak and the rest of them are dead, we simply leave with Bashir and become well hid before Starfleet even knows what has happened," Ruygo answered.

  "That sounds a little too easy for my taste brother,"Ticana commented dryly.

  "None of my other plans have failed so far have they?"Not waiting for her to answer, he went on, "So there is no reason why this shouldn't work either. Years of waiting has it's benefits," Ruygo remarked. Ticana was less than convinced.


  Kira began scanning Ratuka as soon as they had entered the planet's orbit. She wasn't pleased at all with the results.

  "Sir, there is a miniaturized thoron field surrounding the compound that's blocking our scanners," she replied, turning to Sisko.

  "So we're not going to be able to know what kind of weapon system the compound has or how many of Ruygo's men could be waiting for us, nor are we going to be able to get the location of Dr. Bashir in the compound," Sisko surmised. "This is going to be interesting."

  "Well, you always have enjoyed a good challenge," Dax remarked with a smile.

  "Sir, if we'd beam down to the planet's surface, I could probably use a multiphase pulse on the graviton field generator and disable the field," O'Brien replied. "That way we'd know how many men we're up against and be able to get a lock on Julian to transport him and us out of there."

  "Agreed," Sisko replied. "Chief... you , Commander Dax, Commander Worf, Odo, the Major and Mr. Garak, will accompany me down to the surface."

  "Sir, I would suggest beaming outside the compound until we know whether or not there are any pattern scramblers in the compound,"Odo replied.

  Sisko nodded and turned to the others. "You heard him, now lets get a move on. I want Dr. Bashir back on this ship as soon as possible."

  They beamed in approximately five hundred yards away from the compound. The planet had hot and humid weather conditions with lush green vegetation and woods surrounding it. As Kira read her tricorder, Garak noticed that he didn't see any type of a welcoming committee - no guards or anyone else were around the compound. Sisko looked around and seeing no signs of danger gestured for them to follow him as they made their way out of the wooded area in into the clearing leading to the compound. Slowly they progressed, keeping an eye out for any guards along the way, until O'Brien found the graviton field generator. Once he recalibrated his tricorder to send the out the signal for the mutliphase pulse, the shield was disabled quickly. Using a desealing rod, O'Brien was able to gain entry into the compound.

  "Maybe it's just my humble opinion, but is anyone else finding this far too easy?" Garak asked the others once they were in the maze of corridors.

  "It does seem a little strange that the door opened so easily," O'Brien agreed.

  "Seeing how Dr. Bashir's communication was cut off, I think we need to assume we're expected," Sisko replied.

  "So you think we're walking into a trap?" Dax asked. She'd had the same thoughts herself. Looking over to Worf, she knew he agreed as well.

  "If these had been my plans, I would undoubtedly use Julian to lure myself here to be captured," Garak commented.

  "Then why don't we give Ruygo what he's wanting,"Kira suggested.

  Sisko had seen that look in the Major's eyes before - the look that told him she had a plan. "What do you have in mind?"

  "We could have Garak pose as a decoy to keep Ruygo occupied until we get to Julian,"Kira offered.

  "That sounds too dangerous to me," Dax commented, "Just from what I've seen and heard about this guy in the last couple of days, there's no telling what he could do to Garak once he gets his hands on him."

  "The Major is right," Garak started to say, " Ruygo is after me so it would only make sense to use me as the decoy. Getting Julian back safely is my top priority."

  "Yes, but putting your own life in danger isn't going to guarantee Julian's safety," Jadzia remarked.

  "Yes, but it might increase the odds and right now that's more than enough incentive," Garak replied and turned to Sisko. "You can place a transmitter on me and track me with that."

  "Are you positive of this Garak?" Sisko asked, "There is a possibility that we may not be able to get to you in time if he gets the notion to act quickly."

  Garak's expression grew cold and callused. "Granted he may seem unpredictable, but I think you will have enough time. He isn't going to want to kill me quickly when he could prolong it and indulge in the act of causing me agony."

  Sisko looked Garak in the eyes for long moment before finally speaking. "Chief, get Garak a transmitter. You and the Major are going to be with me while we try to find the Doctor."The Captain then looked pointedly at Dax,"Commander Dax, you, Commander Worf, and Odo will be looking for Dr. Bashir as well, but will also be responsible for tracking Mr. Garak."

  Garak looked at the Chief while he was placing the transmitter on him. "I have to admit, I've never willingly tried to get myself captured by an enemy before."

  "Yeah, well I don't know if you have a secret death wish or what, but try not to get yourself killed all right?"the Chief replied. "For Julian's sake."

  "Why Chief, while your concern is touching, I will assure you that I have no intentions of ending my existence, such as it is, prematurely," Garak promised.

  "Good to hear it because I wouldn't have a way of returning that wedding tux otherwise," O'Brien commented with a half smile before they broke up into their respective groups.

  The poorly lit corridors was a labyrinth of twists and turns. Worf was leading the group, followed closely by Dax and Garak with Odo brining up the rear. They came upon several door and with phasers drawn, they carefully checked each room using silent gestures to coordinate their movements. Garak's heart sunk each time he hoped to find Julian, only to be disappointed by finding barren rooms. Worf started to look into the last room at the end of the corridor they were currently in when he pulled his head back quickly, and indicated that the room wasn't empty, but had a guard posted in it. Dax looked to Garak to see whether he was ready or not and he gestured to her and the others to go around the corner and let him handle his part of the plans. When they were secured around the corner, Garak took a deep, steadying breath, gathered his most imposing posture, and walked into the room with his head held high.

  "Halt, who are you?" the Cardassian guard asked when seeing the tailor enter and quickly approached him.

  "Hello there ," Garak said in his most charming voice, "Would you happen to know where Ruygo Volech is? We had an appointment for a fitting today, but perhaps he's forgotten?" Garak watched as the guard raised the butt of his phaser rifle and began to bring it up towards him. ' Why do they always aim for the face?' Garak wondered mildly as metal slammed against his skull and things went dark very quickly.


  Sisko was starting to get discouraged. They had been through several corridors and numerous rooms with absolutely no luck where Julian Bashir was concerned. He knew that time was running short for Julian and possibly Garak now as well. He still wondered about his decision to allow the Cardassian to embark on such a dangerous plan. The fact that he wasn't an officer didn't matter to Benjamin - Elim Garak was still part of DS9 and therefore his responsibility to protect to the best of his ability.

  The complex system of tunnels seemed to go on endlessly. Several times Sisko wondered if they might not be traveling in a circle, and was seriously beginning to wonder if there were hidden passages and rooms making up the huge compound. Seeing a new room off to the side in one of the branches of corridors negated Sisko's previous doubts. Guardedly, Sisko approached the room which bathed the hallway with light. Sisko held a hand up to Kira and O'Brien, keeping them at bay until he could assess the situation. The room was empty except for a young Cardassian woman looking over the readings coming in on several consoles.

  Putting his training into use, Benjamin crept up silently behind the unsuspecting girl. In one catlike strike, Benjamin grabbed the girl's arm and forced it high behind her back while the other arm went around her throat tight enough to keep her from screaming out.

  "All right," Sisko called out and Kira and the Chief entered the room. He then loosened his arm slightly around the girl's neck. "There's no need to be scared, but we need some information and I think you could help us out."

  "I'm not telling you anything,"Ticana replied rebelliously and winced when Sisko put more pressure on her arm and tightened up on her throat.

  " he gets easily irritated when he doesn't get his way, so I'd answer him if I were you,"Kira commented to the girl, ignoring Sisko's raised eyebrow.

  Sisko applied more pressure to the Cardassian girl's arm - taking care to stop short of breaking it, but still enough to be incredibly painful. "All right, all right!"Ticana cried out, trying to stand on tiptoe to relieve some of the pressure. "What do you want to know?"


