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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

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Everyone keeps trying to help Jake, is the maddening thing.

Kira drags him to the holosuites, lies feebly when he points out that she doesn't like the holosuites, and makes him go to a spa with her. After an awkward ten minutes sweating on hot rocks she does, at least, agree to change the program to a fighting simulator. Which still isn't any fun for Jake, but at least one of them has a good time.

Rom sits him down with a glass of eggnog (he's experimenting with human refreshments again, never mind that this is a strange pastime for the Grand Nagus of Ferenginar, and never mind that Nog is offended by this particular drink's name, and never mind that Jake has repeatedly pointed out it's a seasonal delight and not really appropriate for first thing in the morning anyway) and tries to get him to open up about how he's feeling. The whole thing ends with Rom crying, loudly and unabashedly. Jake does admire how in tune Rom is with his emotions, but mostly he wants to flee the room.

The coup de grâce is Bashir coming up to him in the Replimat one afternoon and saying, "Jake, old boy," in an overly-loud, rally-the-troops sort of voice. Jake refuses to humor him by sitting through whatever "solve the sad writer boy's problems" strategy Bashir thinks he has. He just stares at Bashir, stone-faced, until Bashir moves off with a loud cough to bother one of his nurses at the next table, like that was what he'd planned on doing the whole time.

Jake would have felt a little bad about the blow off, but it's Julian Bashir. He can't imagine a worse therapist than Julian Bashir.

He starts haunting Quark's, and it's a pure defense mechanism at the beginning; he sees Worf charging down the Promenade at him one night, a grim and determined look on his face, and maybe this is the Prophets or fate or the time-space continuum trying to teach Jake a lesson that there is, in fact, a worse therapist in the Alpha Quadrant than Julian Bashir. He ducks into the bar and sits next to Morn and asks Morn to catch him up on every last one of his cousins. By the time Worf takes the seat on Jake's other side, no one on the entire station has a chance of getting a word in edgewise to ask Jake how he's feeling or if he wants to talk about his father or to tell him that it's really a wonderful thing after all that wormhole aliens abducted the person he loves most in the galaxy.

Worf makes an effort anyway, which is probably down to that Klingon refusal to surrender. Morn pauses long enough to take a sip of his drink and Worf says, "Jake."

But then Quark swoops in to goad Worf into ordering an expensive and (almost certainly) watered down vintage of bloodwine. By the time that argument is done Morn has refreshed himself and is ready to continue on with the tale of his third cousin once removed one who is, improbably, a high-ranking judge on Luria and a teetotaler.

Jake is so thankful for Quark's intervention that he leaves a tip when he closes out his tab at the bar that night. (Worf had departed hours ago, and Jake realized the double-edged nature of the sword he had wielded, when it took him another twenty minutes just to get out an excuse to move to a table in the back of the bar and leave Morn to chat up another desperate soul.)

Quark gives him a weird look.

"Since when do you tip the bartender?"

"I'm feeling generous," Jake says.

Quark weighs the strip of latinum, like he thinks it's fake, or maybe booby-trapped.

"You humans talk a big game about generosity," Quark says, "but I've never seen much of it myself."

"And you're qualified to judge," Jake says.

"Of course. I know exactly how generous I can afford to be."

"And you're never a bit more generous than that."

"Why would you be more generous than you had to be?" Quark demands, and Jake thinks about pulling out a dictionary, reading Quark the definition of generous. Possibly something is getting lost in translation. Possibly there is no Ferengi word for generous, and the universal translator is substituting in something that more accurately means a state of only ripping someone off a tiny amount or the way you treat someone higher status than you so that they will show you favor in the future.

"If I knew it would offend you, I wouldn't have. Sorry." Jake reaches for the latinum.

Quark pockets it. "Don't get ideas. I'm not offended. I'm just surprised. I thought humans stopped changing once they got their second set of teeth in. You aren't going to get any taller, are you?"

"Yeah, you're going to have to get the ceilings in here raised," Jake says.

"With the prices of construction in a post-war economy? I think not. You'll manage."

"What happened to that famous Ferengi generosity?"

Quark turns up his nose and walks away.

But Quark's dubious generosity aside, Jake turns up at the bar the next night, when Ezri tries to schedule a counseling appointment with him ("can't -- working on a short story -- "), and the night after that, when Chief O'Brien asks if he wants to play racquetball ("I just ate -- maybe next time -- "), and the night after that, when Kasidy tells him that Vic has been asking about him ("tell him I said hi -- " and maybe when Jake can think of the casino without hearing his father's voice, the best is yet to come, he'll go tell Vic hi for himself).

