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Fic: Tangled

Title: Tangled
Rating: M
Pairing: Garak/Bashir (Slash)
Spoilers: Takes place after Broken Link. Part three in my Loving In Stitches series which you can find all three parts to at my own LJ blog.
Summary: Garak enters counselling as part of his rehabilitation, and Julian tries to decide where his feelings are.
Beta: No beta yet. :(

~I'm terrible at writing sex even on the best of days, so I didn't even try. I may go back later and make it more explicit. But because sex is hinted at its rated M, I didn't know what to rate it so better safe than sorry. Another part will be coming after this one. Maybe a final epilogue as well. Yay!


"Counselling? I try to escape from prison, and Commander Sisko has ordered me into counselling?"

Garak's shocked and horrified expression would have been humorous to Julian Bashir, if he hadn't understood just how serious this situation was. It was so serious that Sisko had agreed to confining Garak to quarters instead of a standard cell.

"This is standard Starfleet protocol," Odo snarled gruffly. "Both Starfleet and Captain Sisko agree that a cell might not be the best thing for you, all things considered. A more rehabilitative approach might work best. The counselor is here to help transition you into becoming a law abiding citizen. If that miraculous feat can be accomplished then you can be released on early parole."

"I'm a citizen of the Federation?" Garak said in surprise. "I don't remember applying for citizenship."

"You are a citizen of BAJOR," Odo corrected hotly. "One or more years as a refugee in Bajoran space qualifies you for citizenship. And I'd say that as an exile from your home planet you would qualify as a refugee. If we can't put our trust in you Garak then we might as well send you back to Cardassia, and its tender merciful justice system. They've been requesting extradition you know."

"Yes," said Garak, smiling though his eyes were not very happy at all.

"On that note, you were tried under Federation law, as your actions took place on a Federation vessel. You have to deal with Federation statutes in this matter."

Julian almost winced. He knew exactly what Garak thought about all of that, even if the expression on his face hadn't made it so obvious.

"And what if I refuse to see this...counselor?" Garak said it in a way that suggested the counselor waiting outside was comparable in taste to a Tzenkethi blood leech.

Yep. I called it.

"Then you can forget about being confined to quarters, or an early release, and return to your cell for the next five months," Odo said with a smugly pleased sound to his voice.

"That would be a shame. After all the work Chief O'Brien is going through to making this place," he paused, searching for an appropriate word to use. "'Safe' for me."

Julian couldn't help the grin that spread across his face. Miles would be spending an entire week retrofitting the entire suite with every protection and security measure he could shove into the walls, sealing off all the access panels to prevent incursions and reprogramming the replicator to prevent him from replicating anything he could use to escape with. No PADDs in prison. But regardless of that fact it was one of the plushest prisons that a Cardassian space station had ever seen. There would be no more claustrophobic attacks.

"Then you will see the counselor?"

"Yes, I suppose I shall have to," said Garak glumly. Then a mischievous look spread across his face. "I shall give her my full cooperation."

"Now I'm warning you Garak, no half-truths and fables with her," Julian said immediately, and Garak's head snapped over to look at him in feigned shock.

"Really doctor, why would I ever do anything like that? What would a plain simple tailor have to hide from a Federation counselor?"

"I'm serious Garak," Julian said, rolling his eyes. "Counselor Troi is not only the best in her field, she's also a highly skilled empath, better than most full Betazoids. She can even read Ferengi emotions, while most other empaths can't. She'll know when you're lying."

"Ah, I see," said Garak, eyes suddenly going alert at the word 'Betazoids'. He knew what this meant. "And I suppose this is all for my benefit?"

"The point in seeing the counselor is so that you don't get into anymore trouble...And maybe she can help you deal with your claustrophobia..."

"That, or return to my confining little cell in Odo's security office?" Garak looked around. "Well, its a double edged sword isn't it my friends? Give up my wonderful Cardassian morals and values in exchange for...Bajoran ones? Federation? Or else be damned to that teensy little box again. How lovely."

Odo glared with open hostility. Bashir sighed, rolling his eyes, then decided to bring the counselor in.

