The chime of the door cut through Garak's brain like one of doctor Bashir's laser scalpels. Sitting up in his bed, he clutched his aching cranium in a vain attempt at keeping in the brain matter that was surely oozing out through his cracked skull. The chime went off again and an angry voice was added to the torturous noise.
“Open up Garak! I know you're in there!”
The doctor. Perfect. Surely he could heal this unspecified head injury. Garak carefully made his way out of bed, one hand still firmly clasped to his right temple where pain always seemed to settle after the wire was removed. Another angry shout outside the door made the room swim seemingly from the sound vibrations alone and also jerked him back to reality rather forcefully.
“Yes, yes! Enter!”
Just giving the command to open the door made his skull vibrate enough to cause an unexpected wave of nausea. He sat down heavily on his couch just as Bashir barged in.
“Garak, I want an explanation!”
Squeezing his eyes shut and pressing his temples, Garak resorted to begging.
“Doctor... whatever explanation I owe you, could you please be quiet for a minute, while I tend to my rather sore cranium?”
Bashir frowned and crossed his arms, but his voice did drop to regular levels.
“I'm not sure I think you deserve any kind of sympathy right now. After last night...”
Garak chose to ignore his all-too-loud friend for the time being and made his way to the replicator, still cradling his head.
“Rokassa Juice with pulp, 10% extra sweet, 5% extra salt.”
Even the slight 'bleep' of the replicator acknowledging his order was enough to make him wince. On his way back to the couch, where Bashir was still glowering, he fished out a vial from a drawer and carefully poured about half of the black liquid into his juice. The dark red juice immediately turned a rather murky green color that reminded Bashir of swamp lakes or sewage water.
Garak drained the glass in two large gulps and sat down again with a relieved sigh as he felt the pain lifting. Some knowledge from his past was still extremely useful. He would need more rest later to make sure the relief was permanent, but for now he would be alert enough to deal with the doctor.
“I'm not even going to ask what was in that vial.”
Putting on his usual overbearing smile, Garak finally turned to face the doctor, still standing by the end of the couch looking sour. His uniform and his hair was rumpled from sleep and his shaded chin made him look slightly scruffy. But still Garak thought he was magnificent. How was it possible for someone to look so glorious, even in the middle of a complete fit of righteous anger?
“Good, because I will probably never tell you.”
Settling his eyes on Bashir he simply watched and waited for whatever the doctor had come to throw at him. He had absolutely no intention of explaining himself or his actions of the night before and his experience had taught him that waiting patiently for information to be volunteered did half the work in itself. It was much easier lying about something when the person lied to had just given you the perfect basis for the lie. Making up things from scratch always presented greater risk.
“Garak, I'm sure I hardly need to tell you I'm very upset with you. How could you put me in such an embarrassing position?”
The Cardassian's face was a perfect mask of innocence as he settled himself more comfortably in the corner of his couch, willing himself to ignore his slight embarrassment at handling this confrontation with sleep-mussed hair, wearing only his pajamas and socks.
“And what position would that be exactly?”
“You know what I mean! Garak, I'm not in the mood to play this game! I want an apology and maybe if I'm lucky an explanation that won't be all lies for once!”
Garak frowned and let his voice dip into that slightly condescending tone he knew would drive his friend up the wall.
“First of all, doctor, I was not aware that we were playing a game. Secondly, I can't explain or indeed apologize for something if you don't tell me exactly what it is you seem to think I've done.”
Bashir's jaw dropped and his face was all disbelief as he threw out his arms and began pacing back and forth.
“You can't honestly expect me to believe you don't remember what happened last night?!”
The overbearing smile alone made Bashir grind his teeth with frustration.
“I never claimed I didn't remember, you did. And given the fact that we are so fundamentally different, you can hardly expect ME to instinctively know which part of a long and highly eventful night might have offended you.”
The doctor rolled his eyes and his arms dropped limply to his sides.
“So you want to drag it out of me. Fine. Might as well. You might actually learn a little something about humans.”
He sat down heavily on the couch exactly where he had been sitting the night before, laughing and slurring. He suddenly felt slightly unfair in his anger, but still. Garak had gone too far and they needed to talk about this.
“Garak, we humans have something called private space. When we meet new people, we stay at a certain physical distance to avoid making anyone uncomfortable by violating their private space, before we are better acquainted. You have never respected this. Not with me at least. I allowed your uncomfortable closeness at first because I assumed you didn't know about that particular human custom. Later on I considered you a friend and then the closeness wasn't uncomfortable anymore.”
He glanced at Garak, but his friend made no move to comment. So Bashir folded his hands in his lap and continued.
“But even so, there are still limits to how close I wish to be with someone. I cannot help but feel you tricked me somehow yesterday into invading my private space yet again. Only small children feel the need to explore the boundaries of their space, as they are not yet fully established. I know you find me young and na´ve, but even I have put such games as Shimei Cutal behind me.”
