There's just something about Monday mornings that defy all. And it was Monday morning in the O'Brien household beyond a shadow of doubt. "Three months?" The Chief's disheveled, in-need-of-a-shave face, gaped at his wife Keiko on the viewer screen finally after spending all of yesterday and half the night trying to find her, never mind who else might be trying to find whom.
"Miles…" Keiko's patient tone had lost much of its patience, in fact it had a distinct edge.
"I know!" O'Brien assured before she said it again. "She's in school! Molly's in school! I heard you the first six times!"
Three times, actually. And, no, for the fourth time Keiko was not taking Molly out of school to pack her off home especially when school would be over in three short months.
To her it was three short months. To the Chief it was a lifetime. Twelve months already two lifetimes, or four lifetimes if Keiko wanted to get mathematical about everything.
Keiko wasn't. She was simply firm. As firm the fourth time as she had been the first three. She was not removing seven year old Molly three quarters of the way through her school year to take her home to daddy, even if it meant the end of her eight year marriage to DS9's Chief Engineer.
"Oh, for!" O'Brien yanked the top of his worn blue bathrobe closed, gave up, tightened the sash and sat back down, his hair dripping wet from the shower, his chest streaked with soap residue. "Divorce? Who's talking about getting a divorce?"
Keiko shrugged. The way he was acting, you'd think that's what he was saying.
"No, it's not what I'm saying!" O'Brien insisted. "If you just let me finish what I'm saying! Once! Just once!"
"Miles, I have to go," Keiko reminded, not to be rude, but she had already heard what he had to say more than once.
"School?" the Chief's face contorted, his voice high-pitched and shrill. "What do you mean school? The war's been over eight months!" And eight months ago, Molly was not in school. She hadn't even started school.
"Miles," Keiko sighed.
"If you had seen to coming home then," O'Brien insisted, "we wouldn't even be having this conversation, now, would we? True or false? True, or false!"
"True," Keiko nodded. Of course, the point that eight months ago following Sisko's retaking of the station ending Dukat's three month long occupation, found the station in no more livable condition except for the most ardent pioneer than Dukat had found the station following Sisko's retreat three months earlier, was apparently not a point at all. Which it was a point. Underscored by while Gul Dukat may not have cared, opposed to Captain Sisko's little choice other than to grin and bear until they could get the systems up and working one more time, under no circumstances was Keiko returning to the station until her children could at least be afforded a stable roof over their heads even if they couldn't be afforded too much of anything else.
"Stable?" O'Brien sputtered. "I'll give you stable!" Beyond the fact by the time his family did come home his eight year old marriage would be nine. His seven year old daughter would be eight. And his son would be two. Walking and talking for God's sake.
"He's walking and talking," Keiko nodded.
"That's what I'm talking about!" O'Brien shrieked. "I'm missing the best years of his life!"
"That's not my fault, Miles."
"No!" O'Brien's arm flailed in agreement. "It's the Klingons! The Cardassians! The Jem'Hadar! What do you think? Sisko's likes the fact that what he has is a swinging door? It's not a station. Those aren't airlocks. Or a worm hole. They're swinging doors. One month they swing this way. Next month they swing that way."
"Miles…" Keiko said.
"What I'm trying to tell you," O'Brien insisted. "What I'm trying to explain is what makes the stability in a family is the family unit. We're not a unit! We're apart! Constantly apart. If it's not Earth, it's Bajor. Three months here. Six months there! So, no. It's not a stable environment, you're right, it's not. It has to change, yes, it does. And I'm right when I say it doesn't stand a cat's chance in hell of anything changing with me here and you there."
Keiko was angry. Furious. Her words tumbling over each other. "Miles, I had to tell Molly Ziyal was dead. I had to explain it to her. Not you. Or Kira. Or Captain Sisko. And, no, I don't want her in that environment, you're absolutely right about that!"
"Why did you even have to tell her anything at all?" O'Brien snapped.
Keiko stared at him. He surrendered -- against his will, but he surrendered. "Okay, I guess you had to tell her something."
