Combine the pepper, thyme, sage, salt, and red pepper flakes in a bowl and rub the steaks well all over with the mixture. Set aside to season for at least 20 minutes, preferably overnight, covered, in the refrigerator.
Render the bacon in the skillet or sauté pan until it browns. Remove the bacon, drain, and set aside. If necessary add fat to the pan for browning the steaks. Combine the flour and salt on a plate and dredge the steaks, reserving the remaining flour for thickening the gravy. Over medium heat brown the beef well on each side and reserve the steaks. Add the onions and garlic and sauté over low heat until tender. Sprinkle with the sugar and the remaining flour. Stir in well, raise heat to medium, and cook until golden. Add the water or stock slowly, stirring constantly. Return the steaks and bacon to the pan and simmer for 40 minutes or until very tender.