  Garak regained conciounsness when he felt ice cold water being thrown in his face. Becoming roused, he tried to focus his blurred eyes on the figure in front of him. As the image cleared up, he could see the acute resemblance between the Cardassian male standing in front of him now with a outlandishly smug expression and the man whose life he had taken so many years ago. Garak tried to lunge after Julian's captor, but found that he was held back again his chair by a restraining field.

  "So Elim Garak, after all these years of waiting, I finally have you and I'm planning on making you pay for your deeds," Ruygo said he walked around Garak's chair. Garak would have said something in retaliation, but found that the gag in his mouth made that rather difficult. "I actually thought you would have been more difficult to capture. After all, one of Tain's best operatives would have died before letting themselves get captured by the enemy. Then again, you have gotten much older since then and your instincts have probably dulled from living on that station. That was why it was so incredibly easy to capture your precious doctor."Coming to stand directly in front of Garak again, Ruygo's eyes leveled with the tailor's, "Did you really believe that I would let you get away with murdering my father? You destroyed my life, now I will have my revenge. You took my father away from me and now Garak, you will watch as I take away the one precious thing in your life. Oh, I won't kill him, if that's what you're thinking. No, you will be the one to die for your crime. Most importantly, you will die with the knowledge that I'll have possession of your only reason for living. Julian Bashir will be mine. Believe me when I say, it will be 'all' my pleasure. Think of it Garak, I will be the one who shares his bed from now on - in fact, soon he will be 'begging' for the pleasure."As Garak stared in to the face of Ruygo, he saw hatred and disgust flaring in the cold gray depths of his eyes. Those were looks Garak had become quite accustomed to over the years and didn't bother him in the least - what did bother him though, was the pure madness that he could also see lurking behind the seemingly serene expression. There was no reasoning with someone who was as lost on sanity as Ruygo seemed to be and it caused a shiver to run under Garak's skin. For a moment, he wondered if he might not have been premature and misjudged Ruygo when he had told Captain Sisko that there would surely be plenty of time for his rescue. There was no telling what he had planned or how volatile this situation could become. He had a feeling that he would receive his answer soon enough though.


  As Julian leaned back against the wall, he knew that the medication that Ruygo had given him must have been a tranquilizer of some sort. That was the only explanation he had for feeling as weak and light headed as he did at the moment. He felt that he barely had the strength to stand any longer. He wanted to find a way to get a message through to Garak. There simply had to be a way of warning him in time. He shook his head in attempt to clear some of the fogginess. ' Think Jules, you have to come up with something - for Garak's sake.' Gods, why did things have to start getting blurry? ' Don't give in. Fight the medication! You've got to fight it Jules.' He attempted to try to get to his feet, only to fall hard against the floor again. ' Get up you coward! Quit being the weakling your father always claimed you were! Fight damn you!' Grabbing the chains at the base of the wall, he managed to pull himself into a standing position, but it left him panting and shaking from the exertion and his thoughts were still getting muddled. Julian hadn't heard the footsteps coming down the hall, or even acknowledged Ruygo's entrance into his cell until the Cardassian's voice pulled Julian's attention towards him.

  " Bashir, it seems you have some company." Ruygo had a peculiar look on his face that Julian couldn't decipher, but it gave Julian a sickening sensation in the pit of his stomach. "Bring him in," he yelled outside. Julian's heart sank to his feet as he watched one of Ruygo's guards bring Garak into full view. His hands were tied behind his back, his mouth was gagged, and a phaser was trained on his neck.

  Ruygo pulled the gag from Garak's mouth. "I'm sorry Doctor. It seems my attempt at a rescue went a little awry," Garak commented dryly.

  "Oh Gods no! I wanted to warn you... I tried to fight..I, oh Elim," Julian choked.

  Garak gave him an affectionate smile. "I'm sure you did love. I've got no doubts that you were quite a handful. I wouldn't have expected any less from you."

  "If I could have just tried harder..." Julian started to say.

  " Julian, I'm sure you did the very best you could. I don't want you blaming yourself for this. If anyone is to be blamed for all of this, it's me. It seems as though everyone has to pay the price for their past wrong doings. I'm just sorry he brought you into this," Garak replied and tilted his head in the direction of Ruygo.

  "Enough of all this talking," Ruygo replied as he walked to stand directly behind Bashir, his hands coming up to stroke Julian's arms, then down over his ribs until he reached Julian's hips and pulled the doctor back to lean into him. Julian tried to twist free as he tried to surpress the cold chill that ran the length of his spine. The doctor watched hatred fill Garak's eyes as he watched Ruygo's motions. The tailor started to say something before the guard shoved the phaser insistently into the nape of his neck. "You see that man in front of you? When you look at him, your looking at evil in it's purist form. It wasn't your fault that you fell prey to it. Evil has this way about it that can be beguiling. Makes you a willing victim and infects you."Leaving Julian, Ruygo slowly and deliberately made his way over to stand behind Garak now. "And you," he began talking into Garak's ear, "You didn't like it when I was touching the Doctor much did you? Well, I'll let you in on a little secret. I have much more in store for him than simply touching him. He's going to belong to me from now on." he then focused his attention back on Julian. "I wanted you to witness this so you could understand that I'm doing this for both of our sakes. I want to avenge my father's death as well as drain away the evil forces that have clouded your senses for far too long."

  Julian watched paralyzed in shocked horror as Ruygo pulled out his knife. Reaching around Garak, he grabbed the end of the knife with both hands and plunged it deep into Garak's abdomen.

  "NO!!!!" Julian screamed helplessly as Ruygo twisted the knife and wrenched it upwards and towards him, pulling Garak's body back against him. Garak's eyes widened in shock and his mouth fell open. Black blood spurted forth, covering the knife and Ruygo's hands. Julian noticed with revulsion how the steel blade sliced though the tissue, exposing and ripping through the various layers of muscle until it finally reached the organs of Garak's abdomen. The smell of hot, sticky, blood was thick in the air as Ruygo continued pulling upward, through green intestines, through the pancreas, past the stomach, not stopping until it reached the base of the breast bone. Even then, the cut continued up far enough that Julian could see Garak's heart still pumping in his chest.

  " Julian..." Garak whispered before Ruygo ripped the knife from him and let him fall forward into a heap onto the floor. His eyes grew dim as Julian watched him take his last breath.

  "You bastard!" Julian yelled and rushed towards him with so much force that the base of his chains nearly came loose. "I'll see to it that you burn in Hell!!!"

  Ruygo only smiled viciously at him. "Get him out of here," he told the guard and gestured to the tailor before he turned back to Julian, who watched as the guard grabbed Garak's feet and began to pull his sprawled body out the door - leaving a trail of smeared blood in his wake. "As I said, in time you will understand...and perhaps even appreciate what I've just done," Ruygo replied walking over to Julian and grabbed the doctor's chin with a blood soaked hand. "And I wouldn't mourn for him much Bashir. After you've been in my care, you won't even remember your time with him."

  "You are going to die," Julian stated simply in a very low and calm voice that held a lethal edge. Ruygo's head bent back as he let out a howl of laughter and it continued on his way out of the cell.

  Julian stared numbly at the streaked black blood for several long minutes, his fingers coming up to feel the blood on his chin. He wasn't aware of when his legs buckled underneath of him and he came crumpling down onto the floor. Hot tears fell from his eyes.

  "Oh Elim, I'm so sorry, so so sorry, Elim, Elim...." he sobbed as he wrapped his arms around himself and started rocking back and forth. He kept repeating Garak's name through the sobs. Things started going hazy around him, his eyes wouldn't focus. He was finding it more and more difficult to remember where he was and it was hard for him to catch his breath. He felt tired, so bone-wearily tired. The inky grayness settled upon him and surrounded him until he gave up the battle and found the blissful solace and peacefulness that only comes with unconsciousness.  


