"Why don't you just sit on the railing?" O'Brien surrendered finally, tired of watching Bashir wander back and forth across the dining platform.
"What?" Bashir said like he had air in his head instead all those superior nodes.
"The railing!" O'Brien jumped up the table from where he sat feeling constricted in his dress uniform about as comfortable as a strait jacket. "The railing," his hand gestured wildly. "Why don't you just sit on the railing where you can see everything? The whole place." From top to bottom. Floor to ceiling. Wall to wall.
"Why would I want to do that?" Bashir sat down at one of the smaller cocktail tables positioned to side of the main dining table where the Chief preferred to wait hulking over his water, twiddling his thumbs.
"I don't know," O'Brien agreed. "I'm just asking. Like you. I'm just asking."
"Well, I was just asking," Bashir picked up his water glass with a shrug. "Isn't any harm in asking, or for that matter in what I asked."
"I didn't say there was any harm," O'Brien assured.
"No. Merely the way I said it."
"Exactly," O'Brien pointed. "Precisely. On the nose!"
Bashir nodded. "Of course what I said was you're in formal dress. That's what I said. No intonation. Insinuation. Accusation. Double entendre intended." He stood up to yes, look over the railing of the dining area at all the other dining areas around him, below him and above. "Of course now I'm saying…" he agreed, continuing to stand there and take in the view which was lovely, yes, it really was. All those mirrored and muted multi-colored opaque glass panels encasing the numerous dining tiers of Quark's restaurant portion of his Ferengi bar and entertainment palace. Really quite romantic if one wished it to be. Certainly quite elegant if one wished it to be. Bashir wished for it to be both. He was dressed for the occasion for it to be both in his knee length formal dinner coat and perfectly creased trousers in polished medical blue. A somewhat striking opposite to the Chief's rather ill-fitting jacket of engineering gold. Somewhat striking. Bashir chuckled to himself. A clearly striking opposite was far more like it. "Apparently I struck some sort of chord."
"No," O'Brien was behind him tapping on his shoulder. "No, you said, and I quote 'Oh.' Pause. 'You're in formal dress.' Like I'm not allowed. Like I committed some -- "
"Sin," Bashir turned around.
"What?" O'Brien said,
"Or crime," Bashir nodded. "Those aren't my words, they're yours."
"No, they're yours," O'Brien assured.
"What I insinuated, yes. What I alluded to. Of course, I'm telling you quite plainly now it's your own conscience that's troubling you, not me. Guilty conscience, I might add. Good." Bashir left the rail and her view to sit back down at the cocktail table. His arms comfortable and casually resting on his thighs, his hands clasped in front of him, open, ready and willing to talk. "Because I also don't mind telling you I disagree that our friendship somehow negates the friendship I also share with Keiko."
"Friendship," O'Brien scoffed. "You kill her damn plants on her every time she leaves and I'm the one who has to run around like a madman trying to replace them for her so that I don't have to hear it. That's it. That is the extent of your friendship with my wife."
Bashir let that much slide. "What I'll say instead is, in my opinion when a man has a disagreement with his wife that upsets him to the extent that it is clearly upsetting you, what that man does is seek out a friend. Someone to discuss it with. Someone to just simply sit there and listen, allowing him to sound off. What that man does not do is sidle up to the first attractive young woman he sees in an effort to infuse his manhood and make himself feel important again. Which is exactly what you are doing. For whatever reason you don't feel important. You feel neglected. Taken for granted. The offer stands. If you want to discuss it, we will discuss it. If you want to just talk, talk."
"Uh, huh," O'Brien said. "Talk. We'll talk."
"Yes," Bashir nodded.
"You can't talk to you," O'Brien snapped. "You can't get a word in edgewise with you."
"I'm sorry you feel that way," Bashir straightened up with a reach for his water glass.
"Well, I do feel that way," O'Brien assured. "That's exactly the way I feel -- and a few other people, too. Dax, all right? Go ahead and ask her. Garak. Ask him."
"I will," Bashir said.
"Good! Because you're not superior, what you are is thick. Your attitude is superior, but bottom line, what you are is thick. You look. You decide. You could move heaven and earth trying to get you to see it differently, but it will never happen. Never. So, I'm not even going to bother to try," he loomed over the table in emphasis of his already emphasized words. "That's the attitude you hear coming out of my mouth. That's it in a nutshell. None of this crap about 'infusing my manhood'. I don't have to infuse anything. The left foot's not in the grave, and neither is the right one. And it'll be a long time before either of them are. A long time!"
"I also think," Bashir replied, "that as a friend to me, you should step aside."
"Come again? I should step aside?"
"From Janice, yes. You are aware of my own interest. I have expressed it to you."
"Baloney!" O'Brien sneered. "What you've expressed is I came, I saw, I conquered. That's it. Everybody else out of the way. I came. I saw. I conquered. Well, what if I don't feel like it? What if I just don't feel like it?"
