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Title: 30-Day Cheesy Tropes Challenge - 19. Vampire AU
Fandom: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Genre: Pre-slash
Rating & Warnings: PG (blood, past consent issues)
Words: This part 2177, ?? overall
Disclaimer: I don't own Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Summary: Ever since Dr. Bashir started inviting Garak to Quark's for drinks, he's become very particular about who touches his glass. Garak intends to find out why.
Author's Notes: I really, really did not expect to enjoy writing this nearly as much as I did. There's just something about a lifelong vampire phobia that suggested to me that #19 would not be one of my favourites. And yet here we are.

If you're enjoying this series, please consider supporting me on Patreon. All funds go towards recouping the money from my cat's dental surgery and, as always, rent. Thank you!

Quark's wasn't precisely Garak's favourite place to relax. It never had been, not since the day Garak had arrived at what had then been Terok Nor. Had he the choice, he tended to avoid the bar, and he never felt as though he were missing out.

However, if Dr. Bashir decided to make drinks at that establishment a tradition, he certainly wasn't about to turn him down. Especially not after a long and frustrating spate of "Sorry, Garak, I promised the Chief I'd. . . . "

Their first few outings together were surprisingly pleasant, though Dr. Bashir had seemed nervous—particularly when Garak had remarked upon his choice of kanar.

Garak had mentioned his unusual tastes out of nothing more than curiosity—he hadn't met a Human yet who liked it, and he'd not thought Dr. Bashir would be the one to subvert his expectations—but when that had served to make Dr. Bashir even more jittery than before, Garak's interest had been caught. He had said nothing more on the subject, though, and had guided the conversation onto more usual topics. After a time, the Doctor had relaxed.

But Garak didn't forget his reaction.

Each evening that they went to Quark's, Dr. Bashir's nerves faded sooner and sooner, until eventually he acted no differently at the bar than he did at the replimat. He retained some rather strange habits, though, ones that Garak kept a very sharp eye on. He would never let Garak touch his drink—a drink that was always served from a different bottle, even when they were both drinking the same variety of kanar. Once, when Garak had offered to pick up their glasses from Quark for him, Dr. Bashir's eyes had widened slightly and he had quickly assured him that he was perfectly fine retrieving them himself, more than fine, really.

He knew what those signs meant, coming from anyone else. But a conspiracy between Dr. Bashir and Quark was absurd . . . or so he wanted to believe. After Palandine, he knew better than to believe his wishes had any bearing whatsoever on the truth.

And so one evening, when the Doctor was well and truly distracted by their conversation, Garak unhesitatingly took the Doctor's glass and drank.

The smell should have warned him. But by the time it registered, Garak was gagging, his mouthful sprayed across the table at a horrified Bashir and down his own nearly new tunic.

It was difficult to stare when one was attempting not to empty one's stomach—Dr. Bashir pounding on his back was not helping—but Garak gave the attempt his all. Why in the name of he-didn't-even-know-what was Dr. Bashir drinking blood?

"Steady on, Garak," the Doctor told him; Garak gave him a weak glare. "It must have gone down the wrong way."

"It must have," he croaked, once he was reasonably certain he had finished retching. He caught Bashir's hand and held it. "Doctor, might we have a word? In private?"

His words shifted Dr. Bashir's expression into something dull and distant—but then a polite smile washed it all away. Even now, amidst his bafflement, he had to admire the talent that took.

"Of course. What about my quarters? They're closer."

So, then, this was too private for even a quiet hallway? It seemed Dr. Bashir didn't want his little foible widely known.

"Your quarters it is." He gave up dabbing at his tunic (bloodstains always did spell the end of an outfit, no matter how much he liked it). "After you."

There was no "my dear Doctor" right now, and it was plain from the way Dr. Bashir curled into himself that its absence had been heard. But until Garak fully understood the situation, he wanted to maintain a little distance.

He kept up appearances with what would sound to anyone overhearing like their usual conversation, discussing the actually rather passable mystery Dr. Bashir had recently loaned him. Superficially, the answers he received were equally normal, but to anyone who was familiar with the Doctor, his distraction was plain.

For Garak's part, he couldn't help but be fully aware of the discrepancy between his own current watchful state and his typical interactions with Dr. Bashir. Had he truly come to trust him so much? As unpleasant as nearly swallowing a mouthful of blood had been, he was now grateful for the experience. It seemed he had been in dire need of being shocked out of complacency.

The moment the doors of Dr. Bashir's quarters closed behind them, Garak said, "I hope you'll forgive my bluntness, Doctor, but would you care to enlighten me as to why were you drinking blood at Quark's just now?"

Dr. Bashir broke away from his side, long legs taking him nearly halfway across his quarters in only a few strides. Though he was facing away, his misery was clear as he said, "I'm so sorry, Garak. I never meant for you to get that glass."

"Oh, there's no need to apologise. I won't claim it was a pleasant experience, but I'm entirely unharmed." Then, with deliberateness, he added, "I'm simply relieved you weren't attempting to poison me."

As he expected, Dr. Bashir swung around to goggle at him. "Poison you? That's ridiculous!"

Garak widened his eyes. "Ah, yes, you're perfectly right. I should have suspected, when I saw the care you were taking with the handling of our drinks, that you were only trying to prevent me from drinking someone's blood by mistake."

He knew his sarcasm to be ill-chosen the moment Dr. Bashir brought up his hands to cover his face, and actually felt a squeeze of regret when he said with uncharacteristic weariness, "I . . . sorry. I suppose that must've looked rather bad to you."

"It's quite all right." Garak's own strides weren't as long, but they closed the gap between them all the same. "I appreciate being kept on my toes."