There's a dangerous moment when Jake takes a seat and Quark rushes up to him with a peculiar expression and Jake thinks, oh no, this is it. He's wary and disappointed and honestly flabbergasted that anyone could get Quark of all people to fuss over him. Probably Nog or Rom or Ishka blackmailed him into it.

(Ishka sending Jake a message telling him that she's heard so much about him from Nog that she feels he's practically family, and of course if he needs anything from her or Zek all he has to do is ask -- that had been too weird and surreal for Jake to be upset about. Mostly he's glad that the Ferengi women's liberation movement is in full swing and Ishka had not recorded the message while clad in the, er, traditional lack-of-clothing.)

But after an awkward hour sitting at the bar, where Quark checks in on him constantly and asks if he needs a refill and doesn't even hurry him to clear up room for paying customers when he says no, just asks how his latest story is going (Jake has been playing a game on his PADD all evening), it clicks what's really going on.

"Quark," Jake says. "I'm not going to tip you again."

Quark's face transforms, wholly and immediately, into a familiar scowl. "What, is the service here not to your liking, oh picky and ungrateful one?"

"That was a special circumstance. Don't get used to it."

No one has shot Jake a dirty look since the war ended. Probably that shouldn't fill him with glee, but -- whatever works.

Jake switches over from his game to his manuscript and starts tapping away at it, grinning with one side of his mouth.

-

Of course, word gets around that Jake is spending all his nights in a bar, and now his army of busybodies has a new thing to worry over him for. Worf and Chief O'Brien and Rom have all left the station, but that doesn't make a difference in the number of times Jake is subjected to well-meaning ambushes. The remaining meddlers have decided to step up their attempts to make up for the loss in numbers.

"You have to try this Rigellian sparkling water," Ezri says from the stool next to Jake. Modeling good behavior, and Jake doesn't feel the need to point out that his current beverage is non-alcoholic. If everyone wants to pester him about his non-existent drinking problem, he'll take that over everyone pestering him about his real and thriving abandonment issues, thanks.

"I'm good," Jake says, though he'll get to Rigellian sparkling water sooner or later. He's working his way through Quark's menu one drink at a time. Betazoid fruit juice had given him a three-day migraine, but he'd rather liked the Ferengi cocktail known as storm water, which made Quark preen.

"I suppose there is a grand tradition of writers who drink. But don't take it too far," Bashir says, and then he grimaces. Ezri has probably kicked him under the bar, out of Jake's sight, and doesn't it say something about where you are in your life if Ezri Dax has to chastise you for your lack of subtlety.

(Nog doesn't bother with subtlety. The night before last he'd physically dragged Jake out of the bar, to the general amusement of the entire Promenade, and made him do chin-ups in their room. Jake had not been having a non-alcoholic beverage that night. There's probably some culture which considers vomiting to be therapeutic, but Jake never wants to meet them, except maybe to make them re-carpet his quarters.

Besides, if anyone could be sympathetic about Jake hiding in a bar while he licks his wounds and tries to get his head on right, it should be Nog. Though pointing this out may not have been Jake's finest or most tactful moment.)

Quark swoops in before Jake can decide how best to hold Ezri and Bashir's feet to the coals while pretending not to notice they're checking in on him. "Your holosuite time started five minutes ago," Quark tells them. "Now, if you want to stay out here enjoying my fine beverages and pleasing decor, you're more than welcome to, but I will remind you that there's no refund on holosuite rentals after the booking has begun."

Bashir is already standing, which just makes it all the more preposterous when Ezri looks at him sternly from her perch.

"Oh, um -- well of course we want the holosuite," Bashir says, and does a better job of covering than Jake expected of him. "Jake, why don't you join us? Have a bit of fun, and all that."

"I'll have to charge you for the extra user," Quark points out.

"I'm sure you could waive the fee," Ezri says pointedly. "For Jake."

"Are you trying to put me out of business?" Quark grumps. "And me the head of my household, you're trying to starve my family -- "

"Your brother is the Grand Nagus," Ezri says. "Somehow I think your family will survive even if you give a customer a discount."

Quark slaps the bar and leans forward. "Don't say the d-word in this bar!" he whispers at her. "That's how you get an infestation of freeloaders!"

