Julian Bashir blinked blearily at the padd in his hand. He'd just finished reading it for a second time around, unable to fully absorb everything his first time through. Now it was nearly 0300 and he was on shift in the infirmary bright and early in the morning. But he couldn't sleep yet. Not until he'd sent a few choice words to one Elim Garak.
Garak sat down heavily and sighed away the stress of another long day filled in equal measures with back-breaking labor and mentally exhausting planetary politics. The light of his communicator was blinking at him and he might have ignored it until morning. If he wasn't hoping to hear from Julian. The doctor had certainly received his letter by now and Garak was extremely curious to hear what he had to say.
Garak had expected a letter in return and was very pleasantly surprised to see Bashir had sent a video message instead. Less pleasant was the small file size, a clear indication the message was a very short one. Still, it had been quite some time since he'd gotten to see the doctor's animated face or hear his charming accent. Eager, Garak opened the message immediately, entirely forgetting his empty belly and desire for a wash. The dusk light was getting low but he didn't stop to light a lantern. The screen had its own light source, and there was nothing else on the whole planet he cared to look at right now.
The video loaded on his ancient and only sometimes functional computer. The preview image gave him pause. The doctor's face looked just as it had when they parted ways. The last time Garak had seen Julian. Considering that was a time when both men had been beaten down by the reality of the devastation and destruction on the planet below them, it was not an auspicious look for Bashir to be wearing. Garak gotten used to see dark circles under the man's eyes during the war; what disturbed the poor doctor's sleep these days? The rest of the face looked grim and Garak almost didn't want to play the message.
But of course, he did. Even if he didn't have an insatiable curiosity (and a driving desire to hear the voice of his dear friend again) Elim Garak was no coward. He hit Play.
There was no cheery greeting to begin with. No "hullo, Garak", no fond smile or inquiries after his health.
"Is this some sort of a joke?" the image of Julian Bashir demanded, brandishing a data padd towards the camera. Garak did not need to guess at what its contents could be. "If it is, I'd really like to know what the hell you're playing at."
Garak's eyes widened and his mouth fell open. He was glad he lived alone these days, with no one to witness such a lapse in control. A joke? A tendency towards self-deprecating humor aside, why would the other man not think it was sincere? He was sure Bashir had learned his tells over the years, knew when to take Garak seriously and when not to. But how did one perceive such tells over subspace? Of course... the doctor likely didn't believe a word of it. Garak had certainly encouraged Julian to doubt everything he said during their time together.
The doctor heaved a deep breath and shifted his gaze to the padd he held. Garak's eyes followed it off screen as Bashir set it down. Very precisely, and with great care. As if it were precious, or as if he were restraining himself from flinging it against the wall?
On screen Julian sighed again and ran a hand through his hair.
"7 years, Garak. 7 years I sat across that table from you trying to find out what makes you tick. Trying to get to know you better, get closer to you. And you have the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to send me your entire life story when we are light years apart?! When I can't even establish a real time connection to speak to you to your face!"
Julian's eyes returned to the camera recording him, looking directly into it until Garak felt as if Julian actually could see him, see him right down to the darkest corners of his soul. Foolish thought. But no longer did the doctor's eyes spark with ire and annoyance; now they were filled with a warmth Garak was sure he could feel. While the comforting heat of his homeworld heated Garak's scales, Julian Bashir's kind eyes warmed him from the inside. The human's lips lifted into a smile. Which very slowly grew. And grew. Until he was beaming wide, with an ease of heart and peace of mind Garak had never witnessed in the younger man. Unconsciously Garak mirrored the smile. How he had missed seeing the doctor's face lit up with happiness.
"I'm coming, Elim," Julian said. And there was no bashfulness in it, no insecurity or uncertainty. "I'll be there as soon as I can make the arrangements."