Let Me Call You Sweetheart
By Olivia Monteith

This is it! This is how the whole story begins in my alternate universe where our boys are married and living on Earth. It’s not quite as funny as my previous installments and quite a bit racier, as well as having high mush content, but hell folks! It’s Valentine’s Day! Enjoy it.

* * * * *

      It had seemed like such a good idea at the time. Where had his head been? It was supposed to be convenient. He would get what he wanted, Garak would have what he wanted, every body would be happy, and Starfleet would never find out. Julian, you idiot!
 
      The doctor was standing in his living room, staring at the console, replaying the communiqué that was waiting for him when he came home. Garak had still not made it home yet, but when he did, they were going to have to have a serious discussion.

     As if summoned out of the air by Julian's thoughts, the small transporter whined and the Cardassian appeared.

     "Garak! We have a problem! Immigration called. It seems they want to talk to us about the validity of our marriage. They think it's a sham!"

     "A sham?!" Garak replied sarcastically. "Why ever would they think that? Maybe, because...(gasp) it is?! Really Doctor, calm down. We knew this might happen. You really shouldn't worry; I am quite an accomplished liar. We managed to fool Captain Sisko, after all. These people don't even know us."

     "You may be a good liar, but I am not. And Captain Sisko knows us, and knows that we have been good friends for years, and knows that there were rumors concerning us since the first year I was on DS9. Captain Sisko also didn't ask many questions, these people are going to ask about everything from what brand toothpaste you use to...." he flushed a bit before continuing, "Private matters."

     "So we'll lie.  Doctor, it's simply a matter of putting together corresponding stories and sticking to them."

     "But how do we know which questions they are going to ask?"

     "It would seem to me that there are quite a few questions that will be elementary, such as what side of the bed do you sleep on, what is your favorite color..."

     "Your parents' names, your date of birth, your age, ... Things you have been resistant to telling me," Julian said pointedly. "Garak, finding out things of a personal nature about you is like pulling teeth. I know almost nothing about you. They are also going to want to know about past relationships, and they will find it rather odd that I never had a serious relationship with a man before, but I married you. You won't be able to give them names of people you used to date, because of the secretive nature of your past, so that will look more than a little suspicious. They'll ask questions about... About... sex."

     "Really, Doctor. You are letting this run away with you. That is a very personal thing, they wouldn't ask such rude questions."

     "Now who's being naive? Those are precisely the kinds of questions they will ask. How else will they be able to prove or disprove the validity of this marriage?"

     "Very well, for now we'll say they will ask these things. It's simply as I stated. We'll create a lie. And I do know you can lie, dear Doctor. I had eaten lunch with you once a week for years before I ever found out you were genetically enhanced."

     "That was different. That was not offering information that I was not specifically asked for. You don't normally ask a person over tea, 'Oh, and are you genetically enhanced?'".

      "It's only a small step from omission to this. All right, suppose the interviewer asks, 'Does Mr. Garak oral stimulation?' Well, you can honestly answer that yes he does, but I doubt they will ask, 'Does he say you are any good at it?' That seems to be overstepping a line somewhere.  By answering that honestly, you still have not disclosed that we are not lovers."

     "Okay, Garak, so what if this person asks what you look like naked? Do the ridges go all the way down? Any scars, freckles, or distinct markings?"

     "That is simple enough to resolve." Garak began to remove his clothing,

     "What are you doing?!" Julian asked in alarm.

      "I'm going to show you any identifying marks on my body. You are a doctor. This shouldn't be too different from any physical examination." Just as Julian began to calm somewhat, Garak added, "You had better remove your clothes as well, Doctor. They might ask me the same questions."

       Garak turned his back to hide a smile that almost broke into a full-fledged grin when he heard a choking sound behind him. He removed his outer tunic and settled his mind and facial expression into a very neutral state before turning to find Julian fidgeting and still fully dressed.

       "Doctor, I have no problem with you seeing me unclothed, and I am nearly twice your age and not in the medical field. Besides, it won't be that much different from that silver vacu-wrap you wear when you play tennis. Don't tell me doctors have a double standard about nudity," he chided.

       "It's not very professional for the doctor to meet with a patient naked. It wouldn't do much to set the patient at ease now would it?"

       "Then don't think of this as a patient/doctor scenario. Think of it as coming in for a fitting for a new tennis suit. I don't believe for a moment that you could get accurate measurements for that thing while the customer is wearing any clothing, and I do know that you are not wearing briefs underneath it."

       "As a matter of fact, that suit was off the rack, a fairly small, medium or large affair. There was no fitting for it or its predecessor. And besides, I have never gone for a fitting where the tailor was naked as well."

       "Would it help if we did this in turns?  You can use your professional detachment, make notes on a padd if it helps, I will dress, and then you will undress and I use the professional detachment of a tailor to acquire your dimensions." He continued to undress as he talked, seeming completely at ease with the situation. By this point he was down to his trousers and briefs, and still removing his last boot. He paused after dropping the foot wear to the ground, waiting for a sign from the doctor.

       Julian looked anxiously thoughtful a moment, biting his thumbnail, before dropping his hands to his sides and allowing the Doctor personae to slip into place. "Very well, I'll be just a moment. Finish undressing, and."

       "Hop up on the table?" Garak teased with a glance over his shoulder at the rather small kitchen table.

       "No, but make yourself comfortable on the couch if you like. I'll only be a moment," Julian smiled amusedly. He went down the hall to the larger of the two bedrooms in the house. It was agreed that he would have the master bedroom because he had so much equipment that he did need the extra space and easy access to a water source when he was running tests. All that Garak had brought with him from his former profession had been a small tailoring kit about the size of a suitcase, the larger equipment and inventory of his shop was in storage until the war was over and he could begin his business again. The smaller bedroom was large enough for him. It was not much smaller than Julian's, the main difference being that it didn't have the bath attached.

      Bashir rummaged around on one or two of the consoles till he located a blank padd and a scanner. It couldn't hurt to make notes of Garak's identifying markings, and the scanner would help by recording an image, for the purposes of the interview, only.

      Once he returned to the living room, he found Garak standing naked beside the couch. His posture was relaxed, and had it not been obvious, one would think he was not even naked. Julian was much more effected by Garak's state of undress than Garak himself. The human stopped dead in his tracks, and had to remind himself to be a professional, before he continued into the room. He focused his gaze on the padd and scanner in his hands, and caught himself nearly asking what was the nature of Garak's ailment.

     "Doctor, how would you like me?" Garak asked, getting a glare from Julian at his choice of words.

     "As you are is fine with me," he replied, then flushed as he realized how that sounded. Rather than try to correct it, he just kept let it drop. "Is there anything I should know, any thing that might relate to our current situation?"

     "What would you like to know, Doctor? You know that I am not good at offering information. I'm afraid you will have to ask me what you need to know. And how will that help if you don't know what I look like? You haven't taken your eyes off of that padd since
you came into the room."

     "I suppose you're right. Well, let's get this over with."

     "So glad you're looking forward to it."

      "Quite frankly Garak, it's embarrassing. I can't believe we have gotten into this." Then something caught his attention. "What's this?" he asked, indicating a ridge that began at his waist and ended in a spoon shape just beneath the collarbone.

      "My clavicle bowl and abdominal ridge. It's more pronounced in the males that in the females, and Cardassian males keep it covered while females can expose it. Something like your females keep their chests covered where as it doesn't matter to your males. If you look closely you can see tiny scales around it like the larger ones on our neckridges. We used to be entirely covered in scales, but as we evolved the scales became smaller and almost disappeared altogether. Now the only places that they are visible are around the ridges."

      "I've always been curious, what purpose do the ridges serve?" Julian asked, quickly forgetting his embarrassment in his curiosity.

      "Cardassians, being exothermic, have to warm themselves by external means. There are very large arteries running beneath these ridges, they are so large and close to the surface so that the blood can absorb warmth from the sun or outside source, and then circulate back though our bodies. The scales are protective plates to prevent a laceration from making us bleed to death. Behind these spoon shaped indentions are thick bone plates protecting our hearts."

     "Yes, I noticed something like a secondary circulatory organ there. I suppose a species with such a slow pulse would need two hearts."

     "We have a rather romantic legend tied to that. It is said that we know when we have found true love because we will be able to feel it both in our breast and our head. If it is merely infatuation, we will only feel it in out larger heart, but to have true love you must find a mate who is your equal mentally and physically."

     "I never thought of Cardassians as particularly romantic, but you're right, that is rather... sweet, for lack of a better term." He leaned closer, studying the skin and scales surrounding the clavicle bowl. "May I?" he asked, raising his hand and allowing it to hover just above the area.

     "By all means. It would be odd if you didn't know how it feels. After all, that is one of the most intimate regions of my body."

     Julian had been running his fingers over the skin, testing the texture and elasticity when Garak stated this last part. He paused in his experimentation, and looked back to Garak's face in alarm. "Intimate regions?"

     "Yes, I believe you call them erogenous zones. The areas around the ridges are highly sensitive. Much like your inner elbows, or the large vein in your neck."

     "How do you know about that?"

     "We learned a lot about humans in the Obsidian Order. It is a fairly common trait among most humanoid races that their most vulnerable places on their bodies are also their most sexually sensitive."

     "That's... interesting to note," Julian said as he allowed his hand to drop away. "So if they ask something about what regions of your body you prefer to have touched, it would be any area with a ridge?"

