|Once Upon a Time
by J.A. Chapman
Disclaimer: Paramount let a teenage refugee from 90210 replace Dax, you think I'm giving them credit for anything? Not hardly.
For my friend Abigail. Happy Birthday, sorry it's a belated one.
~ ~ ~
Julian stopped in the doorway, his eyebrow lifted in curiosity. "Am I interrupting something Garak?"
"You most certainly are!" A rather heavyset woman snapped as she glared at him and pointed a pudgy finger in Garak's direction. "That-that BUTCHER has ruined my gown!"
"Madame, I assure you I…" Garak began.
"You be quiet!" she barked, "This is outrageous! The silk is positively ruined beyond all repair!"
Julian stepped forward and examined the garment. "It looks perfectly fine to me."
"That's because you're obviously stupid!" The woman gave him a withering glare. "It's been hacked to ribbons!" She held the dress up for Garak's inspection. "RIBBONS!"
Julian snorted and opened his mouth to give the rotund customer a piece of his mind not to mention a sampling of some interesting vocabulary words he'd learned from the chief, but Garak interrupted. "Madame, the dress is in perfect condition. I do not see…"
"Then get some glasses!" She stomped her foot in emphasis, "Don't you see those holes?"
Garak tightened his lips slightly and examined the dress. After a moment, he noticed a break in the stitches of the seam. "Ah, now I see…"
"This is damaged merchandise and I want my money back!" She folded her arms triumphantly.
"Madam, I'm afraid that our return policy is quite explicit in regard to special orders. The dress has been in your possession for well over three months…"
"It's still shoddy workmanship!" Her tone was adamant, "I want my money right now or I shall turn you in to the merchants' association."
"Since the station's merchants association is headed by a Ferengi, good luck," Bashir scoffed.
"And just who are you?" the woman sniffed, "The shop boy?"
"The doctor," Julian said superiorly.
"HUMPH! It just goes to show that Starfleet's standards are slipping."
"Pardon me ma'am but…" Julian's face was red with his growing anger.
"Madam!" Garak interrupted with a polite smile, "I think we can come to some sort of arrangement."
"Which is?" She looked at him triumphantly.
"If you'll step into my fitting area I will be happy to re-measure you and let out the seams a bit. After a refitting the dress should be perfect."
Her face paled, "Why would you need to do that?"
"It's the dress that's shrunk! My measurements are the same." She looked at him squarely. "I'll have you know I haven't gained so much as five pounds since the day I was married!"
"And when was that? Two hours ago?" Julian asked under his breath.
"What did you say?" The woman rounded on him.
"Nothing." The doctor's smile was full of innocence.
"You are a very impudent young man. I hope you show more manners to your patients."
"It will only take a moment or two, I assure you." Garak attempted to lead her to the small raised platform but she snatched her arm back.
"Do not manhandle me!" She gave him a disdainful sneer; "I am the wife of the Ambassador to Hubris, not some Bajoran Dabo girl that you can just sweep aside." She grabbed the dress and marched out the door. "I'm taking my business elsewhere! I should have known better than to buy from a Cardassian in the first place."
"The nerve!" Julian spat. "How dare she speak to you like that!"
Garak sighed and calmly cleared the counter; "She's a customer, my dear doctor, that gives her every right to speak to me in any tone she pleases."
"You're not a serf or some galley slave, Garak! This is your shop!" Julian insisted.
"Which I own because I believe the customer is always right. Without that, I wouldn't have a shop because no one would want to come here." Garak shrugged, "The ruder the customer the better you try to please them. That's good business."
"I still think she was way over the top!" Julian insisted. "You should have told her where she could stick her dress and be done with it."
"She's hardly the worst client I've ever had," Garak chuckled. "In fact, compared to Marsee'ah Tem she was practically angelic."
"Who is Marsee'ah Tem?" Julian asked curiously.
Garak walked around the counter and clapped Julian on the shoulder as they headed out the door. "I'll tell you all about it over a nice plate of spinach pasta and Yiggerish curry."
