Codes: G/B, challenge response
Challenge answered:Garak and Bashir are stranded on Cardassia after the war. They have to help wounded and dying. How did they end up there, and how do these circumstances affect them and their relationship?
Summary: Bashir has resigned from Starfleet to live on Cardassia with Garak, but the Federation misinterprets his motives.
Disclaimer: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the property of Paramount. This story, written in 2002, never has been and never will be sold.
Feedback: Any and all. Criticism welcome.
"Good morning, Tiral!" Bashir said as he parted the curtain and passed through the sterile field.
"Doctor Bashir!" A young Cardassian man with a shiny, scale-less face smiled cheerfully up at him.
"How are you feeling?"
"Itchy. The hydrocortisone is helping, but..."
Bashir ran a tricorder over him. "The skin grafts and cloned areas are still healing normally; we'll just have to wait it out. The hydrocortisone is all I can give you right now, but I promise that I'll try to get you something stronger when I'm at the conference."
"How are your wife and mother? Have they moved into the new house yet?"
"They will in a couple of days. The workers are still finishing." Tiral sighed. "I'm happy that they don't have to live in a two-room shelter anymore, but I do wish I hadn't been assigned top priority."
"You're the most badly burned survivor of the Dominion slaughter. I think you deserve a house, Tiral."
Tiral sighed. "It does mean we can start having children right away."
"Exactly. Now stop worrying, and make sure you don't scratch."
His rounds included several burial and rescue workers with untreated bacterial infections: the Starfleet relief teams couldn't synthesize enough antibiotics to keep up with the growing demand, so the hospitals had started isolating people with infections and hoping that more medical supplies would come in time. All Bashir could do was check to ensure they were getting enough fluids, and leave them to the masked, gloved volunteers who were caring for them.
By the time he arrived home, he was exhausted. Garak handed him mint tea practically as soon as he was in the door, then sat him down on the end of the bed and rubbed his shoulders through his light cotton clothing. Civilian clothing; he was still getting used to that after three months.
"You didn't use any replicator rations for this, did you, Garak?"
"Of course not. I've been growing it in the community garden."
"Where did you get mint?"
"A friend on one of those Federation starships gave me a plant."
Bashir chuckled. "You have friends all over the galaxy, don't you?"
"How else could I maintain the illusion of omniscience you've come to expect from me?"
"You had a communication at the mailing centre today. I took the liberty of signing for it."
"Is it about the conference?"
"I believe so."
Julian reluctantly left Garak's arms, put the isolinear rod into their terminal, and turned on the screen. An unfamiliar admiral appeared, and read a prepared statement from a PADD.
"Dr. Julian Bashir: in response to your request to attend Starfleet Medical's conference on the Cardassian relief effort, we must remind you that, as a defector, you are no longer permitted within Federation space."
"As a what?" Bashir wanted to yell, but it came out as an airless gasp. Garak stepped close behind him and placed one hand at the small of his back, grasping his arm with the other.
"If you wish to reclaim Federation citizenship, you may do so by presenting yourself for arrest at any Federation base or border crossing. You will not, however, be accepted as part of a Cardassian delegation to any Federation-hosted event. Signed, Admiral Tomlinson, Starfleet Command."
He stared at the screen for a moment, then turned on Garak, who had seemed unusually ready to hover. "Did you know about this?"
"I didn't view the message before you did," Garak said, "but this development is not a complete surprise to me. The Federation is notoriously intolerant of citizens who choose to live outside its borders."
"But how can they just assume I've defected? It's not as if I'm selling state secrets; I'm just trying to help, like every other Federation doctor on the planet!"
"And keeping house with a former Obsidian Order agent," Garak said reasonably, then smiled. "Unlike every other Federation doctor on the planet."
Bashir stifled an involuntary bark of laughter.
"They must assume that you have given me every Federation secret your security clearance would allow," Garak said. He eyed Bashir for a moment to determine his mood, then continued lightly, "A token of your undying passion for me, a love so strong that you would forsake your homeworld and your state forever..."
"Stop it, you're making me nauseous," Julian murmured affectionately, kissing him.
"It pleases me that I've managed to instill some artistic taste, my dear."
"How do you propose we deal with this?"
Garak produced a fresh isolinear rod and held it out to him. "I'd suggest contacting your Ambassador friends."
He lay awake, trying to take comfort from the kisses Garak was placing at the nape of his neck. Usually, Garak's sexual advances were mildly predatory in nature, but the man had been tender and solicitous since he'd walked in the door, even before he'd seen the message...
Julian turned over to face him, glaring. "You did know!"
"Know what, my dear?"