Curvy and sexy, with long dark hair and an impish sparkle to her eyes, Ambassador Troi's daughter was the epitome of congenial friendliness. Julian might have been tempted by her, if he hadn't had so many secrets to keep. Getting close to an empath, even romantically, could be disaster. You just couldn't keep secrets from them! Garak was going to have one foot in hell, he was certain of that.

"Elim Garak, this is Counselor Deanna Troi. She's agreed to taking temporary assignment here on Deep Space 9 until the Enterprise E is finished being built. Deanna Troi, Elim Garak."

Counselor Troi smiled, congenially offered a handshake to the Cardassian, and to Odo, then kindly suggested that Julian skeedadle so she could get down to the counselling business. Odo moved over to the side to sit down, away from the pair. A security officer had to be present with Garak whenever he was with someone else. A necessary security precaution for the time being, until Chief O'Brien could install a proper camera system that Odo could simply monitor from his office. Julian turned to give Garak a cautionary look and was troubled by the look of nervous anticipation on Garak's face.

Would he tell the truth? To her? With Odo in the room to boot?

Julian hoped so. Garak may have been speaking in the same amiable manner, but that look, that nervous look...

It was the same look Garak had given him in his cell when he had entered it. His friend was silently crying for help and Bashir had no choice but to leave. Whatever had been broken during Garak's panic attack, it was still broken. And hopefully Counselor Troi could fix it.

"I'm concerned on two different subjects," Counselor Troi began, and looked at the man in front of her, noting the concern etched deeply in his features.

Doctor Bashir had not been happy that Odo had monitored the session. Deanna Troi didn't feel comfortable about it either, but Starfleet considered Garak to be a security threat and wanted him monitored at all times.

But this wasn't necessarily a bad thing. She knew very little about this man she was being asked to rehabilitate. Garak could have meant her harm at some point. There were times he had almost seemed dangerous in his press to keep his secrets from being revealed.

But those secrets had to come out eventually, and right now she was getting nowhere with him. The only thing he was really honest about what his friendship with the Doctor. She had sensed Bashir's upset when she had entered the suite for her first session with Garak. It only served to confirm in her mind that they were good friends, possibly more if Garak's playful confessionals concerning the doctor's 'lovely delicate hands' were anything to go by.

Julian Bashir's hands are anything but delicate. 'Well defined' is a more likely description. 'Delicate' seems more like a word a lovestruck poet would use.

"The first subject would be his aversion to telling the truth. Half the things he told me were lies. If I wasn't an empath I probably would never know whether what he was telling me was truth or fiction."

"Join the club," Julian said with a half-laugh. "If there's anything Garak is known for, it isn't the truth."

"Yes, but the more I dug, the more it seemed to me that his lying is meant to cover up something painful about his past. The only thing he was truly honest about is his friendship with you Doctor."

She watched him and could feel the tension suddenly rise. So it wasn't just her imagination; the friendship was verging on the edge of something more. Some kind of mutual understanding or trust.

And Garak betrayed that trust. Now Julian doesn't know where they stand. But there's more to it than that...Garak admitted that his friendship with Bashir was what kept him from acting against the Starfleet crew here for the last four years. That friendship could turn Garak into a rather decent person if it turned romantic.

Oh, Deanna wasn't completely naive. She had read the security and medical information on Garak provided by the command staff. Their current concern for his situation was under the flag of 'security concerns' about the tailor's past as a spy. Garak had many good reasons to lie about his past.

"Well, Garak...he," Bashir fumbled for words and almost seems to falter.

Troi quickly saved him.

"His friendship with you is definitely genuine. I'd dare say that you, Doctor, are the only person on this station that he trusts. And I wonder if he would be more honest with me if you were with me during our session instead of Constable Odo."

"Considering that he was incarcerated for attempting to destroy Odo's home world, I can certainly understand his reluctance to have him around."

But something troubled her. Underneath it all, there was something else, some deep seated worry, or fear, that was the source of the lies, the half-truths, the fables. Something caused Garak to fear the truth. She was completely determined to get at that truth, no matter what the cost. And that was the danger.

"You said there were two concerns," said Julian promptly to get her attention. "I assume there was something else you wanted to discuss?"

"Yes," said Troi, grateful that he had reminded her. "I'm worried about his physical state of mind," she clasped her hands together, weighing her words carefully. "I listened to the holo-recording Odo made of Garak's conversation with you and compared it to what I've learned about Garak during our session. And I have one thing I took from it that made everything seem clearer to me, an underlying motive for his dishonest behaviour."

