Snake Charmer

Chapter One
Disclaimer: I do not own ST: DS9 or any characters therein.

Author's Note: This is mostly a personal view of Garak and Bashir's friendship and all the implications of it. There will be light G/B and maybe some other pairings. It takes place during the first few seasons.
Spoilers: Garak's past, season one spoilers

Commander Benjamin Sisko, a normally bright, well-mannered officer, paced back and forth in his office. He idly played with the old baseball in his right hand as he moved, graceful even at his most nervous. He turned to his science officer, Jadzia Dax, seated behind his desk.

"Tell me I'm not making a mistake," he said, tossing the baseball to Dax.

She smiled apologetically even as she caught the ball.. "You're making a mistake. But it's a mistake sanctioned by Starfleet."

"And that makes it all the better," he deadpanned, relieved when his comm unit chirped.

"Kira to Sisko," called a voice over the comm. "Our ambassador just arrived at dock two."

Sisko smacked his badge with more oomph than usual. "Check with Odo and make sure the path is clear. No one is to disturb us. I'll be there soon. Sisko out."

He gave Dax a significant look, turned on his heel and marched out of his office.

Major Kira stood stock still by the large, circular docking doors. She was careful to not shift and not fidget with her traditional earring, but she felt the urge to. The presence of Constable Odo, the Chief of Security, was a calming influence. Together they were a pair of statues, albeit grumpy-faced ones.

"By not fidgeting, you're making your discomfort more obvious." Odo pointed out, a sliver of concern showing through his bland tone.

The Bajoran snorted. "Good. I want everyone to know I'm sure as Hell not happy about this."

Loud footsteps made Kira glance over her shoulder. She gave Sisko a sharp look as he finally approached, panting lightly. "You're late." He grinned but it quickly faded as the doors slid aside.

Out stepped an elegantly dressed figure. He was just a little shorter than Sisko, with excellent posture and a very deliberate stride. He stopped just outside the commander's personal space and removed the hood of his navy robe. The Cardassian face, though expected, still sent a shock through the trio.

"I am Brimel, Chief Investigator for LoMak Systems." He paused, and then held out his hand to give a poorly executed handshake.

Sisko nodded slowly. "Welcome to Deep Space Nine, Ambassador Brimel. I am Commander Sisko, and this is Major Kira and my chief of security, Odo. We hope your stay here will be..." He floundered for the correct word.

"Brief," Kira chimed in. She stepped in between Brimel and Sisko, inches away from both but intimidating in her closeness. "You are not entirely welcome here, Ambassador."

Brimel nodded and met Kira's eyes. She frowned at his passive expression until Odo gently pulled her back by the elbow.

"I will escort you to the infirmary," grunted Odo.

When the Cardassian's eye ridges shot up in surprise, Sisko quickly interjected. "It's standard procedure for all persons remaining for more than a day to get a check-up. After that, you're free to do your business."

Brimel smiled knowingly. "I'm free to work with a guard around, isn't that right?" Odo nodded and motioned for the Cardassian to precede him, which he did. Together they headed toward the infirmary.

Sisko turned to Kira. "That was not a warm greeting, Major," he admonished half-heartedly.

"This is Starfleet's fiasco," retorted Kira, giving in to the urge to touch her earring. "But let me warn you right now: the Bajorans on this station will not like this."

"Don't I know it," groaned Sisko, leading the way back to Ops.

Brimel found himself entranced by the medical equipment in the infirmary. His eyes roamed the walls of the small waiting room he had been sitting in for nearly half an hour. Naturally he was a little irked but the novel imagery made up for his wait. It was not everyday he got to see Cardassian architecture and technology converted for Federation use.

Before he got desperate enough to count ceiling tiles, a human male entered and gave a sincerely apologetic smile.

"I'm Doctor Bashir," said the man, not bothering to offer a handshake and instead retrieving a penlight from a drawer. "Sorry for the wait but there was some trouble at the school."

"A school," Brimel murmured to himself. He tried to picture a human child, which he had never seen first hand before, and snorted. "I see. I am Brimel. Commander Sisko assured me this would be a short process."

Bashir flashed the light into his eye without warning and he clenched exam table in an iron grip. "Well, when Commander Sisko finishes medical school he can accurately judge the length of an exam." The doctor gave him a warm smile. "Remove your tunic and shirt, please."

Again Brimel was surprised by the human's boldness, but he slowly removed his clothing and sat shivering slightly.

Bashir looked apologetic once more as he scanned him with a tricorder. "I realize this is a little unorthodox, but we haven't had too many Cardassian visitors. I just want to check your lungs. Can you breathe alright?"