"Chief," Bashir sighed, "I shouldn't have to be in competition with you. I can't believe we're even having this conversation. I really can't. I'm sorry, but I can't."
"Because I'm married," O'Brien nodded. "I'm old. Over the hill. Trust me, it's engraved. Well, now it's your turn. You are in competition. Got that? You are. I don't care how much you think you shouldn't be. I don't care how shocked you are. How much you or anyone else would ever DREAM! You are." He turned for the dining table to find his water glass and perched against the railing where he could take in a large portion of the view.
"Well, I'm glad we've have this little talk," Bashir decided. "Yes, I am glad. Quite glad. At least now everything is clear. We're clear. Clear in our understanding of one another and our positions and that's a start. A very good start. Yes, a very good start…"
"What are you doing?" O'Brien groaned when Bashir joined him in perching on the rail, water glass in hand.
"Me?" Bashir smiled. "I'm doing what you're doing. It was your suggestion I sit on the railing and I'm just taking you up on it…What I wouldn't suggest, of course," he mentioned with a look around as well as down, "is either of us attempt to push each other off. Not only would that be extremely childish, we could quite accidentally kill one another."
"Is that what you think I'm thinking?" O'Brien snorted.
"Is it what you're thinking?" Bashir asked.
"Doesn't hurt to make sure," Bashir winked. "After all, when a person starts acting out of what is normal character for them, there really isn't any telling…" Water from the Chief's glass sloshed onto the front of Bashir's jacket, obviously because the Chief tossed it at him. "Just how far he'll go." Bashir finished.
"That's what I was thinking," O'Brien nodded.
A frightfully dirty trick, at that. Completely unfair timing on the Chief's part. What with Captain Sisko's appearance just then at the top of the stairs, stymieing any retaliation from Bashir unless Bashir didn't mind having to explain why he was throwing water on the Chief. Which, yes, obviously he would mind having to explain as much as the Captain would mind having to ask. Therefore Bashir resisted his instinctive reactionary urges and did not succumb to dowsing the Chief. Making himself, in his eyes, the better of the two men.
The Captain's eyes saw something entirely different. He saw the Chief perched up against the railing, both feet on the floor, and he saw his Doctor Bashir perched on the railing, both feet off the floor. The already rapidly drying water on Bashir's jacket he didn't really notice until Bashir brought his attention to it.
"Gentlemen…" Sisko regarded the two members of his senior staff, one of them in particular with a cautious nod of his head.
"Yes," Bashir smiled. "That infamous hole in one's lip."
"Yes…" Sisko agreed. Now that Bashir mentioned it he did notice how the front of Bashir jacket appeared to be slightly damp in spots. "Perhaps if you tried sitting -- in a chair?" he indicated the several chairs available for that specific purpose.
"Oh, yes, sorry," Bashir hopped down off the rail for the nearby cocktail table. "This all right?"
"Any will do, Doctor."
"Actually," Bashir explained as he sat, "the Chief was just pointing out to me -- this really is a very strategic location, isn't it? You can see quite the vast area -- if not the majority of the entire bar. I suspect that was the reason behind choosing this particular section?"
"That would be a contributing factor, yes," Sisko settled at the head of the dining table.
"I've often wondered that," Bashir nodded. "Just because you can see someone does it necessarily mean they can see you? And vice versa, naturally. Because you can't see someone, does that mean they can't see you?"
"I…" Sisko said, uncertain as to what Bashir was actually talking about.
"Which is nothing," O'Brien scoffed.
Sisko had his suspicions the Chief was probably correct, however he was kinder about it. More diplomatic in his answer. "I would think, Doctor, the answer would vary depending about the circumstances."
"From position to range of vision," O'Brien assured. "What are you saying now? My eyesight is failing?"
"What?" Bashir said. "No, of course I'm not saying that."
"Yeah, right," O'Brien snorted. "Get over here. Just, get over here! Excuse us," he apologized to Sisko.
"Not at all," Sisko waved his permission. "Just don't, Doctor, if you wouldn't mind..?"
"The rail, you mean? No, I won't sit on the rail…" Bashir pried himself loose of the Chief tugging on his arm. "I'm here. Yes, all right, I'm here. What?"
"Who's that who just came in?" O'Brien insisted.
"Well, I'm not so sure either of us should really be pointing either," Bashir pushed O'Brien hand down. "But, yes, fine. Damar, I suspect you mean?"
Sisko's glass paused at his lips. "Damar?"
"And Dukat," Bashir nodded as Sisko turned around to look over his shoulder before looking up to the upper levels and what should be the Emperor's entrance. "Relatively easy to spot. The uniform's a dead giveaway, even if you can't see the face. I'm not aware of any other Cardassian visitors -- is something wrong?"
