Anon found himself pushed farther and farther into the background. First usurped from center stage by Garak elaborating on his choice of career change, and then by the Federation moving in. Closing in. Surrounding Janice. Surrounding their own.
"Quite simply, it was inconceivable to me that I would not succeed," Garak confided to Janice.
"Sounds like a few Humans I know," Dax's head popped up over Bashir's shoulder.
"Oh, yes," Garak agreed. "Also an extraordinarily arrogant race, I would have to say."
"Not mentioning any names," O'Brien's chair grated across the floor to come to a rest at Janice's side.
"Under any particular set of circumstances," Dax nodded to Bashir.
"All right, all right," he threw up his hands in contrived surrender with an equally contrived grin for Doctor Lange. Really, in some ways Julian put the most ambitious efforts to shame. A reason perhaps why Garak found himself upon occasion just absolutely adoring him, there were no other words to describe it. "Who they're referring to is me."
"You?" Doctor Lange had no idea why, naturally, how could she?
"And what we're referring to, of course," Garak, as naturally, took it upon himself to be the one to tell, "is Julian's most intriguing tale of a former acquaintance with you, to put it delicately."
"Love affair," Dax informed, "to put it bluntly."
"Love affair?" Pfrann was this close to securing his brother's divided attention only to have it whisked away in an instant. He sighed. Anon stared at the table, not that far in the background not to be able to not overhear.
"Love affair?" Anon’s disbelief turned on Pfrann.
"Yes, and?" Pfrann sounded like that impatient O'Brien. The one with the irritable disposition, talk about surly Cardassians.
"What do you mean, yes, and?" Anon's fist struck Pfrann's banner. "That's my question of you. Yes, and? Yes, and, what Pfrann?"
"What do you expect me to say to you?" Pfrann snapped.
"Nothing!" Anon assured. "Don't say anything to me. Don't talk to me."
He stalked away. As far into the background he could get without following the Ferengi down the stairs, to watch the glittering panes of the mirror balls turning slowly overhead the stepped display of Quark's private dining booths, reasonably secluded from one another by their intermittent towering walls of glass.
"Anon…" Pfrann had this irresistible desire to drive him as insane as their father.
"Would you have a love affair with that Human?" Anon insisted. "Would you?"
"What?" Pfrann looked across their dining area to Bashir.
"I didn't think so," Anon pronounced satisfied when Pfrann looked back at him. "Neither would Janice. He looks like you; a child! He looks like one of these!" his fingers clamped over the rail with enough strength to rip it apart if he felt so inclined. "A pole! What are you going to do with something like that? Nothing! That's what you're going to do with it."
"I can't talk to you," Pfrann decided with a disgusted wave.
"Don't turn away from me!" Anon grabbed him. "What do you want to know? I love her? Yes! I told you so. Is that what concerns you?"
"Of course that's what concerns me!"
"Why? I thought you liked her?"
"Like her," Pfrann groaned. "Anon, it's not a question of me or anyone else liking her!"
"No. It's a question of me loving her, which I do. Don't worry about it," he let Pfrann go. "Janice, or anyone…Including Dukat. He'll like her, too. If only because she is attractive if he can't think of another reason."
"How can you say that?" Pfrann choked on his anger.
"Because it's true," Anon shrugged. "I didn't say I agreed with it, I don't -- And I'll tell him that, too," he assured. "Make an advance toward her and I'll kill him. What do you think?"
"About what?" Pfrann requested coldly.
"Janice!" Anon snapped. "You know what! Is she attractive? Not to you, to them; the Humans. I already know she is attractive to me."
Pfrann didn't know. He gazed sullenly back to Bashir and O'Brien. "I guess so. That's what they said. You heard them."
"Heard them," Anon scoffed. "I don't care what I heard. They could say anything. That's just all part of their mating rituals."
Pfrann's head snapped around to stare at him like he had lost his mind. Anon sighed. "Mating rituals. Yes, they have mating rituals, Pfrann, like Klingons. Specific rituals. I looked it up. Watch them. You'll see what I am talking about.""I don't want to watch them," Pfrann hissed. "You want to, go ahead!"
Anon laughed. "What's the matter with you?"
"Nothing! I am not the one researching Klingons and Humans…"
"I wasn't researching anything," Anon assured. "The data simply said 'Humans have specific mating rituals similar to Klingons.'"
