This is a story inspired by someones' innocent enough comment on the
net. It was something like "Hey, wouldn't it be neat if Quark
somehow managed to save Odo's life?" You know who you are :) The
resulting story is printed below; I apologise in advance for the
absence of Sisko - I haven't seen a lot of him in the DS9 I've
managed to see so far, so I don't 'know' him that well.
For those of you who dislike Odo/Quark stories - you have been
warned. This story contains large sections of Odo/Quark and very
little else. If you read this and dislike it, it's your fault.
For those of you still with me - read on. I had some fun writing
this, and I hope some of you at least enjoy reading it :)



by Catherine Weller

The Collectors as a species were notorious in the Gamma
Quadrant. They lived up to their name very well, and were used as a
bogey-myth for any space based societies.

Never travel alone, the Collectors could get you. Always
have a copilot, the Collectors don't want "spares". Keep you
beamshield on you at all times - the Collectors could change their
minds. And always, *always* keep your personal weapon charged and

They also took odd *inanimate* objects, adding fuel to the
myths, but beyond that, they were considered a nuisance only. Even
the much-feared Dominion kept out of their way. Their ships were
enormous, their technology unknown, their minds and purpose simple.

And one of them was headed for the wormhole.

Just to see what it could collect...

Odo's hopes raised only slightly as the wormhole flared into
existance. His people probably weren't coming through, seeing as it
wasn't all that difficult to notice the traffic going through it.
They were either ignoring it, were ignorant of it - or afraid to go

The last option worried Odo the most. If he found them,
would they accept his survival - or would they reject him because he
had been 'lost' years ago? When questions like this plagued his
mind, Odo immersed himself in the problem at hand.

The ship was exuded out of the wormhole, mainly because of
it's size. It was one of the few ships that dwarfed the station.

"Sure as hell hope it doesn't wanna dock" O'Brien murmured.

"Me too." Kira said.

"That makes three of us" Dax stated.

"I think we have a general consensus" Odo cut the quiet
murmurs of agreement short.

That was when the ship beamed him up...

The Collector was proud of himself, silicascious
humanoid-forms were a *rare* find. On its' own, enough to please
*any* female. He had left the simbiontic lifeform - almost every
Collector had one. Useless.

He scanned the rest of the structure in the hopes of finding
something interesting. *There*, on one of the wider levels, was a
lifeform that had only been seen rarely in the Gamma Quadrant. *He*
would be the first to have one.

What a prize.

Odo looked about the room in surprise. Apart from the simple
furniture, it was a featureless, white, brightly-lit box. How in the
names of all the Prophets had *this* managed to happen?

As if in answer, Quark appeared in a shower of sparks. The
Ferengi only managed a pathetic smile before Odo had him in a
strangle-hold against a wall.

"I knew you were in on this!" the shapeshifter accused.

Quark could only choke, "No..." and managed one of his most
pathetic cringes (Number Sixty-Two: Please don't kill me yet, I
could prove useful). It was somewhat hampered by the fact that he
was dangling by his neck, so he couldn't kneel correctly. As
compromise, he curled his legs up shakily.

Odo was squinting into Quark's eyes; in a moment of
benevolence, he dropped the Ferengi - who landed in cringe number
Sixty-Three. "You have a minute to explain yourself," ordered the

Quark allowed himself a few seconds to recover his breath.
He'd never seen Odo this *angry* before; the only occaision he'd
even come close was their first meeting - when the bartender learned
that Odo never gave warnings, he just attacked. "Please," he begged,
"I had nothing to *do* with all this," Quark paused enough to sit
up, "If I did, do you think *I'd* be in the same area as *you*? I'm
not the suicidal type!"

"How *much* were you paid?" Odo was seething, Quark could
tell. The fold of the arms, the tone of voice, the fact that he was
absentmindedly growing talons... Quark had to negotiate for his

"Nothing! Nothing, I swear!" Quark threw both his arms and
one knee between him and the Constable, "Honestly, I have no idea
what's happening. One minute, I'm getting a bottle of Earth Brandy,
the next, I'm locked in a room with a psychopathic shapeshifter!"

Odo's hands returned to normal, "You'd better be telling the
*truth*, _barkeep_," he growled, "It'll be very bad for you if
you're not."