  Garak sat motionless, still bound to the chair by the restraining field, and watched helplessly at the scene that played before him on the monitor. He watched with detached interest at first when he had seen his own holo-image being dragged into the doctor's cell with a phaser aimed at the image's neck. When the image first spoke, it sounded so eerily like Garak's own voice that it sent a icy feeling through his blood. It didn't occur to him at first exactly what Ruygo had planned...until he saw the knife. The tailor then knew Ruygo wanted him to be forced to watch as he destroyed Julian as much emotionally as Garak had destroyed his father physically. Now Garak watched, unable to do anything, as his beloved doctor fell to floor and started rocking himself to and fro. The sounds of Julian's sobbing moans as he called Garak's name over and over again tore painfully through his heart.

  "I'm the one whose sorry Jahkim, this is all my fault. Hold on love because help is on the way," Garak said aloud to the shivering, tearful figure on the monitor. Suddenly the moaning stopped and Garak watched as Julian's eyes fluttered shut and didn't open again. Was he all right? Did Ruygo do something else to him? A blind rage roared to life like an inferno within Garak's depths and he knew there wasn't anything he wouldn't be capable of to make Ruygo pay for what he'd done to Julian. The only thing he could see in his mind's eye was Ruygo's body opened up to him as the holo-image's had been. The rattling of the door pulled his attention back to the present enough to realize that Worf, Dax, and Odo had found him.

  Jadzia took in the peculiar expression on Garak's face. " Garak, are you okay?" she didn't like the look she saw in his eyes. She recognized bloodlust when she saw it.

  "Get me out of here 'now'," Garak ordered in a low and dangerous voice.

  "Give us a minute to disable this restraining field,"Odo replied with annoyance.

  As soon as he had the field turned off, Garak took off in a run down the corridor. Dax, Worf, and Odo took off after him. As he made his way down the corridor, Garak wasn't even sure where he was going, he just knew he had to find Ruygo. A guard appeared from one of the rooms in front of him and Garak managed land a blow before he even had the chance to raise his disrupter. With two more blows, Garak had disabled the guard and took the disrupter from his limp hand. The noise roused two more guards and Garak took out the first one with the disrupter while Worf took out the other one with his phaser. With the guards disposed of, Garak took off around the corner where he saw Ruygo standing by one of the doors talking to another guard. Ruygo and Garak's eye met as the tailor lifted the disrupter and aimed it directly at the guard. Ruygo ran into the room and tried to seal the door before Garak reached him. He didn't make it. Garak tackled him, taking both of them down to the ground. Ruygo didn't have a chance to land any blows because Garak grabbed his throat in both of his hands and began squeezing with all of his strength - getting leverage by having both of his knees on Ruygo's chest. Ruygo gasped and grabbed Garak's hands, trying to pry them loose.

  "Your just like your father, always attacking the innocent!" Garak cried, "No more!!" Garak drew back one of his fists and punched Ruygo squarely in the nose, barely noticing the black blood it brought forth before doing it a second time. One hand still secured the neck while the tailor's other hand grabbed a fistful of hair and began pounding the back of Ruygo's head into the ground. He could barely hear Dax calling to him. When had she arrived?

  " Garak, we're in Julian's cell... Garak, you have to stop! Your going to kill him if you don't stop!"The tailor felt pressure on his shoulder and a gentle voice made it's way though to him. "" Elim, Julian needs you. If you do this, you'll be sent to prison. What will become of Julian? Elim, please, think of Julian!"

  Garak blinked several times and tried to focus his tear filled eyes. 'Julian? Yes, I must help Julian. He needs me.' Garak reluctantly released his grip on Ruygo's throat and watched as Odo and Worf hauled him to his feet and took him into custody. The tailor then noticed his doctor in the corner for the first time. The pale, bloody, bruised, and burned form was so still, too still - the raise and fall of his chest was almost nondetectable. Making his way over to Julian, Garak sunk down to his knees and tentatively reached out and stroked his cheek - the icy cold skin that met his touch frightened him. "Is he....?" Garak couldn't finish the thought.

  " he'll be all right in time. He's suffering from shock right now," Dax replied and watched as Garak took his disrupted and severed the chains holding Julian to the wall. He then pulled his tunic up over his head and off and then slipped it over the doctor's nearly nude body. Gathering the doctor onto his lap and wrapping his arms around him, he started rocking him in a comforting rhythm - not stopping when Sisko, O'Brien, and Kira entered the cell along with Ticana.

  "Ticana? How could you have betrayed me?" Ruygo asked, his voice still horse and scratchy.

  "Brother, it was a choice of either you or me ending up in prison," she answered, "It wasn't much of a choice."

  "You'll pay too sister dear," Ruygo promised before looking at Sisko. "Can't you see that this is all Garak's fault? Can't you see how evil he is? He's the one that should be arrested, not me. He's the one that should have to pay for what he's done," Ruygo pleaded, "Why can't anyone else see what evil he's capable of? He's dangerous and you're all blind fools!!" he then looked at Garak still holding and rocking Julian. " Elim Garak, as long as I'm alive, Julian Bashir is never going to be safe with you. No matter where you go or how you try to hide, I will find you. I was able to get him once and I can do it again. Someone has to protect him from you!"

  "Before you start making idle threats, you should be thinking about the time you'll be spending in prison,"Odo replied, "Kidnapping a Starfleet officer should at least get you ten to twenty years and that's not even adding attempted murder onto the list of charges - which it will be."

  "What proof do you have that could stand up in a hearing?"

  "We have two Maquis solders, and Zaeg Kabano in custody. All of whom are more than willing to testify against you in exchange for immunity,"Odo informed him, "That's not including your sister's testimony."

  "A prison won't be able to hold me forever," Ruygo threatened.

  "That may be true enough," Sisko replied, "but I wouldn't be too anxious to try to get out of prison since I'm sure that when you do, you will have a lot of explaining to do to the Dominion about your offering of privileged information to enemies, and to the Maquis for double-crossing them and not giving them the information that you promised to them once you had Dr. Bashir. Oh, and I almost forgot the fact that you will no longer have the backing of the Detepa council. Seems that a woman having influence with the ranks of the Obsidian Order has told them about your activities and they have stripped you of your position accordingly," Sisko informed him. Ruygo was only able to stare in stunned silence as he digested everything he had been told. Sisko tapped his com badge. " Sisko to Defiant, ten to beam up. Please beam Mr. Garak and Dr. Bashir directly into sick bay."Within seconds, they all felt the familiar flutter that came with having your atoms scattered and dispersed during dematerialization.


  Once they were beamed back onto the Defiant and in the sick bay, Garak reluctantly placed Julian on the biobed and allowed the nurses to perform the routine tests mandatory to handle post traumatic stress. Even as they repaired the physical damage Julian had suffered with the dermalregenerator, and cleared his bloodstream of any remaining drugs, Garak was never far from the Doctor's side.

  An hour into the return trip home, Garak was leaning back in a chair next to the biobed with his eyes closed when he heard Julian start to moan and come to. " Elim, oh Elim...he's dead, I killed him,, don't hurt him...tried to fight..stay away!!"

  Garak began stroking Julian's hair. "Hush love, I'm all right, everything is going to be fine."

  "Dead, dead, killed fault," Julian muttered.

  " Julian, it was a hologramed image that you saw. It wasn't really me," Garak reassured him.

  "No, no, I saw...blood, lot's of blood. He slit him with a knife...all my fault..."the doctor replied, his voice still slurred.

  Garak interrupted, " Julian...look at me...look at me!" he commanded leaning in very close to the doctor and slipping an arm under his slim shoulders. The doctor blinked and quieted down. Garak was sure the doctor still thought he was hallucinating. " Julian, try to listen to my voice," Garak replied softly. "Remember the first night we were together? " Julian tried to nod, "That night I said something thing to you..remember what that was?" Garak searched Julian's eyes and knew he was thinking. "Remember when I told you how I felt about you? I said... Roh'lam kah eim adentra jahkim... you are my cherished beloved. Do you remember what you said to me?" Garak asked, still stroking Julian's hair, blue eyes searching hazel eyes intently.

