It was never supposed to be like this. Elim Garak had taken all the necessary precautions, had sashayed carefully on the line between too much and not enough, had pushed the good doctor to distraction without ever allowing him to be sure of an invitation. Every move was calculated, from the first moment of feeling that dreadful Starfleet fabric under his fingertips to now.
Now, when the calculations were all wrong, did not add up to careful distance, when the teasing had become something decidedly less abstract.
“Elim,” gasped Julian Bashir against Garak’s ear and Garak did not know how they ended up here with Garak pinned against the wall in Bashir’s quarters as the human’s soft lips danced over his neck ridges peeping out over his high collar, breath ghosting against the scales turning velvety blue. He did not know how Julian knew his first name, how he understood that biting was more effective than kissing, how it was possible to shiver this much without breaking something.
“Elim, come with me?” Bashir said, a question more than a command as he pulled away from Garak, eyes dark with desire and voice rough with want.
Elim hesitated. He had never hesitated when such a thing was needed, never shied from doing what a mission required, no matter how filthy he felt afterward. But this—this was different. It mattered, somehow; with Julian, it mattered.
Noting his reluctance, Bashir stepped back. “Unless you don’t want this?”
Garak had no idea what it meant to want or not want this, to have one’s opinion on the matter heard, heeded. It had always been necessary, this fire that devoured, that scorched his scales as he scrubbed them after. But Bashir’s touch did not burn, did not sear him numb. He…he wanted to feel those slender fingers. Whether that was the same as wanting “this,” he couldn’t say.
The return to his last name brought him back, the distance of Bashir taking another step away clarifying the world.
“My dear doctor,” Garak began, buying himself time with words as he always did, his favored currency that left him wealthier than Quark’s lauded cousin. “I would hardly say my reactions indicated a negation of your advances.”
Bashir raised an eyebrow at him. “That’s not quite consent.”
“Garak, we just went through a day of thinking we were going to die because Dukat is an idiot and booby-trapped the station. Adrenaline—at least in humans—often veers to the sexual as it wears off, so chemically it makes sense that I basically jumped you as we were riding the turbolift. It helps that I’ve been—well,” he paused, clearing his throat awkwardly, “I guess I can admit this since I just had my tongue down your throat.” He squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. “I’ve been attracted to you for some time, now. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you reciprocate, nor does you not pushing me off mean that you’re totally ready for this.”
It had, indeed, been a trying day, and while the human reaction to near-death experiences was not at all similar to the Cardassian one (really, it was all too human that they should want to mate when their bodies were handling the shock of having somehow survived an event, how dreadfully impractical), it was certainly a pleasant surprise to have Bashir turn to him as they descended from Ops and kiss him straight on the mouth. It was automatic, almost, to raise his hand and cradle the human’s head, threading his fingers through that slightly curled hair that was so alien, so coarse. To kiss him back.
But now, it appeared, automatic was not enough. “What does it mean, then?”
“It means that I want this, but I need to know that you do, too. And before you spin me seven different yarns about what you feel, know that this is one place where I absolutely need the truth. I will not take advantage of you, Garak.”
Garak laughed. “Take advantage? Doctor, I hardly think you could take advantage of me.”
“It has many meanings in human culture, Garak. Here, I don’t mean overpower you or manipulate you—well, I kind of do, actually. But I mean that I need to know you’re ready to—to get physical with me. And to let me know when to stop, if you want to stop.”
There was that idea of want again, as if it were truly part of this conversation. As if this conversation should be happening at all. Sex was what Julian Bashir wanted, and Julian Bashir’s happiness—that radiant smile that had perched over Garak’s shoulder, warming him even as he navigated Dukat’s layers upon layers of paranoid stupidity—was what Garak wanted. So yes, he wanted sex. Didn’t he?
“I am quite ready, Doctor.”
“Not if you’re still calling me by my title, you aren’t.”
Garak looked at him curiously.
“Julian,” the man said, stepping forward again and interlacing their fingers. Garak stifled a gasp at the intimacy of the gesture, reminding himself that the intricacy of Cardassian handplay was hardly something a human would know. “My name is Julian.”
Ah, that would be why he felt comfortable calling Garak “Elim;” the use of first names was a marker of familiarity that was assumed in these situations. Well, in many situations; after all, he’d heard Julian refer to Chief O’Brien as “Miles” many times, a name Garak had never quite managed to see as suiting the somewhat stodgy human. He tried to wrap his tongue around the strange consonant string, speaking the name he had only ever whispered to himself. “Julian, then,” he said.
