Jadzia didn't have any leave coming, having used it all up on weekends on Risa and visiting far-flung friends, but she'd reminisced with Benjamin about the time they had got a Terruptian drunk on strawberries, and he had grudgingly arranged for her to take a few days, as long as she promised to buy him some jooble for a new recipe he wanted to try, and tell him every detail once she got back to the station.
It had been more difficult to convince Quark.
'I don't want a female showing me up,' he'd said, concentrating on the glass he was cleaning so that he wouldn't have to look her in the eye.
'You never seemed to care before,' she'd said. 'I play tongo with you and the waiters all the time. Nobody minds.'
'That's different. This isn't Ferenginar,' he said.
'I promise I won't come anywhere near you while we're there,' she said placatingly. 'The Female Division is in a sub-basement, anyway.'
She saw him relax a little. He'd been afraid she would try to play in the main divisions. Well, that was a fight for somebody else, another day. She just wanted to say that she'd played in the Ferenginar Global Tongo Championship. It was going to make a terrific story. She could only dine out on Curzon's exploits for so long.
He sighed. 'I suppose that would be all right. They don't care who plays in the Female Division. There aren't even any prizes.'
He eyed her to see how she would take that. She shrugged.
'Sometimes it's the taking part that counts,' she said.
* * *
Quark had gone in the public shuttle with the other male players, so she had decided to walk to the venue on her own. She drew more than a few stares on her way – a few were curious, and many openly lustful. Some of the older men shielded their eyes from her and muttered a prayer to the Blessed Exchequer.
The doormen checked her name and let her into the sub-basement with a shrug, though – what did they care what females did?
The women were a little less welcoming than that.
* * *
The sub-basement was damp, dim, and full of the smell of slowly-drying towels from the women who'd walked with their escorts instead of getting one of the specially-approved transports.
Ishka was sitting at a table, engrossed in counting the bright paper strips that served in place of latinum for the women players, and so it took her a moment to figure out what was behind the commotion by the door.
'She can't play, she's a hew-mon!' someone was saying indignantly, in the middle of the crowd of pale and pinkish flesh.
'And she's wearing clothes!' a shrill voice added. 'My husband says...'
'As if we care what your husband says!' said a third woman, loudly to be heard over the increasing hubbub. 'We can see for ourselves that she's not a Ferengi, she shouldn't be allowed!'
Ishka stood up to get a better view. The subject of the discussion was a young woman, tall, with a pattern of spots leading from her temples downwards.
'I'm not a human,' she said, as Ishka watched, and her voice was loud and clear enough to cut across the din. 'I'm a Trill. And all I want to do is play some tongo.'
She shrugged off her outdoor cloak and the loose wrap underneath it. Ishka noted with interest that the spots went all the way down.
'Now can I play?' she asked.
There was muttering as the women tried to decide.
'Let her play,' Ishka said, suddenly. Everyone looked at her. 'It's not as if she could beat a Ferengi,' she continued. 'She'll be knocked out in the first round, she'll be able to say she's competed in the Ferenginar Global Tongo Championship, the rest of us can get back to the business of winning.'
The young woman smiled brilliantly at her, and with grumbles of assent, the crowd dispersed.
* * *
Ishka bore the young woman no ill will – in fact she was interested in other worlds and pleased she had come – but she hadn't honestly expected her to last much past the first couple of rounds. As the day wore on, the Trill – Jadzia, she'd said her name was – had cleaned out most of the small-time players and was playing with the more serious competitors, while the women who had been eliminated gathered in the refreshment area and muttered darkly in her direction.
Jadzia seemed not to mind. She was a friendly player, accepting when she lost a bet, but appropriately smug when she won one. Ishka watched her out of the corner of her eye while she trounced another opponent without even trying.
Inevitably, as afternoon wore into evening, Ishka found herself playing Jadzia, and two others - Terla and Minim. Terla was knocked out quickly – she relied too much on intimidation – a tactic that didn't seem to work at all on Ishka, or Jadzia. Minim bet too heavily and took too many risks. She was soon out of the running.
