Morn's loud snoring was proving rather distracting. Garak resisted the urge to turn over onto his left side, opting instead to keep his back to the wall: it was the only position that offered any sort of safety during the vulnerability of sleep. Not that he was getting much of that, thank you, between the Lurian's jagged respirations and the way the temperature of the room seemed to have dropped even more since Quark had dimmed the lights.
It was very dark now in Garak's little corner, which should have been conducive to rest but didn't seem to be helping much. He kept wanting to toss and turn and not daring to, acutely aware of his exposed position in a room full of relative strangers, some of them Bajorans who had (to their own way of looking at things) very good reasons to want to cause him harm. And just when he managed to relax enough for sleep to start creeping in, the thought of how smoothly his encounter with the Bolian had gone popped up to nag at him awake: it had been a little too easy, the crowd's failure to automatically take the trader's side against him troubling in all sorts of subtle ways. The idea that acceptance by one's fellow inhabitants of the station would be disquieting might have struck another man (Julian Bashir, for example) as strange indeed, but Garak had survived this long by virtue of his suspicious nature.
Huddling under his thin blanket, Garak gritted his teeth and tried to ignore the way the mattress was setting up protesting twinges in his lower back. On top of everything else, that was the last thing he —
Someone had entered the bar and was threading his way between the cots, heading toward Garak's position and trying to be stealthy about it. The dimness in the main area of Quark's establishment still provided plenty of light for Cardassian eyes to clearly make out the slimness of the figure and the shock of close-cropped black hair that topped it, its body language reassuringly familiar: Doctor Bashir, although why he was paying such a late visit to the camp was a mystery. Garak closed his eyes and feigned sleep; perhaps the good Doctor had only felt an impulse to check on a friend before he turned in himself, and if that was the case seeing that Garak was still awake would only detain him from his own rest.
But when Bashir reached Garak's cot he knelt beside it and leaned close to whisper over the cacophony from Morn's end of the room: "Garak?"
Now curious, Garak kept his eyes closed until Bashir's hand touched his shoulder and gave it a gentle shake, then pretended to awaken, cracking open his lids to regard the Human sleepily. "Ah, Doctor…. what can I do for you?"
Those full lips curved in a little smile beneath dark eyes full of weariness. "Actually, I was wondering what I could do for you." The hand on Garak's shoulder shifted to his temple, strong but delicate fingertips taking both pulse and temperature. "You feel a couple of degrees colder than you should, at least. Would you mind if I shared your cot with you?'
Suddenly Garak was acutely awake, but he kept his gaze vague and his voice a little slurred. "That's — an exceptionally kind offer. But surely you have a more comfortable bed waiting for you in the Infirmary…?"
Bashir inclined his head, glancing away briefly. "Actually, no — the first cases of Nacinin Fever have presented and all the biobeds are taken, and the current shift is using all the chairs." His gaze returned to Garak's face, looking hopeful in a way that shouldn't have been so persuasive. "I could order Ops to send us another cot, but I knew you'd find the present temperature uncomfortable and thought we could kill two birds with one stone. As long as you don't object to being in such close proximity," he added hastily, as if suddenly realizing that he might be treading on sensitive cultural ground.
Garak smiled to himself: he was a man who valued his privacy, but in the case of the enchanting Doctor he was definitely willing to make an exception… and the little mammalwould undoubtedly prove toasty. "Not particularly, as long as you can put up with Morn's snoring, which I suspect is going to go on all night."
Bashir laughed softly. "I'll cope," he whispered, and Garak was finally able to turn over to face the wall, which provided his aching back with some relief. Quick as a wink Bashir slipped under the blanket and settled down against him, back to back; the warmth that radiated from the Human was immediate and blissful, almost drawing a sigh from Garak before he could stop himself. He was able to close his eyes, secure that another pair of eyes was now in a position to keep watch on the room, and within a few minutes he was asleep, evidently far more tired than he'd given himself credit for.
Some time later Garak awoke to find that he'd turned over in his sleep — and so had Bashir, although how they'd managed it on such a narrow mattress was a mystery. It was the scent, it seemed, that had penetrated the oblivion of sleep and roused him: the Doctor's skin and hair, faintly scented with some hygiene product or other, but beneath that the far more sublime perfume of a healthy young male shone through. The Human was snuggled up against Garak's chest and belly and thighs, one arm flung over him, that adorable scaleless nose almost tucked under his cheek, so close was he lying.