"Fine," Brimel lied quickly. "I do not understand how you humans can stand this cold temperature."

The doctor pressed a warm hand against Brimel's chest and the Cardassian nearly gasped. He was torn between the reflex to hit the human and his need for diplomacy. After a minute, Bashir retreated and returned his clothing.

"Thank you. You can put your clothes back on, but I need to give you a hypospray to help you adjust better." Bashir offered no alternative and Brimel hid his frown in his shirt. Sure enough, when he finished pulling on his tunic, the human pressed a spray to his neck.

He considered complaining, but he did feel a little better afterward.

"You are... competent, Doctor," Brimel stated, impressed while also annoyed. He rubbed at the spot of the injection, then rose and headed for the door. As he left, he heard Bashir's soft laughter and was surprised to find he liked the sound.

Elim Garak was not accustomed to being noticed. Not before, during his life on Cardassia, and not after, during his life as an exile. So when he walked down the Promenade to Quark's and had all eyes on him, he found himself unnerved. The very thought made him disgusted with himself.

Of course, he knew why he was suddenly the center of attention. He had found out about a Cardassian visitor days before and predicted a Bajoran protest. What he hadn't realized was just how many people were upset over Brimel's stay. He had yet to meet someone who wasn't ready to draw blood.

Quark's, he figured, was the best bet for indifferent service.

Entering the bar and finding a table far away from any Bajorans was a difficult task. Luckily, he spotted one Julian Bashir alone at a table on the upper level. The doctor seemed to notice his attention and eagerly motioned for Garak to join him.

Bashir's presence always seemed to draw a genuine smile from the tailor. "Ah, my dear doctor," greeted Garak, sitting down. "How rare to find you alone."

The doctor waggled his eyebrows suggestively. "Perhaps I was waiting for you."

"No doubt to seduce information about Brimel out of me." The look of surprise on Bashir's face pleased Garak. It was nice to be able to impress someone. "How is the good ambassador's health?"

Bashir grinned. "He's fine. A bit cold but I'm sure you could have guessed that." He waited while Garak ordered lunch from Nog and then asked, "What do you know about Brimel, anyway?"

"No more than you do, I assure you," Garak said. "It is exciting to have another Cardassian presence, I suppose."

"Exciting is hardly the word, Garak. Kira and Odo are convinced there'll be a violent Bajoran protest." Bashir fell silent and stared at the table. It was obvious he had more to say from the way he bit his bottom lip. When he looked up, Garak tilted his head encouragingly. The doctor relented. "Do you... want to meet him, Garak?"

Garak tensed. "That would be a very bad idea, I think." He gave the human a small smile, sincerely thankful for the doctor's tact. The tailor had no interest in talking to another Cardassian on the station of his exile, no matter how homesick he felt.

Bashir awkwardly reached out and touched Garak's hand on the table. It was a gesture more bold and intimate than either was used to. "Look after yourself, alright? I would miss our lunch dates if anything happened to you."

The number of undertones to the simple phrase was so delightfully Cardassian that Garak snorted and squeezed the hand before withdrawing. He made a note to keep an eye on Brimel and, perhaps, Bashir.

Nog delivered Garak's lunch and they ate in companionable silence until Chief O'Brien entered the bar and headed their way. Bashir gave Garak a warning look before waving to the engineer; no doubt, he expected the two to butt heads as usual.

"Julian," O'Brien said warmly, standing by their table. He stopped Bashir from pulling up another chair. "I just came to check up on you."

Bashir arched an eyebrow. "Why's that? Molly's fine if you're referring to the school incident. One of the older boys had the stomach flu, that's all."

O'Brien looked pointedly at Garak, who stared back. "No, I meant that business with the Cardie. I heard you gave him an exam without a guard."

Garak frowned. Much as he disliked O'Brien, he had a point. He didn't like the idea of Brimel and Bashir alone in an exam room.

"It was just a quick exam," Bashir said. "He was very cooperative."

"I'll bet," O'Brien muttered under his breath. Garak narrowed his eyes. The engineer continued, " I have work to do. Next time, just keep a security officer around, alright? Throwing scalpels isn't the best defense."

"My aim's not that bad. Bye, Miles," Bashir watched his friend go. Then he turned to Garak. "You were quieter than usual."

The tailor smiled smugly. "You seem to have a reputation as a snake charmer. I was simply being charmed."

Bashir's light blush helped calm Garak's nerves. They moved on to discuss literature for the rest of lunch.