Jake laughs. He remembers teaching Nog to read, and Nog's surprise that the bad guys in stories for human children were all pirates and monsters and witches, and not moochers and customs agents and socialists. "But when does the wolf put the woodsman out of business?" he asked, mystified, and he hadn't so much as blinked at the fairly graphic depiction of Little Red Riding Hood being devoured alive.

"We'll clink some latinum to scare the bad spirits away," Jake tells Quark, and it's kind of new and raw, smiling and talking superstitions. It makes him feel generous (for values of generous that equal "returning one favor with another," which is not really generosity at all, except perhaps by Ferengi standards) so he tells Bashir and Ezri, "You guys go on ahead, I'm kind of over battle simulations. Let me know if you get a new program sometime."

Okay, so he's doing Quark a favor getting Ezri off his back, but also? Bashir and Ezri have been going to the holosuites in their Starfleet uniforms, not in costume, and Jake has the vague memory of hearing that Spartans fought in the nude; it's not something he wants to confirm firsthand, so he's doing himself a favor staying out of Thermopylae.

Returning a favor with a favor that's more good for you than it is for the other person is definitely a Ferengi value. Which is maybe why Quark gives Jake a begrudging little nod of approval before he moves off to get Morn another drink.

-

There is a grand tradition of writers who drink, and Jake thinks he's figured out why: bars are fantastic places to find characters.

There's the Bolian who comes in in the early afternoon one day and sips away at drink after drink in tiny, controlled little motions, until he suddenly declares that the Dabo wheel is rigged, just like life, and then passes out in one last little controlled motion.

There's the Klingon who tries to lead the entire bar in a loud, raucous song -- which wouldn't have been anything to write home about, except that the song he wants to sing is from a human opera, not a Klingon one, and he keeps insisting that Quark shut off the translators in the bar. "THE SONG MUST BE HEARD IN THE ORIGINAL ITALIAN," the Klingon bellows, and Jake has Nessun Dorma stuck in his head while he tries to fall asleep that night, which is appropriate enough.

And, of course, there are Quark's various business associates. Security on the station is currently headed by a temporary officer on loan from Starfleet, and Commander Kavanaugh assumed that Odo's file on Quark is exaggerated and biased -- which it almost definitely is, Jake doesn't need to read it to know that; but Kavanaugh decided that he doesn't need to keep an eye on Quark at all, which is an over-correction at best.

Not that it's Jake's problem. Any ill that befalls anyone because of Quark's extra-legal business deals is either going happen far away from the station (and if Jake's morals should object to that, they don't have the energy to) or it will happen to Quark, and Jake is a consummate gambler. He recognizes another gambler's right to make bet with whatever he's willing to risk losing, even if the odds are bad.

So Jake keeps an eye on the one-armed Lissepian as soon as he pegs him as one of Quark's associates. Not because he's going to report him to Security, but just because, well, how often does an actual one-armed smuggler walk into your life? It's like he wants to be a character in Jake's new crime novel. Jake jots down a quick description of him and notes the way that he orders his drink, "Elaysian whiskey and don't waste my time." Nothing like a signature drink order to make a character pop off the page.

He settles down on the bar on the opposite side of the room from Jake, so Jake doesn't get much of a chance to overhear the conversation. That's fine; the Dabo girl who replaced Leeta is working tonight, and she has a charming tendency for malapropisms, so he gets a handful of useful material out of the night anyway, and writes off the smuggler as a background character.

The scene changes on him as the night winds down.

The one-armed Lissepian gets pushed closer to Jake throughout the night -- Ensign Takahari's bachelorette party had taken up one half of the bar, and her fiancée's bachelorette party had taken up the other, because apparently neither of their bridal parties thought to ask what the other was planning, and yet both remain committed to the illusion of separate events. Everyone in Quark's who isn't getting festively drunk with the aim of being hungover at a wedding tomorrow gets squished closer and closer together in the middle of the bar.

By then, Jake figures Quark and his associate have wrapped up their business, so he isn't really trying to eavesdrop, or, not for anything besides another tough-guy quip he can use to spice up his dialogue. His criminals never feel flashy enough, and whatever Quark would say about criminals not thinking of themselves as criminals, a large number of them certainly thinks of themselves as people of style, which is hard for Jake to capture.

Not that Jake doesn't have style. It's just a different sort. That's all. It's a cool guy artist style. Which is totally a thing.