     "Not necessarily, Doctor. Some of these ridges are far too sensitive to touch directly, at least right away. You see the lower half of the abdominal ridge is one such place. First you would need to allow my body become accustomed to being touched before touching there, because it is so highly sensitized. You might need to make notes."

     Julian had been staring at Garak, listening with intense interest. "Oh... right," he said as he quickly entered a few facts into the padd. He felt a wave of heat rise up his neck to his cheeks as he caught himself wondering what this particular area would feel like, and how Garak would respond to it his touching it. Shaking these images off, he looked up to meet the tailor's eyes, hoping the guilty feelings didn't show in his face, and yet knowing that they were there and Garak would see them. Yes, he was certain Garak could see it, there was that smile. The one that always made Julian feel like the Cardassian was saying, "Your secret is safe, for now." The hairs along the back of his neck rose at the sight of those cool blue eyes on him, and he unconsciously ran his hand across the back of his neck to ease the prickly feeling.

     "Any... other… erogenous zones, places I should know about?" He asked, his face literally throbbing from embarrassment.

     Garak stretched out one arm, extending his hand toward Julian. For a moment, Julian nearly stepped back, thinking that Garak was reaching out to grab him. He had to suppress a nervous giggle at the thought that his imagination was running away with him. Instead, Garak turned his arm to show the doctor a small ridge on the underside of his wrist, that ran around to the outside of the elbow, over the top of the shoulder to merge with the large ridges on his neck.

     "See here, Doctor? This ridge is highly sensitive here, but almost loses all sensation here," he continued indicating where the ridge disappeared under the joint, "But when it comes back out on the back of my arm, it becomes gradually more sensitive up to here on my neck, where the sensitivity peaks. It requires gentle stimulation, either orally or manually during foreplay, but as lovemaking progresses, a firmer touch is appreciated. In Hebitian times, a trained consort could bring a male to orgasm, simply by massaging these ridges alone."

     Julian was once again listening intently, eyebrows raised, and Garak could see he was thoroughly intrigued with the lesson. "Really? That must be intensely erotic."

    "Surely, Doctor, human males have similar regions on their bodies. Isn't there somewhere on your body that can bring you release other than your groin."

    "Afraid not. We have areas that differ in degree of sensitivity from one male to another, but very few human males can orgasm from stimulation in any region other than the... that one."

     "Ah, but surely a considerate lover would consider it a challenge to find some other way. If for no other reason that the enjoyment of exploration."

     "Generally, not always, but generally, human females leave it up to their male partner to be the more aggressive in love making."

     "How unfortunate," Garak stated appalled at the idea. "And what does the female do to ensure your enjoyment? It seems rather unfair to me."

     "Not really. Human females often require more stimulation than human males to achieve orgasm, thus the active/passive dynamic in their lovemaking. A good male lover strives to bring the female partner to release at least once before his own climax."

    "And she does nothing to aid you in reaching your climax?"

    "To be truthful, usually all she really has to do is be there. Nature takes care of the rest. That's not to say that it's always that way, or that all women prefer to let the male take the lead, just most of the women I have been with."

    "Most?"

    "Well, there was one woman from my time in medical school. She was quite an aggressive lover."

    Garak assessed the wistfully remembering smile on the human's face, and decided to enquire, "And?"

    "I nearly married her," Julian said softly, still seeming to look inward. "She was a dancer, Palis. I'm sure I mentioned her before?"

    "Ah yes, quite often. No others?"

    "I always seemed to attract women who preferred to leave me in charge, and normally I
don't mind, but occasionally, I would prefer a more active lover."

    "And you've never been with a male lover?" Garak asked softly, grateful for once that Julian seemed to be so lost in thought that he wasn't looking at him so intently.

    "I've had one or two attractions to men, dated them even, but as for lovers, no, I've never done more that kissed or fondled. Never... " The embarrassed flush returned, reaching as far as the tops of his ears. "...Never, beyond that."

    "And why not?"

    Julian shrugged helplessly. "It... It just never seemed to work out. I suppose because I was a man and I knew how they were thinking of me. We would go to dinner and on the first night, I felt as if I was no more than a convenient body. True that I often saw women the same way, but when the shoe was on the other foot, it wasn't quite so comfortable. The last time I went out with a man was right after the engagement with Palis ended. After the breakup, I began to do some soul searching, and this man, another officer, had asked me out. Sometime during the evening, it occurred to me how degrading the whole situation was, not just to this other man or me but to the women I had treated this same way. By the end of the evening, when he tried to kiss me, and I pushed him away, I felt ridiculous and ashamed at the same time. I decided to start over, and not to treat women that way anymore. I was persistent in my pursuit of Dax, Leeta and the others on the station, but that was only before they agreed to go out with me. I always tried to treat them with the respect they deserved. I think I always gave the wrong impression when I asked a woman to dinner, I just turn into an idiot when I meet someone attractive. I either tend to stammer, or give off the effect of being self centered and arrogant."

     "You never considered dating men again?"

     Julian snorted softly. "If women made me nervous, men left me petrified. The fact that I was a man didn't help matters. As I said, I knew how men thought. I am usually attracted to women more than men. When I did find a man that I found attractive, he usually intimidated the hell out of me, so I never gathered the courage to ask a man to dinner or for a night out. Except mine and Miles' occasional adventures in the holosuites, which  were strictly of a platonic nature. It's not that I would be opposed to the idea, it's just that with women, I generally take the initiative. With men, I wouldn't be sure how to conduct that sort of relationship. I would have difficulty putting my trust in someone enough to allow them to take the lead, knowing that the other person's emotional well being is not always foremost in a man's mind."

     "You might be suprised. As men grow older, like you, their priorities change. Perhaps when you were in medical school, this other officer's intentions were clearly to bed you and consider consequences at a later time. That same officer has probably gained enough experience that the objective of the evening is more to determine if his companion is suitable for a long term relationship rather than an evening of diversion."

     "You're probably right, but I would still have to be sure of someone before I would become involved with another man."

     "That doesn't sound like a man who married a Cardassian spy."

     Julian smiled in answer to Garak's chide, and replied, "Well, our arrangement is somewhat different. Now, we seem to have gotten off track for a moment. Where were we?"

     "We were discussing sensitive areas of a Cardassian's anatomy, or more specifically, my sensitive areas."

     "Ah... yes. You were saying that your neck was highly erogenous..."

     "Yes, with Cardassian males, the neck is the most sensitive area, but with females, these ridges," He turned and indicated twin lines that began below the lower neck scales, ran underneath the shoulder blades, then in mirrored paths down to his hip bones where they disappeared. "These ridges are their most sexually heightened regions. Now, as with human males, Cardassians vary in the degree of sensitivity per each erogenous zone. Some males,  those with extremely sensitive skin, prefer prolonged foreplay beginning with very light stroking along the facial and neckridges, graduating to a deeper massage on their necks,  shoulders and clavicle bowl, reserving the lower abdominal ridge stimulation for just before orgasm. In the other extreme, there are the males with less sensitive skin who prefer less involved foreplay and much firmer stimulation of their ridges, even as far as hard bites at the last. Now I am more of the dermally sensitive variety, although I am not opposed to bites every now and again, in the proper measure. Oral sex is all but lost on the less sensitive flesh, whereas frottage and anal penetration suit them quite well. I am very versatile in my preferences. After so many years of exile, sex that does not follow a business transaction is preferable, regardless of how it is carried out."

     Julian bit the inside of his lower lip, not wanting to laugh or giggle insanely like a little girl, because he knew his turn was next. He just couldn't believe he was standing here with a naked Cardassian, Garak of all people, having this conversation.

     "So your saying you have no preferences?" He asked.

     Garak looked thoughtful a moment, then replied, "I can't say that it would matter. My preference would only extend to a willing breathing partner who is not getting paid." Apparently the conversation was beginning to become rather amusing to Garak as well. The tailor's eyes held a wicked gleam, and suddenly, as if surrendering, he burst out laughing. Julian tried valiantly to contain his own mirth, but finally gave up and began first with a low chuckle, and finally rising to a full throated howls of laughter. Several minutes later, both men were leaning against the back of the couch, gripping their stomachs, tears running down their cheeks and breathless.

     "The whole situation is rather ludicrous, isn't it?" Julian asked, sniffling.

     "Surreal, ridiculous, insane... take you pick, Doctor. I must admit, my Obsidian Order training has gotten me through some bizarre situations, but it has left me completely unprepared for this."

     "I'm a doctor, and I can't get beyond this... weird feeling. I should be able to stand here and conduct an examination with a straight face. I mean, my god! I've kept a straight face while holding Miles O'Brien by the testicles and asking him how is the sex life, before he could even stand me! I should be able to talk to my.... Husband..." he burst into a fresh fit of giggles, "while he is naked and discussing sex! Oh, this is so strange I can't help myself."

     "We should try to get through this. When we go speak with these agents, we will need to know these things. I must admit that I am feeling rather self-conscience sitting here naked while you are fully clothed. Would you mind if I put on a robe at least?"

     "No, go ahead. I'm sorry, I had forgotten how difficult that must be for you."

     "Quite all right, Doctor. You might consider getting undressed and putting on your own robe. It would save some time when it is your turn," he said over his shoulder as he reached into his bedroom for the silver gray silk wrap.