Julian Bashir stiffened, anticipatory, as if waiting for some unseen truth in the tale that he had not already puzzled out on his own.

"Garak said that Cardassia doesn't have psychiatrists, and for good reason," said Deanna simply. "Cardassians can block their own memories. Mentally troubled Cardassians simply memory block themselves. I think that is what happened to Garak. He has been blocking his own memories, and for whatever reason he's lost control of that ability. His memories are coming back. The claustrophobia may actually be what caused the blocks to weaken. Which explains the breakdown and his willingness to share. He wants our help, but can't bring himself to admit there is something wrong."

Bashir pressed his hands together and tapped his nose thoughtfully.

"I think you're right," he said, in a way that suggested he was startled by the very idea that Troi had seen this, when he had not. "Yes," Bashir said, his voice slightly hoarse. "If he's gotten used to blocking his memories whenever something unpleasant happens then its no wonder he lies all the time. It must be easier to simply build a life of lies than to face the pain."

"He may be willing to see me only because he can't put up anymore blocks. He knows the only way to get over his claustrophobia now is to face the memories, and it scares him," Troi decided.

"Whatever it is from his past that caused his claustrophobia, its not the incident at Tzenketh." Bashir said, anxiously. "The look in his eyes as he told me that story, it was not the haunted look I saw when I first entered the cell. He was telling me that story to cover up the real source of his pain. It was probably most of it lies. It was that slip of the tongue about Tain that gets me. Is Tain his father?"

"I don't think he knows," she said finally. "He might think so, or maybe he just considers him a father figure. But he is thoroughly convinced that Mila Garak is his birth mother."

"What? He told you about his parents?" Bashir asked, incredulous.

Troi smiled. Julian was jealous! He thought that Garak had confided in her and not him!

"Mostly he lied to me about his parents. But I did a record check with the Cardassian government before our session so I knew what exactly he was lying about," she said to him gently, and he stared at her, startled. "Relax, I went through the official Federation channels. According to his public record he was born to a woman named Retta Adon, and when she died he was adopted and raised by a woman named Mila Garak."

"Mila Garak is Enabran Tain's housekeeper," Julian said, inputting that bit of information.

"Then Tain could very well be his birth father," Troi admitted. "But why would he have someone else adopt his own son?"

"Legitimacy concerns," said Julian. "Cardassian's frown on illegitimate births. And they keep detailed DNA records of every single citizen. Garak's DNA would have to match Mila Garak's if she was his birth mother and it probably doesn't. But if he's Tain's, and Tain was trying to cover up his parentage to protect himself, having Garak adopted by his housekeeper is the best bet. Then he can genuinely keep an eye on his son without having the stigma of an illegitimate child. You're right, his adoption by Mila is probably genuine."

"Wait a moment," Troi said, and she sat up suddenly, causing Julian to likewise sit up. "Something I said had really hit a nerve. Garak didn't deny that I was right about the adoption, but he was not willing to talk any further about his mother. I asked him if he had any memories of being adopted and he said he didn't, he'd always been with Mila. What if he has a memory block that he himself doesn't know about?"

"Then somebody ELSE altered his memories," Julian concluded, startled. "Because for some reason he couldn't unblock them by himself. Perhaps I should do a neural scan."

"He might not be willing to undergo a neural scan," Troi decided. "We can discuss it at our next session. I'm going to suggest you be there to monitor instead of Odo."

"Odo can have a security camera installed in the suite anytime he wanted. He just wants to eavesdrop," Julian said thickly. "But these sessions should be confidential. I'll bother Miles about getting that camera in right away."

Troi nodded, glad that they had made a firm decision on this matter and closed her eyes.

"I'm thinking," Julian said quietly, clutching his hands together on the table. "Whatever memory Garak is afraid of, it has to be worse than what happened at Tzenketh."

"I think he was being mostly honest with you about Tzenketh. He may have glamorized his role in Sentar's downfall a bit but his confession about the closet he was locked in seemed genuine. Maybe I should do some research about the Tzenketh-Cardassia conflict and see what I can learn about that."