  "Yes, I called you...'tadem h'a eim tadem'."They finished together in unison. " Elim..." Julian whispered and pulled himself up and grabbed the tailor and held him tightly. "But how? I thought I killed you. I watched him cu..cut you open in front of me."

  "I told you Jahkim, it was nothing more than a holoprogram," Garak replied again taking a seat on the biobed and carefully pulled the doctor onto his lap for the second time that day. The doctor refused to let go of him as he ran his hands over the Cardassian's back, reassuring himself as his fingers stroked solid flesh. "You're safe now and I'm not going anywhere."After several long minutes of silence Julian yawned and Garak cleared his throat, " Julian, are you sure you don't need your rest?"

  "No, please don't leave," Julian implored and tightened his grip, "I..I'm happy just holding you."

  Garak smiled tenderly at him. "It's all right love. I said I wouldn't go anywhere if you didn't want me to." Julian flashed him one of those familiar smiles that always went straight to his heart before he laid his head down on the tailor's chest and closed his eyes. Garak pressed his lips to Julian's forehead and settled him into a comfortable position on his lap. Soon Julian's breathing became calm and regular. Listening to the soft little sighs, Garak knew the doctor was asleep.


  The uneventful return trip home gave Julian time to rest and slowly regain his strength. Garak noticed that he couldn't eat or drink much at first because his stomach couldn't handle very large quantities of either. Miles and Jadzia had both come to visit him for awhile to find out how he was doing. Julian had said he was doing much better, but Garak wasn't convinced. He had asked the doctor on two different occasions if he would like to talk about what had happened during his capture and the doctor abruptly changed the subject both times. Garak decided not to pressure the doctor, feeling sure that Julian would tell him the details when he felt ready. In the meantime, the tailor did everything he could to make Julian comfortable and even had a cot set up next to the biobed so he could sleep next to him through the night. Julian slept very restlessly and Garak had to wake him up several times when the doctor started crying out and thrashing about on the bed - caught up in horrible nightmares.


  Amsha waited restlessly at the docking ring. She had been thrilled when she had found out that the Defiant was on it's way back to the station - with Elim and Jules, but the two days wait for them to return was almost too much for a mother to have to deal with. She watched as the door opened up and Kira and Odo walked out. Worf came out next with Dax followed by Sisko and O'Brien. Amsha finally let out the breath she wasn't even aware of holding when both of her sons came walking out with their arms around each other's waists. First she grabbed Julian and held him tight to her then she grabbed Garak and hugged him just as tight. Finally, she gave up and hugged both of them at once.

  "Oh boys, I was so worried about you both!" she exclaimed, holding Julian back for an exception. "How are you Jules?" she asked and brushed a few stray strand of hair off of his forehead.

  "Doing much better, now that I'm home," Julian replied with a weak smile.

  "I'm so happy to see you safe and sound. When I found out you were gone....well, never mind. It's all over now right and everything is fine," Amsha replied.

  "Thanks to Elim and the others," Julian replied smiling a little more.

  Amsha reached out and tugged a bit on Julian's uniform to rearrange it and smooth out some of the wrinkles when she noticed that it hung more loosely on him than before. "Have you had anything to eat recently? You look positively thin..never mind, I'll make sure you get a decent dinner tonight. How about some of your favorites?" she asked and noticed the lines of lack of sleep etched around his eyes. "You look exhausted honey."

  "Mother ..." Julian responded in a warning voice.

  Garak looked over Julian's shoulder to see Kira glowering at him. "Mother, why don't I give you two a little time alone and you can get Julian settled back into his quarters. I'll be a long in a few minutes." Julian gave him a confused glance, but didn't say anything while Amsha began grilling him about the details of his abduction as she took his arm and led him off into the direction of the habitat-ring. Garak turned and headed towards the Major.

  "Is there a problem Major?" Garak asked.

  "You could say that,"Kira retorted, folding her arms across her chest, "Are you going to tell her the truth? Shouldn't she know that her son is a far cry from being safe?" she queried, "How many more secrets from your past will come back to haunt Julian? We were lucky this time - if there's a next time maybe Julian won't come out alive. Are you sure you want to put him through that kind of life?"Not waiting for any kind of an answer, Kira turned on her heels and walked off, leaving the tailor to stare at her back. He was still for several minutes before he left to the habitat-ring.

  Entering his code into the door, Garak entered Julian's quarters to see Amsha walking out of the bedroom. She smiled when she saw the tailor and then held a finger up to her lips for a sign of quiet.

  "I convinced him to take a nap for awhile," she whispered conspiriously with a wink, she face turned somber, " Garak, how is he really doing?" she asked. "The truth."

  " he's still reluctant to tell me anything about what happened before we arrived. " Garak replied honestly. "Captain Sisko has also taken him off duty for the next week."

  Amsha nodded her head, "That makes sense. I'm sure it will take some time to recuperate before he'll want to talk, but he will when he's ready."Then, taking the time to really study the Cardassian's expression, she realized there was something unsettled about him. "Son, is there something wrong? How are you after all of this?"

  Garak looked over her shoulder in the direction of the bedroom, "It's been a difficult week to say the least and I'm still a bit fatigued over it."It wasn't exactly a lie, but Garak had actually been thinking about what the Major had said to him.

  Amsha gave the tailor a generous smile. "Why don't you try to get some sleep yourself. I'll wake you and Julian both when it's time for dinner."

  Garak couldn't help but return the smile, "Mother, if you're going be here with Julian for awhile, then I need to check on a couple of items at my shop."

  "You go ahead then, but I want to see you back here for dinner," Amsha replied with mock sterness.

  "But of course," he conceded amicably before turning to leave.

  In his shop Garak checked his inventory, filled some orders, and couldn't take his mind off Julian. He knew that Odo had sent Ruygo to Meldrar I, a lunar prison, to await trial, but did that really take care of the threat? The Major had been right in the fact that they had been lucky. It could have easily been Garak instead of some holo-projection that had been split wide open and left to rot. Not to mention that Ruygo could have easily disposed of Julian after he had sent the transmission. What if Sisko and the rest of them had been caught? Garak could have been responsible for seven deaths besides his own. Luck doesn't hold out forever. It use to be he only had to worry about his own protection, now realized Julian had to be considered now as well. Was he lying to himself that he had the ability to protect Julian?

  Before he knew it, he looked at the chronometer and seen that it was getting close to time to return to his quarters. With a small smile, he thought that he didn't want to have to deal with an upset mother. He locked the door to his shop and strode across the Promenade and in the direction of his doctor's quarters. He opened the door to find Julian sitting in a dark room with the only light illuminating from several candles that adorned the table around the flowered centerpiece. Soft instrumental music drifted through the air.

  " Julian, what's all this?"the Cardassian asked, slightly surprised by his surroundings.

  Julian got up from the sofa and came over to wrap his arms around the tailor's neck while Garak's arms automatically settled around his waist. Julian leaned in to softly kiss the Cardassian's mouth. "Mother thought it would be nice to plan a candlelight dinner for us on our first night back,"the doctor murmured against his lips.

  "Remind me to thank her. " Garak murmured back before deepening the kiss. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a small voice reminded Garak that Julian had not wanted to become intimate before the ceremony. Had he changed his mind after everything that had happened? Figuring that wasn't something for the tailor to decide for him, Garak disentangled himself from the doctor before the kiss grew too serious to control. "The food smells delicious," Garak commented and moved to the table. Was that a look of disappointment that flitted across the doctor's face? Taking a seat at the table, the tailor noticed the dish. "This is Kaparl isn't it? It must have taken your mother some time to prepare." The doctor took his seat. "She said she was happy to do it," he replied shrugging his shoulders and picking up his fork.

