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Garak was drunk. This was certainly no everyday occurrence, but Dr. Bashir had offered him some Romulan ale at Quark's in celebration of the Bajoran Spring Festival and he had decided to try it. He knew it was well known for it's potency and went easy at first. Feeling no particular effect, he assumed his Cardassian physiology made him impervious to it's effect to some degree.

Consequently he had consumed quite a lot of it, when the doctor with an already rather tipsy grin offered him a small cup of something he called talmor, apparently something drunk along with the ale at special occasions. They toasted and both drained their cups in one. The result was instantaneous. Bashir's head hit the bar with a heavy clunk and Garak suddenly felt the room spin sickeningly. Oh dear. Not. Good.

Ordering water and maintaining his balance with great effort, he sat at the bar for the better part of an hour, trying to will the effect out of his system. However, the only real effect this had, seemed to be an increased pressure on his Cardassian bladder. Wobbling back from the restroom, intent on getting back to his quarters to sleep it off, he was stopped by Quark.

“Garak, could you do me a big favour and get the good doctor out of here? He's bad for business in his condition.”

Casting a glance at the young man currently drooling on a festive napkin stuck to his face, Garak frowned and fixed his eyes on Quark with some trouble.

“Quark... I can hardly walk straight. How do you propose I get both myself and a full grown unconscious human out of here?”

The sharp teeth of Quark's grin swam a little and Garak blinked hard to get the Ferengi face into focus again.

“Aw come on Garak, a big, strong Cardassian like you? I'm sure you'll think of something.”

Clapping Garak on the back and striding to the back of the room to serve his costumers before he could reply, Garak had the distinct impression that he had just been had. Oh well. Even he couldn't be razor sharp under the influence of almost a full bottle of Romulan ale.

He stood for a while watching his young friend, and seriously considered leaving him there for Quark to deal with. But eventually he decided it would probably be best for the young man to sleep it off in his own bed. Cursing his own soft heart, he heaved Bashir out of the stool and draped his arm over his shoulders. Locking the arm tightly behind his neck and taking a firm hold of the fabric at the waist of the dreadful uniform, he managed to keep them both upright, though the doctor's feet were being dragged behind them.

They progressed slowly, with several stops for Garak to overcome his bouts of dizziness and renew his grip on the limb human in his arms. Any other day he would have loved the opportunity to hold his doctor close like this, but he would definitely prefer himself sober and Bashir at least conscious.

About half way to the doctor's quarters, Bashir woke up and was apparently rather shocked at being upright. He thrashed suddenly in Garak's grip, making them both lose their minimal balance, tip over and smack into the bulkhead. Bashir slid down to the floor, while Garak just managed to stay standing at the cost of a rather hard bump to his shoulder. Blinking forcefully up at his companion and finally focusing his eyes, Bashir recognized the tailor, busy rubbing his shoulder.

“G'rak? Wha happnd?”

The slurred voice told Garak all too clearly that being awake was a very small improvement in the doctor's state. But at least now he could hopefully walk on his own.

“Quark asked me to take you home. I'm afraid you passed out after the talmor.”

Trying and failing to get to his feet, Bashir flopped back against the bulkhead and Garak sighed when he realized the doctor would be very little help getting himself home.

“Whe're we?”

“About half way between Quark's and your quarters.”

Bashir's head fall back against the bulkhead again with a clear grimace of frustration.

“Damn...”

As drunk as he was, Garak did notice that something was genuinely bothering his friend and immediately became worried.

“What's wrong doctor?”

Bashir blushed and mumbled something inaudible to Cardassian hearing.

“I'm sorry doctor, you'll have to speak up.”

Looking up at him with rather glazed eyes, Bashir finally managed to convey his predicament.

“I need... facilities. Urgently.”

Slowly catching on, Garak inquired:

“How urgently?”

A pained expression flared across the doctor's face and answered the question. Shaking his head a little to clear the fog in his brain, Garak steadied himself, and pulled the doctor upright with a tight grip under his arms. Relieved that the doctor was able to stand on his own when finally upright, Garak considered their options. Back to the bar or on to the doctor's quarters were both out of the question. The trip here had taken half an hour in itself. However, Garak's own quarters were just around the bend.

“Come on doctor. We'll go to my quarters.”

The relief washing over his friend's face convinced him that it was the right choice, even though he would have chosen a good deal more pleasant way of having the doctor visiting his quarters, had he had the opportunity otherwise.

Draping the doctor's arm over his shoulders again, he managed to keep them both moving all the way to their destination. Bashir's head lolled like he was about to pass out again, but his pressing need seemed to be keeping him conscious. All the better. Garak would much prefer not to have a mess in his quarters.