“Do you want this?” Julian asked again, and Garak felt he would have been annoyed were he not so confused by the concept.
“Yes,” he said, because he did, after a fashion, which was as close to the truth as he was capable of getting. Julian took it as such, bringing Garak’s hand up to his lips, kissing every knuckle with his eyes on Garak’s, reading the facial expressions with an attentiveness Garak had seen only when Julian watched over him as the implant shredded his mind.
No one had told him it could be like this. The ever-quick Bashir—Julian—who rushed through everything was leisurely working his way up Garak’s jaw, nibbling the ridges stretching away from his ear, over the ones that circled his eyes. “When you were working in Ops today,” he said in between kisses as Garak ran his hands down the outline so poorly showcased by the Starfleet uniform, “you were magnificent. And then when you called Dukat out on his peacocking for Kira, it was the sexiest takedown I’ve seen.” Julian smiled and kissed Garak on the lips, breathing into him as his hands trailed to Garak’s neck ridges and squeezed. Garak jerked under the stimulation, his scales unused to the touch, his mind fighting with itself about what came next.
“Shall we take this to the bedroom?” Julian asked, a breathy invitation against Garak’s lips. He stepped away and held out his hand.
Garak took it, letting himself be drawn to the bed, pulled down into Julian’s welcome embrace. Those long fingers were gentle as they unhooked Garak’s coat and slid it off his shoulders, laying it alongside the bed on the floor. The undershirt and thermal layer came off as well and Garak sat topless astride Julian, feeling unutterably foolish.
Julian traced one finger around Garak’s ChUla and Garak shivered again. Julian smiled. “Erogenous zone?” he asked.
Garak hummed a cautious non-reply, still trying to sort out when this would pick up speed, when he would be taken instead of…unwrapped.
Julian’s grin widened and he leaned forward and licked Garak from the bottom to the top of the indentation. Startled, Garak jumped and barely held in a yelp.
“I can do,” Julian said as his tongue darted across the ridge encircling the teardrop shape, “so much more with my mouth.”
The layers of promise within the offer shuddered through Garak’s body and he found that he wanted—yes, he wanted to peel them all back, to see just what Julian had in mind. But not in this imbalance.
“Shall Starfleet stay in bed with us?” Garak asked, tugging at Julian’s mock turtleneck.
“Not at all,” Julian said, leaning back and pulling down the zipper of his uniform. It pooled around his waist as he pulled off the shirt underneath and tossed it with far less care to the floor. “I—well, you’ll have to move for me to take this the rest of the way off,” Julian said, gesturing to his legs.
Garak didn’t move, fascinated by the expanse of smooth flesh in front of him. There were no ridges, no ChUla, just a pair of dark brown nipples and some outlines of the bones underneath. He was no stranger to non-Cardassian anatomy—his assignments had required he bed or break a variety of species—but the lack of any kind of biological protection in this body was flabbergasting. It was as though humans were made to be wounded.
“Elim?” Julian asked underneath him. Garak didn’t respond, reaching with tentative hands to trace the ribs splayed out across the thin chest. Julian squirmed, chuckling. “Elim, pressure helps. That’s just tickling.”
Garak’s hands drifted down the bones and then scraped back toward the center of Julian’s chest, his nails leaving white stripes across the browned skin. Julian jolted as Garak thumbed his nipples, a small shudder rippling through his body. Garak liked the feeling of it, the ripple under his own thighs. He brushed coarse palms across the nipples again.
“Ah, Elim,” Julian said, taking hold of Garak’s wrists. “Before you keep doing that—which, please, keep doing that—I want to get the rest of the way out of this uniform.”
Garak stared at Julian’s hands on his skin, wondering if this was when the balance shifted, if this was when the momentum of the thing could no longer be stopped, brown hands pressing down grey ones, taking.
“Scoot,” Julian said, bucking up against Garak, and Garak obediently rolled off, sitting on the edge of the bed with his back to Julian. He heard the man shuck his trousers and dump them on the floor, felt him come up behind to hook his smooth chin over Garak’s neck ridge, digging just a little into the purpling scales. “Elim?” he asked.