     Julian's mirthful expression changed, he was suddenly serious again. He couldn't refuse. It wouldn't even be in his best interest to refuse. With much resignation he went into his bedroom, shutting the door prudishly behind him. There he stripped off all of his clothes and pulled on a lightweight soft robe. When he emerged, he found Garak sitting on the couch wrapped in his own robe, sipping a cup of tea. When the tailor saw the doctor, he broke into a wide smile, and patted the couch cushion beside him.

     "Come, sit down, Doctor. Make yourself comfortable."

     "Easier said than done. I don't see how you could have been so at ease while you were doing this, and discussing sex, more specifically the way you like sex and naked to top it off. I'm wearing a robe, and we haven't even begun to discuss me yet, and I feel as if I have been on a steady diet of Raktajino and the chief's special Jamaican coffee."

     "Close your eyes. No, I'm serious. It's a relaxation technique. Close your eyes, now breath deeply and focus on the air filling your lungs, and then slowly exhale. Concentrate on your breath, in....and out. Now, tighten the muscles in your face, just slightly. Count to five, and relax them. Do this with all of the muscles in your body, one section at a time, beginning at the top, and moving down," Garak offered helpfully.

     Julian was slightly suprised to find that it worked. He was beginning to lose the tension in his body, and feel less on edge. He looked at Garak and quirked his lips in a sardonic smile. "I never realized you were much on meditation."

    "I don't see why not. After bending over cloth all day, one needs to find some way to relax the muscles. It helps to release all kinds of tension. Now, are you able to continue? I have taken the liberty of getting a padd of my own, for notes."

     "Perfectly fine. Please excuse my saying it this way, but I would like to just get this over with. I realize there is probably much more about you that I should know, but I can't think of any questions to ask at the moment. Perhaps if we move on to discussing my... body and preferences, we can compare notes and be more productive in a more mutual way."

    "Sounds like a very clinical proposition, Doctor," Garak teased. "If I didn't know better, I would say that you were a Vulcan asking me back to your quarters to see your etchings."

     "Garak, please. This is ridiculous enough as it is. If we continue to make jokes we'll never get through this," Julian scolded, but was unsuccessful at suppressing a smile.

     "Perhaps, Doctor, you don't realize that this is my way of dealing with stress. I can't help myself. It has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion. Those Klingons were not the first group to beat me to a bloody pulp because I couldn't control my own mouth."

     "Really? That's why you do that? I always thought you were just a smart-ass. That would be why you left all of the talking up to me at the hearing to decide Rugal's fate. So, apparently it is very easy to make you nervous! To think, I always admired your nerve of steel and unshakability."

     "Julian, everyone becomes uneasy or agitated at some time or another, it's all a matter of learning to recognize the signs. You always fidget and stammer. It's very easy to tell when you are uneasy about something. Chief O'Brien turns pink, and loses the capacity for speech altogether. Ms. Jadzia always seemed to reflect inwardly, seeking advice from her predecessors."

     Julian thought about it for a moment. "Your right! I never gave it much thought."

     "Well, you are definitely *not* the most observant person I know when it comes to reading others," Garak stated. Although his voice was kind, his heart was bitter on this point. All those years of flirting, overt innuendoes, all lost on the human.

    In true Julian form, the doctor simply shrugged and said, "I suppose you're right there too, although I had always believed I knew my friends well."

    "You can never 'know' anyone or anything. Haven't you learned anything in all your years association with me?" the tailor smiled mischievously at the doctor.

    "Be fair, now, Garak. I have changed quite a bit from that idealistic young officer you first met. *That* Julian Bashir would never have considered the arrangement we have now. Breaking immigration laws and Starfleet Regulations for the sake of mutual convenience was not his style."

    "I must admit I was a little suprised when you accepted my proposal. I wasn't sure if having the extra three weeks needed to test the antigen to cure the Blight was important enough to you to consider this arrangement."

   "Well, I couldn't believe you were willing to marry a Starfleet officer and further damage your chances of going back to Cardassia for the sake of getting off of DS9, or that you would even want to think about your future in Federation space after the war was over. Becoming a Federation citizen would cancel out being a Cardassian national, and you would never be able to go home again."

    "Yes, Doctor, but I knew helping the Federation win a war against the joint forces of the Dominion and Cardassia had already destroyed any hope of going home. And if by some miracle I were allowed to go back to Cardassia, it would never be the Cardassia I had left behind all those years ago. Rather than look back and mourn, I felt it would be far wiser to look ahead and plan for a more probable future." He paused a moment, took a deep breath, a small smile touching his lips.

    "By marrying a Starfleet officer, I became a Federation citizen, and also gave the impression of being more trustworthy. I knew I had to act quickly, before the war was over. Starfleet would be much less likely to refuse the match if I was still useful to them. The fact that you were getting transferred to Earth, and needed extra time that they were unwilling to give was simply incentive for you to accept my proposal. It seemed to be the most perfect solution at the time. You were far more approachable than any of the others, and you were being transferred to a planet. I don't believe I could have passed much more time on that station without losing my mind."

     Julian's eyes were on the padd in his hands, and he seemed thoughtful, as if remembering. When he nodded his head slightly, Garak couldn't help but notice how long and thick his lashes were, or how clean the lines of his forehead and cheekbones. The Cardassian had to remember to disguise his expression quickly as the young man raised his gaze to meet the blue orbs of the tailor.

     "Not exactly the sweeping love story I had expected when I was younger," Julian smiled a bit sadly.

     "You're a young man, Doctor. There is plenty of time yet for romance. It was never my intention to stand in your way."

     "No, I know that. After the annulment, I know I have many years ahead to find the great love of my life."

     "Very true. There is just as much chance that you have already found this person, and you don't know it yet."

     "It's possible. Gives you something to think about. What about you, Garak? Do you think there is someone out there, someone that was born to be the great love of your life, the other half of your being," he asked teasingly.

     "Yes, I do. And I met this person many years ago. Unfortunately, my love and devotion was not mutual."

     "I'm sorry. Perhaps... you'll find someone else? Maybe there is another?"

     "I doubt that very much. Not only am I a difficult individual to love, but it would seem that I am destined to spend the rest of my life among people who are not particularly fond of Cardassians. Very few individuals will be able to see beyond the scales."

     Another pause in which both men seemed lost in their own minds, before Garak seemed to shake off his musings and say, "As fascinating as this turn in the conversation has become, Doctor, I'm afraid it will not be helpful in our  upcoming interviews with immigration."

    "Right. So... Where should we pick back up?"

    "It seems to me that there are some things that they would expect us to know, but they would also find it odd if we could answer every little mundane thing. For example, it wouldn't seem as odd to them if I didn't know all of your genealogy, or who your favorite author is, even though we have discussed literature extensively. They would find it odd however, if I had no idea what kind of lover you are, or how your skin feels, or what sort of things you consider romantic. They will expect our respective daily routines and us to know what attracted us to each other, the things we love about one another, what you sleep in,... I would suggest that these are the things we work out first. Maybe even invent a more romantic story for how I proposed to you, and why, and how you accepted. You can't very well say, "Garak and I were having dinner, and the idea struck him so he asked right then. I accepted because I had no other solution at hand."

     "A very good point. We should stay as close to the truth as we can though. Maybe something like, we had been involved in a way, attracted to one another for some time, and that given more time, we would have eventually begun to date. Then when I was given the transfer, you saw that you didn't have the luxury of time. You asked me to marry you. I was a bit suprised so I needed a little time to consider. The next day, at lunch I gave you my answer. After lunch, I went to Captain Sisko with the news and the approval. After a discussion that took most of the afternoon, he finally approved the marriage, and we were married a week later. A small ceremony, only our closest friends were there. That much is all true. We didn't have time for a romantic honeymoon, what with the transfer, and settling in here and everything. We can say we are planning a trip to... Risa as soon as time permits. It might help if we had some letters, holos of us together, and a wedding album of sorts... that kind of thing. We'll also need to have some idea of what we want to do with our future together. We have been married for over two months now. It would seem odd if we have not given some thought to do with the rest of our lives."

    "First things first. We should discuss our romantic past before we start looking to the future. Now, what will you say attracted you to me?"

     "Hmmm. lets see..."

     "Well, Doctor, don't strain yourself," Garak said after several minutes.

     Julian chuckled softly. "I'm sorry. I've just never analyzed what makes me attracted to a man before." He looked Garak in the face, thinking for a few more moments. "First, it was the danger. I was intrigued by the mystery, drawn to the image of a spy. After I got to know you, I became attracted to how your mind worked, your quick wit, the conversation. We had a common interest in literature and the arts, we offered each other insights into a foreign culture, and we enjoyed comparing our different points of view. I have always loved...." he caught himself, paused and blushed a bit. ".... Your eyes," he finished. He looked back down to his padd and began entering data rapidly. After a few moments he began to talk again, but continued to manipulate the padd writing furiously. "Your eyes are very expressive.... They don't seem to miss a thing. I... I find your skin is...is exotic. Beautiful patterning of scales and ridges. The symmetry is... quite attractive. Uh... Maybe you should say something now?"

     Garak was very interested in the way Julian was acting. The doctor seemed extremely agitated flustered. Could it be? There was only to find out. As Garak watched the doctor, whose fingers never stopped entering data into the padd, he began to tell the doctor what he like about him.