He let them both in and dragged his young friend to the bathroom. The human recovered quite a bit at the sight of the much needed room and quickly assured the tailor that he could manage on his own. Seeing Bashir still wobbly and slurring, but at least standing and talking, Garak allowed the door to be closed behind the doctor and dragged himself into his living room and collapsed on his sofa.

The room was still spinning annoyingly when his young friend emerged a while later, grasping the doorway and later the back of the couch for support as he made his unsteady way to it. Flopping down on the other end of the couch his head fell back just like the tailor's and they both sat for a while simply watching the ceiling dance.

“I'm nevr h'ving rom'lan ale 'gain.”

Garak snorted out a little laugh at the miserable tone of his guest.

“Neither am I. But cheer up doctor. You are the first person in a very long time to get me drunk.”

Fixing the Cardassian with a squinting stare, Bashir said rather miffed:

“You're not djrunchk. You don soun djrunchk...”

Still feeling dizzy and a little annoyed at the doctor's disbelief in his statement when he was being truthful for once, he rubbed his eyes and grumbled at the ceiling.

“My speech may not be impaired, but my balance and vision certainly is. Trust me doctor. You are watching a drunk Cardassian.”

Bashir edged closer, blinking at the tailor in the dim lights, trying to focus his eyes.

“Prove it.”

Garak looked at his swaying friend, just managing to sit up straight and keeping his eyes relatively focused.

“And how do you propose I do that, my dear doctor?”

Bashir grinned and his eyes widened in a drunken representation of his usual playful mood.

“Play a dzrinking game wif me!”

“What kind of drinking game?”

“I d'no... don Cardas'ns haf dzrining games?”

“If the concept of a drinking game is what I think it is, then no. Cardassians have no games with the sole purpose of getting more drunk than you already are.”

Bashir swayed closer.

“Then wha do you do when you're djrunk?”

Garak smiled and thought back to his youth on Cardassia.

“We sing. Tell stories. Dance. You know, I was quite a dancer in my youth.”

The doctor grinned at this information, clearly not believing it. Oh well. He would show his young friend some day.

“Don you evah play games?”

The older man considered for a moment pointing out just how much of a game their lunches were, but thought better of it. He was by no means sure his good doctor considered it even remotely the same kind of game as himself. And besides, he was pretty convinced that wasn't the kind of game Bashir was referring to. But why not play a little game with his friend now that he was here? What was wrong with a little casual fun every once in a while anyway?

And suddenly his woozy mind came up with just the thing to brighten up his dreary days for a while to come. As far as he knew, there was a very good chance the doctor's memory would be quite fuzzy the following day and if not, Garak's abilities at subterfuge could probably make the young human doubt his own memory enough to get away with quite a bit in the fog of intoxication.

Sitting up and facing his guest, he moved carefully closer with a smile. The room was still spinning dangerously, but he managed to keep hold of his balance and seat himself so close to the doctor that their knees touched.

“Actually, we do play games. Word games mostly. But in this condition, we would hardly do them justice. However I do have one game we could try if you like?”

Bashir's face lit up with excitement and he sat up a little straighter.

“Yeah, I'd luv to tjry.”

Carefully keeping his face casual Garak kept a close eye on his friend's face and his reactions.

“It's called Shimei Cutal. Do you know of it?”

“Nevah heard 'f it.”

Letting out a silent sigh of relief, Garak smiled and licked his lips nervously. He felt very naughty and hoped the doctor never figured out what he had gotten him into.

“It's very simple doctor. Just do to me what I do to you.”

Taking the doctor's hands and turning them palms up, he drew slow circles inside them with both his forefingers simultaneously. After a short while, he held his hands out to Bashir, so he could do the same. A bit out of sync and still swaying, but it made the tailor smile, so the doctor was convinced he was doing it right.

Garak's fingers travelled up the arms at his turn, drawing lazy circles all the way over that horrid uniform. Bashir's eyes slid closed and he smiled. When Garak moved away he started as if he had forgotten he was supposed to repeat the gesture, but he got to it eagerly. Stopping at the very edge of the shoulders like Garak had, he was pleased to hear his friend sigh quietly.

Moving in just a little closer, Garak very slowly traced the contours of the human face where Cardassian ridges would have been, using both hands and making Bashir squirm as he brushed his eyelashes. Locking his hands tightly in his lap, Garak held his breath as his turn came. The doctor moved in very close and gently traced the ridges around his eyes, along his jawline and up his nose. Garak couldn't suppress a shiver as the very warm fingers traced his inverted drop shape on his forehead.

“How 'm I doin?”

The slur was so close to Garak that a very hot breath washed over his forehead, making his drop his jaw and a small whimper escaped him.

“You ok?”

Swallowing forcefully Garak was able to respond, although his voice was rather shaky.