"I believe you," Quark told him, regaining his feet, "and I
think it's about time *you* started believing *me*."

There was a brief snort that meant the shapeshifter thought
something was funny, "The times *you* tell the truth are calendar
events," he muttered.

Quark ignored him, "The first thing we have to do is find a
way out,"

"There's no way out."

"There's always a way out. Rule of Acquisition number
Twenty-Five." He reached into his pocket and bought out a Ferengi
Tricorder; similar in function to a Starfleet Tricorder, but it also
made a rough estimate as to how much the object it was scanning
could be sold for.

Odo watched as Quark quartered the room, waiting for any
little pauses that meant that the Ferengi was wrong.

They got the Runabout off in record time, chasing the huge
ship back through the wormhole and into the Gamma Quadrant. It
didn't seem to notice them at all. Repeated hails were ignored,
weapons ineffective.

At least the thing didn't seem to be capable of going above
Warp 4.

The Collector was aware of the ship following it, and
ignored it. The craft was worthless, taking more space than it
needed, and not having any interesting technology, the Collector
could let it follow until its' fuel ran out.

It was something he had done many times before. Often, these
"chases" would last for years; he was used to that, sometimes
marvelling at other species' tenacity.

* * * O * * *

Odo was pacing now, looking - Quark hated to admit this -
panicky. He'd never seen Odo panic, and had always thought that the
Constable was incapable of fear.

"Could you please stop that?" Quark asked, "I might lose my

"Sorry." Odo stopped, staring at the roof apprehensively. He
was starting to hyperventilate.

"It's your cycle isn't it?" Quark tried to sound
conversational, "I didn't know you *got* this way about liquefying."

"You'd be in a similar state if you were facing
suffocation." grumbled Odo, "*None* of these surfaces will let me

Quark shrugged as if Odo's breathing processes weren't of
import, "I'll find you something when we get out," he said.

"*If*" Odo barked.

"*When*" Quark insisted, "Here," he marked a spot on the
wall, "is a weak spot - do you think you could punch through it?"

"Stand aside," As soon as the Ferengi obeyed, a sharp spike
drove into the wall at rapid speed. The wall cracked. Quark followed
the spike back with his eyes to find that it was once Odo's right
forearm. Odo punched at the wall twice, thrice more, and there was a
little bit of a tunnel, and still no sight of the outside.

Odo rammed in his arm one last time and collapsed, screaming.
He managed to pull away from the wall and curl around the searing
agony that was once his arm.

Quark examined the cause; live, sparking wires - he could
sense it was both high amperage *and* voltage. One thing was for
certain, when Odo recovered, Quark was dead.

"Further attempts at escape will *not* be tolerated."
Announced a voice from the ceiling.

"Who's trying to escape?" Quark rhetorically asked in
protest, "We're just trying to _survive_ here!"

"You have tolerated these conditions this long," objected
the voice.

"So?" Quark ranted, calling up facts from the base of his
memory, "The average humanoid will live a day without water! That
doesn't mean we don't need it!"

"If you perish, I have your bodies to display." Quark was
thatnkful Odo was beyond hearing that.

"Mine, perhaps," Quark morbidly agreed, "but how are you
going to convince any others that a container of orange goo was
once a sentient lifeform?"

Silence, broken only by the faint moans of Odo; Quark dared
not look down, in case that meant the communication would be cut
off. Odo was really starting to sound badly hurt; instead of the
sort of shout caused by a kicked shin, it was more like the quiet,
subdued grunts of the severely wounded. Quark found himself worrying
for him.

Then, at last, "What do you need?" from above.

Rapidly, Quark outlined the dimensions and composition of
Odo's pail, using the Ferengi's natural ability to describe anything
seen - or anything described to them. In this case, Nog had seen it
and told Quark about it. "And a replicator," he added, "so we can be
provided sustenance."

"Agreed." both items appeared by Quark, who then fell into a
crouch by Odo. The shapeshifter had an almost grey cast to him -
skin and uniform alike (Quark assumed this was a bad sign), he had
managed to sit up a little - his legs were crossed, and served more
as a cradle for his injured arm. The rest of him was more or less
curled about it, as if that were a cure for the pain he must have
felt. He was breathing raggedly, staring fixedly at some
between-point in space.