Garak turned back to him, taking in the nakedness. The smoothness went all the way down—no scales decorating the legs, no ChUva sitting atop the…oh. Humans did not evert, Garak had known that, but this…announcement, this display seemed almost wanton, brazen. He met Julian’s eyes, the beautiful hazel searching Garak’s placid blue, and reached out to pull Julian in for another kiss, their lips meeting softly as Julian traced his fingers down the ridges by Garak’s ears. Garak leaned into the touch, the kiss, the uncertainty of what this would be like when it mattered, when he loved—
No. Garak stiffened, stopping the thought in its tracks. This was biology, human runoff of chemical interactions. He was a middle-aged exile, a dalliance for this curious Starfleet officer. This was a mission, just like any other; research on the frailties of this Federation species, a continuation of the calculated work of the day. He forced the thoughts of want, of consent, of love to the back of his mind and moved forward, pushing Julian backwards and delving deeply into the kiss, pulling his training on as he reached down to pull his own trousers off, taking as Julian opened beneath him, nipping, biting, no longer hesitating, picking up the pace—sooner begun, sooner finished. Showers washed away all kinds of filth.
He tongued his way down the human neck, ridgeless and utterly unprotected. He felt Julian’s—no, Bashir’s pulse under his lips and continued down, licking circles around the nipples, going lower, lower. Julian’s increasing cries and caressing hands encouraged him as he shoved away how much he hated giving oral sex, hated the feeling of someone else’s flesh heavy on his tongue. He breathed in and engulfed Bashir’s member whole in one go, swallowing the bayonet to his throat.
Bashir shouted at the sudden sensation, writhing on the bed, twisting his fists in the sheets. “God, Elim, yes,” he panted as Garak licked his way up and down the shaft, the softness of the skin strange against his lips. Garak never knew where to put his hands for this, rarely wanted to touch the other person any more than he had to, but the insistent thrum in the back of his mind repeated no, stop, this is not what you want and he does not want what you do not want, touch him like it matters, like it isn’t something you have to do.
He put his hands on the sheets underneath Bashir, carefully apart from his skin, the only connection between them Garak’s mouth on Bashir’s cock.
“Elim,” Bashir said, his voice raspier, “Elim, I’m going—I don’t want to—come up here.” He hooked a hand under Garak’s jaw and pulled him off, pulled him up to kiss him and Garak couldn’t stop the grimace at the thought of Bashir tasting himself.
“Elim?” Bashir asked, pushing back. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” Garak said, leaning in dutifully to kiss him again, but Bashir—Julian, the thrum insisted—put a hand to his chest, carefully avoiding the ChUla.
“Not nothing,” said Julian, visibly calming his own breathing. “Are you okay?”
“Well now I know you’re lying.” Julian scooted back on the bed, displacing the alignment of their bodies, jolting slightly at the continued stimulation of Garak’s ridges against his bare skin. “You’re never perfectly okay unless you’re not at all okay. Do you—do you want to stop?”
“Could you?” The question was out before Garak could stop it, his inferior knowledge of human anatomy souring on his tongue like the taste of Julian’s smoothness.
“Elim, of course.” Concern reknit Julian’s features. “I mean, yes, it’s hard to stop the amount of chemicals that are rushing around my body right now, but if you need to stop, we stop. I’ll take care of myself, it’s okay.”
“No, I—it was a curiosity, not a request.”
“But I’m saying it’s okay if it is a request. A demand, even.”
Garak hissed in frustration and sat back, the absurdity of this negotiation while Julian’s taste still trailed down the back of his throat flattening his façade. He needed a glass of water, he needed to stop losing control of his training, he needed—
“You ask what I want as though it is part of the situation!” Garak burst out, immediately regretting it.
Julian stared. “Of course it’s—” It was almost visible, the gears grinding together in his mind. “Garak, have you—do you—have you ever had consensual sex before?”
“No, I mean—like by the standards we’re talking about right now. Federation standards, not ‘I did my duty to the State’ standards.”
“You mean Cardassian standards—which, being a Cardassian, would be my standards.”
“Oh, my God,” said Julian, scooting back even further until he was sitting against the wall. “You haven’t, had you? Did—do we even—Garak, I am so sorry, it didn’t even occur to me—”
“That there is a cultural difference? It usually doesn’t.” Garak winced at the insult. “I meant that you are asking me for a definition that does not make sense to me because I am, decidedly, not Federation.”
“But I am,” said Julian, “and it’s not a cultural difference on the same scale as you liking kanar and my not. We—the Federation, especially humans—take sexual consent very seriously. I have no interest in you going through with this unless you 100% enthusiastically want to. Did—was that even…okay for you?” He gestured to himself.