     "When I first saw you, I must admit I was drawn very much to your physical appearance. I found you very appealing superficially. I'm afraid that at first, I didn't believe a human could be much of an equal for me. My first intention was to gain your trust, both for the purpose of gaining information, and getting you into my bed. I knew that I intimidated you. That was specifically why I placed my hands on your shoulders. Your fear was like fuel on the fire. Then as I got to know you more, I began to see that I was wrong in my first impressions. I still found you extremely beautiful, but I soon found that you were a very deep and intelligent being. Your emotions were real, your loyalty was nearly unshakable. Your ethics were your top priority. I suppose the thing that continued to draw me was the fact that you seemed to be every thing that I was not."

     As Garak spoke, he watched Julian intently. The doctor's eyes never left the padd, and his hands continued to busily manipulate the many buttons. Garak continued to talk and watch.

     "I admired your youthful enthusiasm, I enjoyed watching you become animated when you were wildly pontificating on something. When we would debate on one subject or another, I began to find that I rarely cared as much about proving my point as perpetuating to conflict. Many times, I had to remind myself to conduct myself properly. You don't know how often I was very grateful that my tunics were as long as they were, else I would have scandalized the other occupants of the station when I left the replimat after one of our lunches."

     The tailor reached over slowly and took the padd gently from Julian's hands. The doctor never lifted his gaze, but kept his eyes trained on his now empty hands.

     Garak scrolled the data on the screen and found line after line of gibberish. "I'm impressed, Doctor, you keep very detailed notes."

     Julian's only response was to close his eyes and turn a deep red color. Garak set the padd on the table beside his end of the couch, and slid minutely closer to the human.

    "I must say," he began smoothly, "That I have long been curious about a few things."

    Julian felt a cool touch on his jaw. Just a brush of Garak's fingers, trailing lightly from just above his chin upwards to his ear.

   "Facial hair. Cardassians don't have hair anywhere but their heads, as I'm sure you noted." Julian flushed even more as he realized that this fact was not even among all of the nonsense that was on his padd. "I have noticed that when you emerge from your bathroom in the mornings, your face is quite smooth. Yet when you come home in the evenings, there is a shadowing on your chin. I assume you trim it every morning?"

     Julian nodded slightly. Garak flattened his hand so that he gently cupped the other side of the human's jaw. "Right now, it feels rather rough, coarse. If you left it, I assume it would become softer, more like the hair on your head?" As he asked this, Julian felt his fingers slide up into the hair at the nape of his neck, testing the feel of it.

     The human decided to try his voice, to see if it still worked. He managed a near whisper, "Yes... only... a bit coarser, curlier."

     The cool hand left his face to pet the hair on his head. He felt his hair ruffle up and settle back down in unruly waves in the wake of Garak's fingers. Then the large hand slid down the back of his neck, probing along his spinal column curiously. "Odd, I can feel your skeletal structure. Our skin is so much thicker that there are few places where you can feel our bones."

     Julian felt the cushions of the couch shifting, and felt other telltale signs that the tailor had moved still closer; the rush of breath on the side of his neck, a slightly cooler warmth than his own radiating from his companion's body. He subconsciously turned slightly to face Garak, to lean a little closer.

    The tailor's hand lightly slipped around to the side of Julian's thin neck, testing the firm muscles of his shoulders, and finding the collar bone jutting at the top of his chest. He traced it with gentle exploration to the hollow at the base of Julian's throat. Julian swallowed reflexively as he felt the tailor's fingers scraping over the sensitized flesh. He kept his eyes closed, monitoring the tailor's movements by sense of touch alone. The feel of Garak's thumb tickling over his Adam's apple was powerfully erotic, he was suprised to find.

    Next he felt Garak's other hand rise to touch his face, trailing a thumb first over his eyebrow, the even more lightly over his lashes. When he felt the thumb brush over lower lip, his eyes finally opened to find Garak looking like a total stranger, his features held such a look of serious intent. Julian's stomach fluttered wildly, and for an alarming moment he thought Garak was going to kiss him, and then was insanely disappointed that he didn't. Instead, the Cardassian's eyes and hands shifted to a point at the bottom of his throat. One hand resting on either side of his neck, thumbs and finger wrapped lightly around, measuring, but with the hint of danger that made Julian close his eyes, and tilt his head back fractionally.

     Slowly, slowly Garak's fingertips edged under the collar of Julian's robe. When Julian didn’t resist, he flattened both palms against Julian's skin, slipped his hands under the robe and opened it slightly. As his hands slid lower, he felt Julian's heart racing under his right hand. His thumbs trailed down the sternum, his fingertips exploring the landscape of flesh, sinew and bone that was still hidden from his view by the robe. As he twisted his wrist, his fingers encountered an oddity. On either side of Julian's chest was a small bump. The doctor's reaction when he made a manual examination was somewhat alarming to the Cardassian. Julian's body jerked a tiny bit, and he gasped rather sharply.

     "I'm sorry, Doctor. Did that hurt?"

     Julian took a moment to catch his breath before whispering, "No. It's fine."

     The doctor didn't open his eyes, or even move. Experimentally, Garak rolled each nub between his thumb and forefingers, and Julian shuddered. Garak was suprised that the nubs seemed to become slightly smaller and grow firmer under his touch.  His curiosity had to be fed, he lightly pushed the robe from Julian's shoulders. He watched the human's face, waiting for Julian to ask him to stop. When he had the wrap just above Julian's elbows and had met with no resistance, he allowed his gaze to travel downward to see what these were, and found them to be odd adornments. Darker brown, twin spots in approximately the center of each pectoral muscle. Garak brushed a finger over one, and watched as the flesh drew up tightly, and after several seconds began to gradually smooth out.

Garak's eye ridges arched higher on his forehead. He was finding this very fascinating. Gently, he tweaked both of them again, then raked a thumbnail lightly over them while watching the doctor's face. Julian's face took on a nearly pained look, and finally he pulled a small part of his bottom lip in between his teeth.

     "Are you sure that this doesn't hurt, Doctor?" he asked with some concern.

     "No... I mean it.... it doesn't hurt, as long as you don't become too... enthusiastic. What you are doing doesn't hurt."

     "Is this an erogenous zone for you?"

     "Yes," Julian answered very softly.

     Garak rubbed his fingers lightly over them once more before his hands traveled away to other areas. Julian felt a sense of loss at the stimulation.

     The gray hands moved back up the brown torso, lightly trailing over an area, learning the texture and pliancy of the skin first, then back over it again, fingers kneading a little more firmly, probing the muscle and bone beneath. First the shoulders down the biceps to the elbows. When the bunched fabric of the robe got in his way, he patiently pulled the long, thin arms from the sleeves, thoroughly examining each of the forceps, and even the wrists and hands, turning them palm up, studying them as closely as a gypsy palm reader.

    Then his hands returned to Julian's trunk, where he explored the fragile looking rib cage, and the soft stomach. Once more he encountered the robe, slowly untied the belt and pushed the cloth further down on the narrow hips.  Here was another human oddity, a small depression in the lower half of the stomach.

    "What is this?" he asked, touching it lightly.

    "It's my navel. Before a human baby is born, it receives oxygen and nourishment from the mother's body by an umbilical cord. At birth, this cord is severed, and when it heals, it leaves the navel in its place."

    "Ah. And is that sensitive?"

    "It's ticklish, but not especially sensitive."

    After a few more seconds, Garak said, "Turn around, lie on your stomach."

    Julian did as he was told unbelieving that he didn't protest or question Garak. He simply did it.

    Garak stood up to allow Julian to stretch out, but once the human was settled comfortably on the cushions, Garak carefully placed one knee on the couch between Julian's thighs. He noticed that Julian's eyes were wide open now, even though he made no move to get up.

     The tailor leaned forward, one hand on the back of the couch to support him, the other he placed lightly at the top of the spinal column. Slowly, he drew it down, following the path of the shallow valley, between the shoulder blades, over the larger curve of the upper back, into the hollow of the lower back. When his fingers came to the robe that was still gathered around Julian's hips, he gripped it in his other hand and tugged the material away and out from under the younger man's body, dropping it on the floor beside the couch in a soft rustle. As his hand came to the end of it's journey just at the very base of the exposed spine, he glanced back up to find the doctor's eyes closed tightly again.

     He placed both hands at the top of the thin back, one on either shoulder blade. Once more using gentle pressure, he began to gauge muscular depth and explored the shape of Julian's body beneath the skin. Gradually, Garak's hands slid down Julian's back, till finally they were resting on the hipbones above his buttocks, with Garak's fingers wrapped around Julian's pelvic bones.  Garak sat back on his heel, and allowed his hands to slip down over the fleshy globes of Julian's backside. His fingertips explored the hip joints, and his thumbs stroked the soft skin on the back. As he drew his fingertips up, over the buttocks, kneading into the small indentions on the sides, he was slightly alarmed to hear an almost inaudible moan come from Julian.

      "Are you alright?" he asked. Julian only nodded his head in response.

      The Cardassian backed up, and slid his hands lower to the back of the human's thighs,
dragging his hands lightly over the skin on the way down, but on the way back up he employed a firmer touch, massaging the corded muscles, stroking up the inner thighs.

      He stood up from the couch, and told Julian, "Turn over."

      He noticed Julian's hesitation, but the younger man did turn onto his back. Garak resumed his previous position, kneeling on one knee between the doctor's legs. The doctor had placed his arm over his eyes, the other hand was splayed loosely over his stomach.

      Garak had examined as far as the lower stomach earlier so now he began where he had left off. Once more placing his hands on the narrow hips, he tested the shape of the bones, then moved his hands inward to run his fingers through the tight curls of hair that grew at the doctors groin. He smiled smugly at the sight of the doctor's rigid erection. Tantalizingly slow, he ran his hands down over the slender thighs, then back up to the groin. Very softly he asked, "Doctor?"