"Let's see that arm," he tried. Almost on automatic, Odo
gingerly held his wounded arm out into the air in front of the
Ferengi. This intensity of mental numbness shocked Quark to the
bones. He felt that, in order to survive, Odo had to survive, too.
But Cash help him if Odo returned to DS9 like *this*.

The arm had returned to human form. Almost. It was an
incredible meld of smooth spike and proper flesh and uniform. All of
it was covered with ugly blister bubbles and charred patches, as
well as being a strong, angry red. It was as if all of Odo's matter
was concentrating in the arm to try and heal it; much the same way
that blood flowed out of a wound in an attempt to close it.

Quark's tricorder had a small healer device in it, exellent
at small cuts, bruises or abrasions, but barely adequate for serious
burns. _How would it work on Odo?_ Quark wondered, before deciding
to find out. He held it over a blackened patch of once-finger and
activated the beam. Slowly, painstakingly, the flesh returned to
normal under the beam.

Rule of Acquisition number 3: Never question luck.

Quark grinned, regardless of the fact that it would take
ages to do the rest of Odo's arm. Rule of Acquisition number 50:
Gratitude can bring on generosity. The problem was that Odo's
version of generosity was not throwing Quark into prison.

"Can you get a fix on them?" asked Dax, hoping for a
positive answer.

"Can't tell," answered O'Brien, "got some kind of scanner
baffles - I'm getting fifty readings and the bloody computer says
they're *all* Odo."

"But that's impossible," Bashir murmured, "even amongst
species who undergo meiosis, there's always *some* variation."

"It must be a false reading," Dax told him, anyione else
could have guessed, "I'm going to try shifting the frequency."

* * * O * *

Quark had long since shifted the healer onto wide-beam, and
was boosting its' effectivity by adding in 'solar' power; converting
the light in the room into energy. He'd been at this for hours,
sweeping the beam methodically over Odo's mangled arm. His back
hurt, his muscles creaked in protest, his arms ached. Odo wasn't
helping, he was sitting greyly and numbly, watching as his arm
magically - if slowly - healed.

"You could *help*, you know," Quark rasped.


"*Take* this," he handed Odo the healer, "and use it on
yourself. I *need* a drink." The Ferengi stood, forcing Odo to try
and cope on his own, and investigated the replicator. A nice, long
draught of Romulan Ale would really hit the spot right now, and the
bartender wouldn't even mind that it was replicated; or perhaps, his
secret addiction, Rombolian Buttermilk... The replicator refused to
work, further investigation revealed that its' memory was completely
blank. "STUPID!" he screamed, ignoring the dryness of his throat, "I
should have expected this! He gave me what I asked for and *not*
what I _*wanted*_. What sort of use is a blank replicator?" (a soft
shuffling noise, ignored) "Fine if I want a nice, hot plate of
nothing! Bah... I should have *asked* for some kind of

Bip,plip,beep-de-blip, "It'll take a while, Gul..."

Had Odo spoken? Quark whirled to see the shapeshifter
working at the pannel left-handed, punching in apparrently random
numbers. "What are you *doing*?" he demanded.

"Program," mumbled Odo.

"I didn't know you could do that."

Shrug. "It was a job."

"But people weren't allowed to quit those jobs." Had Dukat
pulled some strings to get the shapeshifter? In a bizarre way, Quark
hoped not.

"I got transferred a lot."

Quark ignored the obvious temptation of asking about the
rest of Odo's life, it would be time consuming and a waste of
effort. Instead, he sought out the most comfortable bed and got some
rest. (Rule of Acquisition number Two Hundred: If you're going to
have to *endure*, make yourself comfortable.) Within five minutes,
he was snoring like a defective chainsaw cutting through a gurgling
pipe. (All snorers claim they don't snore, even to their snorees)

Odo must have rested, too, because when the little bartender
awoke, Odo was looking a little healthier, a bit less grey. His
right arm dangled inert most of the time; at the moment, it rested
on an upraised knee. He was waving the healer over it in a
vague-minded impersonation of Quark's earlier movements.

Quark checked the replicator to see what was on it now,
"*Water*? Survival rations?" Odo shrugged at this. If Quark didn't
know better, he could have sworn that the shapeshifter was doing
this to him on purpose; he paged further down the list of available
substances, "Ah. *Some* proper food, at least. *Two* proper foods...
_*Cardassian*_ **stew**?!" Another shrug from Odo, Quark tried to
keep his temper before he read the last two items there. "Bajoran
Samatt... what's this other thing?" It was a complicated serial

"Mine." responded Odo.