  They continued to eat in relative silence. Garak knew what was preoccupying his thoughts, but wondered what was weighing on Julian's mind. He knew that Julian wasn't too happy about not being able to return to work right away, but there was something more to his behavior than that. When Julian questioned him about his own quietness, Garak came close to confessing about Kira's comments, but in the end made some comment about having a backlog of orders that needed filled.

  After the meal was finished and the dishes were returned to the replicator, Garak ordered a glass of Kanar and sat down on the sofa. He had the feeling that Julian wanted to talk to him about something, but was hesitant to do so. Patiently, he sipped the sweet red drink until Julian ordered his nightly tea and seat down beside him.

  "You look like you have something on your mind Jahkim." Garak decided to give him a opening.

  "I've been wondering about something lately," Julian started, but paused.

  "Yes Doctor?" Garak gently prodded.

  Julian cleared his throat before looking Garak straight in the eyes. "What kept you from killing Ruygo?" he finally asked. Garak gave him a curious look. " O'Brien told me that you had the opportunity and even came close, but something stopped you...what?"

  Garak studied the bottom of his glass for a few moments before answering. "Commander Dax confided in me a few nights ago that she didn't think I was the same person that came to live on the station." Slipping his arm around the doctor and pulling him closer, the tailor continued, "I guess she's right. Even a few years ago, I would have made sure I wouldn't have left if he was still breathing. O'Brien was right also, I did come close and might have if Commander Dax hadn't stepped in when she had."

  "What did Jadzia have to do with it?" Julian asked, turning into the tailor's arms to face him better.

  "The Commander reminded me what I had to loose if I had killed him. If I had killed him, she told me I'd end up being sent to prison." Garak reached over and brushed his fingertips across Julian's cheek. "She reminded me of the incentive I had not to let that happen." Garak slowly ran the tip of his thumb over Julian's bottom lip. "I didn't want to loose you."

  "I've told you before...I have no intentions on going anywhere," Julian replied, turning his head and reaching up to cover the Cardassian's mouth with his own. Julian's hands started traveling over the tailor's tunic, stroking his chest and pulling him closer with the lapels. Garak enjoyed feeling of caressing the doctor's back through the uniform, feeling the taunt muscles relax under his hands. Garak's lips brushed over Julian's jaw and down to nuzzle his neck - the familiar scent of the doctor filling his senses. Julian let out a soft moan and leaned back onto the sofa, pulling Garak down with him as he went. Garak couldn't help but think that it had seemed so long since he'd had the doctor in his arms and how wonderful it felt to have him back again. Along with that feeling though, a voice reminded the tailor that Julian had been through a great deal of stress and trauma and might not be ready to make love, even if his body was telling him otherwise. There was also the niggling voice that reminded him that the doctor had wanted to wait before the kidnapping and he had no right to assume he might have changed his mind.

  As if reading his thought Julian tentatively reached up and stroked Garak's cheek and continued trailing kisses along ribbons of ridges at his neck. "Will you stay here with me tonight?" he murmured.

  Garak pulled back from the doctor - ice blue eyes searched hazel ones with confusion, "Jahkim, I thought you wanted to wait until after the ceremony. It was very important to you," he responded.

  "I did and it was," Julian said huskily, "but not as important as being with you right now...tonight."Taking Garak's face in his palms, Julian pulled his face towards his and gently kissed his lips while his hands came up and started caressing the Cardassian's chest. "I need to feel you...touch you ...reassure myself that you're safe...please?" Julian whispered against his lips. Garak silenced his tongue by capturing it with his own. Julian's mouth opened readily to the tailor's probing as his own demanding tongue greedily dueled and battled for access to the Cardassian's mouth. Julian's hands caught hold of the tailor's hem and he started to pull at the tunic until Garak allowed him to pull it off over his head while the tailor sought the hidden zipper of Julian's own uniform that after all his practice he now had no trouble finding. Julian wiggled under him in an attempt to help him remove the clothing and ended up stimulating Garak's amore even more. Finally released of the uniform and left only in his briefs, Julian allowed himself the pleasure of feeling Garak's bare chest sliding against his own while the tailor's hands played over his ribs and the flat of his stomach. Garak licked and kissed the hollows where Julian's shoulder and neck met, occasionally allowing his sharp teeth to nip and tug at the skin. Julian found the ridge leading to the tailor's ear and nibbled his way upwards before caressing the depression with his tongue.

  "Why don't we take this into the bedroom?"the doctor whispered in a husky voice into the tailor's ear.

  "Excellent suggestion Doctor,"the Cardassian replied with a roguish smile. Garak reluctantly pulled his weight off the doctor and taking ahold of Julian's wrists, helped the younger man to his feet. Julian followed Garak as they padded across the floor toward the bedroom.

  Julian landed with a thud onto the bed and moved over to give Garak room to join him. Garak unzipped and unbuttoned his slacks and they slid down his legs to rest at his feet. Shoving them to the side, Garak then pulled down his briefs and Julian was pleased to note that the tailor already had a solid erection. Julian's own member was already straining against the fabric of his briefs. Reaching down, Julian removed the hindersome material, releasing his own aching erection, and threw them down beside Garak's.

  Garak climbed into the bed and Julian quickly rolled on top of him and straddled the tailor while pinning his wrists down lightly.

  "There were times I wondered if I'd ever be able to do this again and I'm planning on making the most of it," Julian whispered and slowly circled the tip of his tongue around the older man's sensitive nipple before taking into between his teeth and suckling it. Garak couldn't suppress the moan that escaped as Julian did the same with the other nipple. "You taste so good," Julian commented as he kissed his way down the Cardassian's chest and stomach, stopping to lightly flick his tongue in and out of the tailor's navel. Garak's hands stroking Julian's hair. "Feel so good," Julian whispered huskily as his hands roamed the tailor's prone form - caressing his chest, over his stomach, across his hips. Garak closed his eyes as Julian's lips followed the trail of his hands - his tongue swirling and marking patterns as he went.

  Julian's hands stroked the tailor's muscular calves and wound around to caress the soft skin of his thighs. Taking the palm of his hand, Julian rubbed it firmly against Garak's solid member, his fingers gently kneading and squeezing the Cardssian's scrotum. His thumb rubbed the swollen tip that already was covered with preejaculate. Slowly he brought his head down and his tongue snaked out the gather the musky, salty fluid that he was intimately familiar with - the taste that was unmistakably the tailor's. With great deliberance, Julian slowly ran his tongue over the head and down and around the shaft and base, taking his time before taking the entire length of the Cardassian into his mouth. Garak moaned loudly as his hips arched upwards to meet the doctor's warm, moist, lips.

  Garak reached over and pulled on Julian's hips letting him know that tailor wanted his to turn around. Julian maneuvered himself around so that his feet were now at the head of the bed and took the tailor's member back into his mouth. Garak's own hands caressed his way over the dark hairs sprinkling Julian's legs, slowly messaging the taunt muscles. His hands continued upwards, caressing Julian's hips - his thumbs finding the tender skin inside of the doctor's thighs and lightly rubbed it. The heady smell of Julian's arousal intoxicated the tailor, the passion and desire continued to build in his stomach. Practiced digits wrapped around Julian's swollen organ already scarlet-hued with want. He knew exactly how Julian liked to be stroked and he used that knowledge to bring him closer and closer to the edge while trying to ignore Julian's delightful mouth - he wanted to prolong this as much as he was capable of. Garak's mouth came down to lick and tease Julian's member in rhythm with his hand. Julian moaned loudly, subconsciously increasing his own rhythm on the tailor. The encouragement was all the Cardassian needed to take more and more of the doctor into his mouth as his hand increased the speed and his touch became firmer. Their eyes were locked as they watched the movements the other was making - the image of the other taking pleasure in their actions drove each closer to the summit. Garak could feel the tension building in the doctor, but didn't relent. Higher and higher he brought him. Julian was breathing is short pants, both of their bodies glistened with the sweat beading on them. Julian stopped his movements on the tailor, distracted by his own body's reaction. His eyes squeezed shut, his head lolled back, and a guttural groan escaped his lips as the intensity of his climax reeled through his body. His warm seed filled Garak's mouth and the tailor took all that was given to him in greedily.

