Disclaimer: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the property of Paramount Pictures.
Author's note: This was inspired by a deleted/never filmed scene from the episode 'The Sound of Her Voice', in which Quark says to Jake, "Do you know how much latinum I almost made in the last year? I almost made a fortune by overcharging Weyoun during the Dominion occupation. I almost made a fortune by helping the Grand Nagus regain his throne. And I almost found a thousand bricks of gold-pressed latinum, before I realized it was in Morn's stomach."
The referenced Rule of Acquisition comes from Legends of the Ferengi.
Finally, this was written in response to the April Challenge on Ad Astra, 'The Needs of the Many...', as well as a challenge set to me by Sherlocked Spock on the DS9 Fanfiction Challenges board here.
Even in the Worst of Times…
It was always tempting to ask Weyoun about station business. The Vorta didn't come into the bar every day, but he was there often enough, sipping at a drink or two and watching the other patrons with keen-eyed interest. Quark knew that the things Weyoun could tell him could make him rich; give him a leg up in the business opportunities in the Alpha Quadrant and, if the wormhole ever opened again, the Gamma Quadrant as well. But he also knew that anyone who studied people the way the Vorta did wouldn't fall for Quark's barkeep chatter, and would, in fact, know exactly what was going on. It was maddening. Frustrating on every level. He was nursing a relationship with Glinn Damar, which might prove profitable at some point, what with his closeness to Dukat, but it was really the two men on the station's ruling council who he wished he could get in good with.
Occasionally Weyoun would drop some piece of information, though Quark had suspected from the beginning that it was a calculated move on his part to try to ferret out who Quark might want to pass that information on to. It was a game – a game that Quark didn't like losing, though he was content to for one reason: he'd been overcharging Weyoun for drinks since the Dominion occupation of the station had begun two months ago, and while it certainly hadn't made him rich beyond his wildest dreams, it was better than nothing. Depending on how long the Occupation went on – and maybe it would cease being an occupation at some point – he could turn quite a tidy profit on Weyoun's social drinking.
Today, Weyoun was either very pleased about something, or very upset – Quark couldn't tell, exactly, because the Vorta had that look on his face that Quark thought of as his mask. Just another frustrating thing about the Dominion's middlemen. They were too good at hiding, or flat-out faking, their emotions. And that made it hard to judge if it was time to suggest a spin at the dabo wheel, or perhaps an hour in a holosuite, or just another drink. As it turned out, he didn't have to suggest the last to Weyoun, because the Vorta signaled for another – his third. Unusual. He stopped at two, generally.
Quark readily complied, taking the opportunity to start a conversation. "It must be nice for you with all these Dominion facilitators on Bajor."
Weyoun raised his eyebrows and looked, for just a split second, surprised. Then his expression turned to mild amusement as he said, "Because it's given me the opportunity to be among my own people, you mean? I certainly hope you're not implying that I tire of the company of Jem'Hadar and Cardassians, Quark."
"I can't imagine why you would. Lovely people," Quark replied. Neither of them was fooling the other – Quark thought that Weyoun probably hated the Cardassians only slightly less than he himself did. "Still, I know how it is. When I got here I was the only Ferengi on the entire station – after awhile I just wanted to reminisce about the homeworld with someone who'd grown up there. You know what I mean."
"Actually, no," Weyoun said conversationally. "I came out of a cloning vat on a starbase. I've never been to the Vorta homeworld."
Quark considered that for a moment. Well, it took all kinds, and as long as their pockets were lined with latinum… "Still. You have more in common with your own people than you do a Cardassian." He grinned. "Or a Ferengi."
Weyoun raised his drink to his lips and sipped at it. Not the mannerisms of a man who was going to get drunk on Yridian ale or kanar – or anything else, for that matter. With all of the Dominion facilitators passing through the station on their way to Bajor, Quark had had quite a few Vorta in the bar. He'd never seen a single one of them even remotely inebriated. A shame, really. Drunk customers were profligate customers, financially speaking.
"I like to think that all of us have more in common than we think," Weyoun finally replied, a disgustingly sincere smile on his face. Then, as it mellowed to something more tolerable, he added, "You're right, of course, that it's been pleasant having so many Vorta on the station."
"I thought so." Quark leaned on the bar as Weyoun drank. "Maybe you'd like to get a group together; reserve a holosuite? I have some wonderful—er—" What exactly did Vorta do for fun? Probably not hand-to-hand combat, and if their wardrobes were anything to go by, they were definitely sexually repressed. "—that is, an extensive catalogue of holosuite programs, which you're welcome to browse through at any time."