Julian put down his napkin and sighed contentedly, "That was good, who knew Cardassians had such a way with pasta?"
"I did," Garak grinned wiping his mouth.
Julian chuckled, "So who was Marsee'ah Tem?"
"Marsee'ah Tem was…" Garak began.
"Wait!" Julian held up his hand, "You aren't going to tell me some cock and bull story about how you worked as a waiter for some Klingon restaurant and got shorted a tip by a diplomat who later died choking on gagh or something equally bizarre, are you?"
"Not today," Garak replied.
"Continue then," the doctor invited.
"Marsee'ah Tem was hardly a diplomat, but I did work for her. She was the mistress of a high ranking Romulan senator who hired me to do some landscaping on their country estate."
"When you were a 'gardener' on Romulas, right?" Julian rolled his eyes.
"Well it wasn't when I was a chiropractor on Risa, doctor" Garak answered evenly.
"You were a…?"
"Please doctor, may I finish my story?"
"Certainly," Julian cleared his throat. "Continue."
"Anyway, she was a difficult client to say the least."
The Romulan garden was in full bloom and a Cardassian man wearing a pair of overalls looked up from the roses he was planting to see a beautiful blonde woman walking toward him angrily. "Yes Ms. Tem?"
"What are those?" she asked pointing to a plot near the house.
"Lilies," Garak replied. "They came in beautifully this season, didn't they? I was so afraid that with the drier climate they'd…"
"They're orange," she said flatly.
"Why yes, they are orange," Garak nodded, "A lovely shade too."
"My dress is orange."
"It is?" Garak looked at her blue gown and blinked.
"My ball gown, you moron!" Her tone grew shrill as she shoved a bruised flower in his face. "That shade is entirely too close to that of my gown! I'll clash!"
"Oh, don't you pay attention to anything?" She sneered, "Of course not! Why should you, you're just a serrvant. I'm referring to the ball gown being thrown tomorrow night! We're having drinks in the garden so I want you to do something about those horrid flowers."
"Um, and what would you have me do ma'am?" Garak inquired politely.
"Rip them up!" She declared, "Do whatever, just don't have them there!"
"But won't that leave a rather large garden space bare, madam?" He scratched his head, thoroughly befuddled.
"Then choose something else!" She eyed him pompously; "I, and the senator, would prefer something, which compliments my gown."
"And what shade of blossom would you prefer madam?"
"Hmmm…" she pondered for a moment, "Blue. Bright blue."
Garak appeared perplexed for a moment before fondling the ridges on his chin thoughtfully, "Well, there is a wide variety of blue blossoms that are currently in season; Hydrangeas, some roses, violets, and several Vulcan and Risalian breeds. However, considering the social standing of yourself and the senator, Colonel Drak will, most likely, have secured an invitation to the party making such ordinary blooms inappropriate to say the least."
"And what do I care if some lowly colonel disapproves of my garden?" she huffed.
"Ah, but the colonel is on the munitions council with your…erhem, companion," Garak said, "and he is an avid gardener as well."
The well-coifed young woman allowed the information to seep into her brain for a moment. "Well, in that case, I want you to find a suitably rare blossom for my garden. In blue!" she added.
"Of course, madam," Garak's voice took on a concerned edge.
"Is that a problem, Mr. Garak?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Not…exactly, madam," he answered reluctantly.
"Then why are you still looking at me with that stupid expression on your face?"
Garak winced but did not comment on her ill mannered response, "It's just that given the Colonel's own interest in landscaping, finding a rare blossom in that shade would be nearly…"
"If you can't find me those flowers, Mr. Garak, then I shall go to the senator and insist he find me a gardener that can!" She then stomped off in a huff leaving the Cardassian alone to ponder this dilemma.
"Are you sure you aren't making this story up?" Julian asked, narrowing his eyes.
"Doctor! Why would I make up a simple story about a difficult client? What would be the point of it?" Garak asked.
"Well, there are a few holes in your story, that's all."
"Oh?" Garak's tone was inquiring.
"Well, it's just that Romulans aren't usually blonde nor do they seem like the type of people to worry about their gardens."