  When Julian finally caught his breath and was able to move again, his warm hazel eyes sought the ice blue ones of the Cardassian. "I need you inside of me," he replied and started to turn over on to his stomach. A strong insatiable desire was still rolling through him and he couldn't seem to get enough of the tailor.

  Garak seen the unmistakable look of desire still burning in Julian's eyes and his own unquenched desire was still painfully obvious by his rather uncomfortable erection. He started to go for the nightstand and the lubricant he knew was there.

  " Elim, please don't waste time with that. I want you so badly..," Julian started to say.

  " Julian, I don't want to hurt you," Garak replied and gently started to stroked his legs and back.

  "You won't hurt me...don't make me wait," Julian replied huskily, moving his body against Garak's relaxing fingers. Julian couldn't describe to him why he had an undeniable need to be entered right then. To be filled ... possessed.. safe - the only time he truly felt that was when Garak made him feel that way when they made love. It had been so long - too long. Before the tailor could make any more protests, Julian turned around and captured the tailor's hand and pulled the older man's fingers to mouth and moistened them with his tongue. After using the same technique on the tailor's firm member, Julian turned back around.

  Garak used his moist fingers to wet Julian's entrance, slowly stretching him as he went. Julian couldn't help pushing back against the older man's intimate touch that only served to stimulate him more instead of satisfying his desire. Julian moaned when the tailor's fingers left him, leaving an emptiness that was soon replace by the feel of the tip of his organ hesitantly pressed against his opening. Julian pressed back, urging the Cardassian forward until his head passed the entrance and entered Julian's warm body. Slowly Garak worked his way into Julian a little at a time, keeping his hands on Julian's hips to keep the doctor from pushing back too quickly. Julian's tight warm body took him in and surrounded him readily. He heard Julian release a sigh of contentment as he slowly began moving in and out of the doctor's body. His rhythm was slow and steady at first, but as Julian began thrusting back against him, he found it harder and harder to remain in control. Garak's arm slid around Julian's waist to keep him steady while his other arm reached out for the headboard. Julian turned his head over his shoulder to capture the tailor's mouth. Julian captured the Cardassian's tongue and began sucking on it,he noticed the faint taste of himself still present. Garak groaned as he felt himself being drawn closer and closer to the brink. Finally not being able to fight his passions any longer Garak came filling the doctor with his essence. Every nervefiber in his body seemed to tingle as colors exploded behind his closed eyelids. The pounding of his heart settled as did the throbbing of his member inside Julian's warm, wanton body. He opened his eyes and saw a satisfied and sated smile curving on his lover's lips. He covered those warm lips with his own as he unwillingly pulled himself out of Julian's body. Wrapping his arms around the doctor, they toppled onto the pillows together. Julian continued trailing kisses down Garak's jaw and neck and the tailor ran his fingers over the sparse, crisp, curls of Julian's chest.

  "I love you so much," Julian murmured while trying to smother a yawn and settled himself against the tailor.

  "I love you too my Jahkim," Garak answered back, placing a soft kiss on the doctor's pliant lips and reached under him to work the blanket that was trapped underneath them out and pulled it over them. Garak closed his eyes, and pulling Julian tight against him, and for the first time in quite awhile, allowed himself to drift of into a peaceful sleep.

  Garak remained asleep until he felt a hand hit him across the face. He sat up in bed and looked over at his doctor.

  "No...Gods NO!! Don't!!" Julian cried out. His fists were thrashing out in all directions and his body was soaked in sweat. "Don't hurt him...please stop..I'll do anything you want, just leave him alone!!!" Julian's legs kicked the covers off of him. A knee accidentally collided with Garak's groin.

  The tailor took the doctor by the shoulders and he shook him. " Julian, Jahkim, wake up!" Julian's hands went around the Cardassian's throat and began squeezing.

  "Leave him alone or I'll kill you!"

  "Doctor...wake up now!" Garak said loudly and shaking him harder. Julian bolted upright in bed and looked at the tailor with dazed eyes.

  "El...Elim?" Julian asked as his hands fell limply to his sides.

  Garak pulled him against his chest. "Yes Jahkim, it's me. You were having another nightmare."

  "Oh Garak, I'm sorry. I did it again didn't I? I didn't mean to wake you up..." Julian replied despondently.

  "It's quite all right," Garak assured him as he stroked the bare skin of the younger man's back soothingly. "Would you like to talk about it?"

  "I...well...not especially," Julian remarked. Garak knew it must have been bad because he could still feel Julian trembling against him.

  "It could help to talk about it," Garak suggested.

  Julian licked his dry lips and ran a hand through his damp hair. He started to say something and then stopped. Garak gave him an encouraging smile and hesitantly he began, "We were back in Ruygo's cell. I was still chained to the wall and you were shackled to this table in front of me..."

  "And?" Garak probed.

  Julian squeezed his eyes shut and tightened his hold of the tailor. "And Ruygo came in with his knife and...began...began alive," Julian finished.

  Garak laid back down and motioned for the doctor to lie down with him. Julian did so and Garak began running his hand up and down his ribs and hips. "Give me your hand," he said. Julian slipped his hand inside the tailor's and Garak brought it up to his heart and placed Julian's palm directly over it. "Do you feel that?" Julian nodded. "I am safe and alive just as you are. No one is going to hurt me."

  "Not if I have any say about it," Julian assured him. "Maybe after Ruygo is sentenced, I'll quit having these horrid dreams."

  "Perhaps," Garak conceded. He kept stroking him and soothing him deliberately and lovingly until he felt Julian's muscles relax. His patients was rewarded as Julian slipped into sleep.

  Several hours later Garak was still not able to fall back asleep. Instead he had been watching his doctor resting - feeling his breath against his skin, listening to the steady beating of his heart - and thinking. Again his thoughts turned to protecting Julian. Was the Major right? Just how safe was his doctor? Did he have the ability to protect Julian? Ruygo's voice played inside his head '... as long as I'm alive, Julian Bashir is never going to be safe with you.' Did he have that ability? Would the threat of Ruygo always surround them? ' No matter where you go or how you try to hide, I will find you.' How many others from Garak's past were plotting an scheming revenge on him and would use Julian or anyone else to get to him? What kind of life could he possibly offer the doctor? One of constantly looking over his shoulder? ' I was able to get him once and I can do it again.' Always being afraid of what's around the next corner? More nightmares..more danger? Julian was such a warm, giving, loving man and he needed..deserved..better than a life of fear. The thought of what might have happened if he had arrived just an hour later nagged at his mind. They had been lucky once, but he couldn't count on that luck holding out. He didn't care what happened to himself, but he was absolutely not willing to gamble with Julian's life. He had already had one love give his life for him..he would not put another person...especially not someone as compassionate and so full of life as his Julian through that for him. What right did he have to selfishly accept Julian's love when it put him in harms way? If Julian taught him anything over the years, it was how to be he was...putting the welfare of others before his own.

  Garak looked down into Julian's sleeping face. In such a relaxed state, Garak couldn't deny how innocent and transparent the doctor looked. Spared of the hardships and brutal ugliness that had scarred so much his own life. He had to spare Julian from that. He had to free himself from his own selfish desires for happiness and put Julian's welfare ahead of his own narcissistic needs. There would be only one way he could ensure Julian's well-being...he would have to let him go. There was no other option that Garak could see for them. Reaching a hand up, the tailor stroked the mahogany softness of the doctor's hair. A painful knot settled in the center of his chest. ' Jahkim, I love you so much and don't know what I'm going to do without you in my life. You've brought me so much happiness..taught me how to love again. You've given me more than I could ever possibly repay. As hard as it's going to be to watch you slip through my fingers, it would hurt me more to know my love has brought you harm. It would be selfish to keep your love when giving you up would secure your future. To know that your free from danger would be worth my's a small price to pay ...the least I can do for all you've given me.' Garak tried to ignore the aching in his chest or the moistness of his eyes as he held the doctor as close as possible without waking him - breathing in his scent, watching his chest rise and fall, willing the night to last so he wouldn't have to face his decision in the morning.


