Taking in Trouble

by Henrietta Wotton

The two moons orbiting Cardassia Prime stood high above the horizon, casting grotesque shadows onto the winding paths of the ruined Park of State Heroes. Now, a year after the end of the Dominion War, most of the rubble to which the planet had been reduced by the JemíHadar had been vaporized or recycled. The new ruling council had decreed that the blasted statuary of the looming war memorials here remain as they were, however. The purpose, the plaque at the parkís entrance stated, was "to remind all Cardassians of the consequences of our past." The only addition took the shape of a new statue, honoring Damar as the martyred leader of the Cardassian Resistance. It stood at the center point where all the paths converged. Surrounding it were a grove of bacherben bushes, their silver petals and waxy green-black leaves glistening in the moonlight.

Dr. Julian Bashir paused to contemplate the memorial, as the heavy, warm breezes of Cardassia Prime rattled through the foliage. Heíd often felt the urge to tear off his suffocating Starfleet uniform during the past five weeks that heíd been in the Cardassian system. Thankfully he was off-duty now. He had changed into the open-weave turquoise Tholian tunic and navy blue silk shorts heíd bought the last time he and Ezri had been on Risa. But he wasnít thinking of Ezri now, or of the victims of the Cardassian holocaust, but of his old friend Garak. More precisely he was thinking of a certain path their relationship had appeared destined to follow, and the detour it had taken instead.

Bashir had known from the minute they met that Garak was interested in a sexual relationship, and he had also known that there would never be one unless he himself made the first move. That he had not done, for a host of reasons, not least that someone with a very dangerous secret in his own past didnít need to invite the stepped-up Starfleet intelligence scrutiny that a liaison with a former Cardassian spy would inevitably bring about. Many times he told himself that he should simply back off from the friendship, since he wasnít prepared to take it through to a physical level. Jadzia used to chide him frequently about "leading poor Garak on," and he had to agree that she was right. Yet he had persisted in their lunches, a relationship by appointment only, feeling that the absence of any spontaneous invitations to get together on other occasions would give Garak fair warning that any further intimacy wasnít in the offing. Did Bashir himself desire further intimacy? He resolutely refused to consider the question, since it couldnít happen, no matter what he desired.

Then the secret of his genetic enhancements came to light, and everything changed. But Garak changed, too, mocking him as computer or Vulcan and spending ever more time with Ziyal. What did you expect, Julian, old man? he had thought. Itís the rare person who isnít put off by the idea of sleeping with some unnatural freak, re-invented in a laboratory. So he had taken comfort in the acceptance shown by Miles and both Daxes and consigned any longing for Garak to the category of transient fantasy.

Recently, however, that longing had ambushed him in a very odd fashion. After the Cardassian holocaust, Starfleet Medical had rushed in personnel to treat the survivors, and the Cardassians had at long last made all their medical, biological, and physiological databases available to outsiders. Bashir kept finding himself drifting away from the sections on infectious diseases and the effects of cold and hunger, and instead studying in great detail everything he could download on Cardassian sexuality. He recalled his surprise, given the strict Cardassian prohibitions against "non-procreative practices," that both Cardassian males and females came equipped with self-lubricating anal passages lined with highly sensitive nerve clusters quite as capable of producing pleasure as those found in their genitalia. What a waste! he mused. And then came the further realization: Youíve wanted nothing these past eight years, Julian Bashir, so much as to aim your dart squarely at the center of that inviting, round Cardassian backside of Garakís.

Bashir had cursed himself for arriving at this realization only after Garak had left the station, but he knew that physical distance wasnít the main obstacle to their becoming lovers.. He and Garak had in fact been together a number of times since Bashir had returned to DS9, leaving behind the tailor, spy and Resistance fighter to begin the mammoth task of restoring his devastated planet. The ruling council had appointed Garak its special envoy to Bajor, and he often came to the station en route to various contentious meetings with first minister Shakaar and the new Kai. Twice Julian and Ezri had joined him and Col. Kira for dinner.

No, it wasnít physical distance, it was emotional distance. Garak and Bashir had replaced their weekly lunch appointments with weekly subspace conversations. Yet Bashir always felt a certain awkwardness between them in these instances, as if they were going through the motions of having once been friends, but were friends no longer. This awkwardness convinced him that he had irretrievably lost the moment at which he and Garak might have consummated their relationship. Therefore, when the doctor was assigned to assess whether the Cardassian medical infrastructure had recovered sufficiently for Starfleet to reassign the many physicians, nurses, and health technicians it had stationed throughout the system during the past year, he almost hesitated to inform Garak that he would be "in the neighborhood." Bashir had considerable doubts whether the Cardassian would welcome him.

As it turned out, the doctor was glad he had informed him, because the announcement brought a warm invitation to visit Garak on Cardassia Prime if he could find time to take "a little vacation" between performing his inspections and returning to Deep Space Nine. The Garak who greeted him at the spaceport, however, was the same distant Garak of the subspace chats. He had no sooner taken Bashir to his house and shown him the guest quarters, than he announced that he would be involved in long discussions with a Klingon delegation until late into the evening.