But apparently business hasn't concluded, not fully, because over the noise of the bridal parties (substantial -- the opera-loving Klingon is back again, serenading Ensign Takahari with Habanera. Jake doesn't think that's appropriate for a bride, but who is he to argue with Georges Bizet, or with a warrior who has at least a hundred pounds of muscle and a decade of weapons training on him), he hears the one-armed Lissepian tell Quark, "the human could help us." Jake looks over out of the corner of his eye to see who they're talking about -- a Security officer who could be bribed, or a grizzled phaser-for-hire who could shoot first and ask questions never, or a beautiful young woman who could distract anyone who gets in the way of their nefarious schemes -- only to discover that they're looking at him.

Jake almost looks behind him, in case he's wrong and they're talking about someone else, but he resists the impulse at the last minute. If they are talking about him, that would be a great way of convincing them that they're wrong. Not that he's planning on turning to a life of crime (even if, knowing Quark, it's only a life of petty crime), but there's no use in looking less than competent. He has that cool guy artist style to maintain.

And, well, it's been weeks since anyone asked Jake to help them, rather than the other way around.

Quark disagrees, which is another reason for Jake to want to go along with it. If Quark doesn't like it, it's probably a great idea. "The human? No way."

"He's a human," the Lissepian says. "That has...a certain cache in this sector."

"He's a civilian. And a reporter," he adds with a disdainful sniff.

Jake figures this is about as much talking-about-him-like-he-isn't-three-feet-away as he can stand, so he gets up and walks two stools down. There's a tearful bridesman on the stool closest to the Lissepian, so Jake doesn't take a seat, just leans against the bar and takes a moment to pass the bridesman a napkin.

"I'm just so happy for her, you know?" the bridesman says.

"I know," Jake says. "You should tell her, I bet she'd like to hear that."

"I'm so happy I could puke."

"You should go to the bathroom and then tell her how happy you are," Jake amends.

The bridesman chews this over for a second and then nods, teeters off the stool and toward the restroom.

"See? He's got diplomacy," the Lissepian says to Quark. "Which is in short supply when you're the one organizing a job."

"I am shocked! After all the years you've known me, that you could level such an accusation," Quark says. "Why, if Jake knows anything about diplomacy, he learned it on my knee."

Jake snorts, because he'd been taller than Quark when they met and had certainly never sat on his knee to soak up his wisdom.

But he does have a touch of diplomat about him, so he says, "I learned a lot from watching Quark, sure," which is true however you slice it. "Enough to recognize a deal shaping up in front of me. You ought to be more careful, Quark. I know Odo's not around, but even Kavanaugh could figure out what was going on here if he bothered to stick his nose in."

"Which he doesn't," Quark says. "Hence why we don't need to waste a lot of time and latinum on diplomacy."

"There's an old human saying," Jake says. "Be prepared."

Quark waits a beat. "That's it? That's the whole saying? That's not a saying, that's two words. You think humans invented the concept of preparation? I'm starting to worry about your future as a writer, if you call that a saying. What do you scribble all those nights you're staring at my Dabo girls, shopping lists?"

"Sometimes I stare at the Dabo boys, too," Jake says, instead of answering.

The Lissepian puts a kibosh on whatever perfectly crafted insult Quark was going to level at Jake next, which, Jake tries not to be disappointed. It shouldn't be hard. People don't normally like being insulted, right? He's definitely been offended and annoyed by Quark's general -- Quark-ness -- before.

But it's so easy and natural, like being a real person, someone that doesn't need to be handled with care in case they break into a thousand pieces on the Promenade.

"We need another set of hands," the Lissepian growls. "I like the boy for it."

"Fine," Quark snaps. "But you're getting a novice cut. Five percent." he tells Jake, like Jake cares about what he's getting paid. Like Jake has agreed to this.

Probably Jake should not agree to take part in illicit activities without even knowing what they are.

"I want ten percent," Jake says. "And another drink, on the house."

Quark harrumphs, but Jake thinks there might be a gleam of pride in Quark's eyes that Jake bothered to negotiate. And he brings Jake the next drink on his menu without quibbling.

"To business." Jake raises his glass.

No one returns his toast. The Lissepian narrows his eyes, like he's just now having second thoughts about plucking a stranger out of the crowd at random and conscripting them to an illegal transaction.

Quark reaches out and pushes Jake's hand out of the air. "No one toasts to business, what are you thinking?"

"All right, all right, now I know," Jake says, and after the one-armed Lissepian leaves he makes a note in his PADD, our business isn't the kind people toast to.