"Miles, she's old enough to relate to people," Keiko fumed. "You think she's not going to notice? Or ask where Ziyal is?"
"I said all right!" O'Brien barked. "Telling her is one thing! Giving her every last little detail isn't necessary!"
Keiko reached to sever the transmission, he preempted her. "I'm not saying you did, I'm just saying it isn't necessary. And, yes," he granted, begrudgingly, "I guess what I'm asking is how did she take it? What did she say? Did she saying anything?"
"Miles!" Keiko's voice was shrill, never mind his. "She's seven years old. How much do you think she really understands?"
"I think that's my point," O'Brien nodded.
"She's upset," Keiko assured. "She's confused. Concerned about Kira --"
"Kira?" O'Brien's face twisted.
"Miles," Keiko groaned.
"Okay, okay," O'Brien waved, "put her on. Let me talk to her."
"Miles, in Molly's mind Kira and Ziyal are connected."
"They are connected!" O'Brien agreed. Of course, why they were connected he had yet to figure out. But that was something else that was apparently beside the point.
"And Molly was concerned," Keiko insisted, "that Kira was all right. That she wasn't injured or dead," her voice rose again heated and disgusted with the last two years if he wanted to know the truth. "That's perfectly normal. For God's sake, Miles, Kira lived with us for months!"
"I said I understand! Put her on! Tell her daddy wants to talk to her."
"She's in school!" Keiko wailed.
"School?" O'Brien frowned at the console. It was five o'clock in morning.
"There, Miles," Keiko agreed. "Maybe there." There, of course. Where she was. On Earth. It was not five o'clock in the morning. More like early afternoon. On some other day. Some other week. Some other year. "I have to go, Miles," she nodded. "I really have to go."
"Go?" O'Brien snorted. "I haven't even been to bed yet and you have to go."
Now, that statement unto itself made little if any sense. However, being that Miles was her husband, and she was his wife, Keiko was unable to resist at least asking in her tired and mildly chastising tone, "Why haven't you been to bed yet, Miles?"
"Because the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor," O'Brien inclined forward in his seat. "Why not get in on the act, you know what I mean?
"I mean," he said as Keiko looked at her through her almond-shaped eyes set in her oval face framed by her straight black hair.
"That's pathetic, Miles," she said, really unable to think of another or better word.
"No, it's not pathetic. What's pathetic is nothing has changed much in four hundred years any more than anything's really changed four hundred years before that. What's wrong," he continued, "with the whole picture is did it ever occur to you that Sisko just might consent to reopening the school, Bajor just might consent to enrollment if we had a teacher here to teach?"
"I'm not going to lie, Miles," Keiko refused, still burned by Kai Winn's scalding assault of a few years ago for Keiko's audacity to suggest the birth of the Bajoran worm hole had to do with someone's warp engine rather than be the Celestial Temple of the Bajoran Prophets. "It's both, Miles," she nodded.
"Okay, so it's both," O'Brien agreed even though he didn't. "That's my point. I'm not telling you to lie. Not about the worm hole or anything. I'm telling you if you come upon a conflict between the scientific community and someone's religious beliefs present it as an open forum. Take questions and provide answers from both viewpoints. This is not the first time this has happened in the history of the universe, and you're not the first instructor it's happened to. If I can do it, trust me, you can do it also."
"I'll think about it," Keiko shrugged.
"Good! Because I didn't call you to talk about Kira. Or the worm hole. I haven't been trying to get a hold of you for the last ten hours!" Long before it was five o'clock in the morning. More like three o'clock in the morning her time. "To argue! All right? I don't want to argue."
"Neither do I," she agreed.
"Good!" O'Brien said. "Because if you really want to know what I've been doing -- if you really want to know why I've been up all night it's because I've been trying to make heads or tails out of this." He had Damar's proposal in his hand. The forty-third version that made even less sense than the original forty-two.
"And if you want progress," O'Brien clutched the data padd; a desperate man he'd be the first to admit it. "I've got progress. You know what this is? It's Damar's proposal to install a Cardassian Consulate on Bajor.