"So I had a few questions," Anon shrugged, "that's all. Why?"
"Why?" Pfrann spit.
"Yes, why!" Anon's fist caught him sharply in the chest again. "Why are you asking me such personal questions? What's the matter with you?"
"I'm not asking you," Pfrann insisted. "You're telling me; and I don't want to know!"
"Good! Because I'm not telling you."
"Good," Pfrann clutched his head because if he had his father's affected mannerisms, right now he also had one of his father's headaches.
"So what do you think?" Anon grinned.
"Think?" Pfrann gaped at him.
"About Janice," Anon nodded. "I think she's beautiful."Dukat ducked his brother's playful swing. That was Odo's interpretation from where he stood across the private dining area, but only because Anon was laughing.
"Love affair?" Janice blinked at Bashir hiding his smirk behind his hand and two pink cheeks.
"Oh, yes," Garak purred. "So tell us, my dear, confess…"
"Where were you on the night of…?" O'Brien sought assistance from Dax.
"Pick a year," Dax was open. "Any year."
"2364," O'Brien nodded.
"23…64?" Janice echoed.
"Age eleven or twelve," Dax offered. "Or thereabouts."
"Actually, I can explain," Bashir assured Janice's wide eyes turning on him.
"I'm not so sure I want you to," she started to laugh.
"It's perfectly harmless, really. You weren't eleven. You were twenty-one. It was our third year of medical school together. A wonderful six months. And then you broke my heart."
"You turned twelve," O'Brien nodded.
"Actually what you did," Dax smiled, "is accept your doctorates in paleoanthropology and forensic sciences and leave Starfleet medical academy to pursue a career in archaeology."
"That is what I did," Janice agreed.
"Oh, I know," Bashir said. "The only irony is, apart from I always thought you would make a wonderful doctor, you aren't you."
"Oh, no, my dear," Garak supported, "quite obviously you are not. Who you are, of course, is Doctor Lange."
"Doctor Janice Lange," Bashir nodded.
"A different Doctor Janice Lange," O'Brien clarified.
"Oh, yes, absolutely," Garak gushed. "Julian just naturally assumed what with your name and your doctorates you were his Doctor Janice Lange. A thoroughly reasonable presumption. I would have likely made the same error myself."
"Even though what we all truthfully believe," Dax confided, "is that Julian has been spending too much time in the holosuites and needs to be desensitized."
"Well, it's hysterical either way," Janice endorsed the humor of the story, taking it all at face value.
Dax's concerns resurfaced; she wasn't quite sure why. Lange's trust and acceptance of Julian and his tall tale was a far cry from upholding someone like Dukat. There was no point to Lange instead having been offended by Julian. No reason for her to think of a potentially malicious reason behind the story. Was there?
You're becoming jaded. Dax scolded herself, unfairly, harshly. Her instincts gnawed at her, insisting danger was imminent. Lange was much more than simply too good to be true. She was a professed pacifist, ardently liberal in her viewpoints.
"But is it true?" O'Brien pointed.
"Is it?" Janice asked Bashir.
"Cross my heart," Bashir swore. "Is your story true? About the hair?"
"Definitely," Janice's head bobbed up and down like a wild and glowing bush, enticing her audience.
"I'm not so sure if that's good news or bad," Bashir grinned at Dax lost in thought. Included in those thoughts probably things like he didn't take Lange seriously any more than the Chief really did. An adorable kid, a beautiful and charming young woman. The fact that Lange had entered Starfleet medical academy on an accelerated program at only age sixteen probably scored few points, if any, with either of them.
Dax was right. It didn't; at least as far as him. Bashir wasn't there to compare intelligence quotients, he was there to have fun, and he was having fun.
So was the Chief. Garak quite obviously as well. Regardless of whether or not anyone else was. Janice Lange would at least have a few memorable moments of just plain fun to take home with her rather than simply an exhausting week of overstuffed shirts barking accepted rules of protocol at her every other sentence even when she did agree with them.
"Kira…" Dax ignored Bashir's waiting grin to head back in the direction of Kira, her thoughts racing.
"Quite," Bashir shrugged, turning to look up into Anon's growl, growling down on him. "Yes?"
Only the growl turned out to be the grating of another set of chair legs being drawn across the floor as the chair was yanked up and dropped down, Anon in its seat.