Bashir had killed some time exploring Garakís new dwelling. The Federation had rebuilt the house of Enabran Tain upon its old, ruined foundation, an acknowledgment of his friendís great service during the Dominion War. Theyíd worked from the original plans, but Garak complained that "Federation utilitarianism" had crept into the design, and that the beauty of the original had been lost. Julian studied the architecture carefully, so as to be prepared for the debate about the Federationís lack of taste that would no doubt accompany their dinner. Then he took a very long sonic shower, changed into his civvies, and, feeling restless and not a little apprehensive at soon being alone with Garak, went for a walk that brought him here to the memorial park. Part of him felt that he had judged correctly, that it was too late for intimacy. Another part, though, more stubbornly hopeful than the first, knew that it wasnít only the Cardassian heat that had made him put on this particular outfit.

"Hey, Terran, want some scales?"

Bashir jumped. It was as if someone had just been reading his thoughts. The voice came from behind the bacherben thicket. Bashir instinctively reached for his phaser. Garak had warned that the catastrophe had obliterated the once vaunted safety of Cardassian streets. "Whoís there?" he called out in his sternest tones.

"Donít ruffle yourself. This studderís no robber." Two figures emerged from the shadows. Both had unkempt, shoulder-length hair and nearly identical height, build and features. They looked to be only a year or two past puberty. That they were a boy and a girl became apparent only from the trousers on the one who was speaking, and the dress on the one who was not. As they slowly approached him, the boy kept talking in what were obviously meant to be seductive tones.

"Any sport that appeals, we can do." He grabbed his crotch and gyrated suggestively. At the same time, the girl fondled her breasts through the thin material that revealed her utter lack of undergarments. "Want a girl, Moxh is game. Want a boy, Kadz is ready. Or weíll do each other and let you watch. Only one strip of latinum. Want us both, thatís just another strip."

Bashir gazed at them horrified. They were little more than children. Heíd read about abandoned urchins selling themselves on city streets on hundreds of worlds throughout hundreds of centuries, but he had never come up against the sordid fact of it like this. All he wanted to do was get away from them. "Sorry, not interested," he said, turning and heading swiftly for the path out of the park.

But the boy ran after him, persisting in his sales pitch. "You know youíre curious how the Cardies do it. We always leave our sports satisfied." He stationed the girl in front of Bashir, blocking his way, and began to raise her dress over her head. "Donít go before you see what youíre missing," he cajoled, giving the doctor a lewd wink.

"I told you I was not interested," Bashir repeated, pushing both of them aside. As a result, the girl lost her balance and fell, triggering a spasm of gasping and coughing. The doctor halted, raising her to her feet and taking a good look at her for the first time. Her eyes were red, and the tips of the scales on her neck looked white and brittle. Heíd seen the symptoms often enough in the Federation resettlement centers for homeless Cardassians. In the crowded conditions a fairly minor respiratory virus had mutated into a potentially fatal disease. Many Cardassians had perished before a combined Federation-Cardassian research team developed an anti-viral agent.

"Listen," Bashir said to the boy, "your friend--"

"My sister, my pouch mate.. Pretty game sportiní with two of a kind, eh?"

"Your sister is very ill." Bashir resolutely put to one side the fact that the boy had offered to "do" his twin for a customerís amusement. "She shouldnít be out... sporting... in her condition."

"Donít ruffle. Kardasi sick-bugs donít bite Terrans."

"Some of them do, as a matter of fact." Bashir couldnít suppress a grin at the boyís expression of medical certainties. "But youíre right, azmeri fever doesnít jump from Cardassians to humans."

"How do you know?" Kadz asked suspiciously.

"Iím a Federation doctor, and Iím telling you that you should get your sister to the nearest hospital immediately."

"Oh, no. Hospitals donít take accies, Ďless itís to cut us up." The boy grasped his sisterís hand and began to lead her back to their lair behind the statue.

Suddenly Bashir found himself doing the following, as he pursued the retreating pair. "Wait. What do you mean? What are accies?" His universal translator didnít seem to be coping very well with the boyís slang-filled street patois.

Kadz stopped and looked at him as if he were extremely stupid. "Acci-dentals, you know." Bashir shook his head, still not comprehending. "Kids not meant to be born, accies with no parents," the boy explained with a world-weary air.

Ah, now Bashir understood. Garak had long ago told him that children without parents had no place in Cardassian society. Somehow the doctor had never considered thoroughly just how appalling the end results of such a social policy could be. "Well at least take her home, put her to bed with lots of blankets, and give her plenty of liquids to drink."

"How long you been on Prime, Fedder, you think accies got homes and blankets?" The boy inquired sarcastically. "Half the gitters is homeless these moons. Me and Moxh live in those bushes there. And weíd best go back to them and wait for some sport thatís eager."

"She could die if she doesnít get the proper care, " Bashir implored. "Back where Iím staying, Iíve got some medicines that can help her. What do you say, Moxh? Will you come with me?"

"She might, for the overnight rate," Kadz replied, his expression showing renewed interest in the possibility of profiting from the "Fedder."