He paused, waiting for a reply. The silence hung heavily between them and Garak's eyes were as steadily fixed on Bashir as Bashir's were to the carpet. He hadn't expected the good doctor to discover the meaning of Shimei Cutal so soon, but then again, he always enjoyed when he was kept on his toes. And he relished the young human's company, even when he was angry. Perhaps even more so. At the very least it was great amusement in his otherwise bleak daily life to verbally fence with his friend, even if he had the upper hand so often that it was hardly a challenge. But this was once such rare challenge and he would certainly enjoy it to the fullest.
“I'm sorry, doctor, but I still fail to see where I offended you. I saw no signs of discomfort last night. You never objected or resisted. Indeed, you seemed to be enjoying yourself immensely!”
The anger surged through Bashir anew and he jumped to his feet, eyes blazing at his host.
“I was drunk! Considering how careful you usually are about drinking yourself, I have doubt that you are well aware of how easy it is to take advantage of someone who's judgement is impaired by alcohol!”
Again Garak's face was all innocent surprise.
“Take advantage of you? What kind of advantage could I possible take of you? I thought we agreed already that even if I was a spy, there is very little useful information I could gather from you, even if I wanted to.”
Bashir felt himself blush and started pacing again, keeping his face turned away in a vain attempt of hiding his unease.
“I know. And it leads me to only one explanation, which frankly scares me quite a lot.”
“And what would that be?”
Keeping his back to the Cardassian seemed like a good idea, but Bashir decided he wanted to read Garak's face, just in case he let something slip. Not likely, but if it happened, he certainly didn't want to miss it. He turned to face Garak, deliberately keeping his burning face calm, even though he knew it wouldn't fool him the least.
“That you tried to... well... seduce me.”
He had meant it to come out accusingly and loud. Instead the last two words came out squeaky and shaky, like he was a teenager again asking some girl out on a date. Right then he really hated Garak for making him feel so insecure.
Garak, for his part, was in fact quite surprised that the doctor was so direct about it. He had thought such a sensitive subject would mean a lot more sneaking around the core of the conversation, not to mention all that delightful prodding to get Bashir to say the things that were usually too embarrassing for him to talk about. But it was still a challenge and he relished it even more for its unexpected turn.
His face betrayed none of this, of course. Not like the doctor, blushing absolutely adorably and averting his eyes like a youngling being courted. As uncomfortable as he claimed to be, the doctor's body language betrayed his every feeling and everything Garak saw confirmed his suspicion that Bashir was indeed as much flattered as he was angry. A useful piece of information. Garak let his voice drop a notch, giving his reply a sultry touch.
“And if I did?”
He hadn't thought the doctor could possibly blush any deeper, but he did, and his gibbering clearly indicated that he had not expected that particular answer.
“I... you... I mean... tha-that's not the point! No matter what you wanted, I was still in no position to refuse if you crossed my boundaries!”
Downright denial was often less effective than small twists of truth. And the good doctor was always generous with information that could easily be twisted exactly to fit any lie Garak wanted to convey. Averting his eyes and pretending to pick some fluff off the back of the couch, he spoke casually, not quite abandoning his sultry implying tone.
“Doctor, what exactly do you remember about last night?”
The reply came immediately and harshly.
Garak's eyes flew to back to the doctor, piercing him with a burning stare.
“Are you sure?”
The blush turned to paleness faster than even he had ever imagined possible and he could clearly see the human brain going into a complete frenzy behind the smooth forehead. Despite the doctor's certainty, his always logical mind did all the work for Garak and as he had expected, a hint of doubt suddenly crept onto Bashir's face.
“You... you wouldn't...”
Garak jumped at the virtual jugular suddenly exposed to him.
“Wouldn't I? Didn't you yourself come here with the assumption that I had already overstepped your boundaries? If you believe I went that far, then why would it be so hard for you to believe I went further? Or indeed that you enjoyed it?”
“I-I... I would never...”
“Wouldn't you? Are you quite sure doctor?”
The look of pure shock on his friend's face did make Garak wonder if he had pushed it just a little too far. But if there was one thing he knew about the doctor, it was that he would forgive anything later. So for now he would enjoy watching Bashir mentally running in circles. Physically he was currently rooted to the spot, apparently stunned thoroughly by Garak's words.
After a few long minutes of frozen disbelief his shoulders slumped and he sat down heavily on the couch again, hiding his face in his hands.
“Garak... please don't joke about this. Did you go further than rubbing my feet last night?”
His tone of voice was so miserable that it cut like a knife through Garak's heart. His resolve crumbled and looking at his young, downhearted guest took a lot of the pleasure out of the verbal torture. Yet again cursing his soft heart, he let his mask shift to that of the comforting friend.
“No, doctor. I apologize for making you think otherwise, but you did burst into my quarters rather rudely, accusing me of... I hardly know what. And I suspect, neither did you.”
The doubt was still very prominent in the brown eyes suddenly scanning Garak's face for hints of untruth. When the silence was finally broken again, Garak had to use every shred of his famous self-control not to reveal just how shocked he was. Bashir's eyes were still locked on the ridged, grey face as he mumbled so low it was only just audible:
“I could have sworn that you kissed me...”