"That's right, Damar," he assured as Keiko glanced at the padd. "He's here. Aboard the station. Along with Dukat Junior, the biggest pain in the left ventricle you'd ever want to meet. Except Sisko's got news for him and so do I.
"That's right, me," he waggled the padd. "I just happen to be the Federation Consular Representative to the conference. And what we're going to do is end up with is a Consulate. A real Consulate. Sisko's damn bang on with wanting to make sure of that; I agree with him a hundred percent. And if that's not progress, what is? All right? Can you tell me what is?""Goodbye, Miles," Keiko severed the transmission. O'Brien couldn't say as he blamed her. It's what the UFP should have done to Damar only they didn't, and now Sisko was stuck with it. As always. As usual.
The Chief walked into a wall of Shakaar's super-sized canaries and one short, round, fat budgie in front of Quark's twenty minutes later when he showed up planning to get himself a decent (and expensive) breakfast. It wasn't the wall though of yellow jumpsuits blocking his entrance that necessarily caught and held his undivided attention. It was the budgie in his own tailored-to-fit little suit and Mickey Mouse ears carrying a red rose.
"What are you blind?" Quark sneered as O'Brien brought himself up short, just shy of walking into the respectable establishment with the twenty foot sign that clearly read CLOSED…Because I feel like it in parentheses underneath. "I can see me coming a light-year away."
"You can say that again," O'Brien nodded dumbly at the rose. "A rose?"
"Yes, a rose," Quark sneered. "A rose. What's the matter, haven't you ever seen a rose before? Times are rough, okay? You settle for what you can afford. A rose, I can afford especially when you're footing the bill."
"What?" O'Brien said.
"Look," Quark offered him a piece of cosmic reality. "Barring what I said last night of it'll be a cold day on Cardassia -- of which I meant every word -- at a hundred strips a head, I'd probably wear a pink tutu."
"A hundred strips…" O'Brien echoed.
"We're still in negotiations. The Captain's up to ten, I'm down to a hundred. He's got a long way to go, but so do I," Quark's nod turned from the Chief's growling and empty stomach to this one over here with the pulsating pulse throbbing like a base drum in his left lobe. "It's okay. He's just here for breakfast. His wife's on Earth. He hasn't had a decent meal in a year."
He was a suspicious sort though, this particular Bajoran. Not one to take anything at face value especially when it had soap in its ears.
"Okay," Quark granted as the Chief was looked over from head to toe and back up again just to be certain. "So that's not all he hasn't had. It's six o'clock in the morning. The fact that I'm even awake deserves a round of applause."
"Excuse me?" O'Brien blurted out. Indignantly, Quark might add.
"A decent night's sleep," Quark agreed. "Bacon, eggs, a short stack of pancakes and a double order of hash browns. Toast and raspberry jam on the side. Coffee and orange juice go without saying, but only because I'm already sick enough. Follow me."
"Follow…" O'Brien echoed as Quark waddled away to waddle back with a wail through the assortment of linked armpits for the lead taking its sweet time inside to hurry up and get a move on.
"Anytime soon follow me!" he crooned to the tune of docking their pay."Coming, Brother!" Rom tripped his way over the cuffed trousers of his canary suit three sizes too large and six inches too long to pardon his way through the blockade, carrying a tray of data padds, each one promising an individualized mouth-watering culinary experience recently stolen from the Replimat's data banks. The security suits, on the other hand, were the leftover extras donated by Odo just glad to get them out of his office. Not really caring who wore them as long as he didn't have to.
"Which you do." Sisko assured Odo earlier, not to pull rank on his Chief Constable of Security. But it was a matter of security, not only an agreement. Apart from the uniforms could not be replicated -- until someone figured out how -- their color was specifically chosen to set those affiliated with the conference apart from those who were not.
"Hm," Odo grunted at the Captain comfortable in purple. "Explains the regulation Federation dress."
"So it does," Sisko grinned, but then rank had it privileges.
