A/N: I LOVE STAR TREK!

FLASHBACKS are in ILATICS


As is the way of the universe, especially when dealing with friends (assets, Garak firmly reminds his sentiments), karma loves to play both sides of the team. Bashir dared to laugh at Garak's misfortune, therefore, the good doctor was due his own humiliation – and Garak awaits with calm assurance. He prepares a few choice words. Something that will get across his point of how helpless it feels to be made fun of at that height, while also not going far enough to really damage the man's fragile ego. Yet, when Bashir is shrunken to the size of four inches….well, it is decidedly less funny than Garak's experience.

In fact, it almost kills the human.

And it does so without holding back.

In plebeian terms: Section 31 captures Bashir.

Captain Sisko immediately informs Starfleet command.

Oh, but Starfleet has no knowledge of the theft (good heavens no, Section 31 doesn't exist, after all….to anyone who isn't important enough…which is a long list).

But Garak knows just the right people to….well…let's say ask.

(he asks politely, of course)

0/0/0/0/0

"You can do better than this," he tells the Ferangi.

The establishment is closed for the night. Already, most of the station's inhabitants are sleeping in their assigned quarters. Only the very few are awake – the illegal, and those on shift.

Garak plays with the data file, running a nail down the clear glass. "You think me a fool."

"Of course not." Quark squirms under his gaze.

Garak relishes in that for a moment, before tossing it aside as a useless indulgence. He smiles, placing the data file on the table between them. "Oh, but how else can I take this?"

Oh, why not?

He indulges.

Garak grabs the front of Quark's shirt and drags him close. "You must think me a fool, to give me this garbage."

The last word comes out a quiet hiss.

Quark swallows, loud. "Look, I'm sure we can come –"

"Constable," Garak interrupts. "Now would be an excellent time to come out, if you don't wish me to harm him."

Nothing.

Then:

The chair to their left ripples to gold, then solidifies as the form of Odo. Quark's beady eyes widen. However, the shapeshifter only raises an imperfect eyebrow. "Now, why would I be worried about that?"

"Constable!" Quark smarms. "So glad you're here. I was –"

"About to give Garak all the necessary information on Doctor Bashir. Yes, I know." Odo leans again the bar. "Please, don't let me stop you."

Garak pushes Quark back into his seat, releasing his shirt. "Talk."

"I…." Quark licks his teeth with a quick tongue. "Look, it's all hearsay."

Garak narrows his eyes.

"But," Quark scrambles to continue, "I heard from a very reliable source that Section 31 has Bashir."

"How reliable?" Odo asks.

"Very," Quark snarks. "Fifteenth cousin on my father's side. Owes me some latinum."

"Good enough," Garak assures Odo, when the shapeshifter glances at him. He turns back to their informant. "Where?"

"Near the Delta moon in the Dagobah system."

The shapeshifter nods, and then frowns at Quark. "You might want to leave."

"What? But this is my –!"

"You know, I'm sure the Section is going to be quite willing to kill anyone who is connected to our…project," Garak muses to Odo.

Quark's gone faster than a Dabo girl on latinum.

Odo straightens. "I'll inform the Captain."

0/0/0/0/0

As Garak told Sisko, Starfleet channels are of no use to them in this.

Which is why Sisko had Garak – unofficially – hire a mercenary who knows that region of space well.

0/0/0/0/0

The screen crackles as the worn, helmeted face looks over Garak's proposal. It only takes a moment for the man to catch the slight discrepancy. "This isn't nearly my rate, even discounted."

"Risa."

The mercenary's anger is palpable. "I repaid that."

"You did?"

"In full. As you well know."

"Ah well," Garak smiles. "It was worth a try. By the way, how is Janda's woman doing these days?"

Silence.

Garak smiles more.

He keeps well informed of all his assets.

Finally: "One week."

"Agreed." Garak transfers half the money.

0/0/0/0/0

One week later

0/0/0/0/0

The shell they got back isn't even recognizable as Bashir. Oh, his small body is the same – barring a few scraps and incisions – and his clothes are not rags – Boba charged a few extra for that – but the light in those dark eyes is dead. No one's there. Yes, Bashir follows the movement of everyone who enters O'Brien's quarters. Flinches, even, if they get too close. But he never speaks, never really moves, hardly sleeps or eats.

They got the doctor's body, but not his soul.

And, as more time goes on, the station mourns the loss of a good friend and man.

0/0/0/0/0

The door slides open without a sound.

Garak steals in, locking the codes behind him.

He will not be interrupted.

Tiny eyes glitter in the dim light as they watch him cross the space between them. Garak stops a few paces before reaching the table. Bashir hunches inward, body ready to protect itself should he get nearer.

Garak studies him.

"Pity," he says at last. "I thought you stronger than this."

The small body trembles.

"Ah well, disappoint on both sides, I suppose." He turns to leave. "Sad, how you gave up so quickly."

Something hits his back. Bashir's dinner plate, perhaps? Garak doesn't look back. He walks to the door, codes it open, nods to an angry looking O'Brien and worried Odo, and then strides away.

0/0/0/0/0

When he next sees Bashir, the human is his regular height again.

"This seat taken?" a tentative voice asks.

"Ah, Doctor, I see you are exceeding expectations. I had heard you were not to be released from Sickbay until tomorrow."

Bashir chuckles softly as he sits down. "Yes, well…"

They eat in silence a few minutes.

"Thank you."

"I'm sorry?"

Bashir flushes. "Thank you."

"Why, Doctor, I didn't know you enjoyed Cardassian music so much!" Garak oozes happiness. "I'll be sure to include more with my next book selection."

Bashir's brow wrinkles a little, he opens his mouth, closes it, and shakes his head. "All right."

"It was nothing," Garak tells him. "I, too, enjoy that selection of song."

Bashir sighs. "Just another story, eh?"

"But of course."


I hope everyone wasn't too OOC, and that it was a believable plot line. I couldn't help but include some Star Wars references. :D

*Just another story refers to when Julian accuses/asks Garak which stories he told about himself (in The Wire episode) were true, and which not. Garak replies that all are. This is just Julian's way of saying Garak's not going to admit to helping him, and thus adding to his never-ending "stories". Hope that makes sense.

Review?