“Doctor, what are you doing?”
Bashir looked up from the padd he was reading and greeted his friend from where he was sitting in a frilly, pink monstrosity of a tent, just large enough for one person behind a counter, littered with paper hearts and with a large, square collection tin on the right side.
“Oh, Hello, Garak. I'm volunteering for a kissing booth.”
Garak seemed to have a difficult time tearing his wide open eyes away from the screaming pink hearts all over the promenade. “A what?” he asked absentmindedly.
“A kissing booth!” Bashir replied with enthusiasm. “You see, it's an Earth holiday today; Valentine's Day! It's a celebration of love, and so we're selling kisses for one strip of latinum that will be donated to the Bajoran War Orphans' fund.”
This got Garak's attention and he fixed the doctor with a puzzled stare. “Aha. I see. As usual, you Humans have a very strange way of conducting your... mating rituals. I must say I'm beginning to understand Constable Odo's confusion. At least we Cardassians keep our declarations of love for those whom we actually love. We don't feel the need to prostitute ourselves just to... I'm sorry, what was the purpose of this whole kissing thing again?”
Bashir frowned, knowing that Garak was trying to mess with him as usual, but not entirely sure how to dodge the blows he knew were coming. “Charity, Garak. And this might be a purely Human sentiment, but what better way to honor the day of love than by sharing your affections and doing good at the same time?”
Garak huffed and frowned. “Yes, well, excuse me if I don't feel that selling myself seems appropriate for a holiday supposedly celebrating love.”
Even though he knew he should know better, Bashir couldn't help but flare up and snap back: “We're not selling ourselves! We're giving!”
The reply was quick as a flash. “Oh, so you do it for free? I guess that just makes you promiscuous, then.”
The doctor mentally kicked himself and forced his temper down. Garak was just poking fun at him. No point in getting upset. It was all for the children. He had to remind himself to think of the children.
“Are you trying to get me riled up, Garak? Because it's not going to work.” He could always lie. At least to himself. “If you're that grumpy about it, why don't you go get a kiss yourself? Mrs. O'Brien is right over there in her booth and it'll only cost you one strip of latinum for charity.”
Turning around to see the chief giving his wife a kiss that was definitely worth more than one measly strip of latinum, Garak made a noise of disgust. “Ugh. No thank you, Doctor, I feel I'm quite able to do without sampling the Chief's leftovers. Not that Mrs. O'Brien isn't a lovely example of her species, I'm sure.”
Sighing, Bashir rubbed his temple and started wishing for more customers, so he could steer Garak away from this conversation. “Well, if her species bothers you, there are plenty of others who don't seem to find the Human idea of sharing love strange at all. There's Dax over there, Vilix'pran a little down the line here and if you go to Quark's, you can kiss Morn. But of course, Quark will be keeping all the latinum from that.”
Garak's look of disgust resurfaced and he looked positively miffed. Bashir wasn't fooled though, as the blue eyes of his friend were still full of mischief. “There's no need to be crude, Doctor. I was merely pointing out the flaws in your reasoning, but if you're that sensitive about it, I have no problem letting this discussion rest and leaving you to enjoy your... holiday.”
The sarcasm was thick as custard when Bashir replied: “Thank you, Garak. How very thoughtful of you.”
“I thought it was.” Garak looked suddenly smug. “Now, are there any rules?”
Bashir blinked. “Er... rules?”
“Yes. Is there any specific way to...” Garak gestured to the decorations and booths across the promenade. “...play this game of love? This... kissing booth?”
Warning bells went off in Bashir's head, but he was completely at a loss how to avoid the attack he knew was coming, but still wasn't sure where would hit. “Oh, uhm... not really. You just find someone you'd like a kiss from, put your strip of latinum in the collection tin and claim your kiss.”
Leaning in over the counter, coming a lot closer, Garak's expression turned predatory and Bashir swallowed. Surely he wouldn't...
“Any booth I want?”
Swallowing again, Bashir replied shakily: “That's the idea.”
With very deliberate movements, Garak reaching into his pocket, pulled out a strip of latinum and put it into Bashir's tin with a flourish. “There. Now may I claim my kiss?” He extended his cheek towards Bashir and the doctor stood for a moment slack jawed and disbelieving. But the next second he decided that no way was Garak going to win this one, so instead he grabbed the Cardassian face firmly with both hands and pressed a warm, lengthy kiss on the grey lips.
When he pulled away, Garak wasn't shocked or surprised at all, but simply stood there with a smile so smug, that Bashir thought briefly that there should be a law against it. He mentally kicked himself again. “You set me up for that, didn't you?”
Offering no explanation, Garak simply winked and walked away, leaving Bashir to ponder how to best get his revenge on a master of deception. He did have an idea or two...