"Apparently so," Odo looked at Kira attractive in red.
"In your dreams," Kira plunked down the stack of gaudy jumpsuits waiting to be distributed to those not-so-fortunate subordinates that included Quark in his official role as Director of Food and Beverage Services. An appointment which made sense. Better the devil in front of your face where you can watch him especially when he'd be in your hair anyway.
"Yes, well, wait a minute," Odo forestalled Quark's escape with an armload of those 'official' yellow suits rather than his assigned one.
"What? Do you expect me to do this alone?" Quark huffed. Counting everyone actually in the conference, he came up with eight hoarse and dry throats to lubricate and feed at least two times a day while they were sequestered in their meeting. As well as those same eight hoarse and dry throats once their meeting was adjourned for the day and they all retired to Quark's for dinner and a few more hours of mutual camaraderie until 2300 or so when Sisko ardently hoped they'd all be sick enough of each other to want to do little more than go to bed to wake up and start all over again the next day.
"Better the devil," Dax grinned at Benjamin with his proposal of keeping their tight, close-knit little group as tight and closely knit together as possible, less showering and sleeping with each other.
"Yes, well," the Human euphemism that sprang to Odo's mind went more like sitting ducks.
"Yes." Sisko agreed and respected both arguments of the potential danger with keeping the group together or keeping them apart. He flipped a coin and decided he was more comfortable with keeping the devil, or devils in the case of Damar and his gang, in front of his face where he could see them, rather than having them strewn around the station, each left to their own amusement and devices.
"Yes, well, now that you put it that way," Odo grunted.
"We agree," Dax nodded.
"Yes," Worf supported.
"That goes double for me," Kira assured, annoyed only that she personally would not be allowed to carry a phaser rifle, or a weapon of any sort.
"Not that we mean to suggest you're as hotheaded as Dukat, or as untrustworthy as Quark or Garak," Dax smiled.
"More like old habits die hard," Odo offered. Which they did. Quark was no exception.
"I'll make a deal with you," Quark proposed. "How many extras do you have?"
"Yes, well," Odo calculated, counting the eight persons actually involved in the conference who did not have to wear them, "eight."
"I'll take four," Quark handed him back two. One for himself that fit remarkably and mysteriously well. Either something to do with that aforementioned ability of someone to work their way around the uniforms inability to be replicated, or the tailor who resided down the hall. Odo suspected the replicator was the answer. Not only based on Quark's history and hence lengthy security file, but also the point that he and Garak were in as much competition with each other for the attention of Doctor Lange as Bashir and the Chief. So far Bashir was winning by a mile, and probably would win if Odo knew his young and spirited Humans; which he did.
The same as he knew his Ferengi.
"Four," Odo repeated.
"One for myself," Quark reiterated his complaint of only having two hands and therefore the value of family togetherness. "One for Rom." Whose suit didn't fit at all, not surprisingly."And as far as the other two?" Odo waited.
"We're coming!" Quark's luscious Bajoran Dabo hostess Leeta tripped her way out behind her husband Rom, stumbling in her six-inch yellow heels and trying to zipper herself up inside her jumpsuit, which on her looked more like a yellow wet suit. Six inches too short and three sizes too small. "Rom!" she wailed despite the army of volunteers rushing to give her a hand, and the fact she was not the only one with a fitting problem.
"Morn?" O'Brien's jaw dropped with the lumbering sight of Morn who came with place like the rest of fixtures, and couldn't even begin to zipper his official suit up past his waist whether or not he ran the risk of being arrested for indecent exposure or just ugly, spotted and gold.
"And you think you've got problems," Quark turned to Leeta with a sympathetic snarl. "What?"
"What, what?" she leaned over to hiss in his face and shoot him a birds-eye view of what may have inspired his brother Rom to marry her if he couldn't think of another reason.
"It's Major Kira's," Quark nodded for her enlightenment. "What did you expect?"
"Major Kira's?" Leeta shrieked. "I'm twice the size of Major Kira!"