"Oh," Bashir smiled across to, rather than up into the glittering red eyes of Anon busy hitting himself in his head with the heel of his hand for some reason. Bashir's smile dipped to a curious frown.
"Your medical screening," Anon insisted impatiently. "Can you understand me, or can't you?"
"Perfectly," Bashir nodded as Quark took advantage of Anon's flailing hand, flailing in his direction to clap a fresh bottle of kanar into it. "There's definitely a distortion in your translator's pattern output -- but that could just very well be your own voice coming through. I'm afraid I don't normally hear most people's actual voices. Similar to yours, my universal translator is more concerned about interpreting what's being said…
"Still," he speculated while Anon eyed the bottle of kanar he found in his hand, "if your translator isn't working to your liking I'm sure there's a far better way to improve the quality, other than by hitting yourself in the head."
"I enjoy it," Anon assured.
"The quality of your translator?" Bashir hazarded. "Or hitting yourself in the head? I'll take it to mean you mean your translator," he nodded to Anon's tired look. "I believe you mentioned something along those lines before."
"I did," Anon yanked the stopper out of the bottle to pour himself a glass. "Now talk to me about what you mentioned before."
"The medical screening?" Janice contributed when Bashir drew a blank.
"Oh, yes," Bashir believed he had it. "It's really quite simple. As I was explaining to Janice earlier…"
"I know all about it," Anon interrupted. "I'm not asking what, I'm asking when."
"Oh. Well…" Bashir imagined, "any time really…"
"Now?" Anon handed Janice the glass of kanar.
"Now?" Bashir paused. "Well, yes, I suppose that's also possible…Why? Do you have a particular reason for asking?"
"No, I don't have a reason." Anon encouraged Janice to taste the kanar. "Try it. I tried your root beer, you try my kanar."
She grimaced. "Do I have to? I'm not so sure something that looks and smells so awful is going to taste anything but awful."
"Like your root beer," Anon laughed, taking the glass back. "No, you don't have to drink it."
"Oh, good," she appreciated it.
So did Garak, particularly Anon's laugh. It must have been the third or fourth time the Gul had laughed that evening. Each time bright and cheerfully. Open. Honest. Garak thought of a Klingon proverb cautioning never to trust someone who smiled too much. That was interesting because to a Cardassian a smile meant the same as it did to a Human. Contentment. Satisfaction. Internal pleasure often derived from or by external factors.
"What?" Anon's pleasure did not necessarily extend to Julian.
"Oh, nothing, really. Just that medical screening."
"We have our records," Anon assured.
"Oh, yes," Bashir had no doubts they did. "As required by the Federation."
"You have our records," Anon watched Janice struggling with the root beer. He laughed again. "What's the matter with you? You really don't like root beer either? What kind of Human are you?"
"Yes," Bashir nodded. "I mean no," he shook his head, "we don't have your records. But then we didn't even know who you were until a few hours ago. Even still," he picked up his wine with a smile, "I doubt if we'll discover anything too dramatic…"
"Rigelian fever," Anon tossed off like it was a common cold.
"Rigelian…" O'Brien echoed as Bashir choked on his wine.
"Fever," Quark snatched Anon's glass of kanar away. "Now you tell me."
"Did I look dead to you?" Anon retorted.
"No," Bashir swallowed painfully. "But that's hardly the point…"
"Really," Garak regarded Anon like he had the plague, which, of course, was what he had. Doctor Lange, however, appeared to be in agreement with Anon.
"You too?" she said amused. "So did I. Last year."
"I beg -- " Bashir's tearing eyes blinked at her. "I beg your pardon?"
"From the Klingons?" Anon nodded knowingly to Lange.
"Well, I don't know if it epidemic was due to the Klingons. I hadn't heard that. But, yes…Didn't you hear about it here?" she questioned Bashir.
"Well, yes, actually. I'm sorry. I just never connected…Of course," he dropped back in his seat with a groan. "The outer colonies. What was I thinking? I wasn't, quite obviously."
"Yes, that was it," Anon agreed with Janice. "The colonies. My brother, too. My crew. Eight months ago. Two months your friend Shakaar held my transport hostage with his stupid quarantine, and then he asks what we are doing there."
"Well, it wasn't so stupid now was it, if you contracted Rigelian fever?" O'Brien returned harshly.