    Julian simply nodded his head, granting permission.

    The tailors questing touch trailed up the silken, hot skin of the shaft, to the head, where he found a drop of sticky moisture. He smoothed it over the tip, tested the texture of the head, then wrapped his fingers around the column and stroked back down.

     "Ooooohhh…" Julian half sighed, half moaned.

     Garak caught a faint scent of pheromones, mixed with the salty tang of human sweat. Julian's limbs trembled subtly, and his skin was flushed and hot. Very carefully, Garak weighed the doctor’s testicles in his palm, then pressed his fingertips into the flesh behind the scrotum.

     The doctor cried out softly, and bucked his hips minutely. One hand gripped the couch cushion tightly, while the other slipped up into the soft curls where it twisted the hair cruelly.

     Satisfied, Garak reached down to the floor and picked up the doctor's robe, which he shook out and laid over the human's chest.

     "I think I know enough about your body now, Doctor. Thank you."

     Julian stared at him in disbelief. That was it? Dazedly he sat up, sliding his feet out of
Garak's way so that the tailor could sit. Shyly, the human looked at the Cardassian through his lashes, Garak was settling himself down on the couch, picking up his discarded padd.

"Now, Doctor, how often shall we say we engage in intercourse? Two, three times weekly? Or is that modest for newly weds?"

    Julian cleared his throat, and felt dizzy with the magnitude of what he was about to suggest. "Garak?"

    Without looking up, Garak asked, "Hmm?"

    "Rather than helping me to create a convincing lie, would you be interested in helping me to create a convincing truth?"

    He now had the Cardassian's undivided attention. "Doctor, are you suggesting...?"

    "That we become lovers? Yes, if you're agreeable. If not, forget I said anything," Julian said in a rush, ducking his head a little to avoid the tailor's gaze, half hoping Garak would say yes, and half hoping he would say no.

    His answer didn't come in words, but in actions. Garak leaned over a caught him up in a passionate kiss, pulling him tightly against the broader chest. After several breathless minutes in which Garak kissed every inch of skin he could reach, the tailor suggested they move to the bedroom where they would be more comfortable.

     Soon they stood beside the bed, holding each other, kissing, touching, and tasting.

     Garak whispered harshly, "I'm anxious to see how closely you were listening to me," as his lips moved over Julian's throat and shoulders fervently.

     Julian stretched up, and placed tender kisses and nips on Garak's forehead and eye ridges while he slid his hands up the tailor’s lower arms. As his mouth worked downward to the older man's chin, his hands traveled upwards to caress the neck ridges. A shuddering moan escaped the Cardassian as his arms closed tightly around Julian's waist. Next, Julian found himself sprawled beneath Garak, being pressed into the mattress and
kissed senseless.
 
     "Garak. Garak, I think we forgot something," Julian tried to say between kisses.

     "Hmmm? No, we didn't."

     "Garak, what about... what about... um.... Lubricant?" He was a little embarrassed to ask, but didn't want to risk any misunderstanding, in case Garak didn't know much about human sexuality.

     "No. I want your first time...our first night together... to be perfect. I don't want your memories marred by... any... unpleasantness. You'll be too nervous... it would be uncomfortable," Garak panted out, his speech made halting by more pressing oral activities.

     This set Julian at ease, helping him to let go and just concentrate on the stimulus assaulting his senses, and to give himself over to the older man. It was oddly liberating in a very sensual way, to put yourself totally in someone else’s hands, to trust them unreservedly, and to let them concentrate solely on your pleasure. Julian found it very easy to simply loose himself to the moment, and to let go of his inhibitions.

     Garak's hands and mouth were everywhere, making Julian feel irrationally as if the Cardassian was about to devour him. He had to remind himself that it had been quite a while for Garak, and that the tailor was probably in great need for this. He hadn't expected his lover to last long, but he was suprised. Under Garak's masterful hands, Julian quickly found himself approaching the abyss. As the older man ground his hips hard against him,  he nipped, kissed and sucked at every sensitive area on Julian's head, neck and upper torso, continuously finding erogenous zones the doctor didn't know he had. Julian felt prickly waves of heat move up his spine as the tailor suckled at his ears. He felt as if bolts of electricity burst through every nerve ending as Garak's teeth closed sharply on the large vein in his neck, but his world shattered in molten sensation when Garak kissed him on the lips and rasped his thumbs over the doctor's nipples. He drew in a sharp, shuddering gasp, gripped Garak's neck ridge in one hand as if holding on to a life line, while the other arm and both legs entwined with the thicker, sturdier limbs, pulling Garak tightly against him. The human held the kiss for as long as he was able, only breaking it at the end as he smothered a loud, sobbing cry against Garak's scaled shoulder.

      As he finally felt his own body begin to slowly grow slack, his grasp on the Cardassian loosening slightly, he realized that Garak, too had reached his peak, and was only beginning to descend from the heightened state of orgasmic delight. As the tailor slowly relaxed, his body became heavier, till finally he moved to lie beside Julian, never letting go of the doctor. He simply rolled to the side and pulled Julian over to lie atop him. When the doctor tried to shift aside to avoid putting all of his weight directly on his lover, Garak firmly held him where he was, pushing his head down to rest on the scaled chest. "You won't crush me, Doctor. You’re keeping me warm."
 
     Breathing deeply, and finally relaxing bonelessly, the human felt the textured hands trailing over his back playing with the hair at the nape of his neck as he began to drift toward sleep. Somewhere between waking and dreaming, he felt the tailor lift his head to press a kiss to Julian's hair, and then drop it back heavily to the bed.
 
     The next morning, Julian woke up to find himself alone in the bed. The scent of Garak was still there, as were other signs that the previous night had not been a dream.
 
     Getting up, Julian went into the bathroom for his morning routine. He didn’t need to report to work today, so he went at it with a leisurely pace.

     As he stood before the bathroom sink, brushing his teeth, he heard the doors to the bedroom give a telltale creak, and he knew that Garak was there. Within a few seconds the tailor stood framed in the bathroom entrance. His expression was unreadable, but Julian knew him at least well enough to know that Garak was judging the moment, trying to discern if Julian had any regrets about the previous evening, the guarded nature of a Cardassian interrogator.
 
     To set the tailor’s fears at ease, Julian quickly finished brushing his teeth and rinsed his mouth before smiling warmly at Garak’s reflection in the mirror.

     “’Morning. And how did you sleep?” he asked as he wiped his hands and mouth on a small towel.
 
      The minute signs of relief, the slights exhale of breath, and the tiny enigmatic smile that came to Garak’s face was not lost on the human.

      “I slept well enough, Doctor. And you?” he enquired as he moved a little further into the room, and took up a more relaxed posture leaning against the linen closet door.

     “Very… restful,” he replied, grinning impishly at his companion’s reflection. As he continued his toilet, preparing to shave, he realized that Garak still stood, unmoving, watching him.

     “I’m sorry, did you need to use the sink, or would you like me to leave for a few minutes? What I mean is, are you waiting for me to finish so you can… uh… attend to anything?”  he asked, a little flustered and embarrassed. He didn’t know why, he was a doctor after all, and he well knew about the biological functions of most species bodies. It just seemed a bit awkward asking Garak if he needed him to step outside so he could take a pee. Then again, there was the other bathroom, so maybe that wasn’t it at all.

     “No, Doctor. If you don’t mind, I just thought it might be a good idea if I watched you. Even after last night’s activities, we might still be well advised to know some of the more mundane facts about one another. I must admit to a curiosity about your facial hair as well. I wanted to see how you went about removing it.”
 
     “Oh, right. Good thinking. Well, I shave it every morning with a laser shaver. First I put this lotion on my face, to soften the whiskers and prevent skin irritation or mild burns, and then…” he demonstrated by running the beam of the tiny laser devise along his jaw, leaving behind a smooth hairless stripe. He then lowered his arm and turned his head a bit to allow Garak to examine his jaw.
 
    When the Cardassian touched it, testing the feel of the smooth skin as well as the stubble that hadn’t been removed, Julian was surprised at the thrill that started at the base of his spine and ran throughout his body.

     “Is that dangerous?  You mentioned mild irritation, do you ever cut yourself? Or burn your skin badly?”
 
     “Not really. It’s much safer now than it used to be. Humans used to use tiny, very sharp blades to do this. They would have to be very careful, and actually drag the blades across their skin. Very uncomfortable, and they often cut themselves, usually only mildly, but…”

     “This is not as much of a problem now?”

     “No. Cuts are unheard of, and burns are even rare, as long as you use enough of the gel. It’s a combination of skin and hair softener, as well as reflective substance that keeps the laser from burning the skin.” He squeezed a small amount of the silvery translucent stuff into his palm for Garak’s inspection.
 
     The older man dipped his fingers into the gel, rubbing his thumb and forefingers together, testing the texture. He held the digits to his face a sniffed it, realizing that this one of the scents that he had always associated with Julian. He took the tube from the doctor’s other hand and looked at the name brand. He was unimpressed with the fact that Shaving Gel #389 was printed on it.

     When he turned his gaze back up to Julian’s face, the human was smiling at him in a good-humored way, amused that his spouse was so curious about an act that he never gave a second thought to.

     “Forgive me, Doctor. I was just curious, I didn’t intend to keep you from finishing,” he said as he took a step back.