Bashir had to restrain himself from punching the insolent street urchin in the mouth. "I want to help Moxh, not sleep with her. And Iím talking to your sister, not you. Let her answer," he insisted.

"Canít. Doesnít talk. Doesnít hear. Born that way. But Kadz takes care of her, he does."

Take care of her, by turning her into a whore? Bashir thought to himself. Could the situation get any more dismal, he wondered, torn between pity and revulsion. "Fine. Iíll pay the overnight rate. Both of you just follow me."

"Thatís more like it, sport. Good time guaranteed. Coulda saved lots of time if youíd just said you wanted to do it at home in the first place, though," Kadz said in reproachful tones as he fell in behind the doctor with his sister in tow. Bashir ignored him, except to sigh a very deep sigh.

"Tell your sister to lie down on that sofa there," Bashir instructed Kadz, once heíd accomplished the considerable feat of getting Garakís multi-access-code-encumbered front door to open and ushered the two young people into the Cardassianís living room. "Iíll go get my medical bag."

Retrieving the bag from the guest room, Bashir also picked up a blanket that was folded at the foot of the bed. When he came back to the living room Kadz was sitting cross-legged in the center of the room, while Moxh had herself posed seductively on the couch, totally naked. Just as Bashir had suspected. It was the reason heíd brought the blanket. The doctor quickly covered her with it, took out some of his medical scanners, and began his examination. He immediately ascertained that his diagnosis of azmeri fever had been correct, so he filled a hypospray with the antiviral agent and put it to her neck.

"Donít have to drug her up to make her willing," Kadz offered. "Unless playing doctor gets you excited."

"Look, I am not playing doctor. I am a doctor. I am treating your sister for an illness, and I have no intention of having sex with her."

"Sure, sure," the boy replied, totally unconvinced. His sister was evidently of the same mind, because she grabbed Bashirís hand and pulled it under the blanket to rest on her breast. He snatched it away and turned to the boy. "Please tell her just to lie still and keep her hands to herself."

"If thatís the way you like it," Kadz said, making gestures in his sisterís direction. "Sheíll be as quiet as the dead now."

Bashir leaned down and ran his scanner over the boy, who amazingly showed no infection from the virus. He refilled the hypospray and pressed it to Kadzís neck. "Hey, hey," the boy squealed, rising to his feet and putting several meters between himself and Bashir. "Kadz donít need drugging up either."

"This will simply help prevent your catching what Moxh has," Bashir reassured him. "Now, why donít you come into the kitchen and get something to eat while I finish my examination."

"Thought youíd want privacy at some point."

Bashir stifled an angry response and led the boy to the replicator in the adjoining kitchen. "Just tell the computer what you want."

"Heard of these. Never used one." For the first time, the boy actually seemed somewhat uncertain of himself. "Two zabu steaks?" When they materialized, he jumped back a few centimeters, then laughed and removed the food to the table. "A dozen regova eggs. A larish pie. A cup of yamok sauce. A bottle of kanar."

"Thatís quite an appetite you have," Bashir grinned.

"Got to save some for Moxh."

"Iíd go easy on the kanar, though. Arenít you a little young for that?"

"Been drinking it since I got my second molars. Moxh too. Helps on cold nights."

"Well, cheers and bon appetit, then," Bashir said darkly. The boy only raised a quizzical eye-ridge and fell to with relish. The doctor returned to his patient.

Moxh was indeed lying as motionless as the dead. Bashirís scanner hummed as its data readouts told the depressing story. Malnutrition, no surprise. Complete absence of the auditory nerve, a congenital deafness that no advanced medical wizardry could fix. A number of ulcers and topical infections, a secondary effect of the azmeri fever. He pulled down the blanket and treated each one in turn with a sonic debrider and a dermal regenerator. There was a particularly nasty accumulation of peccant matter around the hinge of her birthing pouch, and after he had cleaned it out, he knew why. The two lips of the pouch were still about a centimeter apart. Bashir cursed inwardly, tried to give the girl a smile that conveyed reassurance, and charged straight ahead to where Kadz was wolfing down his feast.

"Your sisterís had a baby recently. Where is it?" Bashir hissed.

"Mff," Kadz hastily swallowed half a regova egg. "Donít ruffle. Came early, came dead," he responded matter-of-factly. He took a mouthful of kanar and looked up at the doctorís scowling face. "Good thing. Saved me getting rid of it. My mate Zanto showed me with his girlís first acci, how to cover up the nose and mouth till it stops breathing, but turned out I didnít have to."

"Iím sure you were terribly disappointed at not being able to show off your skills at infanticide." Bashir made no effort to conceal his disgust.

The boy glanced away, but not before the doctor thought he spotted a flicker of genuine emotion in the until-now hard, bright eyes and belligerent features. "No. Wasnít looking forward to it." Then Kadz glared back at him in defiance. "Would have done it, though, donít you doubt it. No choice in bad times. But Moxh would have been hard to manage after. Had herself set on keeping it. Must have caught some of our mo-moís soft-headedness. I mean," he continued expansively as the kanar took effect, "Can you grab it, two accies at once, and the girl a dummy besides, and she donít throttle either?" The boy shook his head in bewilderment and took another drink.