Quark shook his head, as a programmer, Odo was incompetant
at best. "Just how long did you have this job?" He was expecting
the time index to be in years, or months.

"Three days."

"And you still *remember* all that?!"


"*HOW*?" Quark had accidentally called up a single
replicator meal-program once. It had taken him ten minutes to
fast-page to the end of it.

"I learn too fast," Odo shrugged again, "had to."

Quark at last saw why Dukat had been so angry that first
week after he'd hired Odo - the Constable learned his job too fast.
Dukat had wanted someone inept. "How's the arm?" Quark asked,
absently drinking a glass of water and trying to pretend it was
Rombolian Buttermilk. He wasn't even near successful.

"Hurts." answered Odo, "Bad."

The Ferengi winced - if Odo returned like *this*, it would
be a competition to see who strangled Quark first; Sisko, Kira or
Bashir. "They're gonna kill me," he whimpered.

"Who is?" The Constable that Quark knew and feared snapped
into awareness; the bartender must have triggered something.

"The entire Ops crew!" Quark ranted, "When they get us out
of here and see what happened - they'll think it's my *fault*!"

"I'll tell them different."

"But only if you're *asked*, of course," Quark nodded, "*I*
remember the time Fallit Cott threatened me. You enjoyed every
minute of my discomfort - admit it."

Odo only looked annoyed, "It's my *duty* to protect-" he cut
off, clutching at his hurt arm, "uhn..." he managed, eyes glazing
over, and slowly falling into a sitting position.

Quark desperately scrabbled in corners for the suddenly
missing healer, "Where is it?" he panicked, "Where in all hells
could it have-"

Odo held it in front of Quark's face, half exuded out of his
good hand. Quark snatched it off him, angrily. "I am going," the
barkeep announced, "to go completely and absolutely *insane*; and
*you're* going to drive me that way." He swept the healer's beam
across Odo's blisters, "I'll never run another deal again..." he

The shapeshifter - Cash curse him to insolvency - smiled
warmly and emitted a sound something like a soft purr.

Quark had seen that smile before, "What?" the bartender

"Station'd be safe," Odo murmured, staring off into an
alternalte universe that did not contain Quark.

The computer had been programmed to follow the beheamoth
craft, leaving Dax free to mess with the wires under the scanning
consoles. Currently, she dangled at an awkward angle, abdomen
supported by the floor of the crawlway, the rest of her suspended
upside-down so she could fiddle with some obscure settings.

Chief O'Brien clung to he ankles, a reassuring weight that
stopped her falling down the pit beneath her. O'Brien had told her
of the ancient Earth ritual of kissing the Blarney Stone to achieve
the Gift of the Gab. Dax hoped *this* procedure would grant them
that Gift of Sight, so they could at last rescue Odo and Quark.

* * * O * * *

Odo was getting worse. No matter what Quark told himself, it
was a fact. The security chief no longer recognized the little
bartender, his mind wandered in and out of reality, as well as time.
The Ferengi was almost becoming accustomed to the resultant persona
changes, he already knew the Constable, who was surfacing rarely,
now. Funnily enough, the changes were sometimes signalled by a
change of garb, other times by a change of posture. The only
constant was the shapeshifter's mangled arm - he could not even
begin to guess why.

"It can't just be the shock," Quark told himself; he was
telling himself a lot lately. "it *has* to be something else as

Odo nodded vaguely, still suspending the beam of the healer
over part of his hand. At least the arm could move if needed, now,
"Breathing," he murmured "sticks to everything high,"

Quark noticed that the shapeshifter was huddled in a corner,
almost like a frightened child. His speech patterns were childlike
and simple - if confused. He'd been talking to phantoms in that
manner for hours, mumbling orders at zephyrs. In any other
situation, it would be funny. _That's going to be *me* if I don't
figure something out_ he reminded himself.

He ponted his tricorder upwards, thinking - it's up high, it
doesn't effect Ferengi, but it *can* effect something like Odo. It
wasn't in the main composition, the Ferengi lowered the percentage
he was seeking.