     “No, it’s all right. It really is something that might come in handy later,” the doctor said as he turned back to the mirror. As he drew the razor over his skin in another smooth stroke, he caught Garak watching him still intently in the reflection, standing closer than he had when he first came in, but back enough that he was not within Julian’s personal space. Julian remembered doing this when he was younger. Standing behind his father, studying every move. Then he remembered fondly when Palis and he had spent their first night together. The next morning she had shaved his face. It had been nice, having he stand close to him, wearing only his shirt, laughing as she gently removed the whiskers. Then they had made love again….

     “Garak, would you like to try it?”
 
     “I don’t have any facial hair to remove.”

     “I meant would you like to try it on me? It would satisfy your curiosity, and it can’t hurt anything. It might be rather nice,” he said as he half turned and offered the razor to the Cardassian. “After all, you are a tailor, you have a very light touch and I believe more than enough hand eye coordination to do it. If you can cut Bolian silk, you can certainly shave my face.”
 
    After a moment’s hesitation the Cardassian stepped forward accepted the tool the doctor had proffered. After a quick lesson in how to use it, Julian closed his eyes, tilted his chin back, and let the other man shave him. It was rather relaxing, though it was quite different from the time Palis had done this. She had joked, and been far more relaxed, using the task as a flirtation. Garak was far more intent, quieter, and taking it far more seriously.

     After several minutes, Julian decided to try to lead things in the direction Palis had taken them so many years ago. As Garak leaned in closely to reach the hollow directly behind the curve of Julian’s jaw and below his ear, the human chose that moment to caress the tailor’s hip. The only problem was that with his eyes closed, his hand made contact with Garak’s lower abdominal ridge instead.

     The tailor gasped loudly as he involuntarily jumped. Next Julian felt quite a bit of hair fall on his shoulder and arm. His eyes flew open to see Garak, equally wide eyed, staring in horror at him. Julian whirled around to se the damage.

     Beginning at the point of his side burn and going up in a fan shaped pattern was a huge bald spot. The hair at the edges of the spot were mostly shortened or thinned considerably, due to the fact that the beam was intended to trim hair only at a close range. There was a normal patch behind the ear, because Julian’s ear had shielded it from the laser. Other than that there was a good four-inch patch of very pale skin.

     Both men could only stare slack-jawed at the doctor’s reflection for several seconds.

     Finally, Garak recovered enough to say, “I’m so sorry, Doctor. I couldn’t help it. I told you last night that particular area was extremely sensitive.” As he watched, he feared the doctor might cry. The human certainly looked upset enough. His face had paled by a full shade or two, his eyes seemed to swallow his face, and his hand hovered impotently near the damaged area.
 
     “Oh, God,” Julian whispered.

     “Can’t we fix it somehow? You’re a doctor; can’t you stimulate the follicles? Make the hair grow back?”
 
     “I could if I had the proper equipment. I would have to get it from work, and I don’t want to go anywhere looking like this.” He continued to stare in utter disbelief at his reflection.

     Still trying to make things right, Garak offered helpfully, “I could go and get it for you.”

     “No. I would have to sign for it to leave the facility, and I seriously doubt that Starfleet Medical would allow you to go in to get it anyway.”

     “There must be something else we could do to fix it,” Garak said again, desperately.

     Julian turned to look at him for the first time, and for a split second Garak thought he might be called upon to defend himself. A look of fury flashed in Julian’s eyes before he closed them and visibly calmed himself.

     ‘It was your idea, you suggested it in the first place, and you were the one who decided to liven things up a bit,’ Julian told himself. When he finally opened his eyes again, whatever anger he had left instantly melted as he saw Garak’s face. The tailor looked absolutely remorseful. As Julian watched, the Cardassian’s eyes dropped, and he quietly set the razor down on the counter. Amazed and feeling like a jerk all at once, Julian quickly gathered Garak into a comforting embrace.

     “It’s all right. Really it is. I’ll… I’ll call the lab and see if Dr. Whitehorse is there. She will probably authorize the release of a follicle stimulator, and even have it beamed directly here so that I can use it and then return it right away. Don’t worry about it. I’m sorry, it was my fault.”

     As the two stood holding each other, first one, then the other began to chuckle. It was funny once the initial shock had passed. When they separated Julian said, “I didn’t know you could actually feel sorry for something. You’ve apologized for many things before, but I have never felt that you meant it as much as you did just then.” He continued to laugh softly as did Garak.
 
     “Well, Doctor, it is very rare that I do something this stupid. Normally when I apologize, it is only intended to pacify. I almost always meant to do exactly whatever is I am apologizing for. I don’t normally make such mistakes. I must also admit that I regret having been responsible for marring such perfection.”

     Julian suddenly felt embarrassed, but pleasantly so. He still smiled, but he blushed and dropped his gaze to the tiles on the floor.

    “But I see that it’s not destroyed at all. You are still quite beautiful,” Garak continued, his voice now hushed, wistful, and more serious than it had been a few moments ago.

    Slowly, Garak advanced on his mate, slipping his hands around the slender waist above the towel that Julian had tied around his hips when he had stepped out of the shower. First, he kissed the doctor slowly, tenderly, as he drew his palm up along the narrow trunk till he reached the slighter man’s shoulders. He brushed away the loose hair, then gently turned Julian back to face the mirror.

     “It takes much more than this,” he said, touching the spot softly with his fingertips, “To ruin the way you look. Especially…” he pressed his lips to Julian’s neck, making the human shiver before continuing, “When you are lost in passion.” He kissed Julian’s ear, lightly touching it with his tongue and nipping it with his teeth. “I wished last night that you could see your face, that you could see what I saw as we were making love.”

     His hands came around to softly touch Julian’s chest, seeking out his most sensitive areas. As he explored more, he felt the human shudder against him, and he looked at the reflection so he could see Julian’s face. He was dismayed to find that the other man’s eyes were closed.

     Reaching up he cupped Julian’s jaw and whispered, “Watch.”

     The slightly authoritative tone inflamed Julian, and as he opened his eyes he saw the Cardassian’s blue gaze watching his reflection intently as the gray fingers once more began to roam over his flesh.

     Julian leaned back, trying to press against the tailor as much as he could, and reached up to place one hand behind Garak’s wide neck. When he tried to turn his head to kiss the older man in return, Garak withdrew a bit.
 
     “No. I want you to watch. Watch me make love to you. I’ll be watching, as well, whenever possible,” he softly ordered.

     Julian felt a momentary urge to argue, to tell his spouse that he would do as he liked, but the urge passed very quickly when he caught sight of the two of them in the mirror again. It was a very powerful image, one he couldn’t take his eyes away from. He found that it was more arousing to watch what Garak was doing than to see his own reactions. As he watched, both of the tailor’s large hands slid back down his sides, finally resting on his hips a moment, then removing the towel.

     When he lifted his gaze from the reflection of Garak’s hands, he found the Cardassian watching him, studying his reaction. As their eyes locked, Julian felt almost intimidated by the passion in those ice blue orbs.

    He felt the hands tighten on his hips, and pull him back against the tailor’s groin, and for a brief second, his eyes fluttered closed before he regained control and remembered to watch.

     One of Garak’s hands left Julian’s hip for a second to untie his robe. When he pulled the doctor back against him, there was no question that he was wearing nothing beneath the robe.

     Julian felt the ridged erection insinuate itself between his legs, where it gently rubbed against his perineum. The human shifted his stance a bit, placing his feet further apart to allow more access to powerfully erotic spot. As Garak moved against him, this stimulation became firmer, till each stroke made Julian tremble with need. He reached back and gripped the tailor’s robe, tugging, trying to bring him closer and increase the delicious stimulation as his other hand continued to grip Garak’s neck ridge.

     When the Cardassian reached down to stroke his sex, Julian moaned loudly. As he recovered from the initial caress, and he once more looked at the tailor’s face, he nearly stopped breathing. There was a question in that expression, one Garak wouldn’t give voice to. Yet another strong wave of arousal swept through Julian, accompanied simultaneously by an inexplicable fear. He couldn’t look away, he couldn’t answer, only swallow and gaze uncertainly into Garak’s eyes.

     He watched, hypnotized as Garak slowly lowered his mouth to Julian’s ear, and he watched as the gray lips moved to whisper, “Don’t be afraid.”

     A tremor shook Julian’s body at the feel of the Cardassian’s breath tickling his neck. He noted that the tailor was still waiting. When he met Garak’s eyes again, they were still questioning, imploring. Until then, Julian hadn’t known what his answer would be, but as Garak watched, he saw permission seep into Julian’s expression.

     Confirmation was given as Julian asked, “What should I do?”

     “Just relax, enjoy it, and tell me if anything … makes you uncomfortable. I’ll do the rest.”

     The human nodded docilely, and tried to release the tension that suddenly invaded his body. When Garak slid his hands along Julian’s arms and moved them so that Julian was leaning on his palms against the vanity counter, he felt his head swim and his heart flutter madly. He found it suddenly extremely difficult  to keep his eyes open or his gaze trained on the image of himself being guided to bend at the waist and place his weight on his hands.
 
     He saw Garak reach around him, and after some consideration, pick up the tube of discarded shaving gel. Moments later he jumped a little as he felt a cool touch where Garak’s penis had been earlier. He shut his eyes tightly and waited. After several seconds, he heard Garak ask softly, “Doctor?”

    Taking in a deep breath and exhaling quickly, Julian forced his eyes up to meet those of his lover.

