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Playing with Fire

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It takes them an inordinate amount of time to reach the brig. Quark is drunk and infuriatingly non-compliant, doing his best to extend the delay. At every juncture, he attempts to squirm from Odo’s grip, often veering off the path and into a wall.

Odo tries to keep Quark’s arms pinned behind his back, and he steers them in a straight line, growing more frustrated with each step. He tells himself the delay is caused by Quark’s behavior, even though this behavior isn’t unusual for Quark, and even though Odo deals with drunks every week.

He’s not struggling because things have changed.

He’s not struggling because it’s his first time wrangling Quark since things have changed.

“Odo, what’s happened to you?” Quark asks, slurring on the words, and he manages to slip one of his wrists from Odo’s grasp. He makes a half-hearted attempt to twist the other free, ultimately fails. “You’re off your game tonight.”

Odo scowls, snatches Quark’s free arm and pulls it back behind him. “If you try to escape one more time, I’ll consider it as attempting to evade security.”

“Odo,” Quark whines, but his body relaxes in Odo’s hands. He straightens up, changes gears. “Whatever you say, constable. I’ll go easy on you. You’re experiencing a little adjustment period, after all.”

Odo’s face burns, and his fingers tighten around Quark’s wrists, unthinking and involuntary. He bites back his first response, swallows down anything petty threatening to slip out.

Quark speaks the truth, and Odo hates him for it.

“I don’t need you to go easy on me, Quark,” Odo says through his teeth. “Believe it or not, booking you is not a difficult task.”

It’s not usually a difficult task.

They make it to his office. Odo leads Quark toward the brig, exasperated but not surprised when Quark begins squirming again.

“Whatever you want to believe, Odo," he sings. "I won’t say anything about how you’re struggling just to keep my hands--”

Odo twists Quark’s wrists further together, cutting him off, and Quark yelps.

He tosses Quark into the brig and pulls away as the forefield engages, shielding them from each other.

“Relax!” Quark says, and he side-eyes Odo while rubbing pointedly at his wrists. “No need for the rough stuff. I didn’t mean to hit a nerve.”

Odo grunts dismissively, only half-listening now as he focuses on his report. He leaves to grab a PADD. By the time he returns, Quark has recovered from the journey there. He’s propped his hand up against the wall, balancing precariously as he tries to remove his shoes.

Odo ignores him, looks instead at the PADD in his hand.

“Odo!”

Odo glances up, and Quark now has his wrists together in a lazy attempt at a begging gesture. "Why don’t we forget about tonight? I’m just a little drunk. I’ll go home.”

“A little.” Odo snorts, and he turns back to the PADD. “Let me remind you, you were intoxicated and staggering on the promenade.”

“Public intoxication is not a crime!”

“You’re right, it’s not. Disrupting the peace is a crime, however.” Odo looks purposely at Quark, annoyed to find Quark staring back at him with his face blank and passive. “You need to sober up, and that jail cell is the best place to do it.”

“Come on, Odo.” Quark makes an open-palmed gesture. “Cut me a break this one time?”

“No.”

Quark frowns, and he purses his lips. Immediately Odo recognizes the expression, and his concentration falters. The expression reminds him of all the other times Quark’s been arrested, and he dreads what’s coming next, can already recognize the change happening in Quark.

“Odo, please let me go, ” Quark starts softly, and he sits on the edge of the cell bed. He crosses his legs and leans back on the palms of his hands, deceptively casual as he presents himself to the world. To Odo. He smiles, looks away and bats his eyelids. “I'll do anything for you to let me go.” 

Odo’s hand tightens around the PADD, and he drops his gaze. “Stop it.”

“What?” Quark asks innocently, but he asks it in that voice, the one that makes Odo’s neck crawl. "What's the matter?"

Odo's blood pressure rises at the response--a truly peculiar, humanoid sensation for him. He thinks back to only minutes ago when he struggled to restrain Quark, thinks back to all the other simple things he’s struggled with since becoming human, and the memories fluster him.