[And I could have sworn you were asleep, dear boy...] Despite his outwardly calm appearance, Garak had to pause for a second to gather his thoughts. Going for the option of ignoring the last words, he smoothly changed the subject.
“How did you discover what Shimei Cutal is?”
The doctor didn't seem to notice the abrupt change of subject. Either that or he was just as happy with it as Garak.
“Major Kira told me. I ran into her at the infirmary this morning.”
Letting his face crinkle with mirth, Garak did his best to make light of it, despite his still pressing unease.
“Ah. I never knew she could be so perceptive. But then again, she has dealt with plenty of Cardassians in the past.”
Not having anything to say to that, Bashir fell silent again. Still tired and hung over, Garak didn't see any reason to go out of his way just to fill a quiet room with small talk. In retrospect, he wished he had. Bashir's mind was obviously still mulling over last night's events and would apparently not be ignored.
The quiet words made Garak's gut clench, but he was determined not to volunteer anything.
“Did I... what?”
The doctor was surprisingly at ease all of a sudden. The blush gone and his eyes fixed on Garak with a calm but intense look that made his heart skip a few beats and distracted him badly from his train of thought. Even the soft voice alone was enough to make the heat rise unexpectedly in him.
His thoughts whirled around. What could he say? He should deny everything right now, before something incredibly foolish happened. But his sweet young friend sat there with the most open and innocent face, not looking the least bit angry or even uncomfortable. It was so very tempting.
“What if I did?”
Garak was shocked to hear his own voice. He hadn't planned on saying that. He hadn't planned on saying anything. And was that really his voice sounding so croaking and unsure?
“Yes... what if you did...”
Garak closed his eyes to avoid that all too intense look directed at him. This was not how this was supposed to happen. Not that he had planned it exactly. But every once in a while when he was at his most lonely and depressed, he did let his mind run with the idea of pursuing the doctor seriously. He always pushed those thoughts down as far as possible, but they resurfaced with a vengeance when faced with such unexpected openness as his friend currently displayed.
In his fantasies he had certainly been better dressed and quite a bit more refreshed. So had the object of his desires for that matter. The brutal reality of the moment was staggering and he hardly dared open his eyes and face it. But he did, only to find himself caught by that piercing gaze, displaying only anticipation.
Oh damn it all. None of his fantasies had ever presented him with an opportunity as promising as this one. Had Quark spotted an opportunity this good, he would already be stacking his latinum. Time to bet it all.
“If I did... would you like me to do it again? Or would I simply be invading your private space?”
He had allowed himself to jest, but otherwise he kept his face open. Or as open as he was able to. No easy feat for a professional liar. He let his hope show and felt almost sick with worry as the doctor remained silent and pensive. But he wasn't running for the hills either.
Just as Garak began to consider breaking the silence and trying to save what was left of his pride, Bashir suddenly smiled very much like he did the night before when he ruffled Garak's hair.
“That depends on one thing.”
The surprise on Garak's face was very real and he was puzzled by the sudden mood change.
“Oh? And what would that be?”
To his amazement the doctor inched closer on the couch until they were almost nose to nose. And that wicked grin only grew as it closed in on Garak.
“I want to see your bellybutton!”
“I beg your pardon?!”
Bashir chuckled, obviously very pleased with Garak's slightly miffed response, and moved in just a little closer.
The mirth was contagious and Garak felt his walls crumble around him in the face of such youthful joy. He only had to reach out and take it. Instead he laid himself down on the couch and folded his hands behind his head with a sly smile.
“Very well. If you can find it...”
Predictably, it took several hours to locate said body part, although Bashir later swore that he often missed things right in front of his face for hours on end. And when the doctor eventually did leave Garak's quarters, the sated tailor simply stayed in bed, unwilling to part from the pure chaos they had left behind in the wake of their lovemaking.
It was absolutely nothing like he ever imagined. It wasn't perfect, smooth, controlled or any other thing he usually valued. It was frenzied, messy, occasionally awkward, but downright glorious. Drawing in the lingering scent of Julian Bashir on his pillow, he decided that sometimes a little chaos was just what the doctor ordered.
Major Kira was just leaving Quark's when she spotted Julian sauntering across the promenade. He looked if possible even more scruffy than he had when she saw him in the morning, but he was whistling! He must have gone somewhere else after talking to Garak, because he obviously hadn't been to his quarters yet. Calling out to him a few steps away, she was treated to a very goofy smile that made her wonder just who he had seen after Garak.
“Hey Doctor! How was Garak's bellybutton?”
Bashir sighed and turned away from her like he had already forgotten she was there. She was about to speak again when she heard him say in a dreamy voice:
The doctor was long gone before she recovered enough to move from the spot and she did seriously wonder if she needed her ears checked as she walked back to Quark's for something to dull the horrid mental image the doctor's single word had spawned in her mind.
Story Notes: Sequel to 'Drunk'.
My eternal gratitude goes out to my beta; PrelocAndKanar.
My eternal gratitude goes out to my beta; PrelocAndKanar.