"Where is your mother now?" Bashir asked.

"Gone. One, two moons after the Jemmies came. Went out to find sporters, never came back. Maybe she got grabbed by sec, maybe she got cracked by a bad one, maybe she found a keeper with no taste for accies hanging around."

"Surely you donít imagine that your mother would just abandon you to become some manís mistress?"

"Why not?" Kadz shot back. "Moxh and me was earning our keep. Good for mo-mo, if she finds a keeper Ďfore her sporting days are over."

In the unforgiving street life the boy had been born into, his sentiments were perfectly logical, Bashir reflected. The fewer children born into such a life, the better. "Iím going to give Moxh another injection, one that will make sure she doesnít have any accies for at least a year," he told the brother.

"You got that stuff, Fedder?" For the first time, Kadz seemed to take him seriously as a doctor. "Ara Beldon on Kheramka Square sells it, but most of us studders canít pay her price."

"Itís free of charge from me," Bashir returned with a smile. "You finish your meal here, and Iíll go inject your sister with the contraceptive and offer her a few eggs and a slice of pie. Then Iíll give her something so she can sleep--alone."

When Bashir returned to the girl, sheíd made a good start toward falling asleep without requiring any of his healing arts. Her eyes were half closed and her breathing regular. He put the hypospray to her neck and then shook her gently. She blinked and flashed a sleepy smile. The provocative seductress was nowhere to be seen. This was only an exhausted child. Bashir helped her sit up and offered her the plate. She snatched at it eagerly and began cramming in the food with both hands. The doctor patted her on the head and turned back toward the kitchen to keep his eye on Kadz.

Kadz had left the kitchen, however, and Bashirís eyes met the boy striding toward him, barechested, his tunic cast over one shoulder.

"If youíve not jumped Moxh yet, Iíd say itís the boys that gets you worked up, eh, Fedder?" the young Cardassian smirked, as he sinuously stepped out of his trousers. "Kadz is ready to pay for the meal, he is." He displayed himself front and back to Bashir. "Is the coin to your liking?"

"Donít be ridiculous. Put your clothes back on at once!"

"Youíve not said how the scales and ridges strike your fancy." The boy had moved to within half a meter and was undoing the fasteners on Bashirís shorts. Whatever protest the doctor was preparing to make next died in his throat, however, as the door slid open and Garak walked in. Good God, there go my hopes for a romantic evening, the doctor thought, dismayed.

"Uh . . . this isnít what it looks like, Garak." Bashir stammered. The Cardassianís understandable expression of surprise had not turned into amusement at Bashirís plight, as the doctor had expected. His features were tight with anger, more naked anger than Bashir had ever seen him display. He hurriedly poured out further explanation, "Or rather it is what it looks like but... you see Kadzís sister there has azmeri fever and when I brought her here for treatment, Kadz got the wrong idea and... oh, for heavenís sake, Kadz, put your clothes back on."

Still Garak stared at the two of them in anger and did not speak. The tense situation did nothing to curb the ever-voluble Kadz, however. "Didnít tell me you had a keeper, Fedder," he said as he lazily stepped into one trouser leg, "And a jealous one too, by the look of him."

Garak fixed the boy with a malevolent stare of the most icy imaginable blueness. "I am not Dr. Bashirís keeper. He and I are old friends, and I am offering him my hospitality while he is on Cardassia Prime as part of his duties to Starfleet Medical." The words were all cordiality, the tone all threat.

Kadz appeared oblivious to the danger. "Sure, sure, all you twofie gitters got some story." He finally pulled his trousers all the way up, but, remaining shirtless, approached Bashir and draped himself over his shoulders. "Youíre a bit of an old one to keep him all to yourself," the boy remarked to Garak. "Sure youíre not going to rob him of a nice young pretty like Kadz. You can always join the fun too, or just watch, if thatís your sport."

Bashir hastily disengaged himself. "Kadz, how many times do I have to tell you that youíve got this all wrong--" Suddenly Garak sprang, like a razorcat, grabbed the boy by the shoulders and shoved him up against the far wall. "Dr. Bashir is in no mood for your street boy impudence, and neither am I," he hissed. "Is that understood?"

Kadz thrashed and kicked in Garakís grasp, earning a knee to his groin. He gasped in pain and fell still. "Is that understood?" Garak repeated. The boy nodded vigorously, eyes wide and struggling for breath. Garak continued to hold him pinned to the wall, a look on his face that reminded Bashir of Milesís account of the time Garak had lost his reason on Empok Nor. The doctor moved to the Cardassian and put his hand on his shoulder. "Garak," he said, trying to sound calm. "Let him go."

Garak took a couple of deep breaths and then favored Bashir with his customary urbane smile. "Of course, doctor." He released his hold, ambled over to a chair, sat down, and crossed his legs, the picture of casualness. Yet Bashir saw clearly that he was trembling with rage.