     “Considering what we are about to do, don’t you think you could call me something a bit more personal than ‘Doctor’?”

     For a moment Garak was still and silent, then his face broke into a fond smile as he leaned  forward, wrapping his arms around the human’s frame and kissing him repeatedly along the shoulders and neck.

     Between kisses Garak replied, “Of course. Whatever you like.”

     The younger man was beginning to feel the first wisps of arousal again as he whispered, “Julian would be fine.” He hissed sharply and arched as Garak’s fingers found and teased at his nipples. When his vision cleared, he saw the tailor watching him in the mirror. The smoldering passion the older man’s eyes inflamed him. With audacity that was alien to him, Julian bucked backwards against Garak so that the tailor had to tighten his arms around Julian to keep his balance.
 

     “Getting impatient, Julian?” he asked, smirking at the younger man.

     Without further conversation, the tailor resumed his task, carefully, painstakingly trying to make this as enjoyable and comfortable for Julian as he could. When the doctor was trembling and breathing heavily, moaning continuously, Garak slowly began to penetrate him.

     Julian suddenly couldn’t breathe. He barely managed a breathy whimper as his body froze. He knew Garak had tried, but he wasn’t prepared for this. He clamped his lids shut, and began to tremble, chewing hard on his lower lip. His hands balled into fists and his knuckles turned ash white.

     He felt Garak lean forward, and new bolts of pain shot through his body. “Garak!” he gasped, as one of his hands flew to grip the tailor’s arm in claw like fingers.

     “Take a deep breath, remember what I taught you last night.”

     Julian struggled with his body, forced his lungs to bring in oxygen. Garak moved again and Julian’s breath came out in a shuddering burst. He felt the tailor’s free hand leave his hip and massage at his neck and shoulder.

     Then he felt the tailor leaving his body, slowly, ever carefully.

     “I… I didn’t ask you to stop,” he whispered.

     “I know. It’s all right, Julian. I don’t want this,” Garak said as he disengaged completely.

     Julian slumped forward in relief, although the burning was still present. For a few seconds he only concentrated on getting his respiration under control, but he soon became aware of sturdy arms going around him, pulling him upright and against his lover.

     “I’m sorry. Maybe… After a while we can try again,” he said.

     “Of course, if you want to, but it’s not important.”

     “I do want to. Just give me a few minutes to catch my breath.”

     Garak nuzzled the thin human neck and whispered, “You should relax. Would you like to lie down? Rest?”

     Julian nodded his head. “I think I’d like that.”

     He allowed himself to be lead back to the bed he’d only recently left, and nudged down on it. Rather that relaxing though, Garak lowered himself to lie on top of his human spouse, slowly, inexorably making love with his hands and mouth, whispering endearments and soft words until Julian felt like a bowstring about ready to snap. He wasn’t sure how or exactly when, but before he realized it, Garak was inside him again, but this time there was no pain.

     He looked into the Cardassian’s face, finding there intense emotions and very evident pride. Through the haze of lust, he noticed Garak’s hand going to his groin, felt the loving fingers grip him and after a few strokes, Julian’s world dissolved into a meltdown of sensations that left him dizzy and his entire body throbbing. The only sounds he could hear were his own heartbeat and voice crying out blended with Garak’s which was saying something he didn’t have the comprehension to understand.

     As the feelings ebbed, he saw his lover’s face contort a look somewhere between intense pleasure and unbearable pain. He’d never thought of Garak looking this way. A few strands of the normally neat hair fell forward, hanging before the tailor’s face or sticking to his forehead. For the first time in as long as he had known Garak, Julian felt that he was seeing the Cardassian as he really was, and not the image the older man wanted him to see. In these few seconds, there was so much of the tailor’s soul etched on his features, Julian felt he was looking at a stranger who bore an uncanny resemblance to someone he knew and not the Garak he had thought he knew.  As he watched in wonder, he saw the iron control slip away, Garak’s mouth open in silent scream, every muscle standing out in sharp definition as his body reached its limits. The flood of emotional release was so much more powerful than the physical release, that for a moment, Julian almost expected the Cardassian to burst into tears.

     Without thought, he reached up to hold Garak’s craggy face between his hands, caressing his ridges, comforting, for his own benefit as well as Garak’s.
 
     At his touch, the older man opened his eyes and looked at him with a strange almost fearful expression. Julian knew Garak was terrified of laying his soul bare. Garak understood physical pain, had lived with it, and caused it in his professional life. He had so little experience with love, love that wasn’t accompanied by rejection and emotional pain that he was understandably reticent to show it. When he couldn’t control his own emotions, when he allowed another to see them, he was giving them the chance to hurt him in a way he had never been able to hurt another.
 
     When Ziyal had been so infatuated with him, he couldn’t bring himself to tell her outright that he could never feel the same for her. He tried to gently discourage her, tried to present himself to her in the same light of a father figure or stodgy, indulgent teacher, but he could never tell her he didn’t love her. He couldn’t break her heart. Julian remembered the way Garak had always reacted to her advances and flirtations, he remembered the look of utter bewilderment in Garak’s features when Ziyal had kissed him at the airlock the last time they had seen each other. The look of a man who knew he had failed and didn’t know what to do next.

     Also, he had seen the intense guilt at the time of her death. Julian had misunderstood it then, he had thought that Garak’s guilt was that he hadn’t been there to protect her, or to say goodbye before she died. Those reasons were only part of it, he realized now. Garak felt guilt for not loving her as she had him. For allowing her to die with an illusion, but most of all, could it be that beneath it all he was relieved that he would never break her heart, and so he was afraid he was glad that she had died? Possibly, but then again, there might be a dozen other reasons. One could never know for sure, with Garak.

     Except now, as he watched the display of raw emotions flash before him, he knew he what he was seeing was real. He saw something, he knew what it was but he denied it. When Garak opened his mouth to give voice to what his eyes were already saying, Julian pulled his head down and stopped the flow of words with a kiss that lingered long enough for Garak’s impulse to pass. He didn’t want to hear it, and he didn’t want to confirm Garak’s fears by causing him emotional pain. When he had to end the kiss out of necessity of breathing, he wouldn’t meet the tailor’s gaze. He prayed that Garak would say it, and he was thankful when the tailor did not.

     After a few moments spent catching his breath, he felt the other man touch his scalp, and heard him chuckle.

     “Doctor, Julian, would you prefer I call Starfleet Medical to request the follicle stimulator, or would you prefer to explain?”
 
 
 

     After that morning, Julian and Garak had begun to use separate bedrooms once more. They both knew what had passed between them without the words having been spoken. Garak was in love, Julian was not. Neither could bear the emotional weight of a sexual relationship with such conflicting emotions. It was an unspoken agreement that until the two came to terms with their feelings, there would be no further intimate acts.

     Along with the revelation of true feelings, came a tension. Garak had begun to resent Julian for not returning his love, and was angry with himself for his inability to control this one part of himself. Julian was angry at himself as well, and angry with Garak for the deception of it all. How long had Garak known, and why couldn’t he have told Julian when he had approached him with the idea of a marriage of convenience? He asked himself why Garak had felt the need to hide it for so long, and then mentally kicked himself for asking such a stupid question.
 
     They continued their research, and even went as far as trying to use terms of endearment for one another in public, but they could never seem to make it sound real. Julian felt stupid calling a former Obsidian Order agent, trained killer, and spy Sweetheart.  It was ludicrous! He had always felt comfortable calling his ‘lady friends’ names such as Darling, Love, or Dear, but it was strange to address Garak this way. He was almost certain that if he really did love Garak it wouldn’t be so difficult. He was convinced that if he didn’t address Garak with some form of endearment, their relationship would appear as false to immigration as it really was.

     At first it had been amusing to see the look of puzzlement cross Garak’s face when he would say something like, “Darling, would you bring me a drink while you’re at the replicator?” It had been utterly priceless when he had gone so far as to actually call his spouse Snugglebunny.  He was sure the tailor would retch, had it not been for the fact that he had explained the concept of ‘pet names’ for lovers.  Garak had sniffed indignantly and replied, “It would seem extremely out of character for a Cardassian to address his mate in such a manner. After all, we are not an emotionally demonstrative race.” Julian pointed out that he had called him ‘Dear Doctor’ for years, so Garak had consented to try it, even though he felt ridiculous, and only occasionally called Julian something other than Dear Doctor, or Julian.

     After a full week of studying each other’s habits, mannerisms and tastes, the day arrived for the ‘interrogation’ as Garak had dubbed the meeting with Immigration. By this point, they were both stretched thin by the stress of the situation, both in a personal sense and because of the fear of being found out.  It became so great that Julian bitterly noted the day before, that in an ironic twist of fate, this interview fell on a standard Earth calendar day known as Valentine’s Day.

     On this morning, two agents arrived at their home, precisely at the appointed time.
As the four of them entered the living room, Julian offered them tea in an effort to project some measure of domesticity, while Garak politely bowed and gestured to the couch, saying, “Please, be seated and make yourselves at home.”

     Then he turned to his nervous spouse and in a strange sounding tone, even for such a practiced liar, he addressed Julian, “Sweetheart, would you like some help with that?”

     At first Julian didn’t even recognize that Garak meant him, but then he quickly recovered his wits and answered, “Yes, Dearest, I believe I would.”

     As the two men went into the kitchen, the agents looked at each other questioningly. With an upraised eyebrow, the male agent said softly, “Sweetheart?”