-

Smuggling, Jake quickly learns, is boring.

"What, you thought it was all dashing rogues and heart-racing action?" Quark asks. "Listen to me, Jake, it's a good thing when the job is boring."

"I knew there wouldn't be any dashing rogues," Jake says, purely for the offended little huff that earns him from Quark. He stops long enough to appreciate that sound, and to appreciate the fact that he just appreciated something. It's progress, maybe. He has no desire whatsoever to ask Ezri whether this is a sign of healthy emotional development, and not just for the usual reason of not wanting to run his mental state past Ezri. "But I figured there would be at least, you know, walking."

They've been sitting in the cargo hold of the Lissepian's ship for eleven hours now, not that Jake has been checking the chronometer every five minutes or anything. The most "action" that has occurred was when Quark tripped on the way to the replicator and whined about his twisted knee until Jake had waved a scanner over it. It reported no damage, which had only made Quark pout more and insist that he knew when something was wrong with his body and the scanner must be malfunctioning.

Jake had created an ad-hoc settee and foot-rest out of cargo boxes so Quark could elevate his leg, more out of a desire for something to do than any worry about Quark's well-being.

Except now he's starting to worry about both of their well-being, because it's been eleven hours and if this goes on much longer Jake is going to murder Quark out of boredom and then a court will probably force him to go to counseling and he'll spontaneously combust from a desire not to talk about how my dad left me to go live with creepy non-temporal aliens so I tried to turn to a life of crime but I wasn't good at it.

"The true test of any business man -- regardless of the legality of his business -- is his patience," Quark lectures Jake, sitting on his butt on the structure Jake had built for him like he hadn't spent the whole time Jake was building the chair whining in that high-pitched Ferengi pain-voice about how if Jake didn't finish right now he was going to incur permanent damage and was that what Jake wanted? To cripple him? And hadn't he raised Jake better than that? (Which had cost him a good five minutes of construction time as Jake fought down hysterical laughter at the concept of Quark raising him better than that.)

Still, there's a kernel of something, there, some line that Jake can use, so he pulls out his PADD and makes a note, if you want to make it in this business, you need more patience.

"What is that?" Quark demands.

"It's a PADD," Jake answers, tucking it back into his bag.

"I can see that," Quark says. "What did you just write?"

"Nothing. Just some notes."

"You're taking notes?!"

"For myself," Jake says. "Nothing incriminating, don't worry about it."

"Don't worry about it. He's creating a paper trail and he says don't worry about it," Quark rants. "Oh, I knew hoomans were going to be the death of me but I thought they'd have the decency to just blow the station up one day. Not like this. Not coming into my home and betraying me -- "

"This isn't your ship, Quark. Or your home."

"This business is my life, and you're trying to run me out of it," and okay, probably the fact that Jake takes his PADD back out to jot that down just goes to prove whatever point Quark is trying to make, but whatever, Jake has no regrets.

Or he has no regrets until Quark springs up from his seat (oh, but his knee was so badly injured, sure) and snatches the PADD out of Jake's hand.

"Hey!" Jake protests, because there are personal things on that PADD. Not in the rough draft of his crime novel, maybe, but it's the principle of the thing. "Give that back!"

Jake grabs for the PADD, but Quark clings onto it with some previously unknown reservoir of strength.

"Is this character really named Villain?" Quark demands, staring down at the screen in revulsion.

"It's ironic!" That earns Jake a snort. "I'm not good at names," he explains in a mumble.

"I'm beginning to see why you don't sell your work in an open marketplace." Quark dodges another attempt to grab the PADD back. "Though customers give a lot more leeway on quality to works of, shall we say -- "

"We shall not," Jake says, because seriously, this is not the first time Quark has "advised" him to write erotic holosuite programs and he's got enough mental baggage he's failing to work through already, thanks.

Quark falls silent, apparently respecting Jake's wishes. Which only makes Jake suspicious.

"What?"

"Where did you hear this?" Quark asks, holding the PADD back out to Jake. Jake is tempted to grab it away once and for all, but Quark has gone uncharacteristically still and serious, so he just reads the line Quark is pointing at: we'll handle this like we handled that job in the Breen system.

"Back at the station?" Jake says. "I think -- we were loading the cargo? You were out keeping Kavanaugh busy, the Lissepian was talking to one of his associates. I just thought it sounded cool."