He takes a deep breath, tries to calm himself down and return to the subject at hand. “You have played this game before, Quark, or do you not remember? It wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve blacked out those nights.”

Quark leans back further, and he continues to stare at Odo from the other side of the forcefield, his eyes half-lidded. Seductive. “Oh, I remember,” he says, and he slips his arms from his jacket, drops the article to the floor without looking away. “It’s hot in here.”

Quark ,” Odo warns, but it comes out less commanding than he intends. His mouth is starting to dry, and watching Quark has brought a strange feeling onto him, one that is warm and deep and stirring.

Odo is not completely inept; he knows what arousal is. Knows what it feels like. He's dealt with its suddenness and implications since becoming human, and he can recognize its signs. Even still, he rejects the thought, unable to handle the concept that he himself is capable of such a thing at work, inside the brig, with Quark.

“What?” Quark says again, cocking his head to the side, playing innocent.

But it doesn’t convince Odo. Not for a minute, not for a second. He snaps, “If you don’t stop flirting with me, I will add time to your detention.”

“Flirting?” Quark touches a hand to his chest, and he uncrosses his legs. “Me? I would never use such offensive tactics. I can’t believe you of all people would accuse me--”

“Save it for someone who might believe it, Quark.”

“--of something so egregious. To think you consider so low of me, Odo, well...well…" Quark searches for the right words, doesn't find them. "I just don’t know what to say.”

“Then don’t say anything."

Quark opens his mouth but then thinks better of it. Instead he licks his lips, smirks like he's in on a joke Odo doesn't understand. Odo watches him, distracted as Quark's tongue slips from his mouth, soft and wet and red.

Odo shakes his head, shakes the image off. A sweat is starting at the base of his spine, and maybe Quark's correct about the brig’s heat. He certainly can't be sweating because of Quark, who’s still sitting casually on the other side of the forcefield, one hand playing with the collar of his shirt.

Odo blocks him out, pretends his focus isn’t breaking down.

His body feels funny, edged and alert like he expects someone to come up from behind and scare him.

He channels his attention toward his work, tries to enter the booking details as quickly as he can. Silence stretches between them, thick and teeming, weighing heavily on Odo's weary body.

In the corner of Odo's eye, Quark stretches his back against the bed, one hand slipping into his shirt to stroke his chest.

“Odo,” he calls, and then a moment later: “Odo, look at me.”

“No, Quark.”

“Why not?”

Odo indulges the question. “You’re a pervert.”

“Is that how you think of sex, Odo? As perversion?” Quark asks, a smile in his voice, tongue in cheek.

Odo glances sharply at him, hands stilling on the PADD. He’s better off not responding to Quark; there is no response where he wins, where he comes out feeling better about himself. He looks back down.

Quark keeps going.

“For some reason I thought becoming human might make you better. Might make you vibe with the things us normal people do.” Quark doesn’t say solid people, he says normal people, and it catches in Odo's ears. “I can see now it hasn’t, unfortunately. It really hasn’t. You probably don’t even think of sex.”

It is bait, and normally Odo is above bait, but he’s re-read the same paragraph in his report three times now, and the sight of Quark stretched against the wall is causing something deep inside him to shift and twist. Thoughts of sex are filling his mind despite how hard he’s trying to stop them, despite how much he doesn’t want to think about that right now, or ever.

“Quark, stop it. Now.” Odo keeps his tone calm, tight. It almost sounds like he’s negotiating.

“Hit a nerve again, did I?” Quark turns to lay on his side, his wrinkled shirt untucking at the waist and revealing a sliver of skin that knots Odo’s throat. “Do you even feel desire, Odo?”

The question offends Odo, and he glowers. It is not the first time Quark has asked him a question of this nature, but it's the first time Odo thinks Quark might actually not know. And it hurts--just a little bit, but it does--that Quark considers him as without desire.

Despite himself, Odo keeps his eyes on Quark, swallowing as Quark runs his tongue across his teeth and grins.

