TITLE:   Damage Control
AUTHOR: Kathryn Ramage (Copyright July 2000)
CODES: G/B
RATED:  PG 
SUMMARY: Garak and Bashir have to face both private and public ramifications after the doctor is accidentally injured while trying to keep up with Cardassian-style sex.
DISCLAIMER: Paramount owns Star Trek, DS9, and the characters.  This story was written for personal entertainment.

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Dr. Bashir lay face down on a biobed, covered by a folded sheet from the small of his back to mid-thigh.  Small, round, button-like neurological monitors flashed at his wrists and ankles, his right temple, the nape of his neck, and between his shoulder blades.  Medics and nurses surrounded him, working to stabilize his vital signs. 

Garak, in his pajama bottoms and rumpled robe, sat out of the way of the medical staff and did not take his eyes off their patient, who lay perfectly still at the center of the commotion.  One thought turned in his head: <<My fault.  All my fault.>> 

He did not even look up when Captain Sisko entered the Infirmary. 

Nurse Jabara was explaining the situation to the captain:

"His spine was fractured in two places.  Right now, we're scanning his nervous system for related damage.  The procedure will take approximately ten minutes..." 

"And what is *he* doing here?" 

They were at the other end of the room, but Sisko's voice was quite loud; he was not in the best of moods, having been awakened and summoned here in the middle of the night. Garak could hear their conversation clearly.

"Mr. Garak called us, sir.  The- ah- accident happened in his quarters.  We found Dr. Bashir on the bed, unconscious, and beamed him directly here.  Mr. Garak insisted on staying with him.  Sir, there's something else you ought to know.  The medical database records every use of the Infirmary equipment.  This isn't the first time Dr. Bashir's received this type of injury. He's been treating himself--the first instance was six weeks ago, but about two weeks ago he began to come in with fresh injuries almost every night."

<<My fault.>>

The medics had completed their work and, once they dispersed, Garak moved his chair closer to the biobed.  As he heard Sisko approach, his face lost all expression and became a well-guarded blank. 

The captain stood over him, datapadd in hand.  "Bruises," he read from the catalog of recorded injuries, "contusions, cracked ribs, broken clavicles."  Then he raised his eyes to glare at the Cardassian.  "I want you to tell me what you did to him." 

Garak met his gaze evenly and considered how much dissembling he could get away with.  It was useless to think of discretion now.  They had been forced out into the open; the most intimate aspects of his relationship with the doctor had been exposed under extremely awkward circumstances.  He had braced himself for this inevitable outcome when he'd summoned the medics to his quarters. 

"Nothing he didn't ask for, Captain," he said.

"Are you saying he *deserved* this kind of abuse?" the captain boomed in indignation.

"No," Garak answered, "I'm saying that he requested it."  He turned his attention back to the unconscious young man on the biobed.  "He told me he would heal."

He knew that the Federation liked to think itself sophisticated with regard to exotic sexual practices, but this information clearly left Sisko shocked.

Before he could begin to shout, Garak cut him off quickly, "Not now, Captain.  He's waking up... Julian?"

Bashir's eyes fluttered open.  "Elim?"  He was still dazed. "What happened?"

"I hurt you," Garak answered softly.  "I'm sorry."

Bashir lifted his hand, reaching out in Garak's direction, and Jabara ordered sharply, "Doctor, don't move!" as she rushed to the biobed.

He froze at the words, saw the neurological monitor on his wrist, and understood.  "Oh, god, n-no."

"Julian," Garak placed his hand over the doctor's, slipped his fingers beneath the palm.  "Beloved, ssh. Be still."  His thumb caressed the back of Bashir's hand soothingly.  "You're going to be all right."

Bashir began to relax at the touch.  "How bad is it?" he asked, trying to be brave and professionally detached. 

Jabara stood at the monitor on the other side of the biobed; Garak looked to her with the question. "You've cracked the sixth cervical and fourth thoracic vertebrae, Doctor, and sustained a hairline fracture of the right scapula," she reported.  "We're in the middle of a neurological scan.  It looks good so far. No sign of paralysis."