"I'll do that," said Julian. "Garak confided that story to me and he'd be ballistic if he knew Odo had it recorded and sent to you."

Troi nodded.

"Or you could convince him to tell me the story as well..."

"That would be good. Then you could find out what was truth and what was fiction. You know counselor," he lifted his eyes to look at her, and the jealousy and ache of longing he filled practically filled the room. "I wish I was an empath sometimes. To just know if what he says is real. To know if what he's saying is true. I'll never have that. Not unless we can break him of his lying habit. Then how could I ever know for sure? Trust is so important in friendship...but..."

"He cares for you, that much is obvious," she told him, reaching out to take his trembling hands. "Right now Garak is miserable at the thought of going back to prison. And the key to this all is centered around getting him to open himself up and be truthful," she gave the squirming doctor a sympathetic look. "Maybe you should try to get him to open up a little. Spend more time with him, let him know that you're there."

"I want Garak to find some joy in life," said Bashir quietly. "I'll help whatever way I can. I don't want him to go back to jail either. The look on his face..."

"Everything I've seen of the man suggests that he does not want to go back to that cell. It terrifies him on some basic level that even he can't understand and he's ashamed of it," Troi shook her head. "He would rather die than be boxed in again. And we need to find out why. He's been opening up to us a little. We just need to keep at it."

"Then again, he could have us all in the palm of his hands right now. Telling you just enough truth with the lies to convince you that he's opening up to you. He's such a master manipulator he could probably convince the sun to rotate around the moon."

Certainly he could, Troi decided wisely. He's already got Bashir in orbit around his world.

Julian Bashir slipped into Garak's quarters quietly and was greeted to the sight of an empty room.


"In here," called the Cardassian quickly from the bathroom. "One moment Doctor..."

Garak soon came out of the bathroom with wet hair and a fuzzy brown bathrobe on, looking rather upset to have been caught in this condition. Julian did his best not to stare at him. But he just couldn't help it; Garak's strong muscled legs were bare from the knee down and his thick calves were bare of any ridges, but adorned with two lines of scales from the knee down to the feet which were...webbed between the toes? He had never noticed that before. But then again, every time Garak had come to the infirmary it was due to upper body problems. Were webbed feet normal for Cardassians? Julian jerked his head back up to look at Garak, who anxiously started talking before Julian could ask about his feet.

"There's only one color in the replicator for clothes," said Garak at once, hustling over quickly to the device in question to replicate a brown pair of socks, pulling them on rather quickly before replicating pants. "Apparently the Chief couldn't restrict the function of the replicator to just replicate food when he was re-programming it, so he simply changed the parameters to only permit items that naturally come in shades of brown. Which means no metal or electronic objects to speak of."

That was certainly true. The room was filled with a whole collection of replicated items, all of them brown. A brown wooden game board of some sort (a variant of Kotra maybe?) with brown pieces identified with dark brown and light brown for the opponent. Brown sheets and comforter covered his bed, and a brown clay vase with a brown flower of some unknown origin sat on the table. Julian raised his eyebrows, trying to identify its species.

"Feel free to make yourself at home while I change. Not that it matters if I replicate clean clothes or re-wear what I wore yesterday, I can only replicate Bajoran clothing. Typical..."

Julian was trying very hard not to imagine what Garak would look like without his bathrobe on. It was a failing of his that whenever he saw people half-naked, he would imagine them without the clothes on. No matter who they were. But Garak? Troi had hinted that Garak had feelings for him. Was that true? And how did he feel about Garak?

"He did leave the food functions intact I hope?"

"Yes, but the color parameters apply there as well," Garak chuckled and pointed to the replicator. "Would you like some Tarkalean tea? Or perhaps a raktajino? Both of those will, at least, be in the menu."

Julian laughed and asked for tea, and Garak went back to the bathroom with his clothing in order to change. It gave Julian a chance to think about what he had seen.

Cardassians are not an aquatic species, and their ancestors were desert dwellers. Is the webbing a slight defect? No webbing on his fingers that I've seen...

He was firmly failing not to think about firm thighs and wet, tousled black hair. When the Cardassian in question returned he was fully dressed, hair combed back and a congenial smile set firmly on his face. He replicated some tea for himself and sat down with Bashir at the table. The brown flower in the vase looked rather pathetic, despite its pretty petal arrangement.