Kadz had scurried over to where his tunic lay on the floor. He pulled it over his head, retrieved his sisterís dress, and then grabbed Moxh up off the couch, where she had huddled in terror while the confrontation was in progress. "Canít say that Kadz stays where heís not wanted," the boy whispered to Bashir as they headed for the door.

"You canít go," Bashir implored him. "Moxh still needs more treatments." Kadz glanced sideways at Garak and shook his head. Bashir turned to Garak also. "Please, Garak, sheís very ill."

"She may stay if you think it best, doctor." The Cardassianís tone hardened. "But not him."

The boy shook his head again. "Kadz and Moxh is a team--unless youíre meaning to keep her. Kadz wouldnít stand in her way, if you make it worth his while."

"Youíd sell us your sister, just like that?" Bashir exploded, but Garak rose calmly and addressed the boy. "Wait here," he said. He disappeared into his bedroom and emerged a minute later carrying a bar of latinum. "I think this will more than compensate you."

"No lies!" Kadz exclaimed, his eye-ridges rising half way up to his hairline. "Just let me give Moxh the score." He began to communicate with his sister in their private sign language, at some length. She nodded several times and signed back briefly. "Sheís game," the boy said to Bashir and Garak and then walked out of the house without looking back. Moxh returned to the couch, crawled under the blanket, and appeared to settle down for a nap. No teary good-byes, no last embraces, just a business deal concluded to the satisfaction of all parties. A Ferengi couldnít have done it better, thought Bashir.

Garak rubbed his hands together and turned to his friend, all smiles. "Ah, now that weíve settled that delicate matter, Iím taking you out to dinner. Thereís a charming restaurant at the Federation recreation compound on the third moon of Cardassia Five-- the place all the dedicated relief workers repair to when the dust and the stench become too much for them. We heroes of the Cardassian Resistance have honorary guest privileges, of course."

Bashir stared at him in disbelief, at the mood change, at his decision to act as if nothing out of the way had happened. "But Garak, surely you donít think we should go off and leave the girl here alone?"

"Of course we should. Sheís asleep already, probably wonít even realize weíre gone. Sheíd doubtless prefer not to be disturbed by strangers in any event."

Bashir would have thought it impossible for Garak to grow any more inscrutable than he had been on the station, but clearly it had happened. The doctor had no idea what could be motivating him to treat the presence of a naked and feverish child prostitute on his living room couch as a matter of no importance. But heíd violated Garakís hospitality by bringing the two of them here in the first place, and he had no choice but to go along with what his host had planned. "I suppose I should change clothes before we go to this restaurant," Bashir asked, "something a bit more formal?"

"That would be appropriate," Garak concurred. "Oh, and while youíre changing, my dear doctor, a cold sonic shower would also be advisable." His gaze halted deliberately at the decided bulge barely masked by the silk shorts.

"Uh, right, it wonít take a minute," Bashir replied, blushing furiously.

"Take all the time you need, doctor," Garak purred.

They travelled to the moon in the runabout that the ruling council had assigned to Garak to facilitate his diplomatic efforts. All the way there, and through the appetizers, and the main course, and the dessert Garak made relentless small talk. He regaled Bashir with pointed barbs about Klingon intransigence and Bajoran grudge-holding and inquired about Kira and Ezri and Miles and the recent progress of the Sisko baby. Bashir numbly returned equally superficial answers, feeling more and more that he was in one of his holosuite programs talking to a mere simulacrum of his Cardassian friend. The doctor waited for some acknowledgment of that rage he had seen in Garakís eyes hours before and some kind of explanation for it. None was forthcoming.

Finally, on the return trip, he brought the subject up himself. Walking back from the replicator with a cup of Tarkalean tea in hand, he said. "Iím sorry for bringing those street children into your home, Garak. I never should have done it without your permission."

"No, you should not have, doctor. But when you see healing to be done, you donít ever stop for social niceties, do you? At any rate, thereís no permanent harm done."

"You certainly seemed angry at the time."

"That little verminís insolence could try anyoneís patience. I was angry at him, not at you," Garak replied, in a manner that suggested there was nothing more to say.

Bashir tried another tack. "You know, those two have very odd names. Kadz and Moxh donít sound like any Cardassians Iíve ever encountered."

"They arenít names in the ordinary sense of the term. Sometimes these trash havenít even been given a name, just dumped on the street with no identity. Most of them usually pick up some slang nickname and use it, as our young visitors have," Garak chuckled.

"Why do you laugh?" the doctor asked, perplexed at Garakís complete lack of feeling for the twinsí plight.

"ĎKadzí and ĎMoxhí are particularly vulgar street terms for male and female genitalia."

Bashir practically choked on his tea. "My God! I suppose they believe in truth in advertising."


"That slang of Kadzís is pretty impenetrable. Half the time I didnít know what he was talking about. When he called us "twofie gitters," for instance."