  Julian woke up with a satisfied smile on his lips. Extending his arms over his head, he gave his muscles an healthy stretch. They were stiff and sore, but he didn't care because he remembered how..or them in that condition. It had felt so good to make love to Garak again. Besides it making him feel absolutely terrific, it also helped to reassure him that life was starting to get back to normal for them. He propped himself up on his elbow and his eyes roamed over Garak's face and body. He was still softly snoring and Julian could imagine that the tailor could use all the sleep he could get. The doctor still felt guilty for waking him up in the middle of the night with that ridiculous nightmare. Still, as he watched his darling tailor sleep, he couldn't resist the urge to bend over and place a kiss on the lips that seemed to beckon to him. The kiss was gentle at first, but with eyes still closed, Garak reached around him and pulled him close and deepened it.

  "Good morning to you too," Garak replied with a faint smile.

  "Do you have to open the shop today?" Julian asked, brushing his lips against the Cardassian's throat.

  "I'm afraid that with the back orders I have to fill that it might be a favorable idea," Garak replied, turning his head slightly to keep from meeting Julian's eyes.

  "I was rather hoping that we could share the day together," Julian replied, trying not to show his disappointment. "Well, at least we can have breakfast before you leave," Julian replied with a smile as he climbed out of bed and grabbed a pair of civilian slacks and a navy blue polo-shirt and began slipping them on.

  "That would be a nice," Garak replied, slipping out of bed and pulling his own rust colored tunic and dark trousers on. Julian gave him a curious look at the lack of enthusiasm that the tailor expressed but decided to let it go.

  "You know, I just realized I haven't checked my messages since I got back," Julian commented absently and walked over to the terminal. It showed he had one message. He pressed the button to play it and started to walk over to the replicator to order himself some Tarkalean tea. His steps came to a standstill when he heard a familiar male voice coming over the system.

  " hello Jules, it's your father. I'm sure by now you and your fiancé,...or would that be your husband now? Anyhow, I'm sure the two of you are probably already on your honeymoon by now. I tried to get in touch with you earlier, but they don't allow us to send communications any time we please around here, so I had to wait my turn."

  "But of course," Julian replied sarcastically at the computer.

  "I just wanted to tell you that when your mother told me that you were getting married..well to say I was stunned was an understatement."

  "I could only imagine," Julian replied trying to picture the exact expression that would have been on the old man's face at the time of the news...somehow the image of a constipated Klingon came into mind.

  "Son, I just wanted to tell you that I am truly proud of you."

  "I still find that hard to believe," Julian retorted to the inanimate console.

  "I know you'll probably doubt that, but I am. I have no question that you will make a fine were and still are after all, a fine son. I wish you both only the best. I just regret that I couldn't have been there to see the ceremony. Somehow I always imagined that I'd be there when my son got married. One regret of many I suppose. I only hope you have as happy of a marriage as your mother and I have shared. I would like to get a chance to meet Elim one of these days. Your mother has told me that he is quite a man. In fact, she can't stop talking about him. Your mother has always been a pretty good judge of character, so he must be something pretty special. Again, I wish you both the best...I love you son." Julian walked over to the console and saved the message and stared at the blank screen.

  Garak came up behind him and put his hands on his shoulders and started massaging the taunt muscles. "That was a nice sentiment," Garak commented and hated how easily the lie came forth. Years of experience made it almost effortless and it had suited him well over the years, but now it tasted bitter in his mouth. Richard Bashir's message had the effect on the tailor of making him feel like a fraud. All the good wishes... the reaching out of acceptance. As much as he didn't want to face the reality of the situation, he knew that he couldn't lead Julian on with the hoax much longer..he would have tell him of his decision soon. Prolonging it wouldn't make the task any easier. He noticed that Julian still hadn't said anything. " Julian? Is something wrong?"

  "It was a nice sentiment, but I'm still not sure what to think." Julian paused and Garak waited patiently for him to continue. "I know he's reaching out, but I'm not sure if I'm able to put things in the past yet," Julian replied finally.

  " Julian, I can speak with experience when I suggest that perhaps you should try to make your amends while there is still a chance for you to reap the benefits," Garak responded.

  Julian turned around to face the Cardassian. He knew Garak was referring to his own troubled relationship with his father. " Elim, I know you and Tain had more than your share of problems and I can certainly respect that but as for my own father..." Julian let out a long sigh, "Who knows, maybe in a couple of years things will be different between us."

  "They will if you put the effort forth to make the difference. You'll have to be willing to meet him half-way," Garak replied.

  "I know your right," Julian conceded, "but at the moment I really don't feel like dwelling on it." A small smile started to spread across his face. "He did manage to bring up an interesting question though."

  Garak had a suspicion he knew where the doctor's thoughts were heading and a sense of dread filled him. "And what would that be?"

  "Well...I was wondering when you thought it would be a good time to reschedule the wedding. There's going to be a lot to do before hand," Julian replied, his smile widened.

  Garak closed his eyes. He knew that there would be no better opportunity to approach this, but how was he going to manage? His heart pounded against his chest and the bile churned in his stomach. He opened his eyes and his gaze rested on Julian's bright, handsome smile. A smile that never failed to warm his heart. ' Remember why you're doing have to let him go.' " Julian, I've been giving this matter a great deal of consideration and...."'Come on Elim, don't back out now.' "...I believe we should call off the engagement."

  Garak watched as the bright smile faded and Julian's caramel skin drained of color and turned ashen. His stricken eyes searched Garak's face. "What did you just say?" he asked, thinking he may have misunderstood.

  "I said I wish to cancel our wedding plans," Garak answered again. ' Please don't make me say it a third time.'

  " Elim? But why? Was it something I did or said? What happened?" Julian came closer to try to take the tailor into his arms. The tailor stepped back because the thought of touching him was too much to for him to take.

  " Julian, it's nothing you've done," Garak assured him.

  "Then make me understand how your feelings could have changed so quickly. I'm not sure just who shared my bed last night, but I thought things were going rather well," Julian replied.

  "Doctor, my feelings haven't changed in the least."' If only they could - it would make this so much easier.' Garak's heart ached at the pained look clouding Julian's eyes. "The fact is, you're not safe as long we're together. There's no telling how many others may be wanting to retaliate against me and things I've done in my life - they wouldn't stop from using you as a pawn to do it. I couldn't bare the thought of going to another funeral of someone I love. "

  "I thought you wanted this, our getting married. I thought you were happy at the thought of us spending our life together..growing old together...I thought you wanted me," Julian said, embarrassed that his voice was cracking. "You told me time and time again how much you loved me and wanted us to always be together. Was that just some fabrication added on to the pile of all the others accumulated over the years?"

  The tailor was aware that Julian's words were coming from the hurt he was feeling and something inside Garak died at the thought that he was the reason for the doctor's pain, but he knew that the long term goal of his safety was more important than the temporary pain he was suffering now. He would hurt for awhile, but at least he would be alive. " Julian, it doesn't matter what I want or don't's irrelevant... your welfare is more important than my wants. Can't you understand that?"

  "All I understand is that you're telling me that you don't want me involved in your life anymore."A single tear formed and began rolling down Julian's cheek. Garak couldn't seem to drag his gaze away from that one shining tear. Involuntarily, his finger came up to capture it before it reached the doctor's chin.

  "Jahkim..." Garak whispered.

  Julian's eyes turned angry. "No! Don't ever call me that again. You want me out of your life? Fine, but just be aware that you've lost all the rights and everything else that ever came with calling me that." Julian turned his back on the tailor and strode to the door. Garak watched his back as the door closed with a swoosh of air behind him. Garak looked down at his finger that was still damp with Julian's tear. Unbidden, his own tear fell forth to mix with it.