"Why not ask the replicator to make you something like a statue for the centerpiece? I don't think this flower is a kind that survives well in a vase, even a replicated flower needs the right environment to flourish in..."

"True, but I like floral arrangements better than statues. It is a rather sad looking thing though isn't it? Native to the Klingon home world of course."

Bashir hid his smile quickly and took a sip of his tea.

"Garak, can I ask you a question?"

"About my feet? No, you may not."

"Actually," Julian frowned, because he really had wanted to ask about his feet, but he hadn't planned on asking. "I wanted to ask you; are you okay with this? I mean, the sessions with Troi. We can always, you know, switch; I can monitor the sessions instead of Odo...Would you feel more comfortable that way?"

Garak looked up at Julian, eye ridges creasing, a sulky almost defiant look in his face.

"I spent the better part of three hours giving up my secrets to that indignantly infuriating woman and she's still not satisfied that I'm being honest?"

Julian winced pointedly.

"I'm sorry Garak, but she is the presiding counselor and she can tell when you're lying to her, no matter how comfortably you spin it for her reports. And her orders are to rehabilitate you so you can be released early. You know that can't involve any lies."

Garak sighed. And shook his head.

"Its frustrating doctor," he admitted, putting his hands on his face. "Having to confide in this stranger, charming though she is, just to stay out of that cell. I can keep my secrets if I want, and spend the next five months in four walled isolation. Or I can, as you so aptly put it, tell all."

"Its all confidential Garak. I'm the only person she discusses her information with, and you remember that you signed a disclosure form allowing her to talk with me."

"What sort of information has she shared with you?" Garak asked, sounding completely suspicious.

"Nothing that isn't already publicly known. Your birth records and adoption," Garak visibly winced and looked away. "Information about your family."

"She knows NOTHING about my family then," Garak laughed. "Tain manipulated the public records to cover up his indiscretion."

"Then Tain is your father?"

Garak frowned.

"I wish I knew. I think so. He's never openly admitted to anything. Not even Mila will tell me."

"She's not your birth mother, Garak."

The Cardassian tailor winced and looked away, a brief flash of some terrible pain filling his eyes that Julian barely caught before the man looked away.

"I don't want to talk about this right now Julian."

"What do you want to talk about then?" asked the Doctor, barely aware that Garak had called him by his first name.


"Us?" Julian said, suddenly caught off guard.

"Yes," said Garak, looking down at his teacup. "Counselor Troi said I should be honest about my...interest in you. She said you wouldn't reject me. In fact she was entirely certain the feeling was mutual."

Julian blushed, a deep shade of red, and turned to look out the window.

"She's clearly more confident about her assessment then I am. I don't know what I feel about you Garak..."

Garak nodded, as if he was confirming some decision, and stood.

"Well if you don't want to remain here with me, I can understand. This must be so awkward for you."

Oh. Julian swallowed. Garak thought he was offended!

"Oh, its not that, its just, I've never been..." Julian swallowed again. "With a man before...and that's usually where my relationships start. I wouldn't know...how to..."

He was painfully aware now of Garak's amused eyes watching him as he fidgeted in his seat. Garak gave him a sly look, and came over to his side. Julian shifted nervously, then froze as Garak leaned down over him in order to kiss him quickly on the lips. Julian blinked. It was such a slight quick motion that he was barely sure it happened. He raised an eyebrow. Garak took the silent invitation for what it was, bending down to press a firmer kiss to Julian's trembling mouth.

The tingle in his lips and the ridged forehead pressed against his own were proof of the deed this time, and he tried to remember to breath.

"Would you like some sound advice?" Garak said, voice a soft sibilant purr against his cheek.

"Certainly," Julian said, and his voice was more of a croak.

"Never, ever tell your potential Cardassian lover you have no experience. Its quite a turn on."

Julian flushed red and Garak led him gently, but firmly, to the bed.

A little while later, sweating and satisfied, tangled together in the sheets, Julian turned to look at his new lover.

"So," he said, curling up warmly against Garak's chest. "Are you going tell me about your feet?"

"Another time," Garak said, voice rather distant. "Lets just enjoy tonight."

Julian really couldn't argue. Garak's lips were suddenly on his again and there was no more to talk about.