30%, No match, 10% nothing, 1% an absence of success. It
wasn't until he delved into the depths of parts per million that he
found something. A complex organic-looking molecule that ate the
dust in the air before it fell to the ground. Silicon fed it. Odo
was silicon. Quark decided that it was more likely to be poisoning
Odo rather than feeding on him, sine the stuff was still higher than
seven or eight feet up.

Fine. Why wasn't it down here already? Tha answer was that
it *was*, only the presence of water vapour rendered it inactive;
'killed' it. Of course. Quark had complained about the presence of
the Samatt one time too many, and the shapeshifter had suggested
that he "heat up some water and make soup." Quark had retorted that
he wasn't *that* hungry, but a few minutes later, decided that he

Hot water made steam, steam killed the dirt-eaters, and Odo
improved a little. It didn't take long for the bartender to realise
that the vapour could be too slow - and perhaps too cumbersome. He
analysed the reaction, slowing down the display until he could
actually see it happening. There. Dirt-eater attracts water,
Hydrogen shears from oxygen, and the *Hydrogen* killed the
dirt-eaters! Quark hisses in delight; now, if only he had a way to
create *lots* of Hydrogen...

The replicator wasn't capable, unless he could find a way to
fit a Ferengi dataclip into a slot that looked more like a pinprick.
Odo probably didn't know how to program it in, or by this stage was
no longer capable of such a task. Quark remembered Gul Noxx telling
Dukat about the shapeshifter at some social gathering; saying that
Odo was "a walking chemical factory", capable of rejecting elements
that could harm him. Of course, if these elements were bonded with
others that he *needed*, it lead to an "amusing" rejection process.
About as amusing as being sick, Quark thought, but it's worth a try.

He turned his attention towards Odo, who was regressing
again. Every now and then, Odo's clothes would *change*, as would
his attitude. The high necked tunic and long vest meant that he was
in, or just out of the research centre; the uniform meant that the
Constable was back. At the moment, he 'wore' a baggy, oversized
shirt, and equally ill-fitting trousers with inexpertly formed
patches; his child-persona. Judging by the constant rocking, he was
currently very 'young' indeed.

Quark knelt in front of him, trying to look as benevolent as
he could, knowing that Ferengi scared all types of small children.
"Odo?" the shapeshifter stopped rocking, and only moved his eyes
towards Quark, "I'm going to have to ask you a few questions, okay?"


"I remember you told me you don't drink. Can you tell me

Nod. "Causes trouble," he murmured, Odo-as-a-child always
gave the impression that terrible things happened to young, noisy
shapeshifters. "All water based. I *don't* like hydrogen."

Quark grinned. The solution was sitting in front of him, if
only he could figure out *how* to work it.

Dax should have slept hours ago, her minds filled with fog.
There *had* to be another way to pierce the shields; there had to
be. She worked in the tired way of all seeking serendipity. In other
words, she fooled with the settings in the hopes of improvements.

She kept on like that until her body finally rebelled and
she slept.

* * * O * * *

Odo's body had shrunk somewhat, he seemed stuck in the
very-small-child persona; Quark had discovered the hard way that the
rocking had a lot to do with tension. "Didn't do anything wrong..."
Odo said in a small voice, almost tipping himself over in his

Quark closed his eyes and groaned in an equally small voice,
"Look," he said in the brusque manner of all the patience tried, "I
*know* you haven't done anything wrong; but there are things in the
air that are making you sick, right?"

Unsure nod. Very frightened eyes. Back and forth.

"The only way to *stop* them making you sick is to release a
*lot* of Hydrogen into the air."

"I want to rest."

"Drink first." Quark ordered. Maybe if Odo felt better after
the air cleared a little, he would understand. Maybe.

Without stopping, or moving in any other way than his
constant rocking, Odo crooned a high-pitched hum that made Quark's
teeth rattle; he belatedly realised that this was how the
shapeshifter 'cried'.

"Alright, alright!" Quark surrendered over the din, "You
don't have to drink. I'm sorry." he got up and bought over Odo's
container as the 'crying' slowed down, "Go ahead and rest. I'll
think up something else..." He turned away, allowing Odo to melt.
Even this young, he was guarded about his natural state.