"My point exactly," Quark uncovered his ears once the danger was past and walked away.
"Oh," Leeta stayed bent over while she tried to figure that out.
"Oh!" she straightened up once she figured it out, much to the marked disappointment of everyone. "Quark!" she let out a scream loud enough to rattle those famed Cardassian archways like no Quantum torpedo ever could.
"Look," Quark slapped the door of the turbolift in disgust when it failed to show up in time to get him to safety before the galaxy's odd couple caught up with him; O'Brien just sort of following along, mesmerized. "Captain Sisko is a smart man. He isn't commander of the most important outpost in the Alpha Quadrant for no good reason. He got them to agree to proximity detectors, he figured let's not push it with the yellow suits."
"Spare me the algebra!" Leeta silenced him.
"The what?" Quark looked at Rom for a reasonable translation.
"Um…I think she means adjectives," Rom nodded. "You know, some stupid explanation that no one believes."
"That is exactly what I mean," Leeta insisted. "Quark, I know you!"
"Oh, yeah?" Quark sneered. "Well, try this on for size. If you don't want to do it, there are plenty who do. And I mean plenty," he clued her in to a bit of cosmic news. "But then it isn't every day that he's here, now is it? No, it isn't."
"He?" Leeta's lovely and sculptured Bajoran features furrowed in a frown.
"Yes, him," Quark assured, explaining why she was the Dabo hostess and he was the boss.
"He?" Leeta straightened up with an excited stage whisper for Rom. "He, who?"
"Mister Damar," Rom nodded, explaining why he was married to a Dabo hostess. "Quark's right. He's not here every day."
"Damar?" Leeta repeated with a confused shake of her head. Probably less surprised if he had said Gul Dukat.
"Yup, and Gul Dukat," Rom nodded. "The two of them."
"His sons," Quark assured Leeta staring at him. "Time off for good behavior, daddy's still looking at a few hundred years."
"Who cares!" Leeta hissed.
"No one I know," Quark agreed with a shrug.
"Oh, for!" Leeta turned on Rom. "Mister Damar?"
"Yup. Legate Damar. Emperor of Cardassia. You know, since Gul Dukat kind of went crazy and ended up where crazy former Emperor's go…" he finished with a wince, blistered by her shriek.
"Hey, whoa! Whoa!" O'Brien snapped to attention, rescuing the tray of data padds before Leeta tore it from Rom's hands and smacked him in the head with it. "That's my breakfast in there somewhere!"
"If you spent more time working rather than at home with your husband, you'd know what was going on," Quark added to that.
"Oh, yeah?" Leeta delicately ground the spike of her heel down on top of his foot. "Well, I am not waiting on Mister Damar!"
"The job is yours," Quark nodded to Morn after he finished screaming in pain.
It was also Monday morning in the Chief Constable's office. "Where!" Kira's hands slammed down on Odo's desk, her cheeks as red as her uniform and almost as dark as her dark red hair. "Is he?"
"Well…" Odo closed the top of the incriminating stack of evidence decorated in silver foil and crimson bows. "Here, obviously."
"I know he's here," Kira assured. "I want to know what he was doing there, or even knew where there was!"
"Why, Major Kira," Garak cooed, beaming her a cheery and pleasant good Monday morning, "my assigned duty, naturally."
"Clothes," Odo nodded to Kira's poisoned stare over the assortment of boxes. "Toiletries. That sort of thing."
"Not enough for a week, of course," Garak hurried to defend his reputation of a clothier above reproach. "Oh, no, certainly not. Let's not be absurd. But, yes, something for Doctor Lange to wear today for her conference…And, of course," he indicated rather proudly the largest of the four large boxes, "something a little more formal for her to wear for tonight's dinner gathering. A charming, modest little number -- I do pride myself on ensuring the personalities of my clientele are reflected as well as their positive physical characteristics."
"I'll take care of it!" Kira snatched up the boxes, crushing them under her arm.