Quark nods a couple times, eyes locked on the PADD.

"Jake," he says, voice low and calm. "I don't mean to alarm you, but this is a double cross."

"What?"

"I told you not to be alarmed!"

"No, you didn't!"

"It was implied! What kind of writer are you, anyway?"

The door to the cargo bay slides open, revealing the one-armed Lissepian and his two associates. Jake hadn't appreciated before how large the associates were, or that they both had their full complement of limbs.

He doesn't know what you're supposed to do when you're double-crossed in an illegal operation. It would be great material for a story he's not going to live long enough to write.

Jake freezes up.

Or he does until Quark pokes him with a jagged nail. That at least gets a reaction out of him, even if said reaction is just to jump and glare at Quark.

Quark smacks the PADD against Jake's chest and rants, "I've read better material in one of Doctor Bashir's juvenile programs!"

"Hey!" Jake says, because they might be about to die but that is the true injury. "What do you know about art anyway? You don't have a soul, you just love your latinum!"

"Quark," the Lissepian growls at them, but when Jake darts a quick look in their direction Quark shoves the PADD at him again, pushing him back a few feet toward the wall.

"I don't have a soul?" Quark steamrolls right over anything Jake would have to say, and over the Lissepian's attempt to get his attention, and just keeps pushing against Jake until he stumbles closer and closer to the back wall. "After I toil away taking care of my brother, and my nephew, and you by the way, stray human who wandered into my bar without a clue what life was really like. You just thought it would be fun to have a pet Ferengi -- "

" -- Nog is my friend, and I did him a lot more good than you ever did -- "

"Quark," the Lissepian says again, and Jake doesn't risk a look at him this time. His back is nearly to the wall; there's not that much further he can go.

" -- thought it would be fun to play freedom fighter, thought it would be fun to play smuggler -- "

"You do it," Jake asks, "how hard can it be?"

Quark pulls an offended face. "Oh, you think you haven't got anything you can learn from me? Well I know one thing you don't."

"Oh, really. Like what?"

"Quark," and the Lissepian sounds closer now.

"The oldest trick in the book." Quark smacks the control panel for the door. "RUN FOR IT."

They dash out of the cargo hold, only about ten yards ahead of the Lissepian. Jake isn't complaining; he'll take what he can get, right now. Mostly he's impressed with how fast Quark can move. Quark is pulling ahead of him, never mind that Jake's legs are a good deal longer.

"I knew you were faking about your knee hurting!" he calls out to Quark, because if they're about to die he wants to clear that up first.

"This is not the time for gloating!"

"Oh, but it's the perfect time to make fun of my writing?"

"You'll never improve if you don't get any criticism!" Quark turns on a dime, and Jake runs several feet past the doorway he's ducked down, has to stumble to a stop and turn back around again.

That gives him a great view of the Lissepian charging up after them, his associates right on his heels and drawing their weapons.

Jake yelps.

"Get in!" Quark yells, and Jake throws himself through the door. It slides shut behind him, not a moment too soon by his estimation.

Jake scrambles back up to his feet, ready to keep running, and only then notices where they are: on the bridge of the ship.

"Quark!" Jake yells. "Why did you lead us here? We need to get to an escape pod!"

"What, so they can shoot us down as soon as we launch?" Quark is busy tapping away at a control panel. "I don't think so."

"Better than holing up here for them to catch us," Jake argues. "They're going to shoot us as soon as that door opens, and there's nowhere for us to run to."

"They aren't going to get the door open," Quark says, and then smiles at the control panel with all his teeth. "Excellent. There we go."

A loud banging comes from the door. Jake jumps, but Quark takes a seat in the command chair and stretches his legs out.

"What do you mean, the door isn't going to open?"

"Here's another little smuggler tip for you, Jake." Quark is all bravado now. If Jake hadn't seen him whining about his knee in the cargo hold he might even think of Quark as a dashing rogue. Well, probably not. "Don't double cross somebody who knows your command codes."

More banging from the door, but this time Jake tunes it out. "You have the command codes for the ship?"

Quark waves off Jake's comment, as though he's too modest to brag. Jake thinks Quark probably has the same policy on modesty as he does on generosity, just enough to get the job done and not a drop more. "I remember the job in the Breen system, too. A guy who will double cross your mutual contact is a guy who will double cross you, eventually."

"So you found out his command codes."

"Insurance policy. What do you take me for, Rom?"

Jake shakes his head. "They could still cut through the door."