"You were lying when you said you hadn't watched that message. You already knew they'd declared me a defector."
Garak patted his cheek. "I wasn't lying; I didn't watch your message. I did, however, take the liberty of accessing your personnel file a few weeks ago."
It was ridiculous to be angry, really. He trusted Garak not to hurt him, but expecting him to tell the truth was foolish. He quashed the feeling and asked calmly, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I was unable to correct the situation. I hoped that the Federation would allow you to represent Cardassia's interests without being... indelicate... about your official status."
That chilled Julian to the bone. "What do you mean, you couldn't correct the situation? Who did you contact?"
"I'm afraid I can't reveal that, my dear."
"We might not be able to fix this..." Julian groaned. It wasn't as if he thought he'd ever want to leave Cardassia permanently, but he hadn't considered the possibility that he'd be unable to visit his parents and friends, or attend conferences within Federation borders. He certainly didn't want to return only to be considered a traitor and a criminal.
Garak kissed him and stroked his hip. "I still have hope, my dear. Your friends could succeed where mine have failed." The Cardassian paused; the hand on his hip moved tentatively to his thigh. "If you wish..."
"Not tonight, Elim," Julian whispered. "I couldn't enjoy it."
The next day at the hospital was a blur. More workers with infections, lower stocks of medicine... at least Tiral was getting better, though if he couldn't access something stronger than hydrocortisone, the next few weeks would be agony for the young man.
"He says the itching is better than the pain was, and I know he has the self-restraint not to scratch and give himself an infection, but it shouldn't be like this! A burn patient should only have to suffer for days, not weeks or months! I'm lucky I had the facilities to clone any skin at all; I had to resort to grafts, of all things! And now! Hydrocortisone, for God's sake?"
"It was the same on Bajor, at first," Garak said soothingly. He sat and watched Bashir pace restlessly.
"It was better on Bajor, because Bajor wanted to join the Federation! The Cardassians don't, so they get second tier crisis relief."
"The damage to Cardassia was much more severe, and the Federation has damage of its own to repair."
"People are starting to die because we don't have enough damned antibiotics! What's next, we'll run out of leeches?"
Garak blinked. "What are leeches?"
Bashir sighed and stopped yelling. "Never mind, Elim. It's not important."
"Come sit with me," Garak said gently, "and we'll have dinner. I'll tell you about the trials of the Library Reconstruction Project."
Julian found a smile. "I'm sorry. How was your day?"
"We're making progress; we've recovered almost eight hundred works from various library computers and donated personal copies, and have recopied from memory one hundred eighteen works which were deemed lost. Just today I started recopying Preloc's most obscure futurist novel. I'm the only person on the project who's read it; I'm thinking of changing the ending."
"Garak!" Julian smiled genuinely this time. "I know you're joking, but promise me you won't."
"Of course I won't, my dear. It is tempting, however... I've always thought the ending was a bit overdone."
He'd sent messages to Kira and O'Brien as well as the Ambassadors; Kira's message arrived first. "I'm sorry, Doctor, there's not much I can do. I may have been your last commanding officer, but since I'm not Starfleet, my word doesn't carry as much weight as Captain Sisko's would have. I yelled at them for twenty minutes, but they're too caught up in bureaucracy to listen to reason. I hope those Ambassadors of yours can help."
"Dammit," Julian said softly.
"I'll tell you what we can, do, though," Kira continued. "The Bajorans know what kind of man you are, and that being friends with Garak doesn't make you a traitor. So the Bajoran government has decided not to recognise your status as a defector. You'll always be welcome here." She shifted her gaze slightly, as if trying to look an eavesdropping Garak in the eye. "If you ever need to get away from him, just give me a call, and there'll be a ship there to pick you up in less than half a day."
"Well, that's something," Julian said. "If I want to visit with Miles or my parents, I can meet them there. And that way, you can come with me."
O'Brien's answering message arrived the next day. "I don't know what to tell you, Julian. They asked me about you: why did you go on your own instead of with Starfleet's relief effort; would you tell the Cardassians anything you shouldn't... I told them the truth. You were a loyal Starfleet officer, you were in love for some inexplicable reason, but you never have and never will feed him information. I guess they didn't believe me." O'Brien put on a smile and said, "Keep your chin up; I've registered an official protest on your behalf, and I promise I'll get in touch with the Ambassadors. Who knows? Maybe Captain Sisko'll make an appearance in linear time so he can put in a good word."
"Wonderful. I just have to wait for the Second Age of the Emissary to begin so I can go to Federation medical conferences."
Garak kissed him, and the knot in his chest eased slightly. "Do you think you can...?" Garak asked.
"I don't know. Let's try."