"And what were you doing there, Gul Dukat?" Garak spoke up. "I mean, surely you aren't suggesting First Minister Shakaar did hold you actual hostages?"
"Have you ever had Rigelian fever?" Anon sneered.
"No." Garak expressed little regret for never having had the experience. "Though it is my understanding without the antidote it's fatal."
"Occasionally with," Bashir stood up. "So much for my thinking I'd have you all out of my hair within an hour. Between Rigelian fever and DNA inhibitors -- ""Proximity detectors," Kira appeared at his side with a request for Sisko's attention. Something Bashir already had secured, along with Legate Damar's.
"DNA inhibitors?" Damar glared at Sisko. "What is he talking about?"
"Relax," Kira said, "it's the least of your concerns."
She took a breath while Sisko tried not to notice Dax putting a bug in O'Brien's ear about something. "Major?" he waited.
"Yes," Kira nodded. "Security's been fielding a lot of questions as we anticipated -- It's not a problem," she moved quickly to put down any immediate cause for alarm.
That was reasonable, Sisko concurred because he had an idea Kira was lying, exaggerating at the very least. Why? Risky, if Damar asked for the missing details Kira was taking pains to avoid. Sisko felt his attention wanting to stray back to Dax with the Chief.
"But Odo would like to order proximity detector implants for the Committee staff…" Kira explained.
"Really," Damar smirked. Suspicious? He was almost amused.
Kira stayed a step ahead of him. "We don't feel it's necessary for you, or your assistant. The standard security bracelet should be fine. If there's going to be a threat, it's probably going to be against the conference committee."
"There's just one problem with that, Major," Sisko fell neatly into step as devil's advocate.
"One problem, Captain?" Damar demanded; his amusement short lived.
"Beyond having to obtain an individual's permission."
"Lange," Kira was aware.
"We risk offending her neutral status, Major," Sisko nodded. "I simply can't allow it."
"You may not have to. She has a DNA inhibitor implant."
Sisko was startled. Immediately apprehensive and concerned. His annoyance with Shakaar renewed. A DNA inhibitor would raise questions and doubts with him -- it did raise questions and doubts with him. He ogled Lange and the beguiled group of men surrounding her. If there was a snake in the garden, it was supposed to be Dukat; Damar. Not Shakaar.
"Of course," the palm of Damar's hand struck the table in disgust. "Well, while that might explain who we're talking about, Captain, it certainly doesn't explain why."
"Bajor signed a no resistance agreement with the Dominion," Kira reminded him coldly. "The Federation did not."
"She's neutral, Major," Damar sneered back. "As neutral as you or I."
"She's Human," Kira insisted. "Living a light year from here on the border of Cardassian and Bajoran Space. I'm not suggesting we grant her immunity, I'm saying the implant isn't necessary -- with the disruption of her DNA sequencing it's questionable as to whether or not it would even work!"
"Which we will not even attempt. My decision stands, Major," Sisko settled the matter. "The standard security bracelet will be used for Doctor Lange…As far as the other members of the committee staff…" he looked across the table to Dax nudging the Chief in his ribs. "Ladies and gentlemen, if I could have your attention for a moment, please…"
"Proximity detectors?" O'Brien echoed, no obvious prompting there. Odo rolled his eyes as Dax bit her smile. "Well, heck," the Chief scoffed, "what do I care? Do you care?" he asked Bashir.
"Care?" Bashir's brown eyes blinked wide. "About implanting proximity detectors?"
"You don't care," Dax shook her head.
"Yes, of course I care," Bashir protested. "And I'd like to understand a little bit more of the reason why."
"Security," Anon snorted. "Why do you think?"
"And I would think you would also," Bashir replied, a distinct, cool edge to his tone. "I'm sorry, have I confused which one of us is Cardassian?"
"Oh?" Anon said. "Why?" he closed his eyes, promptly proceeding to describe the color, size, and position of every article of food on Quark's tray even if he didn't know what half of it was. As well as the precise location of everyone in the dining area, their distance from one another. The dimensions and decor of the section. The number and exact angle of the stairs leading down and around; the stations of the security teams.
"Cardassians have a photographic memory," Garak apprised Janice per chance she was not aware. "Myself included, naturally. Beyond our immediate surroundings, Gul Dukat can quite accurately describe for you the structural layout of the Promenade and everything he has seen since boarding the station. And while that might seem an entertaining parlor trick, my dear, I propose you consider the value, or danger of him aboard the bridge of a battle cruiser -- someone's other than his own…Or for that matter on Ops." he smiled at Sisko.