“Do you think about sex?” Quark continues when Odo doesn’t answer, pushing further, particularly bold this time around. He runs a hand down his thigh, closes his eyes and sighs deeply like he's pleased with something, pleased with himself. He blinks, and he grins, bright and drunk. "Do you masturbate?"

Blood rushes to Odo's face, the heat and the suddenness of it alarming and humiliating even now, even after being human for weeks. It discomposes him, makes him feel like he's receiving a dressing down from Quark. Of all people.

The truth of the matter is Odo does feel desire, and he does think about sex. He's thinking about it now, feeling it now in his body--a hot, prickly feeling building below his skin. He hardly believes it, hardly accepts he’s having such a physical reaction from watching Quark.

"I don’t discuss my personal life with you, and those questions are deeply inappropriate," he reminds Quark, but his voice sounds flustered,  and he knows he's blushing. “You are pathetic. Drunk and aroused in the brig, flirting with station security like some low-brow criminal.”

The insults do not faze Quark, just like they never seem to. He stretches further on the bed, smiles and shrugs like none of it matters. “Come get down in the dirt with me. You’ll love it.”

“I would not love it,” Odo snaps, but his words sound hollow, like he’s arguing against himself. “The only thing I’d love right now is for you to shut up.”

Quark’s eyes spark, and he looks at Odo like he’s said something amusing, like he’s said just the right thing. “I know a way you can shut me up, Odo.”

Odo falls for the trap. “And how would I do that?”

“Lower the forcefield and put your cock in my mouth.”

The unexpected lewdness of Quark’s comment shocks Odo, and all at once his body feels cold and wet and numb. His mouth goes dry, and for a moment everything is tense--his hands, the balls of his feet, his groin. All so deeply, unbearably tense.

He knows his libido has gone through a massive change since becoming human. Dr. Bashir confirmed as much. He understands his libido is untamed and unfocused; it could be anyone on the other side of the forcefield taunting him, saying these things, turning him on, and his body would respond to it.

He knows that.

But it’s not just anyone, it’s Quark, and he can’t stop thinking about what Quark keeps alluding to.

His hands balling into Quark’s shirt, his lips against Quark’s neck, his erection pressing into Quark’s thigh. Some primal, unsettling part of him compels him to go forward, screams at him to go ahead and drop the forcefield, go ahead and drop his trousers. Give Quark what he wants, give Quark what he’s practically been asking for since he’s arrived on the station.

Odo’s thoughts spiral further, disturbing him. He’s never thought about a detainee this way, never truly thought about Quark this way, and before today he’d never have considered it possible. His feet remain firmly in place, and the PADD in his hand stands as nothing more than a prop now, there to help him pretend he’s still a security officer instead of some freak with an overly sensitive trigger.

As Odo’s inner turmoil rages, Quark stands and walks to the edge of the forcefield. “What’s the matter, Odo? Can’t speak?” he asks, giddy with glee, drunk on the alcohol and Odo’s torment. “Maybe it’s your mouth that should be put to use here.”

And now Odo thinks of that, too.

A sick part of him would very much like it--would like to yank Quark’s trousers down, would like to feel Quark's hands in his hair, would like to hear the sounds Quark makes.

Shame overcomes Odo, too much to handle this time, and the tension inside him collapses. His thoughts spill out, unfiltered.

“Quark, what is your endgame here? I lower the forcefield and call your bluff?” he asks, voice loud and echoing off the brig’s metal-plating. “Is that what you really want--for me to rip your clothes off like I've secretly been some sexual deviant this whole time?"

The words move faster than his thoughts, and already he regrets them. Even still, speaking them brings him relief, and it feels much like revealing a long-held secret, easing the pent-up pressure threatening to throttle his groin.

Quark’s eyes have lost their twinkle, and they go wide around the edges. “Odo, I--”

“Shut up!” Odo cuts him off, sharp and frenzied and outside himself. His voice sounds absurd, like that of a stranger.