He gasped as they lay down together: the heat of Garak's erection was already radiating through his clothing. He ran one finger over the spoon ridge on Garak's forehead, and Garak shut his eyes, taking a shuddering breath.
"I'm not... uninterested," he whispered as Garak pushed aside his shirt and traced his clavicles. "It just happens to humans sometimes when we're under stress."
"I know. You mustn't worry about my ego, my dear. I didn't survive this long by being unsure of myself."
"If you want, if I can't, you can fuck me anyway."
Garak smiled sardonically at him. "I also didn't survive by lacking self-restraint."
Trying another tactic, Julian slipped his hand into Garak's trousers and stroked the underside of Garak's erect cock with his palm. "I want to watch you come," he said. "Will you let me?"
"Well, when you put it that way..."
Julian smiled and spread his legs. Garak undressed then crawled up from the end of the bed, kissing his thighs, his stomach, and sucking his soft penis. It felt nice, sending gentle waves of pleasure through Julian's body, but when he didn't get hard from it Garak gave a martyred little sigh and positioned himself for penetration.
"If you're certain about this."
"Absolutely," Julian confirmed. "Honestly, Garak, you're acting like I've asked you to pull out my fingernails."
Garak laughed softly. "Your ancestors devised such dreary tortures."
"Will you just fuck me already? I can tell you about Chinese water torture later."
The conference was a success without Bashir, and Cardassia was able to get what it needed: food replicators and power cells, medical supplies, and basic building materials for permanent housing. With Tetrahydrozol to ease the discomfort of his new and grafted skin, they were able to release Tiral.
Bashir sat, masked and gloved, periodically injecting his patient with strong antibiotics and checking her readings on the tricorder.
"Doctor?" she whispered.
"It's too late for the medication to do anything, isn't it? I got sick too early, and now I'm going to die."
He'd learned the hard way that Cardassian patients didn't want to hear comforting lies from their doctors. "I think so. But I'm not going to give up on you; we have enough to go around now. I'll stay with you and try to save you."
She shook her head weakly. "Find somebody Cardassian to sit with me. You have to go. Leave me alone if you have to; I have no family left, and no secrets to tell them."
He bit his lip behind the mask, but nodded. He'd almost grown used to leaving dying patients. It was easier when they had family with them, but if he could send in a nurse before it was too late, that would be enough.
He sat with Oldek's patient as Oldek sat with his. This woman would recover, then she would be assigned to the ration centre so she wouldn't get sick again.
The Ambassadors' message was waiting for him when he got home. Vadosia, the Bolian, spoke first. "Julian, I'm afraid we weren't very much help to you. We tried to get your official status changed from defector to emigrant, but Starfleet simply wouldn't believe that you're not sharing Federation secrets with the Cardassians. What we can do is get your sentence reduced if you ever decide to come back; we think we can get you as little as a year, especially with good character witnesses like Mr. O'Brien. We will keep trying, but I'm afraid, for the time being, that you're stuck there."
Julian sighed, and Garak patted his hand.
Taxco spoke up from next to Vadosia. "Please do contact us again, Julian, and tell us how you're doing. Our governments are lobbying for increased relief supplies; we want to make sure you're getting enough food."
Lojal nodded. "The Vulcan government understands Cardassia's desire to rebuild its cultural institutions as well as obtaining sufficient food, water, medicine, and shelter. Rest assured that the VSS Sonak will bring a separate gift of computers, Cardassian-compatible isolinear rods, paper, and ink pens meant for the cultural restoration projects."
Julian grinned and kissed Garak soundly on the cheek as the recording ended. "Now you won't have to steal computer memory from the Architectural Restoration Project."
Garak sighed dramatically. "I suppose that's for the best. I did have such a brilliant scheme, though... it's a shame to see it wasted."
"You could always scheme to get my status changed to emigrant instead," Julian suggested.
Garak raised an eyeridge at him. "With Vulcan computers, it is no longer entirely impossible for me to make the change myself. But I will warn you that the Second Age of the Emissary will likely start before I finish."
He sat on the bed and took Garak's hand, gazing up at him seriously. "We tried to fix this, and we couldn't. I'm satisfied with that right now. If I'm going to live in exile, at least I'm living with someone I love, on the planet I've chosen, and I'm not stuck here under threat of death. If I can get my status changed eventually, that's wonderful. If not, I'll survive."
"I've been called a traitor, my dear. I know how it feels."
Julian winced. "I've spent half my life knowing I could become an outcast overnight. It's just happened differently than I thought it would."
Garak sat on the bed behind him, and he leaned back to rest his head on Garak's shoulder. "Are you certain you're all right, my dear?"
"I will be."