Quark sighed and sat in the middle of the floor. _I'm locked
in a room looking after my enemy, promising him I'll make it all
better. I must be insane._ He slowly emptied his pockets; something
only a *truly* desperate Ferengi would do, a primitive stock-taking
instinct that acted as a reassurant.

Rule of Acquisition number Two Hundred and Fifty-five: When
all else fails, run.

Where could he run to? And more importantly; _*how*_? What
he really needed was something really expensive to trade their way
out. "Huh," he muttered, "Might as well sell him the Brooklyn Br-"
Quark stopped talking, an idea bursting like a Nova inside his head.
He could *buy* his way out.

And Odo's, too; he added reluctantly.

Bashir stumbled through his early morning routine, almost
missing the slumbering Jadzia on his first pass through the little
'bridge' of the Ganges. When he did notice her, he went through the
entire lexicon of infatuated exressions in under a minute.

He even tippy-toed back into the bunk area.

* * * O * * *

Ferengi, it was widely known, are renowned for making noise
until they (a) get noticed, (b) get thrown out, or (c) are
threatened. Quark continued shouting for attention, knowing that
this entity that was holding them would not voluntarily opt for
choices (b) or (c).

"I won't give up until you answer!" he bellowed, "I have a
deal for you that you'll regret if you miss it!"

Odo had hunkered down in a corner, in the clothes he wore
five years ago. He only stared as Quark ranted at the ceiling.


"What do you want?" asked the voice.

"I want to propse an *exchange*," Quark smoothed, "Our
freedom for a unique item solely in my possession."

"When you perish, I will have it anyway."

"You have no idea what it *is*; in any event, I only have
the deed on my person." Quark paused for effect, "I am the owner of
the most unique item in known space, the *only* one of its' kind."

"*Quark*" Odo warned in an agitated whisper.

Quark ignored the one positive sign he'd seen in days,
reasoning that getting *out* was more important than meer *signs*,
"You've had the privalege of using it, I believe." he told the roof.

"The *Wormhole*?!" Asked the voice incredulously.

"The *stable* wormhole," Quark clarified, "only one in
existance. Of course, if you don't *want* it..." he began to turn
away with typical Ferengi theatrics.

"Show me this - 'deed'."

Gotcha. Quark grinned to himself, then turned 'back' "If you
agree to let us go, I'll give it to you." Another pause for effect,
"There's probably a ship following you," he proceded to describe the
Runabout's basic structure, "the marking would be either Ganges,
Orinoco or Rio Grande."

"The first follows me."

"Then beam us over there," Quark grinned, snatching up Odo's

"Put down this 'deed' first." Ordered the voice.

Reluctantly, or reluctantly enough to make it believable,
Quark reached into his pocket, bought out his hand... And put down a
single Ferengi tri-esta that he had bent with his own teeth.

The next thing he knew, he and Odo were in the bridge of the

* * * O * * *

"He sold _*WHAT*_?!" Sisko demanded, loosing his cool

"He sold the wormhole," Dax calmly replied.

"I *sold* a bent tri-esta," argued Quark. "He can claim it's
worth the wormhole to anyone he pleases; it's just up to *them* to
believe it." He smiled oilily, "I expect a full reward for this."

"You'll have to take *that* up with Odo - when he returns to
full health, of course." Sisko ordered.




"What do you mean, you're not going to *do* anything?" Quark
demanded, "I want *favours*, understand?"

"I *am* doing you a favour." Odo grimaced. "Selling false
documents is a recognised crime - although in Ferengi space, getting
caught for it is." Odo deliberately let that factoid settle. Odo was
a witness *and* could arrest him. "I'm not reporting it because of
the extenuating circumstances involved."

"But I *saved* your *life*."

"That's what I was talking about."


"Whoever said life had to be fair, Quark?" Odo walked out
into the Promenade, he had a lot of catching up to do.


Feel free to copy/distribute this story as long as you give credit
to me :) Usual restrictions apply so long as the above holds true.

Next from my notebooks: Love Sickness. The love virus invades DS9
from the Gamma Quadrant. Can Odo thwart the infection before lives
are at risk? (extra fun because Odo is somewhat affected, too) :)

Feel free to email comments, nitpicks, questions. Flames will be
ignored. Q of SFNPS member and instigator: RAAS
no bart, no buaf, no stupidquote(tm) and no spellchecker either :(

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