"Doctor," Sisko, standing at the foot of the biobed, spoke. 

Bashir started at the sound of his voice; he hadn't known that his captain was there.  He flinched as if he meant to draw his hand out of Garak's, remembered that he wasn't supposed to move during the scan, then realized that Sisko must have been there the whole time and knew everything.

"Sir?"

"Are you out of your mind?  I can't believe you'd do something *this* stupid."

Garak rose to place himself between the two and protect Bashir from the captain's wrath, but Julian was up to defending himself. 

"Sir, you shouldn't be here," he answered with as much dignity as anyone could hope to muster prone, naked, and immobile. "It's really not your concern."

"Under normal circumstances, I would probably agree with you," Sisko replied. "But when your private life interferes with your duties, then it damn well *does* concern me!  I am not out of line in telling you not to do it again!  If you're lucky and you haven't sustained permanent damage, you'll still be out of commission for at least a week."  He glared at Garak.  "I hold you responsible."

"Believe me, Captain, I feel responsible."

"I talked him into it," Julian protested.  "I said it would be all right."

"And you come here every night to repair the bites and bruises."

"*I* bite too.  It's perfectly normal Cardassian foreplay-"

"But you're not Cardassian!  You can't take that kind of rough treatment.  Surely you knew-" 

"I was willing to take the risk."

"The scan is finished," Jabara announced.  "No neurological impairment detected, Doctor.  You can move now."

Bashir pushed himself up from the biobed, and quickly grabbed the sheet at his waist to keep it from slipping off.  Sisko turned to the tailor. "Mr. Garak, come with me."

Garak knew what the captain intended: While Bashir remained willfully defiant, *he* had revealed too much of his anxiety. Sisko had decided that he was arguing with the wrong man. 

They went into the doctor's office.  Garak remained near the doorway, where he could keep an eye on Bashir.

"Maybe I have no business interfering in your personal life," Sisko began, "but I am telling you, that this is *not* going happen again. Regardless of what Dr. Bashir says--if there are any more broken bones, I'll have Odo throw you in the brig for assault.  I'll see you banished from this station, the sector, whatever it takes to ensure that you never have another chance to get your hands on him."

Garak disregarded these extravagant threats.  "You're right, Captain," he answered. "You have no business interfering. However, I do agree--this can't continue." He stood and watched as the nurse helped Bashir into a shapeless purple hospital gown. "I don't think I can forgive myself for hurting him this badly."

He'd been a fool to allow it: He shouldn't have taken Julian at his word, ought to have realized that it was so like his altruistic little doctor to push himself beyond his limits and give more than was practical.

"You've done worse."

He glanced back at the captain with undisguised contempt.  It was a cheap shot, and they both knew it. Whatever he might have done as part of his duties to Cardassia, it was not to be compared with the inadvertent injuring of a lover.

Sisko's belligerence abated.  "I happen to care a lot for that young man," he explained in somewhat less hostile tones.  "I don't want to see him harmed."

"You're also very fond of Lt. Commander Dax, aren't you?"

The insinuation was clear: Dax had been in the Infirmary as many times as Bashir since beginning her relationship with Worf--and Sisko viewed those injuries with tolerant complacency. 

"The only difference, Captain, is that Klingons consider a few broken bones to be an acceptable consequence of their romantic encounters--and that you *like* Mr. Worf."  He didn't wait for a reply, but returned to the main Infirmary.

Bashir lay propped against the slightly inclined upper half of the biobed.  The neurological monitors were still blinking on his temple, wrists, and presumably elsewhere.  He smiled at Garak, but grew more meek when Sisko followed.

"I'm relieving you of duty until I'm assured that you're in a fit condition to return to work," Sisko told him.  "Now, if 
this crisis is over, I'm going back to bed."

"If you don't mind, Captain," Garak said, "I would like to stay with Dr. Bashir for awhile longer."  He meant to stay no matter what, but he wanted to see what Sisko would do.