Garak let Bashirís comment hang in the air for several seconds. To explicate it apparently meant committing himself to discussing the incident in depth, and the doctor had concluded from all the eveningís evasions that he decidedly did not want to do so. Garak shifted in his seat uneasily. At length he spoke in subdued tones, staring out the view screen. "A twofie gitter is a bisexual of legitimate birth, the class of men that makes up the bulk of Kadzís clients, the class to which the boy erroneously presumed you and I belong, doctor." Then the Cardassian sucked in his breath and looked Bashir in the eye, "At least I presume that he is in error?"

"Garak, you canít believe that I wanted that boy, that I brought him back with me for any other purpose than to help his sister?" Bashir hadnít expected the conversation to take this turn.

"No, I never thought that," Garak smiled enigmatically.

"I know thatís what it looked like when I became aroused," Bashir rushed on. "But I can assure you I felt no attraction for him whatsoever."

"Of course you didnít. Kadz makes his living arousing the bodies of men who have no attraction whatsoever toward him. Iím sure his hands are very skilled--"

"No, Garak, it wasnít like that--"

"I once knew a pain technician in the Order, Groblo," Garak continued, as if he hadnít heard the doctorís denial. "He had grown up like Kadz, servicing men on the streets. Sometimes when interrogations were dragging on and getting nowhere, heíd put down the instrument, pass his hands over the subjectís body a few times, and bring him to arousal and climax, just like that. These were men in agony, mind you, an agony this fellow had inflicted. Yet he could get their bodies to respond just as if the touch were that of a lover rather than a torturer. Groblo said these little exercises of his helped ease the tension. Although Iím afraid I always thought them in questionable taste. An interrogation room is no place for parlor tricks, wouldnít you agree, doctor?"

"Iím afraid I have little use for anything that goes on in Cardassian interrogation rooms," Bashir returned with some heat. Why had Garak told him this chilling anecdote? Was this his friendís revenge for broaching the subject of Kadz and his advances?

"I was simply trying to show you that I understood the effect our young visitor could produce," Garak explained amiably, "not to defend my former profession."

"Iím surprised that someone with an Ďacciísí background would be employed by the Order," Bashir pushed the point. "Youíve told me that these street children have no legitimate place in your society."

"Ah, the Order was always a special case. These accies have no scruples, as youíve seen. That can make them very useful as informers, assassins or torturers. Of course, there was never a question of trusting them with any of the higher-level activities, those involving sensitive state secrets. Anyone that would sell his mother--or his sister--without qualm, wouldnít hesitate to sell out Cardassia if the price were right."

Bashir nodded, but did not otherwise comment. The conversation was too depressing to continue. Apparently any hope heíd had of restoring his friendship with Garak to its previous level of intimacy had vanished at the moment Garak saw Kadz standing there naked. He set his teacup down and idly glanced over at the navigational array. They were only a few minutes from entering orbit around Cardassia Prime. It was going to be damned uncomfortable with the girl still there in Garakís house. Once the reality of her situation sank in, she was bound to get agitated, and neither of them even knew how to communicate with her. What a mess heíd made of things!

"Itís hard to believe that Moxh wonít panic when she realizes that her brother really has abandoned her for good," he said softly, thinking aloud.

"Oh, donít concern yourself about that," Garak replied while making some course adjustments. "He hasnít abandoned her at all. The minute we were out of sight, she will have opened the door for him, and the two of them will have spent an hour or so looting my house. I made sure to secure anything of real value, but youíll have to get Starfleet to reimburse me for a depleted replicator power unit, which Iím sure theyíve quite used up in provisioning themselves."

"What?" Bashir exclaimed. "How can you know that?"

Garak smiled one of his patented infuriating smiles. "Itís a very old street trick. Thatís how Mila ended up becoming Tainís housekeeper. Heíd brought her home for an eveningís pleasure and found her unconscious inside his front door the next morning, still grasping a bag full of the contents of his safe. Sheíd not anticipated his disrupter field that triggered every time anyone tried to exit the house without giving the proper security code. When she failed to divulge the identity of her accomplice, despite Tainís most persuasive entreaties, he decided that someone who could keep a secret that well might be of use to him. So he let her stay rather than turn her over to the security forces."

"So you think weíll return to find Kadz and Moxh unconscious inside your door?"

"Not at all, doctor. Weíll find them gone. I deactivated my disrupter field."

"But the girl is ill, she canít just go back to the streets," Bashir protested.

"Iím sorry to annul your generous impulse, but I canít allow either of those creatures to remain in my house. They will at least leave better-supplied for survival than when you found them." Garakís tone left no doubt that the subject was closed.

Bashir had no intention of letting the matter drop, however. Nevertheless, he judged that a slight change of tactics was in order. "You seem to know quite a bit about the way these Ďcreaturesí operate. Did Mila share the secrets of her past with you?"

Garak glared at him. "You are one of the most infuriatingly persistent young men I have ever met," he said. "No, Mila did not care to speak of her past with me, and no, I did not engage in long conversational sessions in which Order operatives who came up from the streets reminisced about the good old days." His features hardened, as he went on, "It was Tain who made sure that I was intimately familiar with the kinds of lives that children lived on the streets, so that I would appreciate what he had spared me by taking me under his protection. Of course, there was always the implied threat that he could send me out there to fend for myself if I didnít please him."

