Snake Charmer
Chapter Four

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

Previous Chapter: O'Brien and Jadzia discover a crazy plot, Sisko goes without dinner and Lumond, a character never before mentioned anywhere, is murdered, prompting Brimel to close his investigation. Also there was some making out in a morgue, which I so do not endorse (except I do.)

Author's Note: God, this is so late. I pulled the others out of my hat and then lost it and had to mail order a new hat to pull this out of. It's got that new car smell, though. Anyway, thanks for all those delightful comments! Also I just noticed that FFN ate all my dividers. I'm so sorry you've all been reading it mushed together!

Quark's bar, usually a busy place, was packed with customers waiting impatiently. The normally bearable chatter was escalating into the roar of a mob.

The situation was bad enough to rescue Odo from watching Brimel.

The changeling warily strode into the establishment. While Quark was not an upstanding moral character, he was a businessman who could keep his customers in line. The chaos he observed was unusual.

Positioned securely behind the bar, Quark unsuccessfully fended off Bajoran and Starfleet officers on lunch break. "Fine, leave!" he shouted at a retreating customer. "And I bet your mother was a Rigelian whore!"

"Quark," Odo barked, startling the Ferengi. "What's going on here?"

"Business," he replied curtly, tossing his dishrag onto the bar. "It's a little off today." He spoke harshly to a busboy in Ferengi and then took off toward the backroom. Odo easily caught up and gave the other a sharp look.

Quark threw his hands up in exasperation. "Yes, Constable, please follow me around. That'll help all the angry customers relax."

"I want to know what's going on. This isn't like you."

The Ferengi grinned humorlessly. "What are you, an aspiring Betazoid? An off day is an off day, Constable."

Odo looked around, determined to solve this little mystery. His eyes lighted on the busboy, who was managing the bar by himself. "That's interesting," he remarked. "I've never seen one of your lower employees work the bar."

Quark quickly waved the observation away. "We're short on staff today."

"Funny, I would have expected your brother to be here, helping out on such a busy day." Odo craned his neck dramatically. "Where is Rom?"

At that, Quark stopped short and jabbed a finger into Odo's chest. "Listen, Odo, I have enough problems without you following me around. It's bad for business!"

The changeling noted that Quark was sweating more than usual and seemed short-tempered, but couldn't tell why. Reluctantly he bit out a dismissal and allowed the Ferengi to enter the backroom alone.

Walking down the Promenade, Odo saw a dark figure out of the corner of his eye. Looking closer, he almost thought the figure was Ferengi, but the ears were different. "Dobterian?" he mumbled to himself.

Curiouser and curiouser, he thought darkly, and continued to his office.

While Garak's shop was closed to any new customers, the tailor was working diligently on a piece that was due to be picked up. He trusted himself enough to let his mind wander as he hemmed a traditional Klingon Kal'Hyah outfit. He thought of dinner, Bashir, purchasing new supplies, Bashir discussing Cardassian literature, Vulcan silk, Bashir in the same room as Brimel.

That last thought made him stop and scowl at the incomplete work. He huffed angrily and put his tools away, certain that that train of thought would not be derailed.

Later, while he was still in a foul mood, the door chimed. Figuring it to be the customer, he schooled his thoughts and opened the door with an apologetic air. "I'm afraid I wasn't able to finish your—"

To his surprise, Brimel strode confidently into the shop. "No need to apologize, Elim," he teased unpleasantly. "I simply wanted to stop by before I depart. Who knows if we'll ever cross paths again?"

"Should I be so fortunate, "Garak easily replied. The two Cardassians stared each other down, false smiles in place.

Brimel slowly made his way around the room, observing the clothing on display. "I hear you do fair work. After seeing the good doctor out of uniform, I must agree. You did make him that shirt, did you not?"

Garak thought of Bashir wearing his birthday present and smiled inwardly. "I did. What fun we had measuring him for it." He shot Brimel a sharp look. "Around on your own, are you?"

"No doubt an officer is waiting outside." The ambassador curled his lip in disdain before recovering his composure. "They seem content to let me shop in peace, however. I rather enjoyed the local bar. The holodecks are intriguing, especially a certain spy program."

Garak snorted. "A childish game of waste and exuberance? Surely an ambassador such as yourself can find better entertainment."