  Julian stormed down the corridor, not noticing the strange looks his expression got from the people he passed. ' Beautiful job Jules, make a mess of the one thing that was actually going right in your life why don't you? The one time your father says he's proud of you it's because of the marriage, and now you've managed to muddle that as well.' He could almost hear his father's voice now, ' You never have had the ambition enough to see anything through have you? Your supposed tennis career, settling to be a second rate student, why not add one more item to your list of failures? Now look at you, you and your Frontier're such a mess that Sisko is afraid to let you practice! You wouldn't even have a practice if your father hadn't bailed you out! Always need bailing out don't you Jules? Can never seem to stand on your own two feet. You never could amount to anything and Garak had the intelligence to see that. And those nightmares! How old are you again Jules? Who could blame him for leaving you? Why would he want to be saddled with a 'child' who can't even sleep without having nightmares. He doesn't need someone that constantly has to be coddled. What would he be attracted to in you? Your magnificent knowledge of self-defense? What a joke. You're a weakling...physically, emotionally, and now mentally. How could he possibly want someone with so many problems? What about the support of all your 'dear' friends? Well, they'll certainly have a good laugh over this one. The great Doctor Bashir, who can't stay in a relationship. First a failure with woman and now with men as well. Oh, they won't all laugh at him of course. There will be those to give him the standard ' I told you so' speech. If no one wants you, fine. You don't need anyone else anyway.'

  Making his way across the Promenade, he wasn't even aware of the fact he was standing in front of the tailor's shop. Entering the access code, he walked in to the dark shop and over to the counter that Garak often used. Julian unclasped the Betrothal bracelet around his wrist and laid it on the console where he knew the tailor would find it.


  Amsha was walking down the hallway humming a little tune to herself, a song from Earth she remembered from her childhood. She was looking forward to sharing breakfast with her two sons. 'If their even awake yet.' she thought with a smile. She knew Julian was usually an early riser, but since he was off-duty for awhile, it was hard telling when he would be awake. She hoped that the dinner she made the previous night went over well. Julian needed to start eating more and getting his strength back after the whole ordeal. She had turned the corner of the habitat-ring and stopped short when she saw Garak walking out the door of Julian's quarters. She had become more than familiar within the last several weeks with the expression Garak's face wore when he was troubled - the exact expression he was wearing now.

  " Elim, son. What's wrong? Is it Jules?" she asked.

  A sardonic smile played on the tailor's face, but didn't reach his dull eyes. "You could say that Moth...Mrs. Bashir. I'm sure you'll be hearing the news eventually anyway and I'd rather you heard it from me than anyone else. I've decided to call the wedding off."

  The Cardassian watched as several emotions played across her features. Concern, confusion, empathy...he could barely tolerate the sympathetic look she gave him. "What happened dear?"

  How could he tell her? How could he explain to her how he had hurt her son and possibly expect her to understand? She, who had been so loving and accepting of him. Welcoming him into the family with open arms. Somehow, he didn't want to face the thought of hurting another Bashir that day. "If you don't mind, I'd really rather not talk about it right now. I hope you understand. I'm sure Julian will fill you in on the details in time."

  Her expression somber, she nodded her head in understanding. "All right. But I want you to remember one thing."

  "What would that be?" the tailor asked. He was slightly taken off guard when she pulled him to her and hugged him tightly.

  "That no matter what happens, you're always going to be a son to me."

  "Thank you," he replied. It was all he was able to manage around the painful lump in his throat.

  She released him and watched as he walked across the Promenade and towards his shop. Her thoughts then turned to her Jules. ' I'd better go see how he's doing.' she thought and shook her head. ' What am I going to do with those two?' With a sigh, she continued on her way down the corridor to Julian's quarters.


  Captain Sisko was so engrossed in the chore of filing some reports to Starfleet that he jumped when he heard his door chime.

  "Enter," he called out, still keeping his eyes trained on the screen in front of him.

  "Captain Sisko, I'd like to talk to you for a moment if I may," he heard his Chief Medical Doctor request.

  "Dr. Bashir, what can I do for you?" Sisko replied finally looking up for the first time. He took in Julian's gaunt and pallid face. It still made him angry every time he thought about what Ruygo did to one of his best officers.

  "If you could Sir, I'd consider it a personal favor if you would return me to duty," Julian replied.

  Sisko was a little surprised at this request. He figured that Julian would need at least a week to get his barrings back, but apparently he disagreed. "Doctor Bashir, are you telling me your fit for duty after everything you've been through?"

  "Captain, I know it may seem soon, but I really feel like I need to be back in the Infirmary." Julian couldn't emphasize just how important it was for him to be able to return the Infirmary at the moment.

  "What, if I might ask, is Mr. Garak's opinion of this? I would be sure that he would think you needed your time off as well," Sisko commented.

  "What Mr. Garak thinks is of no concern of mine," Julian replied flatly.

  Sisko arched his eyebrow. He had no idea what was going on, but he was certain that the doctor was not going to change his mind about resuming his post. After several moments of silence, he finally spoke. "It goes against my better judgment, but I'll return you to duty starting tomorrow for one week. If at the end of that time you decided you may want to take some time off, we can accommodate accordingly."

  "Thank you Sir," Julian replied amicably and started for the door.


  "Yes?" Julian asked halting his steps.

  "Is there anything else you'd like to discuss with me?" Sisko offered.

  Julian turned his vapid eyes on him. "Not at the moment sir, but thank you anyhow."

  "My door is always open," Sisko reminded him. Julian nodded and left.


  As Garak called for the lights in his shop, he looked around the quiet room. The different bolts of vibrant materials, the many mannequins that set around displaying his work, and the different measuring equipment he owned. All it did was serve to remind him how meaningless his shop was in his tedious life. Oh, he was performing a service for his customer, there was no doubt of that - but it wasn't as if someone else wouldn't be able to replace him had he never been exiled. Julian had been the only bright spot in the tailor's life. How could he possibly doubt the tailor's affection for him? Julian had been right, the tailor had been looking forward to having someone by his side as he grew older - having the doctor there to share his joys and triumphs with. He had even had fantasies of perhaps one day, after his exile was lifted, taking his doctor for visits to Cardassia. Strolling side by side with his mate as they walked down the paths of his homeworld. Taking Julian to plays, museums many things to allow the doctor to experience his culture..perhaps even being able to introduce him to Mila. So many plans he had made for him and his young doctor.

  He walked over to pick up his sizing scanner when he saw the shining gold bracelet laying sprawled across it. His heart throbbed as he picked up the delicate piece of jewelry. Would Julian ever be able to understand why he had to let him go? To be able to see past his hurt enough to realize that the tailor was doing the only thing he felt was right given the circumstances? He was sure that eventually Julian would allow himself to believe that Garak had just lied to him - never truly felt anything at all for him. It troubled Garak to think of Julian having those thoughts, but if it helped ease his pain and forced him to get on with his life, Garak could tolerate it. He would tolerate anything that would keep Julian protected. Julian still had the chance to make a good life for himself - to start over again and find happiness. He had such a giving and merciful nature that Garak couldn't imagine him being alone for too very long - he had far too much to offer the right person. As for himself? He'd always have his little meager shop to occupy his existence. He didn't even attempt trying to fool himself into thinking there would be someone else to share his life with him. Even if he did find another that he cared about, there would always still be the problem of his past. ' Why did you have to cause so many problems when you were younger?' the tailor asked himself. ' If you had never become part of the Order, then you wouldn't be facing these kinds of problems. As it is, you've brought all this on yourself because of your history. You'll never escape from it.' The door to his shop rang as he looked up and saw a young Bolian girl enter the establishment. He pasted his most charming smile that he could muster onto his face and walked over to greet her.

  " hello there Madame. How may I be of service to you today?"His fingers gently dropped the bracelet into his pocket.