I should have suspected that Tain had something to do with this, Bashir thought. Whenever Garak starts behaving irrationally, it always seems to go back to Tain. "I can see why having those Ďacciesí in the house disturbed you then," the doctor murmured.

"Good, Iím glad you do--at last," Garak replied. "Now, weíve achieved docking orbit, and weíre going to beam down to my residence. I trust that as a thoughtful guest you will not bring up this subject again."

The place was a shambles, or at least the kitchen and living room were. (Garak had not disabled the security system that blocked off the other rooms with force fields upon attempted unauthorized entry.) As Garak had predicted, the replicatorís power cell was completely exhausted, the blanket and sofa pillows gone and every drawer opened and looted, with items of no interest tossed all about the floor. The Cardassian went back to his bedroom and returned with a replacement cell. "Doctor, if you would go into the replicator menu and reproduce my couch cushions and the blanket, Iíll tidy up the rest."

After the pillows materialized, the doctor repositioned them on the sofa. As he backed up to see if they were properly aligned, he inadvertently brushed his buttocks against those of Garak, who was bending over to pick up some of the items from the floor. The physical contact produced an overwhelming desire that astonished Bashir with its force. No matter how unpropitious the evening had been thus far, he had to disclose his true feelings to Garak.

The Cardassian was returning several PADDs to a drawer in his computer workstation. Bashir stepped in front of the desk and leaned forward. "Garak, it wasnít Kadzís skills that gave me an erection earlier," he began.

"My dear doctor, I told you I donít want to talk about Kadz any further," Garak said, his voice rising.

"Just hear me out. What aroused me was seeing how angry you were, how jealous of him, because that told me that you wanted me again."

Bashir saw a dozen subtle changes come over Garakís posture and features, as if he were a vessel that had suddenly lowered its shields. "Wanted you again, doctor?" he said in a whisper.

"You canít expect me to believe that you didnít want me once. But after you found out about--" Two elegant gray fingers were suddenly pressed to his lips. "Shh, shh. Iím not denying that I had once wanted you, I am telling you that Iíve never stopped wanting you." Garak caressed Bashirís lips with a brush of the fingertips and stepped back a few paces. "But am I now to understand that you want me?"

Bashir broke out into a broad grin. "Of course! Why do you think I brought this up?"

Garak cocked a skeptical brow-ridge. "And what do you think Counselor Dax will make of all this?"

"A month ago Ezri told me that she wanted to put our relationship on hold till I properly sorted out my feelings for Miles and for you. Now, the thought of making Miles my lover, it was ridiculous. I couldnít even begin to imagine myself in bed with him. When I thought about you that way, however, the scenario seemed perfectly logical. After all, for weeks before Iíd been reacting to Cardassian anatomical schematics as if they were pornographic pictures." Bashir stepped to the side of the desk while the Cardassian moved out from behind it to meet him. The doctor took Garakís head in both hands and kissed him hard, reveling in the leathery texture of the lips and then the sensations of the strong and agile tongue that soon thrust itself inside his mouth. At length the Cardassian broke off the kiss, and when Bashir caught his breath and leaned forward again, Garak pushed him back with a soft touch of his hand to the doctorís chest.

"Iíve thought about this moment for so long, my dear boy," Garak began a little hesitantly. "And Iím afraid Iíve constructed a rather elaborate ritual fantasy of how I would want us to begin. Will you humor me in this? I think youíll find it very pleasurable."

Bashir paused to consider for a split second. What would it be like to live out one of Garakís fantasies? Immediately the answer came, it will be bliss--you wouldnít have kept longing for him all this while if you didnít trust it to be so.

"I am completely at your disposal," Bashir replied, smiling. "Just tell me what you want me to do."

Garak took his hand and led him into the bedroom. "Why, doctor, I donít want you to do anything at all." The Cardassian helped him out of the white linen jacket Bashir had put on over the oatmeal colored, open-necked shirt that Garak had made for him for a birthday present when he turned thirty-five. He folded it neatly on a chair, then unbuttoned the shirt and slipped it off Bashir as well. Placing each of his hands on his partnerís shoulders, Garak applied to each a series of brief patting motions, as if he were straightening a garment on one of the mannequins in his tailor shop. He stared into the younger manís eyes with an expression of tenderness Bashir had never seen on his face before. Slowly one hand moved down Bashirís breast-bone and continued on to his navel, while the other massaged each of his vertebrae in turn. Bashir inhaled sharply at the intense and totally unexpected pleasure these motions produced in him. Soon Garak was covering him with light caresses to all sorts of places that Bashir had never considered very erogenous--the flesh inside his upper arms, the hollow at the base of his skull, his collarbones. With every touch the pleasure grew more and more exquisite. He moaned softly, and his legs felt weak. Garak put an arm around his waist to keep him from falling and guided him expertly to the bed. Bashir sat down and leaned back, balancing himself on his forearms and elbows. Garak deftly relieved him of his linen trousers, made a soft sound of surprise when he found no underwear beneath them, and then used a few vigorous strokes of his hands to relieve him also of the pressure that had built up in his eagerly awaiting cock. Bashir groaned with delight as he reclined fully on the bed.