     His female counterpart shrugged and said, “Maybe they are just nervous, or had a fight?”
 
      The man snorted disbelievingly and began to look around the room, making notes on his padd. The woman followed suit, studying the décor, looking for signs to prove or disprove the validity of this union.

     Garak and Julian had made several holos, placing them on tables, bookshelves and walls about the room and throughout the rest of the house. They had moved all of Garak’s toiletry items into Julian’s bathroom, and his clothing and personal items to the master bedroom. Garak’s novel rods lay on Julian’s nightstand table, and although they hadn’t really needed it, they had replicated a bottle of personal lubricant and poured some of it down the sink to give the impression that it had been used. This was embarrassing to Julian, but he also knew it to be necessary.

     The agents were still busy making notes when the two returned to the living room with a tray of tea and cookies. Another note was jotted down that they seemed awfully formal, which might be attributed to the Cardassian’s code of manners.

    Garak and Julian settled down closely on the opposite couch, and Julian couldn’t help but flinch a bit when Garak placed his arm around him. Another note.

     “Now, shall we begin?” Garak asked.

     “Yes, I’m sure the two of you have things to do today. I am sorry that this interview would have to fall on today of all days,” the female said apologetically.

     Garak looked surprised for a second, and Julian realized with horror that he had forgotten to tell him about the significance of today, but the Cardassian covered it beautifully by breaking into a warm smile. “Well, these little celebrations sometimes have to be put aside in lieu of other things. Don’t they, Dearest?” He then shocked the doctor by leaning over and kissing his hair above the ear. Julian struggled not to show his surprise, but was sure he failed miserably.

     As the interview went on, Julian became more and more certain that they had been found out. Whenever he and Garak spoke to one another, they sounded forced, the pet names seemed so unnatural that they nearly sounded like insults rather than endearments. He had even pulled his hand back once when Garak had reached out to take it, before he realized what he was doing.

     Finally, the strain of keeping up the charade became too much. He suddenly interrupted the male interviewer and began, “Look, I think it’s time we came forward and began explaining things.”

     To Garak’s horror, the male interviewer, folded his hands across his knee, and Garak recognized the look in the man’s eyes as the triumph of an interrogator who has won the truth. Suddenly it became more of a competition to Garak than a matter of protecting the doctor and himself from the consequences of their actions.

     “Quite right, Julian. They deserve the truth,” he said, making Julian’s stomach squirm.

     The female agent said, “I must admit I thought there must be more here than what you are presenting on the surface. If you don’t mind my saying so, the two of you seem to be trying a bit too hard. The sweet words seem so stilted it almost seems as if you are angry at each other.”

     Garak smiled at her disarmingly. “How clever of you to notice, my dear. You would have made an admirable Obsidian Order Agent. You’re very astute,” he began charmingly.
 
     “Tell me,” the tailor continued. “How much do either of you know about Cardassian culture and marriages?”

     “We researched the subjects when we were given this case,” the man replied coolly. He was so smug, so certain that no one was going to fool him.

     “Ah, well then you know that we are a very aggressive species when it comes to our romantic tendencies. I must apologize for our behavior, I’m sure you noticed how scandalously we have been behaving, but we are newlyweds. Perhaps you can overlook us given that.”
 
     “Excuse me?” the man asked, looking confused. Julian also stared at him in wide-eyed disbelief.

     “Why yes, I assumed you knew. We Cardassians… well, to be truthful, the doctor and I have been acting like hormonal youths since we sat down. Surely, you knew. Cardassians are highly aroused when our mates play ‘hard to get’.”

     Not wanting to admit that he didn’t know, the man snorted again and said, “Of course.” Meanwhile his partner was searching the portable database on Cardassian rituals, which she smiled and showed to him.

     “You see, today is a special day for us, and as rude as it is for me to say, this entire interview was rather putting a damper on our plans. Forgive me for saying so, but we were rather anxious to exchange our ‘gifts’, as it were.”

     The female agent smiled delightedly, and nodded her head as she said, “Well, don’t let us keep you any longer. I’m sorry for the intrusion, but you understand the necessity of this sort of thing. People get married just for Federation citizenship all of the time. It’s unbelievable. Enjoy the rest of your afternoon.”

     With that she ushered her partner to the transporter and they were gone in a twinkling of light.
 
     Once they were gone, Julian was so relieved he broke into a wide smile and gave the tailor a fierce hug.

     “You’re brilliant! The way you played along with the gifts and today being a special day for us! Oh, sheer genius!”

      “I must admit, I’m surprised that they knew what today was,” Garak smiled as he returned the embrace.

     “What do you mean? I was shocked that you knew.”

     “Why wouldn’t I know my own birthday?”

     “Birthday? Today?”
 
      “Yes, Doctor. On Cardassia, this is the anniversary of my date of birth. Isn’t that what they were referring to?”

     “No, today is an Earth holiday! It’s Valentine’s Day! A celebration of love! Today is a day when everyone is supposed to be romantic and express their affection for their loved ones.”

      The tailor seemed to deflate a bit at this knowledge. “I see. Then it apparently isn’t such a special day. Well, Doctor, at least we have this awful experience behind us. After a few months, we can get the annulment, and perhaps if you are lucky, you will be able to spend the next Valentine’s Day with a more appropriate companion. If you’ll excuse me, I think I will go lie down for a while, I have a bit of a head ache.”

      As Julian watched the tailor retreat to his bedroom, he felt as if he had killed someone. His elation of a few minutes ago was gone completely, and depression had taken its place. After a few moments he followed his friend’s example and went to his own room.

     When he lay down on the bed, he turned on his side and saw Garak’s robe thrown casually across the back of a chair. His eyes traveled to the rods on the table, the shoes beside the closet door. They had all been carefully placed to give the impression of casual married life, but as Julian looked around the room at the holo images of he and Garak, he was surprised to find that he liked it this way.

     He rolled to his back and stared at the ceiling, thinking of all that had happened in the last few days. As he reviewed the events, he arrived at another realization. He had been behaving like an idiot! What had he been thinking? The shaving incident was something that had happened with Palis, and that he couldn’t recreate with Garak. Garak was a different person, a different race and even a different gender! It was so planned on his part and a bad cliché to make matters worse. The stupid names, the way they had been behaving when they had almost given their hoax away, and even the made up tale of their ‘courtship’ were all based on his idea of what love, romance and marriage were supposed to be. The only thing that didn’t fit into his preconceived notion was Garak. Garak was an older man of a different race, whereas Julian had always envisioned himself falling in love with, and marrying a young, beautiful, human female, and having a post card life. He had some odd impression that this was real love, and anything that did not fit that equation was not. As he thought about it, he felt even more ridiculous. The kind of marriage he had expected would be so boring, and simply didn’t exist. Only in fiction did you find situations like that.

     Just because Garak was not Julian’s previous idea of a perfect mate did not mean he couldn’t be, or that Julian couldn’t fall in love with him. It simply meant that they would write their own equations.

     He thought about their intimate moments, the first kiss, and the sex…. His heart fluttered and his mouth went dry. He remembered the look in Garak’s eyes that morning, and his stomach tightened. He knew he could love Garak very easily, the only thing that had stopped him was an ideal, a notion. He was expecting a classic romance, a cliché’.

     He couldn’t help but laugh at himself. He got up and quickly went back to the living room. After placing a call, selecting the right datachip, and then retrieving the packages he had ordered from the transporter, he was ready.
 
 
 
 

     Garak had told Julian he was going to lie down, but instead he sat in the chair and stared out the window morosely. He was planning his future without the human, and cursing himself for his mistakes.

     As he leaned his head back and closed his eyes, he thought he heard something odd coming from the living room. ‘Julian must be listening to some music,’ he thought. He tried to tune it out, but it grew insistently louder. Just as he was preparing to get up and smash the doctor’s stereo, the door to his bedroom burst open, allowing to awful music in at a volume so high he could not help but to hear the words.

     “Let me call you Sweetheart…” floated in around Julian in a whining male voice. The doctor stood framed by the door with a massive box of chocolate under his arm, an obscenely large bouquet of roses in the other hand, and a huge dopey smile on his face.
Garak was almost certain that he had lost his mind.

     Julian advanced on the tailor, tossing the flowers and candy onto the desk as he walked by. He gripped the large gray hands in his, went down on one knee before the tailor, and looked earnestly into the blue eyes as he said barely containing his laughter, “Garak, I’ve been an idiot. Would you be my husband?”

     Garak glanced at him sideways, wondering if perhaps he had gotten into some chemical substance and was having delusions. “Doctor?”

     “I have been so stupid, can you forgive me? I have just realized that… I love you, and I want you to spend the rest of my life with me. This is a very special day for the both of us, please don’t ruin it by saying no.”

      As it dawned on Garak that Julian meant what he was saying, and that the flowers, candy and music were Julian’s way of making a joke at his own expense, a heaviness lifted from his chest. He began to laugh as he leaned forward and kissed his beloved. When they separated for breath, both were embarrassed by the fact that they were crying.

     “God!” Julian exclaimed. “If this gets any more like a bad romance novel….” As he continued to sniffle and chuckle at the same time.

     “It’s turning my stomach as well,” Garak admitted through his own laughter and tears.

     “Don’t worry. I’m a doctor, I have the cure for anything that ails you.”

     “Oh, I don’t doubt it,” the tailor replied as he pulled the human up from the floor onto his knees and began to kiss him senseless while the awful drawling voice continued in the background.

~END~