Listening intently, Garak could hear nothing to indicate that anyone else in the room was awake — it was safe then, to permit himself to enjoy this moment of illicit closeness. He studied Bashir's face as he slept on, taking in the sweep of dark lashes fringing his closed eyelids and the precisely delicate arches of his eyebrows, the sweet relaxed curve of his mouth open ever so slightly, gazing for once without fear of his interest being detected. In deep sleep Bashir looked so open and innocent, more like a tired boy than a grown man. Poor pretty dear, Garak found himself thinking with an unfamiliar surge of emotion it took him a moment to recognize as tenderness: He worked so very hard yesterday — I mustn't move and risk waking him! So he lay perfectly still as only a trained agent of the Order could and watched Bashir sleep, a hint of a smile sometimes chasing a trace of a frown across his freakishly smooth features.
What was he dreaming of? Something active, clearly, from the way his eyes were tracking beneath their closed lids — and something amorous if the half-erection pressing against Garak's upper thigh was any indication. Garak resisted a mercifully brief impulse to bow his neck and press forehead to forehead in the habitually comforting gesture one would offer to a child… or to a lover, a momentary mad thought that had him chuffing silent laughter for a good ten seconds afterwards. A few seconds after that he was seriously worrying about his own emotional stability, that a few stolen minutes of physical closeness could even tempt his thoughts in that general direction: he'd been physically attracted to this man from the first glimpse of him across the crowded Promenade, and Bashir's initial physical reaction to him had been briefly encouraging, but he'd quickly come to the conclusion that the Human was exclusively sexually attracted to women and wisely left it at that.
Therefore it should mean nothing to him, the way Bashir murmured in his sleep and shifted even closer, his arm tightening around Garak's middle and a beautiful smile lighting up his narrow face. Clearly the younger man was imagining himself in bed with a lithe young female, not a stout Cardassian spy in late middle age… still, the heat that flowed from all points of contact to Garak's serjakel and made it swell and tingle within its protective sheath evidently didn't care about such niceties. Nor did his heart, which gave an absurd little leap in his chest when Bashir's combadge sounded the hour — "Doctor Bashir, the time is 0500" — and those dark liquid eyes flickered open, gazing dreamily at Garak's face so near, then blinking into focus —
— then widening in horror, a half-second before Bashir released Garak's waist and pulled away as if burned, immediately starting to babble in a horrified whisper: "Oh God, Garak — I'm sorry, I didn't — I mean, I'd never —"
He was turning a most fetching shade of bright red, Garak noted ruefully, and the sight was doing nothing to quell his own arousal. He let none of that heat enter his voice, which he pitched to a soothing murmur: "Doctor — really, it's quite all right —"
"Oh God," Bashir repeated, and he looked so mortified that Garak's heart sank… but really, what else had he expected when the Doctor realized how close he'd gotten?
"My dear," he smiled, "honestly — I didn't mind in the least." He risked reaching out and briefly touching Bashir's right hand where it had come to tentatively rest on the mattress between them — the boy was on the very edge of the cot now, another centimetre and Garak was sure he'd go over the edge — to make his point. "Only you looked so peaceful, I didn't want to disturb you…"
Bashir paused in his flood of words as if he'd run up against a brick wall, blinking at Garak again, then looking at him more closely in the darkness. "Really?" he asked, and there was a note of hopefulness in his voice that Garak deliberately didn't read too much into.
"You worked so hard yesterday," he continued in that same smooth low tone, "and were sleeping so deeply. It was a perfectly reasonable error to make — after all, I'm sure you're quite used to sharing your bed with lovely young ladies." He let no trace of the bitterness suddenly welling in his chest reach his friendly gaze. "Far be it from me to begrudge you a pleasant dream in the midst of this highly unpleasant situation."
The Doctor was still studying him, clearly trying to drink in as much information as possible in light conditions that were dim even for a Cardassian. "Then — you're not offended?"
"By a mistake?" Oh, the venom of disappointment, irrational though it was, was filling his jaws, making him want to bite. "Certainly not!"
The keenness of that gaze was becoming actively uncomfortable when, beyond Bashir's shoulder, Garak saw the form of a Bajoran nurse approaching the cot they shared. A soft voice carried through the darkness: "Doctor Bashir….?" and broke the moment of tension that had suddenly risen between them. Garak was actually relieved when Bashir glanced back toward her, nodded silently, then lifted the blanket off of himself and rose to his feet, tucking it in carefully again to retain the heat for Garak's benefit. For a moment the young Human stood looking down at him, his expression comprised of both puzzlement and something far more speculative, while Garak continued to smile, wishing that he would hurry up and take his leave.
"I'll… see you later, then," Bashir whispered at last, and turned away to answer the summons of the waiting nurse, leaving Garak to contemplate how eroded his personal defences had clearly become after so many years in exile. He tried again to compose himself for sleep, already suspecting that he was doomed to fail.