That left Ishka and Jadzia. They played for a while, uneventfully.
'You're awfully young to be so good at tongo,' Ishka remarked, as she spun the wheel.
'Actually I'm four hundred years old,' Jadzia replied.
Ishka managed not to look surprised. She'd heard something of joined Trill, but she had never expected to meet one.
'You're looking very good on it,' she said. 'You don't look a day over... three hundred.'
Jadzia eyed Ishka's wrinkled hands and sagging lobes. 'Neither do you.'
Ishka rearranged her cards and considered her next move.
'Acquire,' she said.
Jadzia raised an eyebrow. 'Sure about that?' she asked.
'You don't get good at this game without knowing what you want,' Ishka said. 'How did you come to be on Ferenginar, anyway? Don't they gamble on Trill?'
'Not like this,' Jadzia said. 'Nobody plays tongo like the Ferengi.'
She gestured at the women who, having lost their own matches, were gathering around them to watch the final.
'Nobody does a lot of things like the Ferengi,' said Ishka. A few of the women laughed knowingly.
'Really?' said Jadzia, shuffling her cards. 'I'm intrigued.'
'Oh, I could tell you stories...' said Ishka. 'But you wouldn't believe me.'
'I'm prepared to believe a lot for a good story,' Jadzia said.
Ishka smiled, and put another strip of paper into the pot for the next buy. 'Is that why you're here? Because it'll make a good story?'
'Maybe a little,' Jadzia admitted.
'What makes a better story?' Ishka asked. 'Winning or losing?'
I'm about to find out,' said Jadzia. 'Confront.'
They laid down their cards.
Cheers and yells broke out as Ishka gathered up the shining strips of paper, the only winnings she would get. Some of the women shouted taunts at Jadzia, she only smiled at them.
As was expected, Ishka gloated and crowed, with many compliments to herself and insults to those she had defeated along the way. But as they all moved to the exit to the vehicles that would take them home, she caught Jadzia by the elbow and pulled her aside.
'If you want to hear more about those stories, come home with me for a cup of snail juice.'
* * *
It was two hours, a cup and a half of snail juice and one orgasm later.
'I didn't know oo-mox worked on females,' Jadzia said, wonderingly, her fingers trailing gently across Ishka's still-tingling lobes.
'Oh, it does,' Ishka assured her, breathlessly. She laughed. 'Well, you can see it does. Of course, you wouldn't get to hear about it from Ferengi men. I doubt it's crossed most of their minds. Usually if a girl wants oo-mox, she has to take matters into her own hands. This makes a nice change, though.'
'In a little while, I'll show you how the Trill do it,' said Jadzia, with a grin.
There was a chime from the other room.
'Let me just sort that out,' Ishka said, and she pushed herself slowly into a sitting position, got up and wandered out. Jadzia lay on the bed and kicked her leg around idly.
'Ishka, I'm waiting!' she called, teasingly.
She heard Quark's stunned voice from the other room, and then he hurried in, staring at her. She sat up and stared back.
'What are you doing in my mother's bed?!' he asked.
Jadzia looked from Quark to Ishka and back again. Now that he mentioned it, there was a bit of a family resemblance.
'...having a good time?' she suggested.
'Or at least we were until you arrived,' Ishka said, sharply. 'Get your tooth sharpener, and get going, Quark.'
Quark didn't move. 'You won't sleep with me, but you'll sleep with my mother?!' he asked Jadzia.
She shrugged. 'That's about right. Please don't be offended, Quark – your mother's just... a fascinating woman.'
Quark shook his head. 'No, don't tell me, I don't want to know.'
'I guess I'll see you on the shuttle, then...?' Jadzia said, to his retreating back.
She sighed. The ride back to Deep Space Nine was going to be awkward. And she'd have to put up with his reproachful looks every time she went to the bar for weeks.
For now, though, she was going to enjoy the rest of her evening. And maybe make a few more stories to tell.