"I'd almost forgotten!" said Brimel, suddenly grinning. "You must be a little curious about Cardassian affairs now. It must be so difficult, your fall from grace. Would you like to hear how Tain is fairing?"

The taunt struck Garak like cold water. His tensed, anticipating attack. "I assure you, I am not so isolated as you seem to think," he hissed. "I do so hope your mother heals after her surgery."

Brimel snarled and the two seemed ready to tear the other's throat out.

Suddenly, the door chimed. Garak forced himself to answer but refused to turn his back on his opponent. An annoyed Klingon stormed into the room, a female security officer in tow.

"Where is my clothing?" asked the Klingon louder than Garak liked.

"It's not finished yet," he replied ingratiatingly. "But it will be by tomorrow."

The Klingon snarled. "My Kal'Hyah is tomorrow!"

"It will be done in time. I assure you, you will have the clothes befitting an experienced warrior."

Brimel snorted, unimpressed, but the Klingon was pleased and left without further incident.

The security officer eyed Brimel distastefully and openly complained. Garak stifled a chuckle and enjoyed the sight of Brimel being chastised by a female officer half his size.

"I've finished my business, anyway," sneered the ambassador. "I'll have to remember to thank Doctor Bashir for his services before I leave." Brimel stuck his nose into the air and quickly left, the officer trailing after.

Garak quickly closed his shop, eager to find his Bashir.

"Will I live, Doctor?"

Bashir fought to keep his face straight and squeezed his patient's shoulder fondly. "Yes, Jake, you will be just fine."

The young boy beamed and hopped off the exam table, eager to leave. Bashir called him back.

"Listen, I don't mind patching up a few black eyes now and then. It's better than treating serious wounds. But I want to know what happened."

"It's none of your business," Jake huffed, half-heartedly.

Bashir smiled encouragingly. "You're my patient and a friend." He had a sudden idea. "You know, there are some aliens that, if even a single flake of skin gets in an eye, it can cause blindness."

"Really?" the boy gasped in dismay, hand covering his previously black eye.

"No, but that's the kind of lie I would tell you if I didn't like you."

Jake chuckled reluctantly and, like Bashir had hoped, began to relax. "Alright, Doc, I'll spill." He paused, and then blurted out, "It was Nog. He's been so upset lately! Something's been bothering him, but he won't tell me what."

Bashir nodded, though he was surprised. "So, you kept asking and he hit you?"

"Yeah. Hey, Doc, please don't tell my dad. He's still a little iffy about Nog, though he's been getting better."

The doctor considered the plea for a few seconds. "I'll tell him you stopped by with a minor injury. It's up to you to explain how you got injured."

"Thanks, Doc!" Jake left, happy to have an accomplice.

"Kids," Bashir mumbled to himself, smiling. He was surprised to find he was finished for the day and eagerly took off down the hall. When he turned a corner on the way to his quarters, he nearly ran into Garak.

"My dear doctor," exclaimed Garak. "What a pleasant surprise."

Bashir smirked. "Surprised? When you're obviously looking for me?"

"Don't take away my small pleasures," replied the tailor as he glanced over his companion. "Are you alright?"

"No worse than I usually am after I run into people in hallways. Why, did something happen?"

Garak huffed sorely as they aimlessly walked together. "Just Brimel. He insulted my observational skills."

"Oh, no," said Bashir. "Well, he doesn't know about your love affair with Sherlock Holmes."

"I only read those on your recommendation! Really, how could anyone trust a man who isn't affiliated with the state and lets criminals go so frequently?"

The doctor grinned. He knew Garak enjoyed Conan Doyle's stories more than most human literature. They walked passed an unpopular meeting room and he was surprised when he was pushed into it.

"What—" Bashir was silenced with a kiss. Garak was surprisingly timid at first, but quickly grew bolder. They broke for air, Bashir running his hands through the Cardassian's slick hair.

Garak nuzzled his neck. "I won't let Brimel near you," he promised.

Bashir began to answer, but a loud noise startled them. He called for the lights and was amazed to find another person in the room, sitting in the corner. The figure was bound, gagged and blindfolded, but his two large ears were hard to overlook.

Garak and Bashir exchanged a look, and the former drew closer to the bound figure. He carefully removed he blindfold and gasped softly. He motioned for the doctor to approach.

"My God," Bashir exclaimed. "It's Rom!"