He moves toward the cell without really knowing why. He thinks he might want to scare Quark. His thoughts are still reeling; his body does not feel real. Instead it feels hot and tight and ready to be ignited, like something is dying to be provoked.

Quark backs away from the forcefield, stumbling before he reaches the wall. For once he has nothing to say, and Odo latches onto the attention.

"I could do it, Quark. I could lower this forcefield and have sex with you. Is that what you really want? Do you want me to touch you, kiss you, undress you, and fuck you?" Odo has never said that word in his life. "Have you ever considered I might not enjoy these drunk flirtations of yours? That I might find them uncomfortable and disgusting? Have you?!"

Odo draws in another breath, ready for more, needing to say more, but finds himself out of air. He sees the signs that his body is overheated--his chest is heaving, his back is sweating, and his fingers are digging into the PADD so hard it hurts.

The sensations overwhelm him, breaking his stream of thoughts, and just like that his tirade ends. The adrenaline drains from him, and the world becomes real again.

Quark sits on the bed and leans back onto his hands, looks at Odo as if he hardly recognizes him. "Wow, Odo, that was…" He grins, and it is lascivious, so much so it startles Odo. "That was something else."

Odo, in shock, begins to stutter. “Quark, I-I--” he starts, but he doesn’t know what to say. “I don’t know what to say. I-I apologize for that. It was deeply unprofessional, and I--”

Quark holds up a hand, stops him. “Trust me, Odo, there's no need for apologies.”

Odo drops his gaze to the PADD, and he notices for the first time his hands are shaking. He can’t believe he just did that, he can’t believe he just said that. He can’t believe it, he can’t believe it, he can’t believe it--

“Odo, look at me,” Quark says, breaking the loop. His unusually soft tone makes Odo oblige, despite himself. “That was sexy . Very vivid imagery. Did you get that from one of your novels, or are you actually a sexual deviant?”

“No,” Odo says, although he isn’t certain which question he's answering, suddenly wondering if becoming human did in fact turn him into a sexual deviant, into someone else. He is afraid to know. He doesn't want to know.

All the arousal, all the tension, all the heat , has drained from his body. It leaves him cold, alone with Quark and the words still hanging between them.

"If you're a sexual deviant, Odo, there's no need for shame. Just let me know. I have some holoprograms I think you might be interested in."

"I'm not a sexual deviant!" Odo replies, defensive, still doubting it.

"Whatever." Quark smirks, teasing and knowing, infuriatingly so. "If it's any consolation to you, I won't tell anyone about that display of yours. It can be our little secret."

Odo had not considered the possibility of Quark telling others, but the scene now runs through his mind, frightening him. He pales. "Quark, if you even think of trying to extort me over this--"

"Hey, hey, hey! Calm down! I was being genuine, which I see now will always be lost on you." Quark shakes his head. "You really are something else, Odo." He speaks derisively, but he makes the comment almost sound like a compliment, appreciative in a way.

Odo frowns, wondering what it could mean, but he lets the question go almost immediately. The only things coming from Quark right now are drunk affections, and nothing he says holds any significance at all. As per usual.

His thoughts clearing a little, Odo focuses on his first priority--getting away from Quark--and he clears his throat. “Quark, I'm going to finish working in my office,” he says, matter-of-fact and awkward, still recovering from shock.

“Probably a good idea,” Quark says, tone as casual as ever, not looking at Odo anymore as he inspects his nails.

Odo wastes no time gathering his things--he cannot leave fast enough--and turns to go.

“And, Odo? Next time you want to say all those things, make sure I'm not behind a forcefield, okay?” Quark calls from the cell, loud and uninhibited. “Or just lower the damn thing.”

Odo stops, back to Quark, and he waits for more--more words, more questions, more jokes. He expects Quark to add something insulting or profane, to make another childish attempt at exasperating him further. When Quark adds nothing, when he lets his offer stand by itself like it might actually come from a genuine place, Odo balks.

He does not know what to do, so he does nothing, and he escapes to his office.