Title: Minimalist, Baroque

Pairing: Garak/Bashir

Rating/Warnings: soft R

Word Count: 730

Summary: Two opposing viewpoints on one issue.

Notes: A stand-alone story set during Season Two, post-"Cardassians" and pre-"The Wire".

I consider you in odd moments, my dear, and I have to ask myself: when did I become such a minimalist?

After all, just look at you: your skin is so smooth, so unadorned by scales or ridges, like a stone worn to a satin finish by the gentle action of relentless waves. The only ornamentation you habitually wear is your heart upon your sleeve and the openness of your mind - and they suit you, but under normal circumstances should certainly not be enough to make you so attractive, so worthy of being touched and explored and savoured, or at least of being desired from afar.

Yet somehow they do exactly that. I find your eagerness and candour most refreshing in this bitter desert that my life has become, the effects of my implant notwithstanding. Perhaps you, yourself, are the water, and I am the rock whose adamant surface you are gradually wearing away, seeking my core without ever knowing what it is that you do.

Ah, well. Such speculations, while entertaining, are ultimately pointless. They do serve to pass the time though, and most pleasantly at that.

Tonight you've asked me to stay late in my shop to meet with you after hours, and I suspect I know the reason why. I've seen that look in your bright eyes before: someone has captured your interest, and no doubt you wish to consult me on some suitable gift to win her affections. A velvet dress, perhaps, or a scarf of gorgeous Aosian silk patterned with gold and carnelian? Tell me her coloration and I'll tell you the way to her heart! That is my trade, is it not? And the closest I'll ever get to intimacy with you, serving as a cunning partner in your many seductions.

So I'll smile and do as you ask, because I really do care for you far more than is wise and I want to see you happy, even if it's in the fleeting arms of some woman you barely know. I will not lie about what shade and texture would suit her best, even if I tell you the truth about nothing else. In that sense, too, I believe that less is inevitably more.

I'll admit that the first time I met you I could scarcely look away from your eyes: so intense, so brilliant, so captivating. They commanded my attention while the silky purr of your voice wound around me like the coils of a snake. I knew I was trapped and I really didn't mind, either then or now.

But at the same time I was keenly aware that you were elaborately decorated with more than just that hideous tunic you were wearing: scales and ridges patterned your face and neck, and I found myself wanting to reach out and lay my hands on them, to discover whether they were pliant or unyielding. I usually don't make a habit out of wanting to get that up-close-and-personal with members of an alien species, but you were definitely an exception to the rule.

You've always been an exception to the rules. I've never met a Cardassian quite like you, so playful and effeminate; I've never met a tailor like you, capable of fixing computers and manipulating others with the subtle games of a spy; I've never met a man like you, who makes me wonder what it would be like to kiss you and which of us would end up on top. Your mind is as baroque as your skin and the way it twists and turns always keeps me guessing Ñ strange, intriguing, compelling, marvelous, addictive. I want to caress your body and explore every texture, just as much I want to talk with you for hours and challenge your opinions and be challenged in turn. That's a rare combination for me, finding a person who promises to fulfill both needs.

Tonight I'm going to see if I can turn that promise into reality. You probably think that I'm coming by your shop to ask about a dress for my latest sexual conquest, if that smile you gave me over lunch was any indication, the smile that acknowledges my foibles and teases me about them and accepts them all at the same time. I've never known anyone who could layer a simple smile the way you do either... but I learned long ago that nothing about you is simple, despite your protestations to the contrary.

I smiled back, and wondered when I fell so much in love with the concept of your complexity.