Sisko scowled dangerously but, after their conversation, he could not object.  "Take it easy, Doctor," he said in departing. "That's an order."

"Yes, sir."  Once he had gone, Julian asked, "I heard Captain Sisko yell, but what did *you* say to him?" 

"I merely pointed out a few facts which he found unpalatable,  but perhaps they will force him to reconsider his position." 

Nurse Jabara gave the doctor a hypospray to sedate him.  "You mean he won't throw you off the station?" Bashir asked drowsily.

"I don't think we need to be afraid of that.  Rest, dear Doctor. I won't leave you." He sat down in the chair and, under the wary gaze of the remaining staff, watched Julian while he slept.

~*\*~*/*~

The medical staff monitored Bashir's condition through the rest of the night and kept him under observation for another 26 hours.  By the time he was released from the Infirmary the following morning, Julian was looking forward to retreating to his quarters for some privacy.  He had had enough visits from well-meaning friends.  Dax was the only one who had been sympathetic.

Garak had stayed with him through that first night, but once news of the accident spread, it became clear that he was safer out of public sight.  Julian had just spoken with him over the comm system and asked Garak to bring him some clothes.  When Garak arrived with a civilian outfit--loose-fitting, comfortable, and color coordinated--Julian requested, "Help me get dressed?" 

After a moment's hesitation, the tailor stepped forward and gingerly took his elbow to help him off the biobed; his hand hovered at the small of the younger man's back, not actually touching, as they went into the office.

In his office, Bashir stripped off the hospital gown and flung it aside petulantly.  "This has been the most humiliating day of my life," he said. "It's all over the station, you know. Everyone's talking about us. You ought to be glad to you weren't here when Odo and Major Kira dropped by--he doesn't understand why I won't press charges, and she thinks you ought to be locked up anyway.  And Chief O'Brien is ready to break a few of *your* bones.  It's only going to get worse.  The gossip will get back to Earth, to Starfleet Command, to my parents.  It's just a matter of time before the whole Alpha Quadrant knows that I was injured during rough sex with my Cardassian lover."

His Cardassian lover didn't interrupt this tirade, but silently handed him underpants, socks, slacks, and shirt as if he were assisting a customer in his shop. 

"We couldn't keep it a secret forever, but did they all have to find out like *this*?  This ought to be a private matter between us, not dragged out for public inspection.  I know you agree."

Garak, an intensely private person, did agree. He was well aware of the increased hostility directed toward him since Julian had been injured. But he was used to disapproval; if Julian intended to continue seeing him--and Garak earnestly hoped he did--he would just have to learn to endure it as well.

He waited until Julian had dressed before he asked, "Do you regret it?"

Bashir, who had sat down to pull on his boots, stopped and looked up at him, expression softening.  "No.  I'm not sorry about anything, except that we let this get out of hand.  But that's *my* fault."

"*Your* fault?"

"When you were gentle with me, I could tell you were holding back," Julian explained.  "I knew you wanted more--all the things another Cardassian could give you, and I couldn't."  His eyes were dewy.  "I wanted to please you."

"You do please me, always," Garak told him.  "I should not have let you endanger yourself for my sake."

"It wasn't just for you."  Julian twisted half-around in his chair.  "I never really felt as if I had all of you," he 
admitted.  "You were keeping some important part of yourself from me, and I had to see what you were like when you let go.  I was curious- No, it was more than that.  It's not that I wanted you to hurt me, but I *liked* the possibility that you could be dangerous.  I was excited by it."

Amazed as he was by this confession, Garak understood now why Julian was not angry at him for what had happened. He recalled the minutes before that terrible *snap*:  He'd been in the throes of an unrestrained mating frenzy, holding Julian pinned and sending him back against the wall above the bed with each 
thrust.  And Julian had urged him on, crying, "Harder, Elim!  Harder!" until he had thrust too hard.  Julian felt too guilty about that to blame *him*. 

"You never told me." 

"I was ashamed to. It's not a- ah- predilection I feel comfortable talking about, even with you. It's certainly not something I want bandied about at Quark's.  They all think I've lost my mind already."

