Title: Shed
Author: mrs260
Contact: mrs-fanfic@nym.hush.com
Series: DS9
Part: 1/1
Rating: PG-13
Codes: G/B, sunburn challenge
Summary: Julian appears to be shedding.
Disclaimer: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the property of Paramount. This story, written in 2010, never has been and never will be sold.
Feedback: Any and all. Criticism welcome.

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Shed
by mrs260

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A sudden itch made Julian pull up his sleeve and scratch hard. When he looked up, Garak was gazing at him with hesitant curiosity.

"Doctor, may I ask you a personal question?"

He blinked. "Of course."

Garak looked around at the other diners, then spoke quietly. "I was under the impression that humans didn't, but are you... shedding?"

"What? Oh!" Julian rolled up his sleeve again to expose his peeling skin. "You mean this?"

"Yes. If it's a private matter for humans--"

"No, don't worry. It's not shedding, not exactly. And it's not private, just itchy."

"Ah."

"Did you see Miles or me when we first got back from Bajor two days ago?" Julian asked. "I don't usually burn like that, and with Miles's colouring he actually blistered a bit before I could get him under a regenerator."

Garak looked a little alarmed now. "I had heard that Mr. O'Brien was injured, but I didn't see you until you left the infirmary later. You were burned?"

"Not burned burned. Sunburned." Garak's alarm didn't visibly abate. "It's common for human skin to burn slightly in response to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. It's usually just uncomfortable, not dangerous. The darker our skin is, the more resistant we are to sunburn: Captain Sisko would be more resistant to sunburn than I am, but Miles is much less resistant. We were out in the sun, it was hot, and we took our jackets and shirts off to keep cool while we did some work for Keiko. We didn't think about sunburn until it was too late, and by then I needed to get him back to the infirmary to treat it."

"How has this caused the appearance of shedding?"

"The radiation caused an enormous number of skin cells to die and slough off all at once; humans normally lose skin cells a few at a time. It's itchy, as I said, but it shouldn't last long." He smiled reassuringly.

Garak gazed at him rather speculatively then. For a moment he didn't know why, but then he recognized the desire in Garak's eyes. As he gaped and blushed and shifted in his seat, Garak smiled that insinuating smile of his and asked, "Would you like me to assist you?"

"Yes," Julian blurted automatically, caught up in a sudden surge of lust. "Ah, assist me with what?"

"I would prefer to explain in private this evening, not in the Replimat." Garak patted his hand and stood up. "I will ask you again when you know what I'm asking for."

~~~

Julian changed out of his uniform after his shift, choosing something light and easy to remove. When Garak ushered him into his quarters, it was even warmer than normal, and he smiled when he saw that Garak was also wearing lighter clothing than usual. The loose tunic and trousers were a deep maroon that suited Garak beautifully.

Once they were seated on the couch, Garak began without preamble.

"Shedding is a time of renewal," Garak said. "For adults, it is also a time for intimacy: the new skin is at its most sensitive, and sex is at its most pleasurable. It can be handled alone, but we prefer to shed with the help of a trusted mate."

"And if one doesn't have a trusted mate?" Julian asked, trying to sound as inviting as he could.

Garak's eyes gleamed. "If a friend approaches you during this time and asks to assist, you may believe that you are the love of his life, and that he wishes to be yours."

He'd spent the afternoon assuming that Garak would ask to have sex with him, ready to say yes. But this... to go from flirting between friends on the verge of something more to being the love of Garak's life was the biggest step he'd ever contemplated.

Even saying yes to Palis's marriage proposal hadn't felt so huge.

Garak must have seen his trepidation. "It's not a commitment," he explained, "but it is a declaration of serious intent. If you don't love me, please say no."

Oh God, this was terrifying. "I don't want to say no."

Garak favoured him with another long, searching look, then said, "Will you let me assist you as you shed?"

Julian nodded. "Yes," he whispered.

Garak kissed him. "You will have to instruct me," he murmured. "I don't know how to care for your skin."

"What would you do if I were Cardassian?" Julian asked.

"I would bathe with you," Garak said between kisses, "I would scrub you with a cloth woven from the lata plant, and I would take you to bed."

"That sounds perfect."

The lata cloth turned out to be too rough for Julian's comfort, but a word to the bathroom replicator produced a loofah. They settled into water that was a bit warmer than Julian liked without actually being scalding. He scrubbed his own face, then relaxed as Garak slowly scrubbed his shoulders, back, and chest. Garak kissed his neck and whispered, "If you were Cardassian, I would continue with your legs. However, since they were unaffected by your burn..."

"Let's go to bed," Julian answered, turning to kiss Garak's mouth.

~~~

As they lay together later, something occurred to him. "Is it really true?" he asked sleepily.

"That you are the love of my life? Absolutely, my dear."

Julian smiled and squeezed his hand. "Is it true that if a friend offers to help with shedding, he means you're the love of his life? With all the stories you've ever lent me, I've never heard of it before."

Garak chuckled. "Doctor," he said, kissing his neck and pulling him closer, "Cardassians do not shed."

~~~

END
mrs260