Garak shook his head, "Ms. Tem was an off-worlder from the Orion sector, I believe. At the time, it was quite the fashion on Romuus to have a fair complexioned mistress."
"The fashion?" Julian scoffed, "Aren't you the one always saying what a deathly dull and grey race they are?"
"Ah, but they are also a race that values political intrigue. Part of that is to not only keep up a certain appearance for one's opponents but to out do them at every opportunity. Colonel Drak was one of the up and coming military ingenues and his interest in landscaping had led several of the older families to restore the ancestral gardens."
"If he was that important then why didn't she recognize his name immediately?" Julian pointed out.
"She didn't need to. As soon as she heard me mention the munitions council she recognized that he was a player in the same stew of political intrigue as her own senator." Garak took a sip of juice, "Unfortunately, keeping up with one's neighbors can easily spiral out of control as she was soon to discover."
Marsee'ah Tem looked up from her tea and into the grave aspect of the manservant. "What is it, Resmes? I'm having my luncheon."
"Mr. Garak, the gardener, is requesting a brief audience, madam. Shall I send him away?" The Romulan butler glared eagerly at the doorway as if imagining the joyful prospect of removing the Cardassian from his domain.
She sighed, "No, show him in but see to it he wipes his feet. I don't want him tracking mud on the carpet."
"Very good, madam." He walked over to the door and signaled Garak to pass through. "Mind your boots," he warned as a parting shot as he exited behind him leaving both the Cardassian and his employer alone.
"What is it, Mr. Garak?" she asked, without inviting him to be seated.
"I have a few pictures of different blooms for madam to choose from," he answered.
She tapped the buttons on the proffered PADD leisurely before stopping and examining one of the images with particular interest. "Plant this one," she requested, handing him the PADD.
"Oh no madam," he apologised. "I'm afraid I left that one in by accident. This flower is completely inappropriate--"
"I'll be the judge of that!" she snapped, "I like this flower now plant it and be done!"
"This is a Deltan Night Poppy, madam," Garak said apologetically. "The scent of it is considered somewhat…intoxicating."
"Then it will be most conducive to the spirit of the ball," she sniffed.
"Perhaps in a cooler climate," Garak agreed, "but with the heat and the dry soil I couldn't guarantee how the pheromones it produces may affect your guests. In addition, it is quite rare. I'm not even sure I could get them with the ball only a day away. Customs alone would keep--"
"Either plant this poppy or I will terminate your employment with this house," she said coolly.
"But customs, madam!" Garak insisted desperately, "You cannot import this sort of flora without encountering a delay through quarantine. Why don't I plant some nice Blue Gypsy roses there for the ball and when these plants are available I'll replace--"
"Never mind customs!" she insisted, "I will take care of that. Have someone transport the blooms overnight and then plant them, no matter the cost. I'll expect you to order fully-grown plants, by the way. I want them to look as though they've always been there, understood?"
"Yes madam," Garak agreed reluctantly.
"One must always remember to keep up appearances. Remember that and you may someday be more than a mere servant although with your attitude it's very doubtful. Now leave me to my lunch." She waved her hand dismissively and with a small bow, Garak departed.
"Deltan poppies?" Julian looked doubtful, "I've never heard of them."
"They are quite rare, I assure you." Garak took a bite of his dessert. "I had to go through some very elaborate channels of communication before I secured the plants and even then I still had to have them shipped all the way to Romulus in a single day."
"Oh, but of course you succeeded," Julian said dryly.
Garak shrugged, "Luckily a collector of rare plant life owned a refuge nearby on Thallas IX and was agreeable to a trade. I sent him some of my Festoon hybrid orchids along with an extravagant sum of credits from Ms. Tem and he transported them right out."
"Luckily," Julian grinned.
"Meaning?" Garak inquired.
"Meaning I'm just waiting for the punch line."
"I don't quite follow, doctor."
"Every time you start a story like this someone winds up killed or something gets blown up and it's always a coincidence when it happens," Julian arched a knowing eyebrow. "So, who got killed? Marsee'ah? The senator? Who?"