The doctor had turned fully away by this point; Garak stepped closer behind the chair and lightly placed one hand on his shoulder.  "May I make a suggestion?" he asked.  "We are *out* and that is irrevocable.  The choice before us now is whether or not we are going to apologize for something that concerns no one except ourselves.  I suggest we be unashamed.  No one can embarrass you if you refuse to acknowledge there is a reason for embarrassment."

Julian glanced up over his shoulder. "You mean brazen it out?"

"Can you do that?"

"I think so," he answered.  "Now, will you do something for me?"

"Of course."

"Hold me. You're so careful when you touch me now, as if you're afraid you'll hurt me again."  He smiled encouragingly.  "I'm not *that* fragile, Elim--I won't break if you take me in your arms.  Please?" 

It was a request Garak was more than happy to grant; he complied by winding both arms around the doctor's collar. 

"Mhmm.  That's better."  Julian leaned back against his chest, eyes shut. "Dax told me the same thing when she came to see me. She said that it was easy enough to be in love when the whole universe was smiling its approval, but if I were going to have a lover, or a life, that nobody approved of, then I had to care more for what made *me* happy than be worried about what other people thought, or else be ready to give it up." 

"A wise creature, Dax," said Garak. "Even if she has taken up with that Klingon."

The doctor chuckled.  "She feels the same way about my being involved with *you*.  I'm not going to give you up, Elim.  The next time you slam me so hard into a wall that I wind up in the Infirmary, I'll tell anyone who objects to mind their own business."

"This is not going to happen again, Julian.  I promised Captain Sisko it wouldn't." 

Julian peeked up from under lowered lashes.  "You `promised'?"

Garak acknowledged that this was improbable.  "I will not take another risk with you," he replied seriously.  "I have never been more frightened in my life than when you slipped away from me.  There was a moment, I thought I had killed you."

Bashir turned to regard him with surprise; he hadn't realized how deeply this accident had affected Garak.  "It scared me too," he admitted. 

"I refuse to go through that experience again. I'm afraid you'll just have to give up the excitement of risking your life whenever I make love to you."

"Oh, all right," Julian surrendered with an exaggerated sigh. "We'll use our imaginations to come up with more low-impact ways of occupying ourselves.  With all the time off Captain Sisko's given me to recuperate, we can experiment as much as we want. We could go on vacation somewhere."

"You are not going anywhere," Garak told him in a firm, but affectionate tone, "except straight to bed."

Bashir smiled.  "So you're going to make it all up to me?" 

"When you are fully recovered," Garak promised him.  "Until then..."  He bent his head down as Julian stretched up; they kissed.

There was the sound of a discreetly cleared throat at the doorway.  "I'm not interrupting, am I?" asked Dax.  "The captain sent me to see if you needed help getting to your quarters."

They had broken off the kiss, but Garak made no move to withdraw his arms from around the doctor and Bashir did not try to escape the embrace.  "No, it's all right, Jadzia.  Come in.  We were just talking about you--you'll be glad to hear that Garak thinks I should take your advice. He's going to take care of me, aren't you, Elim?" 

"I was planning to escort the doctor myself," Garak added.  He released Bashir and helped him to his feet. 

As they left the office, Julian was aware of the eyes that followed him and the Cardassian at his side, and he ignored them.  But when they reached the entrance to the Infirmary, he stopped.  He could face down the half-dozen members of his own staff easily enough but, out there on the Promenade, he had to brave a crowd: The Starfleet crew, the Bajorans, the sniggering Ferengii, Kira and Odo, Miles, Captain Sisko, Worf.  He could 
feel the weight of their collective disapproval.  The walk to the lift suddenly seemed very long.

"Would you rather beam over?" Dax suggested. 

"No.  They'll have to get used to it sooner or later.  So will we."  He gave her a smile. "Don't worry--I'll be fine."  Then he took a deep breath, and took Garak's arm for support. "Let's give this new 'brazenness' of mine a trial run." 

Together, they went out onto the Promenade.

~*\~end~/*~