"I'm not sure," Sisko rose to have a look of the rail in the direction of Damar and his group crossing the bar area. He activated his com badge. "Sisko to Constable Odo."
"You beat me to it,"
Odo answered, clear on what the question was before it was asked. "His Emperor refused to exit the turbolift on the second level claiming to be unnerved as it was by the change of guard…"
"Yes, all right," Sisko nodded.
"My thought, being as Martok was apparently unable to resist your charms. The other choice, obviously, was to leave Damar in the lift until he agreed."
"Everything all right?" Bashir asked when the Captain signed off.
"Yes, everything is fine, Doctor."
"Excellent," Bashir resumed picking heads out of the crowd with the Chief. "All right let's see…who's that entering now? Right now…"
"Kira," O'Brien assured. "I see her, all right? I see her."
"And I see Garak," Bashir agreed. "So, no, I haven't the faintest idea what point you are trying to make. I was merely making the observation are we necessarily as exposed to everyone in the way everyone is exposed to us because if we are, we are exposed..." He stared out over the rail at who had to clearly be Doctor Janice Lange entering with her escort of security.
"We do it with mirrors, Doctor," Sisko answered from his seat. "It's all done with mirrors."
"A vision?" Bashir looked back at the Chief finally.
"You can say that again," O'Brien whistled low. "You can say that again."
Sisko glanced up at the mirror suspended at one o'clock.
"Ah, Major!" Garak galloped his way to catching up with Kira.
"Garak," Kira ignored him for Dax. "Lange here yet?"
"Thirty seconds maybe?" Dax smiled.
"Good," Kira nodded. "Mind if I..?"
"Wait? Not at all." Dax dismissed Kira's escort to assume guard duty along the walls with the rest of the assortment of traveling companions.
"Thank you," Kira said with a second nod for Odo, Worf.
"Major," Garak patiently waited his turn, beaming his brightest smile in her face when she finally turned around to him.
"You look like a veteran." Kira resolved something that was apparently troubling her.
"I am a veteran, Major," Garak agreed. "However, if you mean the suit, my suit." Which, yes, obviously, she had to mean his version of a knee length dinner jacket, breasted to one side and of a muted green-gray color, most complimentary to his flesh-tone. "I can assure you, while perhaps inspired by Starfleet's dress uniform, it is distinctly civilian in its origin and subsequent design."
"How can it be both?" Kira disputed.
"You would be surprised, Major. You would be surprised."
"Whatever," Kira waved. "What do you want?"
"Oh. Well, other than to say how I had heard a rumor how this evening's affair was to be formal…" he chanced a discrete look over Kira's comfortably worn red jumpsuit. "One confirmed as I watched Julian pass my shop…as well as Chief O'Brien… General Martok with his bat'telh…and, no, Major, apparently not something conveyed to you. I wouldn't be concerned however."
"I'm not concerned," Kira assured.
"No," Garak smiled, "I wouldn't have thought so. Elsewise, I did just want to let you know, I have completed Doctor Lange's list of essentials -- I do hope to your satisfaction. Naturally, if you have any questions, suggestions, or complaints, I will only be too happy to see what I can do to resolve the matter -- "
"Wait a minute, wait a minute," Kira was stopping him. "What were all those essentials this morning? What were those?"
"The barest, Major," Garak took a startled step back from her. "Simply the barest. I thought -- well, yes, I am positive I conveyed that to you."
Much like he conveyed his long and floating pink dress was not a dress but a nightgown. If that was true, Lange was wearing a nightgown. If it was false, she was wearing a dress. Either way Kira's face contorted in disgust of Garak and his creation upon Lange's surprising change in appearance upon her appearance in the entrance way of Quark's.
"I thought you said it was nightgown?" the back of Kira's hand whacked Garak in the chest, restarting his heart, paused to take in the view worthy of most people's attention.
Reasonable. To Lange's credit, under that dizzying head of hair was a brain reputed to rival Bashir's. Under that pale pink gown was a body clearly rivaling many. It all made sense to Odo.
"Commander," Odo brought Dax's attention not to Lange, or to Worf kicking over General Martok's bat'telh, but to the crowd starting to get a little too thick as they lingered in deciding if they were staying, leaving or coming in or what they were doing. The parade of diplomats just a little too interesting not to incur most people's curiosity.
"Yes," Dax turned from frowning in her own curiosity after Lange to assist in crowd control duty. As did Mister Worf turned from his observation of Lange to assist upon Dax's caustic cue. "We know. Glorious."
"Garak!" Kira insisted heatedly.
"Oh, but, Major," Garak breathed in incredulous horrified disbelief, "it is a nightgown."
"What?" Kira had him by his banded collar choking the life out of him.
