Not many people shared a table with Garak at the Replimat. They still suspected him. For good reason, really, but not many have bothered to even ascertain that there was one.
Garak enjoys the solitude, he tells himself. He enjoys not being bothered by pests who hate him and don't bother to hide the fact.
(But he doesn't enjoy the cold, or the bright lights; he doesn't admit to himself that having a companion would mean more shadows cast on him as they walk across the Promenade, or that a person sitting next to him would do wonders for his constant shivering.)
His loneliness makes up for many things. And besides, he's gotten used to it.
Therefore he's surprised when there's someone calling his name from behind him, her voice vaguely familiar, enough so it takes Garak a moment to place her as Lieutenant Dax. Garak turns his head in her direction, and finds a small smile stretching her lips.
"Lieutenant," he eventually says when he can bring himself to stop gaping. "How may I be of service?"
To his consternation the lieutenant takes it as an invitation to join him.
Despite himself, Garak is intrigued. He shifts in his seat and leans toward her. Just a little, to show he's listening. (Some people take it as a hint he cares. He rarely corrects them.)
The lieutenant says nothing with her mouth, but her eyes are most vocal. They crinkle in the corners with her smile, now hidden by a strategically placed mug of raktajino, and she's looking at him through her lashes.
Before the silence becomes even more uncomfortable (for Garak, of course. He has the feeling that Lieutenant Dax is enjoying herself), he says, "I must say I didn't expect you to be joining me for lunch."
She drinks from her mug. "But I'm not having lunch."
"For a drink, then." He reaches for his cup of tea, and makes a point to put it to his lips for as long as she has.
She's laughing at him, he's certain.
He puts his cup down, and waits.
"I can see what he sees in you," she finally says.
"A Cardassian's scales are meant to stand out," he replies, because he doesn't know who she's talking about. "The neck ridges are especially important for attracting potential mates."
Her eyes don't leave his while she takes another mouthful from her coffee. Garak finds that he likes her spots. If he had enough time, he'd like to try to decode them and see what they say.
"It's not your neck ridges that Julian speaks so highly of," she says.
Garak's mind blanks for just the shortest of moments, at the end of which he finds himself smiling. "No, I would assume it's not."
The lieutenant's smile shifts and changes, and now she's smiling with him (and he realizes it isn't him she was laughing at, but Doctor Bashir, the young, brilliant, naïve man who is so receptive to Garak's attentions and manipulations, who's somehow managed to worm his way into Garak's wretched existence).
"He seems to enjoy your company very much."
Garak says, a little sharply, "As I enjoy his, Lieutenant." He doesn't say, So you decided to see why. And he doesn't say, And you wanted to see that I wouldn't harm him. And he most certainly doesn't say, He enjoys my company more than he seems to enjoy yours.
And then the penny drops.
"That's good. Julian can be a little overwhelming when he's excited."
Mildly, Garak asks, "Is that your way of thanking me for swaying Doctor Bashir's attentions away from you?"
Lieutenant Dax laughs, then, for a long minute. "You got me," she says once she calms down to chuckles. She takes a last swig from her mug -- the way her muscles move tell Garak it's empty now. "Don't get me wrong," she adds, "Julian is a wonderful man, but he's a little too young for my tastes."
"I see," is all Garak says.
"I should be getting back to Ops. It was lovely finally meeting you, Garak." Her lips quirk upwards again as she rises to her feet, and within moments she disappears from his sight.
Well well, Garak thinks, and doesn't finish the thought.