"Something which in turn explains why we'll be meeting in a converted cargo bay," O'Brien cracked to Janice.
"He's joking, of course," Bashir reassured her. "Who isn't is Garak. Yes, Cardassians do have a photographic memory. Far beyond being able to recall a stroll along the Promenade. I'm sure if you ask Dukat, his encounter with the Klingons and subsequent bout with Rigelian fever is -- "
"Like yesterday." Anon's eyes sank deeply into Janice's, ignoring Pfrann's uncomfortable shift at his side. "I remember it all; everything."
"Really," Garak cooed. "That's most interesting. Oh, yes, most interesting, definitely, Gul Dukat."
"He remembers it mentally, anyway," Bashir nodded to Janice. "And possibly to a degree emotionally," he winked in spirited jest. "But then the Cardassians have this passion for exacting revenge. Klingons themselves in that regard."
"I wish I was still there." Anon assured Janice.
"There, you see?" Bashir smiled. "Straight from the horse's mouth. Though, still, I wouldn't consider his penchant for violence any cause for immediate alarm; you're not Klingon. Not even Bajoran…Or for that matter," he teased, "Federation. If I was at a loss to understand Shakaar's frame of mind when he employed you, and I admit I was at a loss, I think I'm beginning to understand now…"
"Oh, yes…" Garak said. "And, of course, oh, no, Julian's quite right, Doctor Lange, we are a thinking species; violent, though thinking. Capable of reasoning, not mere instinct; obsessed with reasoning, I would have to say," he smiled, upholding Julian's notions of the similarities and dissimilarities between the Klingon and the Cardassian races. Not to say Doctor Lange appeared alarmed, or concerned in any way to find herself in the company of cannibals and psychotics. In fact it was remarkably generous of her to smile so brightly in return at the professed driven and violent Gul when she was such an ardent pacifist.
"I can understand that," she answered Anon's voiced desire of wanting to turn Time back to a past and different day.
He almost forgot himself. Who he was, who she was, and where they were. Only this time instead of his brother tripping him in the mud along their trek through Janice's grotto, Pfrann just stepped up, reaching between them for his share of the platter of food. "You say that now, then you were glad to leave," Pfrann's voice was soft as it was usually soft. His molding in the image of his father generally restricted to his features and mannerisms. As was his idol worship reserved for his brother, so unlike his father in every way.
Anar slowly released the breath he was holding. Brought back to their section on the run much sooner than he anticipated by the increase in simmering tension, his departure had been delayed the second time by Anon's mention of the Rigelian plague.
It was delayed a third time by…
"As a matter of fact, I have a photographic memory myself," Bashir nodded to Janice.
A disclosure, Garak highly doubted, Julian felt necessary out of any feeling of inadequacy put alongside the power of the Cardassians surrounding him. There was certainly no reason why Julian would ever think he might actually be in competition with Dukat, of all people, and of, course, Julian was not. No, Julian simply had by nature -- or the equivalent -- a highly competitive streak to his personality. Really, it did seem how after more than six years, Julian still couldn't decide if he had more fun being obnoxious, or playing the role of the kindly and caring station physician. Another one of those reasons Garak just so absolutely adored him.
"He has a what?" Anar paused in his exit.
"Photographic memory," Dak'jar scoffed.
"Oh?" Anar gave this young Doctor Julian Bashir a second, curious look, wondering if there was something he had missed the first time. "Is there a reason we should care?"
"Apparently he does."
"Yes," Anar gathered that. As apparently Bashir was confusing Janice with one of the Ferengi's hostesses; which Anar wouldn’t. For reasons other than who he called daughter, he embraced as a daughter. He eyed Anon, his uncharacteristic honesty as much his Achilles heel now as it had first shone itself to be. It was to Anon's benefit, and Janice's, Bashir's talents did not include emphatic ability.
"You should care as much for yourself," Dak'jar practiced reading his thoughts."Yes," Anar supposed he should. A reason perhaps to why he was leaving. But then no one needed a photographic memory or emphatic ability to notice the striking resemblance between some Bajoran Special Forces officer and Shakaar Adon of Bajor, given the opportunity; which they wouldn't be.