Weyoun smiled slightly. "While I'm sure you have any number of titillating offerings, I'm afraid I'll have to forgo the holosuite," he said. He took a large (by Vorta standards) swallow of his Yridian ale, then pushed the not-quite-empty glass across the counter. "How much do I owe you?" he asked, genial, as always, about the prices. The man clearly had no head for economics.
"Let's see," Quark said. "Three drinks, that's—"
He stiffened. That was exactly the last voice he wanted to hear. How was it that Odo managed to say his name in precisely that tone; the way he managed to elongate the short vowel of his solid Ferengi name, to make it sound as though he were engaging in anything besides perfectly honest bartending? Sure, maybe he was overcharging Weyoun. It wasn't much, after all, just enough to offset the cost of all that hew-mon root beer that had gone to waste when the Federation had pulled out from Deep Space Nine. Terok Nor. Whatever. He'd call it anything they liked, so long as the Cardassians and Vorta kept drinking and playing dabo, and his profits kept increasing.
But now here was Odo, stalking into the bar ahead of schedule. "Why don't we settle up later," Quark said, smiling his most beneficent smile at Weyoun, hoping to get him out of there before Odo caught him at the price-hiking.
But Weyoun just shook his head, "No, no. I prefer not to have debts floating around. Here." He pulled several strips of latinum from his sleeve and put them on the counter. "I believe that should cover it?"
Quark determinedly kept his eye on the customer and could only hope that Odo didn't remember how generously low the bar's prices normally were.
"How many drinks did you have, Weyoun?" Odo asked, coming up behind Weyoun and looking from the latinum on the bar right up to Quark's look of wide-eyed innocence; and all but ignoring the subject of his question.
The Vorta jumped to his feet, genuflected, and instantly became horrifically sycophantic – and Quark knew sycophantic, knew the right way to pull it off and exactly what note of fawning adoration to hit. There was a line. Weyoun went beyond it. And with Odo, of all people. If there was a way to turn this to his advantage, Quark hadn't found it yet. Selling access to the constable had occurred to him, but then he'd gone and joined the station's ruling council, so Weyoun saw him every other day, anyway.
"Forgive me, Founder, I didn't mean to…" Weyoun looked at a loss for words for a moment, desperate to make amends for whatever transgression he imagined he'd performed. "…overindulge."
Odo looked distinctly discomfited by Weyoun's manner. He always thought he was so good at hiding his feelings – how many times had Quark heard him begin a sentence, 'You humanoids…'? But the truth was, he wasn't so great at it, and it used to be only Kira that made it so obvious. But he couldn't handle Vorta servility and it showed clearly on his face. Quark had to admit, he enjoyed it, even if he found Weyoun grating. "You're off duty, aren't you?" Odo asked, turning to the Vorta.
Weyoun hesitated. "Not if I can be of service."
So they had something in common after all. Quark knew how he felt – a bartender's duties were never finished. "Leave the man alone, Odo. Can't you see he's enjoying his time off?" And he doubted Odo would confront him about the over-charging with Weyoun sitting right there.
The look that Weyoun turned on him was ice-cold and deadly. "You will speak to Odo with greater respect," he said in a precise and steely tone, all evidence of their earlier camaraderie gone.
With a grunt, Odo said, "Don't bother, Weyoun. I wouldn't trust him if he did."
Quark glared at the meddling changeling, not so much for the comment – which was true – but for the fact that Odo seemed to think he needed help to deal with Weyoun. For his part, the Vorta didn't seem to know whether to take the comment at face value or as a rebuke. "I see," he finally said. Quark was sure he'd leave then, but instead he just stood there, gazing at Odo with that nauseating subservience in his eyes.
Odo cleared his throat pointedly and said, "I'd like to talk to Quark. Just a discussion between—" he glanced towards Quark, "—old friends."
"Of course." Weyoun hesitated another moment, but then bowed his head and backed away from Odo, until he was a safe enough distance from him that he apparently felt it was appropriate to turn on his heel and stride out of the bar.
Quark rolled his eyes. "Doesn't really take a hint, does he?"
Odo watched Weyoun go, his eyes narrowed, and then sat down. He turned back to Quark, ignoring his comment and instead saying dryly, "I'm well aware that it's not in your nature to think about how your petty swindling might affect the people around you."
Quark leaned on the bar, his teeth bared in a grin. "You've got me all wrong, Odo. I think about my fellow Terok Nor residents all the time. Why else would I give my heart and soul to this bar if not to bring a little joy and happiness into their lives?"