"Ah, yes, thank you!" Garak lunged forward to stagger backwards, his hand fluttering to his brow. "I trust that you will…Elsewise, to address that mention of yours as to how I knew where to bring Doctor Lange her packages…I assure you I did not. I was quite innocently on my way to deliver them to you, Major…"
"Me?" Kira accused. "You weren't on your way to see me. You were apprehended on Lange's corridor, and I not only want to know why, I want to know how."
"You're quartered on the same deck." Odo muttered out of the side of his face.
"What?" Kira turned on him.
"It was your idea," Odo nodded. "Remember? Added security? That sort of thing?"
"As I assure you, Major," Garak promised, "I had no idea whatsoever I would violate some sort of security force field…"
"I suppose you didn't notice the security either," she sneered.
"Oh, no," Garak assured. "No, I noticed them. Yes, I most certainly did. Certainly difficult to miss, as has been mentioned."
"That's the whole point!"
"Yes," Garak also understood that. "As quite obviously, Major, I just naturally assumed, however foolishly, their particular responsibility was to ensure your security and safety. I never dreamed you and Doctor Lange would be quartered on the same wing together…or for that matter sharing quarters…" his eyes narrowed slightly. "Are you and Doctor Lange sharing quarters, Major? Certainly, I can understand if you are…As possibly find myself in agreement. After all, Captain Sisko's ability to match shout for shout with General Martok, while it might earn the General's respect, it's not the General's respect he needs; he already has that. He needs his cooperation in not further seeking to inflame either Legate Damar or young Gul Dukat and his younger Lieutenant Pfrann. Surely, Major you do realize this entire situation is highly volatile in every regard."
"Don't worry about Martok," Kira shifted the cumbersome load of boxes from one arm to cram them under her other before she gave up altogether and threw them back down Odo's desk, looking to see what she could do about consolidating the contents into one container, rather than four.
"You call this a modest little number?" she yanked out a light pink drape of fine silk with more straps than back waiting to mold itself to a body.
"No," Garak smiled, "I call that a nightgown. Remarkably comfortable, I might add."
"She doesn't need a nightgown." Kira flung it back in the box, slamming the lid closed and promptly proceeding to rip off the decorative bows and paper. Apparently under the impression that the stiff ribbon and foil played a role in her inability to flatten the boxes as flat as she might like to.
"Yes…" Garak's attention might be on the boxes, but his thoughts were elsewhere. "I was present for Commander Dax's generous offer of the use of one her nightgowns…A green one, I believe. As well as Chief O'Brien's generous offer of the use of one of Mrs. O'Brien's…any one of Doctor Lange's choosing, but then he's quite right. Mrs. O'Brien isn't here, is she? So how could she complain? Why would she complain, is probably even more accurate. I, for one, seriously doubt if she would mind at all."
"He was making a joke," Kira nodded.
"Oh, yes," Garak was also aware of that claim. "The same, Major, as I am confident Commander Dax's nightgown is as comfortable as anything I might produce…merely a minor difference in size as the Chief also thoughtfully pointed out."
"He's an engineer." Kira offered in O'Brien's defense. An utterly absurd thing to say. Apparently she wasn't as comfortable with the Chief's rather insistent approach as she might like someone, herself possibly included, to think she was.
"With an eye for detail as well as accuracy," Garak smiled. "Physically, Doctor Lange is much closer in size to Mrs. O'Brien than she is to either you or Commander Dax. That's not only obvious, it's true."
"It's not a fashion show," Kira picked up the boxes, "it's a conference."
"Yes," Odo grunted, "so it is. On that note…"
"I'm free to go," Garak anticipated, what with no crime having been committed, merely a misunderstanding.
"Yes, well, wait a minute," Odo delayed Garak's flight to freedom. "You're forgetting something."
"Forgetting something?" Garak glanced down on the mutilated streamers of ribbon and crumbled pieces of torn foil. "Oh, yes, of course."
"You can take that also," Odo agreed, picking up one of those remaining four yellow jumpsuits still neatly folded."Oh," Garak said. "Well, yes, all right. If you insist. To whom shall I make the delivery?"