A/N: Finally! Chapter 8! Where has the time gone? Seriously, it's been so long since I've updated this fic (and many of my others). I've been busy with various things (who doesn't love writing a good essay?) but the chapter's here now. Hopefully it's not too disjointed/nonsensical. The inspiration for me resuming my writing has come from a rewatch of DS9. As always, I'd appreciate feedback, be it reviews, follows, favourites, whatever... I just hope that you enjoy this chapter as much as so many of you have enjoyed the previous ones.
Julian Bashir stirred, slowly, as if… almost as if he had forgotten where he was. He yawned, groaned, tried to forget about his aching muscles and bones, then he dragged himself into an upright position. Using a rock as a pillow, whilst also leaning against a tree, was not terribly comfortable. He reminded himself of that that morning as he had done for the mornings before. There had been so many mornings.
Once he was sitting and no longer sprawled across the ground like someone who was unconscious, a brief smile crossed his lips when he encountered the scene before him. Laying serenely on his side, his chest rising and falling ever so gently, was Garak. The Cardassian was sound asleep, not even making the slightest sound. Garak had decided to create a makeshift bed out of bits of grass and clumps of moss. Granted, it wasn't exactly swanky but it was better than Bashir's. Not that the doctor would ever let the Cardassian know that. That would be asking too much.
Bashir watched the sleeping alien for a few moments later, then his smile disappeared and was replaced by a look of slight annoyance. Sighing already, he looked to his side and saw – or rather felt – that Pri was next to him, waiting patiently and expectantly. What the animal was waiting for, however, the Doctor had no idea. He attempted, rather feebly, to bat away the creature's affections, but Pri was so insistent and so soft and so, well, cute, that he couldn't deny her any longer. So he put the animal in his lap and frowned.
"Pri, you can't be hungry already," he moaned. "From what we've gathered about you, you only require food once a week. You ate a few days ago! Surely, you can't be hungry!"
The animal cocked its little fluffy head to one side, evidently confused, or perhaps irritated.
Bashir groaned, rubbed his eyes. "I don't even want to think about what time it is, let alone start thinking about setting about finding some food for you. You're an intelligent animal. Can't you see that I've got other things on my mind?"
Pri gave him a look that said that she was well aware of this, but that she didn't particularly care. Apparently, she was hungry now. So that settled that.
Then an idea struck Bashir and a mischievous smile curled upon his lips. He held Pri's little body up to his eye-level.
"I'm not finding you your favourite berries today, Pri," he began, smirking. "I did it last time. But…" He cast his gaze over at the sleeping Garak. "I know whose turn it is to find you food. Why don't you go and ask Garak?"
He set the animal down on the ground and it regarded him curiously for a moment. Bashir nodded in the direction of Garak and then Pri padded over the leafy ground, eventually coming to a stop beside the Cardassian. Pri cocked her head, as if unsure, or as if thinking, then she gingerly stepped forward.
Bashir watched with undisguised delight as the little pink creature settled itself right in front of the sleeping Cardassian's face and landed its tongue on Garak's face. Garak awoke with a start, his arms flailing and his breathing haggard. He opened his mouth, to protest, then apparently became aware of the tiny animal standing proudly – arrogantly – in front of him. Just centimetres in front of him. He began to glower, but his rage was for all of a second. Then a grin, as if he was pleased, was plastered upon his face.
He reached a hand up, wiped the spittle away, then caught Bashir's eye. The Doctor had since attempted to avoid eye-contact, looking away and trying to appear engrossed in the beauty of the surrounding nature, instead of enjoying wholly the Cardassian's brief moment of embarrassment.
"My dear Doctor," Garak began, his tone wavering somewhere in between amused and dangerous. "I hope that you didn't put our little friend up to that." He turned his gaze from Bashir and over to Pri, who was snuffling around his barely-woken form, intent upon getting some attention, be it in the form of cuddles or food. Grudgingly, Garak set a hand down and began to stroke the animal.
"Why, Garak," Bashir began in a tone of mock-indignance. "I'm shocked that you could even suspect that!"