"They could if they worked together -- which they won't. They'll turn on each other and all that's left is for us to make the rendez-vous and keep the profit for ourselves."

Quark is thoroughly pleased with himself. And not without reason. He's been right about everything else so far (except that he would die without medical attention to his knee), so he's probably right about this.

But Jake is tired. He almost thinks he wouldn't mind if the smugglers did get the door open and do to him whatever they did in the Breen system.

"We're going back to the station," he tells Quark.

"But we haven't even lost any time! It would only take a day -- "

"Station, Quark."

"Fine." Quark sighs and starts tapping away at the navigational array. "We'll tell Kavanaugh about how we were shocked to discover that shady business was unfolding, and of course like any two law-abiding citizens would, we took control of the ship and turned over the contraband to the nearest authorities. Or, a good sixty percent of the contraband." Quark mutters something about storage room under his breath and starts calculating something on his fingers.

"You think Kavanaugh's going to buy that?" If he doesn't, than they'll be arrested. That ought to be a scarier thought than it is. Jake can't make himself care.

"With a good little Federation hooman with me? Why wouldn't he?"

Jake scowls at Quark. "So you're using me."

"And you were using me for dialogue for your terrible novel," Quark points out, unruffled. "People use each other all the time, Jake. As long as you're both using each other, what's the problem?"

That would be a great line of dialogue, Jake thinks. He doesn't write it down.

"I'm going to sleep," he says, and curls up as best as he can on the other command chair.

Quark grumbles something about sensitive hooman artists, but he does lower the lights on the bridge.

It doesn't help. Jake can't sleep. At first he thinks it's the fault of the chair; it's not meant to be slept on, but any more comfortable quarters on the ship lay beyond the sealed door that's keeping three angry smugglers away from him, so he doesn't go looking for them.

He tells the replicator to give him a blanket, and he tries to stretch out on the floor, but it's hard and cold and he can't sleep.

Which is maddening, because he's so exhausted he can't think. He ought to be able to sleep like a log, on a log, and yet he can't.

He has the replicator make him a hammock, next, and spends a good twenty minutes trying to string it up.

"Good thing you have all that Starfleet engineering training," Quark says, as Jake tries to sit in the hammock and ends up on his butt back on the floor.

"Oh, like how you worked as a chef so you're such a great cook?" Jake asks, and eventually gets the hammock to stay up.

Except then, well, he's comfortable, almost too comfortable, with the lights low and lying in a hammock and all of a sudden --

"It's funny," Jake says, "this kind of reminds me of flying the Bajoran lightship with Dad," and then he makes a horrible choking crying sound.

"What? What is it? Are you dying?" Quark demands, springing up from the command chair.

Jake sits up, curls his arms around his legs. The hammock swings a little bit from his movement. It's bizarrely cozy for a hostile scenario on a smuggler's ship where all he can think about is his dad, and he should have just stuck to the floor.

Quark comes up and pounds away on his back. "Is it poison? Did they get something past the air filters? They're trying to smoke us out, get rid of the witnesses -- "

"I'm not dying, Quark!" Jake finally manages to say around the lump in his throat. "And if I was poisoned hitting me on the back wouldn't help!"

"Well I don't know how your delicate human respiration system works!" Quark says. "You just start choking for no reason -- "

"I'm not choking," Jake says, "I miss my dad."

To his credit, Quark only looks about half as horrified to hear that as Jake is to hear himself saying it.

"Um," Quark says, and that's all the excuse that Jake's stupid mouth needs to start running.

"He's just gone and I don't know if I'm ever going to see him again, and I finally just got over worrying that he was going to die in the war and at least that was a real thing. Everyone knows what that's like. Everyone had someone who was off fighting. Nobody gets what it's like to have your dad just gone and you don't even know if he's dead or what. But they pretend like they know what that's like and I'm just sick of that -- "

"Um," Quark starts again. "You know, wouldn't you rather -- wait? You could tell Ezri about it."

"I don't want to talk to Ezri," Jake says. "She's tries too hard."

"Well, you could talk to Nog," Quark says.

"Nog just makes me try to work out," Jake mutters. "I don't want to run until I'm too tired to feel bad. I just want to feel bad."

"What about the Dabo girls! You love the Dabo girls. Or the one of the Dabo boys! They make excellent listeners, really, fantastic shoulders to cry on -- "

"I don't want to cry on a Dabo boy. I was just looking for a little sympathy."