Dr. Bashir raised his head and tried a smile. It wasn't at all up to his usual standards.

Really, it was extremely difficult to tread with caution when Dr. Bashir was making him want to take him in his arms and—no, those feelings needed to go back into their box and stay there.

So instead he sent out that air of being a comfortable, nonjudgmental, understanding listener. This time, he was even being genuine about it.

And, as always, it worked. After a pause, Dr. Bashir said, "I wasn't born like this. It happened at the same time as my genetic enhancements, as a side effect from the surgery." Something like a smile stretched his lips. "It's to be expected with illegal medical procedures, of course. With no regulations and no oversight, I imagine these 'little mistakes' happen rather often. I should be grateful it wasn't anything worse."

Garak said nothing, but his thoughts were on certain reports he'd gained access to during his Obsidian Order days. Provided there were no further side effects—or even if there were—the Doctor should be very grateful indeed.

Dr. Bashir swung away from him again; he seemed unable to keep still. This time, Garak remained in place and kept his body quiet to hopefully inspire the same in the Doctor in turn.

"As my intellect grew and I should have been growing physically stronger, I started to weaken instead. It didn't take the doctors long to figure out why—I wasn't their first case by any means. And so, ever since, I've needed to ingest about a cup of blood each day to live. My body can't survive without it. Believe me, I've tried."

When the Doctor had finished, Garak said, still calmly, still conversationally, "I take it there's no cure for your—condition yet."

Dr. Bashir's head jerked back and forth. "Not yet. I've been trying to find one for years—it's part of the reason why I went into medicine in the first place. But everything I've tried has failed."

Once again, Garak stepped forward, so that he was standing just behind Dr. Bashir. "Who else on the station knows about this, may I ask?"

He was expecting the answer to be "Chief O'Brien" and so was pleased when Dr. Bashir said, "Only the senior medical staff. They found out soon after I arrived—I was synthesising far more Human blood than necessary and they wanted to know why." His voice lightened a bit. "They've been very good about it. Dr. Solan is even helping me with my research."

"Does Quark know?"

"No. I give him the bottles to use. The first time I did, I told him that my kanar contained medication for a condition that would cause unpleasant symptoms if anyone else took it. I may have suggested he'd almost certainly be sued if that were the case."

Garak smiled. "A wise course of action."

But then he took a moment to sort through this new information, to allow the shift of memories in his mind. The situation was undeniably odd, even without taking into account that it had been only a few weeks since he had learned of the Doctor's genetic engineering. All the same, it was hardly the strangest thing he'd encountered in his lifetime, and it certainly wasn't worth the fuss Dr. Bashir was making over it.

. . . Hmm. "If your condition is such a secret, why did you start drinking openly with me? Kanar does make a good disguise, I'll admit, but it seems to me that you're taking an unnecessary risk."

Dr. Bashir finally turned around, and even if he had yet to make eye contact, Garak chose to take this as a good sign. "I suppose . . . I was tired of hiding. I've had to keep so much of who I am a secret. I was ready to take the truth to the grave, but when everyone learned of my genetic engineering, and—and life went on, the idea of keeping this other secret . . . well, it no longer had much appeal."

"I see." He wasn't so sure he did, actually, but he supposed a person as fundamentally honest as Dr. Bashir would find keeping such significant secrets from his friends more burden than fact of life.

And then, because he was curious (and honestly embarrassed at discovering not one but two failures of observation on his part), he asked, "You aren't keeping any more secrets from me, are you, Doctor?"

Dr. Bashir almost smiled. "No—no, that's it, Garak, I promise."

Garak believed him . . . for the most part. Of course, only last month, he would have said that Dr. Bashir was too poor of an actor to hide anything from him. Now he wasn't so sure: a thrilling thought indeed.

He allowed himself to set a hand on his Doctor's shoulder. He needed an outlet somewhere and Dr. Bashir still needed to be comforted. And comfort was exactly what the touch brought: the Doctor palpably eased beneath his palm. He saw his hazel eyes flick to his hand and then Dr. Bashir met his gaze at last.

"Forgive me if I'm wrong—it's been decades since I last studied Earth's mythology, " Garak said, "but if you need to drink blood to survive, that would make you a 'vampire,' would it not?"

Dr. Bashir rolled his eyes; Garak's smile grew. "Very funny, Garak. I'm not planning on biting your neck, if that's what you're worried about."

Garak's grip on Dr. Bashir's shoulder tightened and he only just swallowed down a suggestion in time.

"I doubt my teeth could manage your ridges even if I tried," he went on and Garak really needed to move the conversation along before he did anything ill-considered.

He cleared his throat in the hopes of masking any changes to his voice. "So you have no hidden allergies to garlic or religious objects I should know about?"

"None. Otherwise I would have been dead years ago."

"Fortunately for both of us, that isn't the case." He gave Dr. Bashir's shoulder one last squeeze and let go. "Well, now that this matter has been cleared up, shall we return to Quark's and resume our evening?"

It was unfortunate the first real smile he'd got out of Dr. Bashir since Quark's had to be an apologetic one, but at least there was a smile at all.

"If it's the same to you, I'd rather not go back just yet. But I'll see you tomorrow for lunch . . . ?"

There was but a residue of uncertainty left in Dr. Bashir's voice. Even so, Garak made sure he replied with neither hesitancy nor overemphasis. "Of course. I look forward to it." He smiled. "Good evening, Doctor."

And this time, at last, he received a true smile. "Good evening, Garak."

Garak didn't linger, but returned directly to his quarters. There, he made a hopeless attempt to remove the bloodstains from his clothing and didn't try very hard not to think of Dr. Bashir biting his neck. It was a thought destined to linger, and that Garak did not mind in the slightest.

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