“I'm perfectly fine, thank you doctor. I was simply taken aback by your skill at this game. Are you sure you've never played it before?”

The doctor shrugged and nodded while pulling away, waiting for what came next. Garak felt quite flustered and decided that maybe it was best if he changed the pace a little.

“Well, I'd say it's just about your turn now.”

Bashir looked puzzled.

“My turn... f'what?”

“Your turn in the game of course. Now you do something to me and I repeat it on you.”

The doctor furrowed his brow, clearly having no idea what was expected of him.

“Like what?”

“Anything you like.”

“Wha's the point 'f the game? How d'you win it?”

Garak paused. How to explain the point of the game without giving away too much? He hitched on his most friendly smile, hoping to glaze over certain facts about the game enough that the doctor wouldn't ask further.

“Well there is no real winner or loser in this game. It's merely a matter of... enjoying oneself. Experimenting.... Exploring...”

A glimmer of understanding flared in the drunken depths of his friend's eyes and for a moment Garak seriously feared he had let on too much.

“Sooo.... I c'n tjry anythin I wan?”

This statement did nothing to calm Garak. Actually it sounded rather disconcerting.

“Anything within reason, yes. As long as it's... enjoyable.”

His reply produced a glowing smile and a wicked glint in the eyes of his guest and Garak had to fight hard not to pull away when two eager human hands reached out towards his face. To his intense surprise however, the hands continued to his hair, rested there for a few seconds and then simply ruffled it up vigorously. Bashir was obviously enjoying himself. Perfect. Garak relaxed and performed the same act on the shorter human hair, producing no where near a similar effect. The Cardassian looked very much like something fresh out of a storm.

The doctor grinned and quickly moved on to new ground. Taking Garak very much by surprise, he leaned in close and rubbed their noses together several times. The older man paused for a good while before returning the gesture. Having that smooth face so close was practically torture, but Garak couldn't remember having enjoyed himself this much in years. His good doctor was certainly the right person to revive this particular game with.

Tickling the tailor under his arms provoked no response and when his turn came, Bashir tried hard not to laugh, but failed spectacularly. The same move in the crook of the knee did however produce quite a lot of shivering in the Cardassian and only a mild squirming from the doctor. Encouraged by the reactions, Bashir's hands fluttered down and pulled the shoes off his companion and tickled the feet with no small amount of pleasure. Garak couldn't contain himself in the face of such a full out attack, and he let himself fall back on the couch and roar with laughter.

“You... 'gasp'... you wicked human!... Gah!! Hahahahaa! Stop! Have mercy on a poor old man!”

Bashir had been giggling manically during the whole thing and finally let the feet back on the floor with a very contented chuckle.

“You're not old.”

The quiet words killed whatever mirth the tailor was still expressing, and he fixed the doctor with a serious gaze.

“Yes I am. I'm more than twenty years older than you.”

Bashir laid himself back on the other end of the couch and regarded the Cardassian through half closed eyes.

“So? Doesn't make you old. Just 'older'.”

Suddenly worried that the doctor was sobering up enough to realize the situation he was in, Garak sat up carefully and tried to regain some of his composure. The doctor however toed off his boots and promptly placed his feet in Garak's lap, wiggling his toes eagerly.

“My turn. Go on. I dare you...”

He closed his eyes and sighed and Garak considered his options for a moment. So far no real boundaries had been broken. It was still very innocent. And even if the doctor was sobering up a bit, he was obviously still waiting for the game to resume. Also... Garak had to admit he was tempted beyond measure to touch his young guest as much as possible now that the opportunity was here. Even if it meant provoking a hysterical giggling fit.

Tickling very gently, he was surprised to hear the doctor sigh deeply and relax even more in his reclined position. Even tickling more vigorously only seemed to deepen his relaxation, so eventually Garak simply leaned back and gently rubbed the warm, slender feet. Forgetting all about the game and basically zoning out, he enjoyed the pleasant weight of the feet in his lap and for a second let himself forget how awkward things would be in the morning. He was jerked out of his comfortable state however, when he heard a mild snoring from the doctor.

Seeing his sweet young friend sleeping so relaxed and looking so innocent made his heart do flip flops in his chest and for the longest time he simply sat feasting his eyes on that beautiful face. After a while however, he decided he'd better get himself to bed too. The room was still sailing when he moved his head, so he would definitely be better off in bed.

Reluctantly, he gently removed Bashir's feet from his lap, immediately missing the warmth. With a sigh at his own unwise softness for this human, he fetched a blanket and carefully tucked the doctor in. Still drunk, he simply could not resist silently bending down and pressing a feather light kiss on the smooth forehead of the young man. Bashir mumbled in his sleep, but didn't wake up, to Garak's immense relief.