"There I was, sleeping peacefully, dreaming of simpler times," Garak continued. He saw that the Doctor was about to inquire about the nature of the dreams – was he thinking of his days of espionage in the Obsidian Order? Or was he just thinking about that particularly difficult customer who always complained when he did alterations on their favourite suit? So he grinned. "I was dreaming, when all of a sudden, I feel this horrible, wet, stinking thing on my face. I open my eyes and what do I see? This ghastly excuse for an animal." Despite his words, vehement as they were, he was still stroking Pri.
Bashir considered awhile. "Garak, you know as well as I, Pri is a wild animal. It's not like I could've tamed her or trained her or taught her to do that. It's probably just an instinct of hers. Surely you have pets on Cardassia?"
"When we are children," Garak said smoothly. "Most Cardassian children have wompats."
"Oh, they're actually rather horrible little things. Perhaps similar to your Earth weasels or stoats."
"Hmmm…" Bashir smiled. "But you had one?"
"Oh, yes. They're probably best described as being like better-looking voles."
The Doctor made a face of disgust. Cardassian voles. Now, there were some rather unfortunate-looking animals. "So, you didn't have any other pets?"
"Well, I… I attempted to train a riding hound."
"Yes— Actually, 'dog' is too tame a word. These were wild beasts, bred originally for hunting down animals that my ancestors would have killed for food. Riding hounds, my dear doctor, are the size of horses and they are none to simple to train. I must've fallen off the one that I was tasked with training countless times." Briefly, he looked away and was relieved when he saw that Pri had apparently lost interest in him. The little pink animal had since moved onto Bashir, who embraced her far too quickly.
"How many times?"
"Oh, hundreds," Garak said quickly, swiftly.
Bashir gave him a look of disbelief, of incredulity, which was instantly noticed by the tailor.
"Oh, you can look at me like that, Doctor, but it's the truth. Animals are far too unpredictable for my liking. Being a tailor… everything is so straightforward. You've lost a few pounds? Good, I'll put another hole in your belt. You've eaten too much? Again, fine, I'll let your trousers out. There are no in betweens."
"I also suppose that, being a spy—"
Garak cut him off with a raised hand, to which Bashir replied with only a knowing smile.
"Also… I wonder if maybe you've ever had the chance, my dear Doctor, to review Cardassian sleeping practices."
The question had caught Bashir off-guard. "I— I— " he stuttered. "What?"
"Well, if your research into my background, my species, my history, was as in-depth as I was expecting it to be, I would've thought that you would've learned that Cardassians rarely sleep when there are potential threats nearby."
"Well done for noticing."
"Garak, you're not making any sense. What potential threats?" For a split second, he wondered if the carnivorous reptilian megabeast had decided to return and restore its damaged image. As realisation came to him, he moved as if to round on Garak, but then he only sighed, knowing that he was defeated.
"You're not scared of Pri?"
Garak almost looked offended. "Scared? Of course not."
Bashir didn't even both to look for the sincerity in the Cardassian's words. "You're not scared," he echoed. "But you distrust her?" He smiled, amused, bemused. Then he held up the little pink creature, making sure that Garak was looking at her. "Look, Garak. Isn't she the sweetest—"
Garak scoffed. "You weren't watching when she scared off that massive dinosaur? Or was I imagining that?"
The Doctor rolled his eyes. "She's on our side, Garak."
"My dear Doctor, just because this insipid little animal scared off a bigger animal that was trying to eat her doesn't prove that she was trying to protect us."
However, Bashir was far too busy dealing with another revelation, a far more humiliating revelation, to even bother to listen to Garak's ramblings. "You were awake the entire time."
"You heard me persuading Pri to… well, to lick you?"
"Doctor, this discussion is getting a little bit tiresome, don't you think? We've got some Starfleet rations with our name on them and we don't want them going to waste, do we?"
Bashir raised an eyebrow. "Garak," he said firmly.
"Not at all, Doctor. This creature could have all sorts of pathogens in its system. I have no desire to have those pathogens on my face!"
"Garak," he said, smiling. "I thought that you'd place more faith in my medical abilities than that. If I said that I was already satisfied that Pri didn't present any danger to you, would you believe me?"
"And Doctor, if I said that I truly was asleep whilst you were concocting your little plan, would you believe me?"
A/N: Again, if it wasn't already obvious, I have no idea where this fic is going! My newfound interest in Cardassian pets is probably based on the fact that we've recently got a dog, a rescue pooch.