Julian entered the security office, this time pausing and waiting for Vena to let him in, instead of nearly running into the door like a fool. "What brings you here, Julian?" Vena asked without looking up from her PADD. "Surely you are not done with work already?"
"No, I'm not. I just had some down time and I wanted to drop by and talk with a friend. Is that a crime?"
Vena arched her eyebrow curiously and looked up at him. "Talk to me about what?"
Julian shrugged. "Nothing in particular. Just chat," he said, his hand gripping the handle of his medical kit. Something about being there, in Vena's office, trying to make chit-chat with her seemed so underhanded to him, given the orders he had received from the Vulcan security officer. "Vena, for the holosuite program…I wanted to get you something to wear, something that matches the period and genre…may I get your measurements?" he asked hesitantly, holding up the holoimaging device that Garak had loaned him. He could at least be straightforward about something – maybe it would work.
"Just ask the computer to use the measurements it has for me to make the outfit. It should work just fine," Vena said, getting back to reading.
Or maybe it wouldn't.
"Your measurements are private, the computer won't let me view them."
"Checked already, have you? Well, no matter. The computer will still make the outfit if you asked nicely," she said with a grin. "Now if that is all, Julian, I need to go over these passenger lists."
Julian shifted his weight and stared at the instrument in his hand nervously. "Um, Vena, I'd rather get the measurements like this. I want it to be comfortable. The dress I want to get is rather…"
"The computer should be accurate enough for you," Vena said as her eyes skimmed the PADD in her hand. After a moment, she froze, and then suddenly looked up at him sharply. "Unless you don't mean to use the replicators." Julian swallowed with difficulty, beginning to feel sweat around his collar. "Meaning that you are intending on using the services of a certain cold-blooded tailor." Vena slowly got to her feet, laying the PADD onto the computer console in front of her. Julian's fingers began growing white from his tightening grip on the medical kit.
"Vena, please," Julian pleaded quietly, hoping to keep the Romulan calm. "He's a very good tailor, and he doesn't even know it's for you…he just needs to make a few alterations, the dress is nearly complete already."
"Doctor, don't try my patience. For all I know, he would lace it with poison or rig it to combust as soon as he realizes that the holoimage is of me."
"Then let him complete the finishing touches under your watchful eyes. Come with me to his shop and let him fit it properly. You can scout out the area, too. And I'll bring my medical kit with various antidotes to poisons if it makes you feel better," he said, tapping his med-kit.
Vena appraised him for a few long moments. "I don't understand your reasoning for asking him to make me a dress."
"I wanted to get something nice for you, and he is a good tailor."
Vena eyed him skeptically before taking a phaser from a drawer. "Fine. But I reserve the right to defend myself," she said with a smirk. "I don't know what your goal is, Doctor, but I'll play along…for now."
Julian's reptilian friend was at work on the dress he had ordered for Vena. The dress was a beautiful, deep green, with light golden accents on the collar and sleeves, and Julian was certain that it would look even better on Vena than the mannequin. Garak's back was turned to them as they walked in. Glancing towards Vena, Julian cleared his throat to announce his presence.
"Just a moment," Garak muttered.
"Garak, it's me," said Julian.
"Doctor! I - ." Garak froze as he turned around, his cold blue eyes focusing immediately on Vena. "Oh. And what are you doing here, my dear?"
"Garak!" Julian said, far too high-pitched. He coughed, trying to change his voice back to normal. "Meet my date. I believe you two know each other," Julian said, attempting (somewhat desperately) to add a little humor to the situation as he put down his medical kit behind the front counter.
Garak's eyes widened as he looked at Julian with a look of disbelief similar to that when Julian had told Garak that he was planning on dining with Vena in private. "I had no idea that Romulans enjoyed playing spy in human holosuite programs."
"You don't know much about Romulans," Vena said, her eyes just as cold as the Cardassian's.
"I know enough."
Julian looked between the two and wondered why he had gotten himself into this situation. He sincerely wished that he had simply ordered a less-perfect dress for Vena from a replicator.
"You didn't mention that she was your date, Doctor." Garak removed the dress from the mannequin. "Here you are, Vena. Go into the back and put this on – careful not to rip anything. I'll fit you from there."
Vena gave Julian a look that either meant to communicate annoyance or a desire to murder him. However, she still went back to the dressing room with the dress without verbal complaint. Not unexpectedly, Garak approached Julian the moment that Vena was in the dressing room.
"Doctor," he said, almost nose-to-nose with Julian as he whispered urgently. "Why are you, as you humans say, playing with fire?"
"She refused to let you make it for her without her presence…" Julian said, pretending to be oblivious to Garak's true meaning.