"No one was killed," Garak stated. "The blossoms made a great impression on all the guests, particularly the senator and the colonel, and I left shortly thereafter to open my shop here on DS9 with the bonus money I received from my landscaping efforts."
"And that's it?" Julian asked.
"That's it," Garak confirmed then looked at the chrono. "Oh bother, I'm late for a fitting. I'll see you next week then?"
"Of course," Julian waved, watching him leave.
For a long while Julian stared after the tailor. Something seemed a little…off about his story. He chuckled a bit; something was always off about Garak but the story itself seemed a little too…
"Colonel Kira! And Odo, hello!" Julian greeted with a smile.
"We were just about to have lunch, want to join us?" Kira invited.
"Yes," Odo said, "I'm sure Nerys would appreciate the novelty of having a lunch companion who can actually eat something."
Kira slapped her lover's shoulder with a grin then turned to the doctor, "We'd love to have you sit with us, really."
"No. No thank you," Julian rose from his chair. "Actually, I've just finished."
"Some other time then," Odo said and the two began to walk away.
"Odo?" Julian asked thoughtfully.
The changeling turned to face him, "Yes, doctor?"
"Have you ever heard of Marsee'ah Tem?"
Odo frowned, "The name seems a bit familiar but I can't quite place her, why?"
"What about a Colonel Drak with the Romulan military?" Julian asked.
"Why yes," Odo said. "Now I remember. Why are you so interested in the sex scandal now, doctor? Marsee'ah Tem was arrested over 12 years ago."
"Who?" Kira asked curiously.
"Sex scandal?" Julian inquired.
Odo sighed and began to explain. "Marsee'ah Tem was the mistress of Senator Jonhz, head of the munitions council and attempted to assassinate him and several other guests by planting some sort of gaseous flower in the garden which would affect only Romulans."
"She killed them with a plant?" Kira scoffed.
"No, she attempted to kill them. Unfortunately for her, the plant, some sort of illegal poppy, was not native to Romulas and the nutrients in the soil changed the chemical composition of the gas."
"So the senator and the colonel were okay?" Julian asked.
"Well, they lived, at any rate." Odo cleared his throat nervously.
"But you said it was a sex scandal," Kira pointed out.
"Yes, well, if I recall correctly the plant produced some sort of pheromone which caused a spontaneous…hormonal reaction in the guests. One similar to that of their genetic cousins the Vulcans."
"Hormonal…? You mean like ponn farr?" Julian asked incredulously.
"I believe so."
"You're kidding." Kira began to chuckle at the mental images produced by his statement.
Odo shook his head; "After the 'effects' of the poppy wore off she was arrested for attempted murder and for violating customs procedures."
"But what about Ga--er, their gardener?" Julian asked.
"Their gardener insisted she was the one who demanded he plant the flowers despite his warnings. He, in fact, had several witnesses to say that she would often bully the staff in such a manner. He was released without incident and the Senator and the colonel soon after retired from the council."
"But it wasn't their fault!" Kira said, "Why did they have to retire for what she did?"
"Actually, that was the scandal. Apparently when the hormonal 'reaction' occurred the senator and the colonel found solace in one another's company. It seemed that they enjoyed the arrangement so much that they decided to give up politics and take up gardening full time."
"I'll have to ask Keiko if she can get me some of those plants," Kira said then chuckled as Odo shot her a look. "Kidding."
"How is it you came by this information, doctor?" Odo gave him a searching look.
"I…I was researching some, uh…poisons and I came across a vague passage in a medical text," he said quickly. "If you'll excuse me, I'm late for a fitting at Garak's shop."
The two watched him exit the replimat before Kira began to chuckle, "Passion poppies, huh? Who would have thought Romulans were into that sort of thing."
"Did the doctor seem a bit off to you?" Odo asked as he watched Julian hurry toward the tailor shop.
"No more than usual," she shrugged. "Let's go eat."
Well, it was G-rated and it didn't have Garak and Julian cooking naked but I hope you enjoyed it anyway. Happy Belated Birthday. ---Jen
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