"Clearly an inadvertent error on Doctor Lange's part!" Garak hastily swore by her Prophets. "Yes, that's very true. Understandable. Reasonable, even. The two -- shall we say more formal ensembles are quite similar to each other. Granted, one is a dress and the other is a nightgown. One may be cut to just above the knee, to where the other is quite clearly a floor length gown.
"One may have the subtlest version of a capped sleeve, where the other has mere straps. But they are remarkable in their similarity, Major, I insist. Their fabric…Color… And, of course, their general style. I do, as I have explained, like to keep the personalities of my clientele in mind at all times."
"Oh, for goodness sake!" Kira shoved him away from her. "I can't let her walk around in a nightgown!"
"It does offer a new and interesting meaning to the term evening wear, doesn't it?" Garak agreed.
"What?" Kira's growl was wet with saliva.
"Of course you can't," Garak purred soothingly. "Of course you can't -- nor I. I do think, however, Major, there are ways of conveying Doctor Lange's error to her without causing any undue or needless embarrassment."
"Embarrassment?" Kira choked. "I am quite capable of telling Lange or anyone else they're walking around in their underwear without any help from you!"
"Humiliation, Major," Garak nodded. "I really do believe it should be I to assume the responsibility of alerting Doctor Lange -- "
"While you, Major," he nodded, "take a moment to inform Captain Sisko as why Doctor Lange will be just a few minutes late."
"She's already here!"
"In returning," Garak concluded. "She has to leave, Major. Unless, of course, your only interest is in informing her?"
"No, of course that isn't my only interest!"
"All right, fine," Kira ran her fingers through her cropped red hair. "Fine. You get Lange. I'll tell Sisko…But, Garak, so help me," she had him and his collar gnarled in her claws again. "If you ever! Ever! Pull another stunt like this!"
"It's not a stunt, Major," Garak promised. "It's not a stunt." He took off on a fast trot after Lange while Kira turned to cut through the entertainment area on a shortened path to Sisko above.
"Wait a minute, wait a minute," Cardassia's Gul Anon Dukat, eldest son to the murderous cutthroat Dukat, muttered to his younger brother Pfrann as they crossed the bar area for the first of several staircases, lagging behind Damar and his Mister Paq by several steps. "Don't run. What are you running for? I don't see Janice. She said when I see the Vulcan, I will see her, and I don't see any Vulcan -- " Yes, he did. Just then. Coming through the entrance. The height of his head clearing about half of the milling crowd beginning to gather.
"All right, go, go," Anon urged his brother stalling on the first level of stairs to keep moving up so that he could dally as long as possible watching Janice move towards him like a vision, yes. His vision, no one else's. His wife. Or she would be less than two short weeks from then when they returned to Cardassia together. Damar's idiot conference, their six month separation behind them. I love you. His mind strove to tell hers, wishing they were both telepathic. The reflection of the twirling overhead lights dancing like sparks through his glassy red eyes watching her. Janice felt her cheeks growing warm and pink under his penetrating scrutiny. Her head dipped slightly with a light smile of lingering shyness. He was so powerful. Not only his arms, but his presence. An uncharacteristic flicker of mild curiosity crossed the Vulcan Captain's eyes with a glance from the tipped head of the Neutral Bajoran representative Lange toward the broad and muscular young Cardassian poised on the stairs.
"Kira…" Dax caught up with Kira at the Dabo table.
"All right, fine," Kira halted with an exasperated turn on her heel. "I'll go around the other way."
"No, it's all right. That isn't what I was going to say…ask," Dax bent her head in whispered confidence. "Isn't Lange wearing the nightgown? I thought we had decided the shorter one was the dress?"
"Yes," Kira nodded. "Yes, Lange is wearing a nightgown."
Dax digested that. "Well, if it's of any consolation, we really weren't too sure ourselves?"
"No," Kira agreed how they hadn't been. It just had never occurred to her to point out the potential danger of making the same mistake to Lange.
"I'll tell Benjamin you'll be a little late," Dax volunteered.
"Fine," Kira waved. "Fine. You tell Benjamin, I'll get Lange." she turned to cut her way back across the entertainment area.
Dax turned to continue on, taking one step when she realized something appeared to be very wrong about a trio of Bajoran Special Forces officers moving swiftly past the gambling tables ahead of her. "Captain…" she called, not knowing the officer's name. He turned around, looking for the voice. Dax took another step and he spotted her, a smile on his face as his phaser rifle came up fixed, and aimed. Dax stared for a split second before she reacted with a scream for "BENJAMIN!" and dove for the floor.
"I didn't say scream it," Kira halted to whirl around in time to see the first of the wide beams spraying across the gambling area. "Oh, my God…WORF!"
Dax came out of her dive up onto her knees and fired. The stunning blast from her phaser rifle caught the officer dead in the center of his chest, lifting him off his feet and sending him backward on top of the tables behind him. "Get down!" her hard shove sent Kira reeling into the Dabo wheel as the bar erupted into panic.