"Did you find my little fantasy enjoyable?" Garak whispered as he leaned over and kissed Bashir lightly on the lips. Bashir reached up and pulled the Cardassian down beside him. "Indescribably so," the doctor said. He was, and was not, telling the truth. Certainly the pure physical sensations had been breath-taking. Garak was a master of technique. Yet there was something distant and remote about the whole experience--Garak making him stand there like a mannequin while the Cardassian remained fully clothed, receiving no stimulation himself, using only his hands, not his mouth or his cock. I suppose itís meant to be a special gift, giving all the pleasure and taking none yourself. And Garak does like to control situations. Still, Iíd expect any manís fantasy to involve pleasure for himself, first and foremost.

Bashirís own fantasies were definitely less refined and predicated on more mutual satisfaction. Well, his moment had arrived. "Now itís my turn, Garak," he said, breathing heavily. "I canít promise to do it quite so . . . artistically as you." His eager hands pushed up Garakís tunic till it gathered just above the breast ridge. Then he thrust his thumbs under the fourth rib bones on either side. There he felt the small patches of scaleless skin his research had told him were there.. He pressured the area again and again with his fingertips while his mouth worked the scales on Garakís neck-ridges. The Cardassian gripped him hard across the back and thrust his body up to meet his loverís touch. Bashir kept on until he felt Garak grow hard beneath him. He slid off the bed, pulling down the Cardassianís trousers and loincloth as he went. His tongue worked the delicate edges of the softer scales at the base of the cock while his hands returned to the even softer skin beneath the ribcage. "Ah... doctor... uhh..." Garak groaned, "I see... you... ahhh... studied the schematics... ohh... very well."

Bashir raised his head. "Elim, donít you think itís about time you called me Julian?"

"I think you have a point, Julian," Garak nodded and pushed the humanís head down to his crotch. Bashir took the Cardassianís cock into his mouth and slid his tongue up and down the shaft. "Oh, yesss, Julian, ohh yess," Garak repeated as he writhed beneath his lover, while gripping him tightly with strong calf muscles. His climax came quickly thereafter, all in a rush of gray foam that made Julian pull back a little as it streamed against the back of his throat.

Garak gave a contented sigh and released the grip of his legs, letting them dangle over the edge of the bed. The doctor rose to his feet, gratified that his efforts at pleasuring Garak had reinstated his own ability to act out his long-cherished fantasy, what he had been so impatient to do that all that had gone before seemed mere foreplay. He trembled at the thought of sliding his organ between the rippling scales that fanned out on both sides of the Cardassianís buttocks. Julian launched himself with a little spring onto the bed, rolled the panting Garak over, and climbed astride him, hands reaching inside the cleft--only to find himself flat on the floor a second later, expertly tossed off with one motion of Garakís left leg. He gave an inquiring look at his partner, wondering if this were some kind of Cardassian love play. Garak had sat up and was looking back at him with a serious expression. "No, Julian, there will be none of that," he said, calmly but firmly.

"None of what? Do you mean no fucking?" Bashir asked incredulously.

"Precisely. In Cardassian culture, no man would ever even consider fucking a man who was his equal. Such impulses are generally worked off with the assistance of little vermin like your friend Kadz."

Bashir clambered up and sat beside Garak. "It doesnít mean that in my culture at all. I had no intention of trying to assert my superiority over you. To me itís just the way of achieving complete closeness, getting inside your lover--figuratively as well as literally. If it will make you feel more comfortable, you can fuck me first."

"I would never take what I was not prepared to give, Julian." Garak sighed. "Because I have always kept my origins... mysterious... many of the Cardassian men with whom I became involved believed that they had a right to master me. None of them ever succeeded. It is a violation I could never allow, no matter how desperately I wished to satisfy a lover. The situation became so frustrating that I had resolved to restrict my sexual partners to women. Then I saw you sitting there in the Replimat, my dear boy, and my resolve evaporated. But even for you, this is something I cannot tolerate."

Julian struggled to hide his massive disappointment. He would not try to manipulate the situation by playing on Garakís fear of displeasing him. Now that they were finally lovers, the last thing he would risk was to hurt Garak through insisting on his own kind of gratification, no matter how fervently his cock was calling out for it. "I would never ask you to, Elim," he said, running his fingers through the Cardassianís sleek black hair and planting a kiss on his "spoon."

Garak responded by tracing the outline of Julianís right ear with his expert forefinger and flicking his tongue over the doctorís slightly parted lips, making the doctorís erection ache even more. "Donít despair, my dear. I can guarantee you that you will nevertheless not lack for pleasures while weíre together." And with that he bent down his head and proved his point.

Will Bashir remain content to have a no-fuck relationship with Garak?

Have we seen the last of Kadz and Moxh?

OF COURSE NOT! These questions are resolved in Part II, Letting in Love

DISCLAIMER: Paramount Pictures owns these characters and situations, except for the ones I made up.

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