Title: The Equation of Beauty

Pairing: Bashir/Garak, pre-slash

Rating/Warnings: soft R, if that

Word Count: 914

Summary: Julian has always known that he's pretty, but being beautiful doesn't guarantee success.

Julian knows that he's handsome in an almost feminine way - big dark eyes, full lips, skin like honey, perfect bone structure. His mother certainly told him often enough when he was growing up, and when he hit puberty both girls and boys picked up the refrain with a will. It's been a strength that's gotten him his share of hugs and kisses and various sorts of candy at all ages, and it's opened more than one door for him over the years. His smile has melted hearts and made his arguments more persuasive, perhaps, than they have any right to be. He has used this to his advantage time and time again.

He also knows that his prettiness is sometimes mistaken for weakness, or for vapidness. In high school a particularly hateful group of jocks used to taunt him with shouts of "Bimbo!" and "Slag!", but he tried not to let it bother him too much: after all, he had more IQ points in his left ear than the lot of them put together and he could beat any of them flat at tennis or raquetball. Then he'd entered a profession where extraordinary intelligence was a prerequisite and nobody called him such things anymore... at least, not to his face.

He's aware that when he first arrived on Deep Space Nine he was far too eager and so wet behind the ears that he left a trail behind him wherever he went. That was almost two years ago and he's gotten better since then, thank God, but looking back he can see where the "bimbo" tag - or something like it - had probably been applied more than once. The time, for example, when he went bounding up to Ops to tell them all about the spy who'd sat down next to him in the Replimat... or the incident shortly thereafter when he'd gone to Sisko to beg for advice because Garak wanted him to buy a new suit...

Artificially enhanced intelligence? Yes. Equally high wisdom? Not necessarily a correlate, as he's discovered to his occasional sorrow.

Ah well, life is a learning experience. As his self-awareness increases he tries to keep that in mind and not to obsess over his earlier indiscretions. Why, now he even has good friends here: Miles, of course, whose family has welcomed him into their home many times, and Jadzia, who he once crushed on so hard that it physically hurt to be close to her. (Those spots can still make him dreamy on occasion, but only in the privacy of his own quarters, and the fever is generally gone by morning.) He's even earned the respect of his CO, and Sisko is not an easy man to impress. Professionally and at a certain level of interpersonal involvement, he's become quite a success.

Romantically, however, women have tended to either fall into bed with him for a night, blindsided by his beauty, or laugh at him, assuming his good looks conceal frivolousness at best and stupidity at worst. He has to admit that he's often been his own worst enemy in that regard: sometimes, in the presence of a gorgeous woman, his mouth opens just in time for his brain to beat a hasty retreat, the "bimbo" label gets another outing, and she's gone before he can repair the damage. Staring after his escaping quarry with the burn of frustrated humiliation on his golden cheeks, he often reflects that it's not fair that he got only two factors out of the three necessary for success with the opposite sex. He's intelligent. He's beautiful. But suave?

No, the man who'd take the prize for that attribute on Deep Space Nine is definitely not Julian Bashir.

He knows that Garak thinks he's pretty - or at least he strongly suspects it, because Garak would also win Best in Show in the category of Most Enigmatic - and knew it from the moment Garak approached to introduce himself. Julian's been the recipient of enough come-ons from both sexes to recognize the dance of seduction when he sees it. At the time, however, he'd still been low on the wisdom curve and the Cardassian's sly innuendos had sent him into a minor tailspin... but not so much of a tailspin that he'd avoided the tailor's presence afterwards. In fact being spun had proven to be rather thrilling in its own right, even if he didn't generally fancy men.

This, too, has gotten better over time. He can appreciate Garak's appreciation now, or at least what Garak is presenting as appreciation. Sometimes it's enough to make him thrash around in bed and pound his pillow in the wee hours of the night: the one person on the station with whom he could potentially be intelligent, beautiful and eloquent all at the same time, is also the one person who it be absolute suicide to get involved with. A Cardassian. A male Cardassian. A male Cardassian spy, former Obsidian Order operative, illicit representative of a hostile government... the list goes on and on. And on.

But so do Julian's thoughts on the subject, especially on long lonely nights. Perhaps he hasn't attained that much wisdom after all.

Miles would think he'd lost his mind. Jadzia would shake her head in disappointment. And Sisko... Sisko's reaction is best left unimagined.

Besides, even if Julian did take the risk and throw himself into the arms of the enemy, something about Garak's smile tells him that this door wouldn't be so easy to open.