Garak sighed. “Doctor—”
“Doctor,” he reiterated, “you keep asking what I need. I need you to understand that there is no place for differentiation between what Cardassia wants and what I want.”
“But it doesn’t matter whether Cardassia wants to fuck me, it matters whether you do.”
“Do you think I am not still serving because I am in exile?”
Julian pursed his lips. “Of course you’re still serving, although I suppose you’re still going to try and tell me that you’re doing so by having exact hemlines even though I watched you re-route an entire program and override several layers of encryption today. But this, right now, you and me—that’s not about serving. Is it?”
Garak shook his head, more to clear it than to negate the statement. “I am not spying on you, if that’s what you’re implying.”
“Then what are you doing?”
Garak sighed. He didn’t know, and the entirety of his friendship with Julian Bashir had been a long series of wanting the man and not knowing what to do with that desire. How could he describe to this human who slept with so many so easily, chatting them up in Quark’s the day after as though nothing had happened, what it meant to want this to matter?
“Garak—Garak, please.” Julian reached up and traced the ridge around Garak’s eye. “I don’t need your whole life story and I won’t force the truth out of you. But I need to know what this is and what you want from me, not just what you’re willing to take.”
Garak leaned into the touch, trying to understand this Federation idea of want. It did not make sense—it was so mercurial, so selfish. He thought of Julian’s grin over his shoulder, of the kiss in the turbolift, of the years of lunches with the dancing hazel eyes. “I want you, Julian,” he said, looking down at the bedsheets wrinkled and mussed. The weight of the truth closed his mouth.
“And how do you want me?”
“Totally.” Garak looked up into Julian’s eyes, unsure of how to explain wanting something he knew he could not have.
“I can do monogamy,” Julian said.
Garak shook his head. “It is—it is more than that.”
Julian looked alarmed. “Like, marriage?”
“No—not in the way you think of it, no,” yes, impossibly, yes, “but this—this cannot be because of chemicals.”
Julian processed this. “Because of the comment I made about humans and adrenaline? Oh, Garak, no; I said I’ve been attracted to you for a while and I mean that. I want to protect your privacy, but I don’t at all intend for this to be a one-night stand. I don’t think you and I could even do something like that, not without—oh. That’s why you’re in automatic mode, isn’t it? So we can still be friends tomorrow?”
It wasn’t quite true, but it was close enough. Garak nodded.
Julian leaned forward and kissed Garak lightly, tentatively. “Elim Garak, I will always want to be friends with you, but if I can also be your lover, I am a happy man. I want to fuck you slow and gentle, and then rough if that’s okay with you, and then I want to argue about literature with you over lunch and think about how phenomenally maddening your mind is and how it’s even better that your scales get so dark when you’re aroused, and then I want to fight with you and make love to you and learn from you over and over as long as I can. That’s what I want. What do you want? Or, if it’s easier, what don’t you want?”
Garak felt a shiver deep within his bones at the thought of Julian inside him, around him, of sitting across from him at the Replimat deriding his commentaries while remembering the feeling of that smooth skin sliding across scales. “I want you...inside me,” he said, completely truthfully, the words as heavy and strange in his mouth as Julian’s cock, his mind twisting with the quiet shame of asking for this.
“Do you want to do that now?”
Garak nodded, willing the shame to silence.
“Okay,” said Julian. He kissed Garak again. “Thank you. Thank you for being clear with me. We’ll go gentle and slow, okay? Since ‘tell me when to stop’ doesn’t seem to work for you, I’ll check in with you along the way. Please, Elim, be honest. Can you do that?”
Garak nodded again, feeling the sly laughter under his skin that this was where he chose to learn honesty, this moment that held too much weight, that felt entirely wrong and beautifully right all at once.
“Are you okay with being underneath?”
Garak considered, gauging the weight of the slender human in front of him. “I am,” he said.
Julian kissed him lightly. “Good, Elim, good; it’s so good that you’re helping me understand,” he said, and the shiver returned at the reinforcement. Garak would say a great many things to have that soft voice tell him it was good. They slid down the bed, Garak lying on his back.
