“Why doctor, it does seem like you have been avoiding me again,” Garak remarked and the fact he had to add again to the sentence said more than he was strictly comfortable with.
“Oh,” Bashir said and sunk down further into his chair. “Have I?”
Garak folded his hands and smiled instead of indicating how much the fact Bashir hadn't even noticed hurt him. “Yes,” he said.
“Sorry,” Bashir mumbled and drummed his fingers on the table in front of him.
When the silence lasted too long, Garak finally asked, “Is something bothering you?”
“What? Oh, no,” Bashir said and the silence came back again.
“Really, doctor,” Garak said and was careful to keep annoyance out of his voice.
Bashir sighed, bending over to put his head in his hands. “No, no, sorry, you're right.”
“Of course I am,” Garak said with another smile that he didn't really feel. “So why don't you explain what's bothering you. I hear things like that help.”
“You... remember the mirror universe?” Bashir offered hesitantly.
“It is singularly difficult to forget,” Garak drawled.
Bashir hesitated again. “Well apparently it's not the only universe out there. Alternate one, I mean.”
“Ah, that's what that wormhole incident was about last month,” Garak said. Honestly, living next to the wormhole, he wondered how they managed to lead such normal lives. When the wormhole got strange, it got strange and he was thankful it mostly remained dormant on that front.
Bashir made an agreeing sound. “I guess I didn't really think about the fact I was avoiding you.”
“Oh no,” Garak sighed. “It couldn't possibly be worse than that mirror universe, could it?”
Bashir mumbled something and Garak was quite certain he misheard. “What was that, doctor?”
“We were lovers,” Bashir said, eyes sliding away and not meeting his.
Garak felt floored, like someone had knocked the air out of him and he forced a laugh. “Oh, really? Come now, doctor, why does that bother you? Alternate universes are just that, aren't they? In the other one I was a sycophant bureaucrat and you were an insane revolutionary. While the building blocks may exist, we can hardly be compared to them, can we?”
Bashir was still not looking at him. “I suppose.”
“Does the idea of being my lover bother you so much as that?” Garak asked, trying to laugh it off.
Bashir's shoulders twitched and he actually looked hurt. “It was different. I mean, from the other—a lot was the same there. We were still relatively similar. Not completely, I'm not saying that, it was obviously another world.”
“So it bothers you more because it's closer to this one?” Garak pressed.
“Who said it bothered me?” Bashir muttered and before Garak could react one way or the other he was up, giving some apology or another and then he was gone down the promenade.
Garak wanted to break the table in his wake.
He knocked on Bashir's door and was thankful when the doctor answered it promptly. “I seem to have gone about this all wrong,” he said, voice smooth. “See, I was working under the strange assumption you would pick up on Cardassian courtship rituals after about the third or fourth book detailing them.”
“What?” Bashir asked, and he looked sleepy, his eyes heavy and hair tousled like he had fallen asleep on the couch. Garak was pretty certain he was failing his whole race for finding it adorable.
“Do I need to repeat myself?” Garak asked and Bashir's eyes slowly widened before he shook his head slightly. “Good. So what bothered you about that experience you had in the other world?”
“They seemed happy,” Bashir managed, his voice thicker than usual and Garak felt a thrill go through him.
“Would you like to give that a try?” Garak asked and Bashir was staring at him, mute and shocked. They were still in Bashir's doorway which honestly was not the right place for a conversation such as this. But Garak only had eyes for Bashir and for once didn't give a damn about what anyone else might think.
“You mean,” Bashir asked, as if he had to confirm what he was hearing but unable to fully process it.
“Yes,” Garak cut him off before he could tender some sort of clumsy phrasing. “I'll have to look more into human courtship customs, of course, as I admit I didn't pay enough attention to them as I should have. They seemed inane.”
“Um,” Bashir managed and Garak stepped forward, invading what little space there had been between them. He could see Bashir's pupil widening and made a mental note to confirm what that meant in humans. “Well most of them are,” Bashir said and he was reacting to Garak's closeness, his breath shortening and he tilted his chin back just enough to keep eye contact as Garak got closer.
When Garak brushed his hand across Bashir's cheek, he closed his eyes and his breath caught. “Remind me next time to just be straightforward,” Garak said.
Bashir snorted, opening his eyes. “You couldn't be straightforward if you were standing on a completely straight road with signs pointing in one direction saying in all capital letters, go this way.”
“Well,” Garak said. “True enough. But there are recommendations for the approach,” and with his hand still on Bashir's cheek, he leaned down and pressed their mouths together. Bashir still startled and he gasped against Garak's mouth, his own hands floundering in the air before grabbing on to his shoulders. Considering how terribly Garak had telegraphed this move, he thought that was an excessive amount of shock to display.
But Bashir's mouth was opening up under his and it was warm. Garak wanted to curl up in that heat and not leave again, his sliding to the back of Bashir's head and tightening its grip.
“Right,” Bashir breathed when Garak finally tore himself away. “I would say you should be straightforward more but I'm not sure I'd survive it.”
“Come now, doctor,” Garak smirked. “You could survive just about anything.”
Bashir hummed and this time he urged Garak back down into another kiss.
They still hadn't left his open doorway and Garak emphatically did not care.