"Doctor! You know very well what I'm talking about. What are you doing going on a date with her?"
"Seems no more dangerous than an outing with you," Julian said with a small shrug, still attempting to lighten the mood.
"Oh, yes, we frolic with dangerous weapons in a private holosuite frequently." Julian coughed awkwardly, remembering the time he nearly killed Garak in the holosuite. "What possessed you to ask her?"
Julian smiled, glad to be able to finally give a straight answer. "I didn't, Garak. She asked me."
Garak's eyes narrowed suspiciously as he hissed, "Doctor…why do you insist on being attracted to danger?"
"Actually, often it seems more like danger is attracted to me," said Julian, remembering how he had first met Garak on Deep Space 9, where the Cardassian had randomly approached him and struck up conversation, resulting in their bizarre friendship.
"This is not a joking matter, Doctor. Please listen to me…"
But Garak's plea was interrupted as Vena emerged from the dressing room. "Is this really what female spies wear on your planet, Julian? This is ridiculous," Vena said, tugging at the dress to fit it properly around her curves. "How could anyone fight or run in this?"
"You look beautiful," said Julian, walking over to her and kissing her hand. Vena arched an eyebrow in surprise. "And it is a fantasized version of spying that the holosuite programs are made to emulate."
"Must I dress like this?"
"When I complete that dress, you'll be the envy of the quadrant," Garak said with a small smile. Vena rolled her eyes. "Now, come stand over by these mirrors and I'll make the proper adjustments."
Vena obeyed hesitantly. Garak knelt down slowly in front of Vena, taking some pins from his pocket. He used one to pin together some of the slit in the dress.
"She needs to be able to move, Garak, you should leave that how it is," Julian said quickly. Although the high slit was very revealing, it served a practical purpose.
"I don't tell you how to be a doctor and you don't tell me how to be a tailor." But Garak complied, removing the pin in the slit as Vena watched his movements carefully.
Julian's combadge suddenly chirped, and one of the Starfleet nurses said urgently, "Doctor Bashir, medical emergency. You're needed in the infirmary."
Vena's reflection in the mirror glared at Julian as he shrugged. "It's an emergency," he repeated as he turned and left with haste.
When he reached the Infirmary, Julian said, "Thank you, Nurse. That will be all."
"If I may ask, sir, why did you need me to do that?"
Julian sat at his computer console. "It's a bit complicated…as I said, that will be all." As soon as the nurse left the room, Julian pushed some buttons rapidly, and two slightly muffled voices spoke from nowhere.
"You're paler than I remember," Garak's voice said.
Julian took a deep breath. His medical kit, still sitting behind the counter in Garak's shop, had more than antidotes inside. His personal curiosity about the two had overwhelmed him – although he already felt guilty about it, and he worried about what the might discover. But he could not back out now. Whether he liked it or not, he had to play spy, both to satisfy is own curiosity and to follow his orders.
"That happens when one lives on space stations for years," said Vena coldly.
"You should visit your home world more often."
"I have no home world to visit."
Julian's eyes narrowed as the two voices fell silent. If he had not heard the slight rustling of clothing and whir of instruments, he would have believed that he had lost the connection.
"You can't go back. Can you?" There was another pause before Garak continued, "I am…truly sorry. I know what it is like to be forbidden from one's home."
"Vena's exiled from Romulus?" Julian muttered under his breath.
"And how did you manage your exile?" Vena asked Garak.
"Fortunately, my exile is over now. But…I broke the rules. I allowed Bajoran prisoners go free. "
Julian shook his head. Garak had given him multiple reasons for his exile in the past, including that one – and he, as yet, believed none of them.
"I wish I could believe it was something that noble. But you would never disobey an order, would you, Elim?"
Julian suddenly sat at attention, his eyes wide. Had he heard correctly? Garak trusted few people with his first name – yet Vena knew. Julian had been right – they did know each other much better than they admitted. He swallowed hard as he continued eavesdropping.
"You know I had no choice," Garak said, so quietly that Julian almost missed it.
"That does not justify your actions. You did have a choice." There was another silence. "Aren't you done yet?"
Julian decided that it would be prudent to show up at the shop again so he could pick up his medical kit. He stood and reached to turn off the audio, when Garak suddenly continued.
"Would it mean anything for me to say 'I'm sorry'?"
"No," Vena said after a moment. "Because I know it would be a lie."
"The dress is complete. Enjoy your date with the good Doctor," Garak said pleasantly. "But I warn you – if any harm should befall him, it's on your head," he continued darkly.
"Protective of Julian, are you?"
"He's a good man. A good friend."
Julian turned off the audio and put a hand over his eyes. He did not feel much like a good friend.