“Thank you, Elim,” Julian said, tracing the ridges across Garak’s chest. “Thank you for letting me see this. You are magnificent.” He scratched down the shoulder ridges and Garak lifted against the pressure. “That’s good,” Julian murmured, and Garak felt the words echoed in his mind, it is indeed good. Julian continued tracing, scratching, tugging at ridges and scales until Garak’s body began to hum with the touch, the feeling of Julian’s hands setting fire to him without consuming anything, gentle pleasure repetitive as waves through his very veins. Julian’s fingers brushed the lips of Garak’s ajan and Garak rolled into the sensation. Julian kissed him, whispering against his lips, “Good, Elim, good,” as his fingers widened the slit and pressed in, brushing against the prUt tucked safely away.
“Does this need to come out before I go in?” asked Julian quietly.
Garak considered, wondering at being asked both because Julian didn’t know and because he wanted to know what Garak wanted, still. “It doesn’t have to,” he said, leaving off the admonition that being full would require Julian to move more carefully.
“Thank you for answering, Elim,” said Julian, still pushing his fingers deep into Garak, slow and rhythmic. “I’ll keep going slow; tell me if it hurts you. Okay?”
Nodding, Garak opened his legs further, wrapping them around Julian’s calves, rubbing down the muscle corded under the smooth skin. Julian’s thin fingers rubbed slow circles within him as the lithe human kissed his way down Garak’s chin, his neck, nipping the tip of his ChUla. Garak rose to the touches, arching against the weight pressing him down, and wondered how on Prime this felt so different from being taken when the position was so similar.
“Julian,” he whispered eventually, feeling the rain begin to build within him, and Julian nodded against his chest before pulling his hand out and guiding himself in.
True to his word, Julian went slowly, each centimeter mindfully filling Garak to the brim. When Julian was about halfway Garak grabbed him by the arms and Julian stopped, both of them breathing raggedly.
“Too much?” Julian asked, and Garak shook his head.
“Adjusting,” he said, and Julian leaned over and kissed him again, careful not to jostle the angle between them.
“Thank you for telling me, Elim,” he murmured against Garak’s lips, “thank you for not hurting yourself with me.”
Garak’s brain stuttered at the idea, at the fact that this man with half his cock lodged in Garak’s ajan was so concerned about Garak’s pain level, about Garak not only not hating this but enjoying it. Garak breathed deeply and pulled Julian to him, sliding along the rest of Julian until their pelvic bones rested on top of each other. Julian let out a wanton moan and hung his head in the crook of Garak’s shoulder.
“Are you okay?” Garak asked.
Julian lifted his head again and grinned, the smile taking over the lower half of his face as he looked Garak straight in the eye. “I. Am. Fantastic,” he said. “I cannot—it is not—words are your gift, Elim, not mine, but you feel amazing.”
For his own part, Garak didn’t feel amazing. He felt very full, as though his hips were stretched just this side of too far, his ajan obscenely extended to fit them both. It didn’t hurt; it fascinated him, this feeling, and he had no doubt he would be sore for days.
It felt very, very worth it.
“May I—may I move?” Julian asked, his eyes pupil-full as he held himself still. Garak nodded and Julian set to a regular, rolling pace, shifting against Garak in ways that sparked fires within him. Garak grasped Julian’s hips and pulled him even closer, pushing up against him, picking up the pace as he adjusted, the rain rising within as they went faster, faster, deeper, scales scraping against skin as Garak’s legs scratched down Julian’s and they stole breath from each other in panting bursts, Garak’s ChUla and ChUva rubbing against Julian’s taut belly and bared chest, soft and hard wrapped around each other in a twist of grey and tan as they chased the rain on the horizon until it broke over them both and Julian spilled into Garak, pulling out a moment later covered in Garak’s own release.
Julian rolled to the side, one hand lightly tangled in Garak’s hair as they waited for their hearts to slow. Normally, Garak would be up by now, would be headed to clean himself, to scrub off the actions, sometimes hard enough to dislodge a few scales.
He stayed still.
“Elim?” asked Julian, and Garak turned his head to see Julian lying on his side, watching him. “Was it—are you okay?”
Garak started to answer and closed his mouth, swallowing the blithe and ready retort and considering. Was he? He looked at Julian, watching the hazel eyes fill with concern, and reached to take Julian’s free hand in his. He pulled the hand to his lips, gently kissing the palm before setting it on his own ChUla, and Julian grinned again, eyes dancing as he leaned over and kissed Garak lightly on the cheek.
“Thank you, Elim,” he said, gently tracing the ChUla with his fingers.
Thank you, Julian, Garak thought silently, gathering the human in his arms and holding him tightly, memorizing this first time that mattered so very much and feeling Julian’s answering promise of more as he returned the embrace, their bodies cooling together and not feeling filthy at all.