Feeling very old and pathetic, Garak finally dragged himself off to bed, only to lay awake for hours still, his mind replaying the night over and over again. When he finally did fall asleep, his dreams continued where his conscious mind would never dare go.

OoOoOoOoOoO

Bashir woke up with an urgent need to turn himself inside out and stumbled blindly to the bathroom to deal with it. Emerging shakily long minutes later clutching his pounding head, it finally dawned on him he was not in his own quarters... where was this? Oh, Garak's quarters. The night slowly came back to him. He remembered laughing a lot. It must have been a good buzz. What was that game again? Sham... Shay... Shee... something.

The computer informed him that it was 08.50 in the morning, station time. With a glance at Garak's closed bedroom door, the doctor decided he'd better let the tailor sleep. Settling instead for catching his friend later for lunch, he left Garak's quarters heading for the infirmary. He would need something for this headache, and considering the festivities the night before, he very much doubted he would be the only one with this particular complaint.

The hypospray administered by one of the very stressed out nurses on 'hangover duty' after the festival did lift his headache a little, but did nothing to clear up the remaining fog in his brain and the lingering taste of something recently dead in his mouth.

Outside the infirmary he met Major Kira on her way inside, wearing a facial expression not unlike his own minutes earlier. When she emerged again looking much relieved, he joined her when she revealed she was on her way to the replimat for a 'hangover special' as she called it. With the promise of at least clearing out the bad taste in his mouth, the doctor gladly accepted the offer of one for himself.

The very first sip of the fresh fruit drink produced a wonderfully clearing effect and Bashir immediately felt more alert.

“So how did the festival go? I'm afraid I missed most of it, thanks to the the Romulan ale...”

Kira smiled with a far away gaze.

“It's was glorious. The best festival in years.”

Settling her eyes back on the doctor, the Major smiled cheerfully.

“So what happened to you? One minute you were drinking with Garak in the bar, and then you were gone.”

Bashir winced at the thought of the bar making contact with his skull.

“Well we had quite a lot of Romulan ale and then we were stupid enough to try the talmor.”

Kira nodded with clear comprehension. Well she HAD warned the doctor about the talmor, but clearly her advice had been ignored.

“According to Garak I passed out, so he dragged me to his quarters.”

“Why his? Why not your own?”

Bashir avoided the Major's eyes.

“Well I needed to go somewhere rather fast...”

Thankfully Kira didn't enquire further and busied herself with her drink.

“Actually it turned out to be quite fun. Garak was a great host. I even convinced him to play a Cardassian game with me. What was that name... I can't seem to get it right. Sham...Shema Cata.... something or other.”

The Major's brow furrowed and she took a big gulp of her drink. In mid gulp however, her eyes widened and she threw half the liquid down the wrong pipe, resulting in violent coughing and watering eyes. Clapping her back, Bashir asked:

“Are you alright?”

Kira gulped in air like a dying fish and wheezed out a little laugh.

“I'm fine, I'm fine. It's just... please tell me the game wasn't Shimei Cutal?”

Throwing up his hands with a joyful expression the doctor exclaimed:

“That's it! That was the name. Do you know the game?”

The Major swallowed and grinned nervously.

“Well... I know 'of' it.”

Bashir sat up straighter with an excited face.

“Oh good, then you can tell me what it was about. Maybe my brain is just fuzzed over, but I'm still not quite sure what the point was... or maybe it was just too Cardassian like everything else Garak throws at me.”

Kira suddenly blushed and avoided her companion's gaze.

“Doctor... please don't take this the wrong way but... were you... decent...when you woke up?”

The doctor frowned, not catching on, but starting to worry.

“Well... yes, I was fully dressed if that's what you mean. Why would you ask that?”

His dread only increased when Kira bit her lip and finally met his eyes across the table.

“It's... it's hard to explain. Do you know what Shimei Cutal means in Kardasi?”

“No?”

“It means... it's impossible to fully translate, but the basic meaning is: 'touch, don't tell'. And it's usually only played by... well... children.”

Bashir wracked his brain trying to figure it out. And then suddenly it hit him. No... Garak wouldn't... and yet... it was exactly something sufficiently shocking and frustrating that Bashir briefly wondered why he was shocked at all. Rubbing his temples with a frustrated moan, he begged the Major.

“Please.... please don't tell me Garak convinced me to... play doctor?!”

Kira frowned.

“Is that what you humans call it? Never mind. Judging from your shocked face, I'm pretty sure we're talking about the same thing here.”

Bashir let his head fall heavily to the table.

“If it's that childhood game where you compare bellybuttons amongst other things, then yes.”

The Major suddenly giggled.

“Garak didn't show you his-?”

She didn't get any response apart from a half choked sound of horror and the scraping of the chair as Bashir stormed out of the replimat.


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