"Spare me, Quark; I know that the only joy and happiness you care about is your own."
"'Even in the worst of times, someone turns a profit'," Quark retorted. "Rule of Acquisition one hundred and sixty-two."
With a harrumph, Odo said, "And that someone is going to be you, I take it?" Then, he lowered his voice. "Does it occur to you that cheating the Dominion's highest-ranking representative on this station might cause problems for those of us trying to resist the occupation?" Quark scoffed and started to respond, but Odo went on, "I know you 'hear things', so I assume you're well aware that the person who seems to be standing between Bajor and a repeat of the Cardassian Occupation is Weyoun. Dukat hasn't stopped pushing for sanctions and restrictions on the non-Cardassian personnel on this station since he got here – and unless I'm mistaken, he doesn't like you very much."
Quickly glancing around, Quark leaned forward and hissed, "What are you saying? You want me to sacrifice the killing I'm making over-charging Weyoun for some…some badly thought out – and doomed, I might add – resistance plot?"
"I wouldn't dream of asking you to actually help us," Odo replied, his tone still bone-dry.
"That saves me the trouble of having to say 'no'," Quark shot back.
Sardonically, Odo asked, "Isn't there a Rule of Acquisition concerned with sacrifice?"
"Several, and thank you for your interest – I'm following all of them by refusing to get involved in the slightest with your little resistance cell."
Quark thought for sure that Odo was going to come back with some biting remark, but to his surprise, the changeling just stared at him. "I'm sure you are," he said, sounding musing. Then, in a much more serious, much less bantering tone, Odo went on, "I'm not asking you to fight the Dominion. I just don't need to give Weyoun any reason to give in to Dukat's demands. He likes it here, and if he ever figures out you're cheating him, he's going to like it a lot less. It would be easier if you charged him what you charge everyone else. Besides," he added, his tone returning to its normal gravelly sarcasm, "you and I both know that you mark up everything in here by at least three hundred percent."
"And that's practically charity," Quark said. In response, Odo just crossed his arms over his chest.
Habit nearly made him say 'no' again automatically. After all, he and Odo were adversaries. The natural thing to do with an adversary was disagree with him – unless, of course, there was some profit in the agreeing, and Quark couldn't see that there was in this case. The benefits of overcharging Weyoun, and all of his Vorta friends while they were on the station, were real, immediate, and tangibly monetary. The benefits of not doing so…well, who could say? That was a risk, and Quark's gut told him it wasn't worth it. 'Even in the worst of times, someone turns a profit' – Odo was right that Quark planned on being the one who turned the bad situation into latinum, instead of being noble. Why should he sacrifice his livelihood for a resistance that consisted of two Bajoran Militia officers, a teenager, and Quark's idiot brother's air-headed wife? No, that was a losing proposition, and it didn't even take a Ferengi to see it.
But he didn't say no. Something stopped him and made him really look at Odo. If he agreed to this, he might be able to wrangle some kind of deal for himself out of it. Except whatever had made him hold his refusal was also keeping him from bargaining over this. However sanctimonious and goody-goody the Federation was – well, he couldn't deny that he preferred them to the Dominion, with its dour Jem'Hadar and sycophantic Vorta. And of course, the Cardassians. He really didn't like Cardassians, though of course their latinum was as good as anyone else's. So far the Dominion Occupation wasn't so bad, but deep down, he thought he might prefer the Federation, their ridiculous money-less economy and all.
"I'll think about it," Quark finally said.
Odo raised one of his inexpertly formed eyebrows. "You'll 'think about it'?" he asked, in such a way that made it sound as though Quark had said something contemptuous instead of noble and selfless.
"That's right," Quark replied in a dignified tone. When Odo continued to stare at him with what Quark suspected was a smug, knowing smile, he finally scowled and snapped, "All right, all right. Fine. I'll start charging him normal prices. I'll tell him we're running a sale or something."
It was definitely a smug smile on Odo's face, and it became even more smug as he stood up. "I knew I could count on you, Quark," he said, his tone dripping sarcasm. Quark glared, and Odo smiled one more time; that self-satisfied, 'I won' smile that Odo was so good at. Then the constable walked out of the bar. Just another sparring match between them, and Quark had come out on the bottom of his fair share of them. This was no different – Odo had cost him plenty of profit before.
Well, you won some and you lost some. Not a Rule of Acquisition, but a realistic philosophy nonetheless. As Morn called out for another drink, Quark tried to remember how much root beer he still had sitting in the stock room. Maybe he'd hold onto it after all – just for a little while longer, at least.