"You're even more screwed up than I thought if you're looking to me for sympathy," Quark says.

Jake's face spasms. Quark retreats, literally steps backwards and raising his hands, like he thinks Jake might attack him.

He looks even more freaked out a second later, when Jake laughs.

"Yeah," Jake admits. "I think I am really screwed up."

"Oh. Well. Good. We'll make a criminal out of you yet," Quark says. "All criminals are screwed up. Except me, that's why I'm so good at what I do."

Jake puts his head down on his knees and counts his breaths. "That's pretty good. I'm going to write that down. Hand me my PADD?"

"I'm expecting royalties from this story," Quark grumbles, but bring Jake his PADD.

Jake doesn't move to take it, just shuts his eyes and keeps counting.

Quark puts the PADD down on the hammock next to Jake and, after a palpable hesitation, pats Jake on the shoulder a few times.

-

Jake takes a few nights off from going to the bar. He's busier than usual, between appointments with one of the counselors Starfleet sent to the station, and making dinner for Kira and Ezri, and helping Dr. Bashir build miniatures for his Sparta model (nude -- Jake is never going in that holoprogram).

And, well, he's kind of embarrassed about the whole tried-to-be-a-smuggler, couldn't-think-of-a-good-character-name, cried-about-my-dad thing.

But his counselor cautions him about avoidance, and he's still got a couple thousand drinks he needs to try, and Nog has a bone to pick with the human-opera-loving Klingon (he claims it's about sound ordinances on the Promendade, but Jake thinks he's just annoyed that the Klingon doesn't like Wozzeck).

So a week after he perjures himself to Kavanaugh by explaining in wide-eyed, innocent horror that there were smugglers on the station, Jake comes into Quark's and slides onto a stool at the bar.

"Hey, Quark." He figures he might as well get it over with.

"Next drink on the list?" Quark asks.

"Yeah," Jake says. "And, um, listen, about the ship -- "

"Oh, are you going to settle up?" Quark interrupts him.

Jake's thrown. "Settle up? Settle up what?"

"Settle up what you owe me," Quark says. "You cost me a sizable profit when you insisted on coming back to the station. If you want to pay me the difference now I'd be happy to accept it. Otherwise, of course, there will be interest."

"Yeah, no way am I paying you for a deal that went bad because you do business with known backstabbers."

"What, I should do business with people I don't know are going to stab me in the back?"

"You could do business with trustworthy people."

"Know a lot of those in my line of work, do you?" Quark shakes his head in disgust and hands Jake his drink. "You could have at least let me make the rendez-vous."

"Don't act like you're not sitting pretty with the forty percent of the cargo you held onto. And with your squeaky clean new reputation with security."

Quark sniffs, refusing to admit that Jake has a point.

"If you want me to pay you back," Jake says, with a flash of inspiration. "I've got just the thing."

"I'll be the judge of that," Quark says. "Humans are not known for their ability to appraise value, and you're worse than most."

"No, you'll like this," Jake says, and pulls out his ever-present PADD. He taps in a command and turns the screen around. "I changed the character's name. From Villain to Quark."

Quark squawks. "You can't name a character after me. That's bad for business. Too much attention," but Jake is pretty sure he's pleased.

"Well, it's my fault you have this new reputation as a do-gooder who helps Security with their investigation," Jake says. "So I might as well help drag your name through the mud again."

Quark fusses with a few glasses behind the bar. "I suppose that's a point."

"Good. Glad that settles it." Jake takes a sip of his new drink. "Which one was this again?"

"Risan spring wine," Quark says.

"Great. You can go ahead and take that off the menu." Jake pushes the drink away from him.

Quark sighs hugely at the inconvenience, but clears Jake's glass and brings him a new drink without Jake having to plead or wheedle.

"About the other thing," Jake says.

Quark's eyes go wide. "You don't need to -- talk, do you?" and his voice goes low and quiet, like they can talk about smuggling openly but this is the subject of secret backroom deals.

"No, I just wanted to say -- thanks. For, you know." Jake raises his new glass and takes a sip. He's too distracted to really process what it tastes like. "And as thanks, I promise that I am never going to talk to you about anything serious ever again."

"Thank you," Quark says, and he's so relieved that he doesn't even remember to make Jake pay his tab at the end of the night.

Or, well, maybe he's trying to help Jake out. And maybe Jake is okay with that. Maybe it is okay, to accept help from your friends.

But he probably just forgot.