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Telling Tales

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Quark cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted, "Last call! Yes, Morn, that includes you." He grinned at the reluctant groans of his most loyal customers, before turning towards the poker tables. "And it's the last round for you too, gentlemen. And lady," he added, voice and smile dripping with smarm as he looked at Jadzia. The thin smile she gave in return managed to convey both gratitude and irritation. He ducked his head, acknowledging her, before returning to the bar to collect final orders.

Neatly grabbing the deck out of the dealer's hands, Jadzia said, "Well, if this is our last round of the night, we'd better make it a good one," and began shuffling with a practiced, almost expert motion.

"Five-card stud?" Ben asked as she began dealing.

Miles chuckled as he inspected his hole card. "Nothing wild, and the sky's the limit."

After exchanging confused glances with the rest of the table, Jadzia said, "Sure, we can play with those rules."

Miles blinked, confused. "Huh? Oh, no, I wasn't - it's an Enterprise thing."

"Enterprise?"

"You haven't heard of - " Miles cut himself off, shaking his head. "I keep forgetting, you're still new to this. Enterprise is a hunting company - big, the biggest one out there. They've got lots of influence, lots of knowledge, and they use it to protect people all over from what's out there. Keiko and I were with them for a good five years or so, but after we had Molly we realized we didn't want to stay mobile like that anymore." He looked around the table, grimaced when he realized he had the low upcard, and tossed in a couple chips for the bring-in. "So we found a town that needed a teacher and an engineer, and wouldn't mind a pair of hunters either, and that was that."

Ben mused on the idea of such a large, influential group. "Interesting..." But a question he'd been pondering for the last few days had yet to be answered. "But, if I may ask, Mr. O'Brien, how did you get into... "hunting" in the first place? Were you raised with it, like the mayor was?"

Miles shook his head. "Nah, nothing so easy. Keiko got possessed by a demon once."

"Really?" Julian asked, intrigued. "And she survived?" Catching his error, he said, "Well, obviously she survived, or she wouldn't be here today, but how - ?" He cut off his babble to consider his hand, and the bring-in Miles had set, and after a quick glance around the table, folded. "Surely you didn't know how to exorcise a demon beforehand?"

"Course I didn't! But Enterprise had a man in town looking for the demon, and he exorcised it quickly enough once he found us."

"That must have been a shock," Ben said, adding chips to match Miles's contribution.

Miles threw back the last of his beer. "You can say that again! Keiko got the worst of it - demons'll do nasty things to your head, if they stay in there long enough - but having to watch something that looked just like her say and do things she'd never do, not in a million years... and then to have a huge wall of a man burst through the door and shout Latin at her with a Russian accent! Nearly thought I'd lost my mind!" He laughed and shook his head. "But Worf's a good fellow. He delivered Molly, actually."

"Worf," Odo said consideringly. "I think I've heard that name before. Isn't he...?"

"A werewolf? Yeah. But like I said, a good fellow."

"Hmm." Odo gave his cards a suspicious look and folded, surprisingly no one - he'd folded every turn, having only joined the game because Ben had insisted he give the Councilmen Social Night a try, rather than rejecting it out of hand. At least, Ben thought wryly, he'd seemed to enjoy the conversation, if not the night's activities.

"I raise," Jadzia said, calmly confident as she tossed her chips in the pot. As Miles and Ben decided if they wanted to call, she considered her own introduction to the supernatural. "It feels like I've known about all of this my whole life, but that's just Dax talking. Each host has reacted a little differently."

"Yes, I suppose an eighteenth century African woman would have to react differently from a twentieth-century US Marine," Julian said thoughtfully, swirling his drink and watching the hops settle.

Jadzia grinned. "Actually, yes. Lela's mjomba had been joined, so she knew about everything from birth. It was never really a revelation, it just... was. Curzon, though, the way he shrieked!" She chuckled, remembering.

Ben, sensing he might know what she was referring to, said, "Like that time in Bangkok?"

"Exactly!" At the reminder she started laughing anew, and he was quick to join in.

Miles, having called Jadzia's bet, interrupted their reminiscing to ask, "So, what about Jadzia, then?"

She pondered the question. "Jadzia... I suspected, but was never really certain, that one of my childhood neighbors, this angry, wizened old lady, was a witch." She grinned at the skeptical looks around the table. "I know, everybody says that, but I was sure she was magic! And then my college roommate turned out to be one, and I always wondered."

Ben called Jadzia's bet too, but upon getting a low upcard in the next deal began to wish he hadn't. He folded, and the table went quiet but for the clinking of chips as the betting between Miles and Jadzia turned serious. Her expression didn't waver once from the calm confidence she'd projected all evening, not even when Miles's third upcard gave him a pair of kings, while she didn't even have a single face card to show for herself, just two fives.

Still, Ben thought, that didn't mean Jadzia had lost just yet. The way she bet, it was impossible to tell how bad or good her hand was. Miles had been playing against her so long, he had to know that too - so either he'd discovered a tell of Jadzia's that Ben had yet to, or he was confident in his hand.

Really, it could go either way.

Neither of them gave in, and when it came time for the showdown the pot was overflowing and the tension was high. Miles, having been the last to raise his bet, revealed his hole card first: a six, giving him two pair. Not a bad hand, given the three he'd started with. Jadzia's smile widened, and she turned over her hole card to reveal a third five. Miles conceded the round with a nod, and she pulled the pot towards her with eager, greedy hands.

"You done?" Quark asked, appearing over Jadzia's shoulder. "Good, maybe if you leave I'll finally be able to convince Morn to get out."

Odo harumphed. "As if you're really that eager to close up shop. You just want us out of the way, so you can get on with your illegal operations."

Quark gave an exaggerated gasp of pain, putting a hand to his heart. "Constable, your harsh accusations wound me so! However will I survive."

"Oh, you'll manage," Odo said dryly. He stood up, gave his associates a nod, said, "I'll see you all at the next council meeting," and was out of Quark's before anyone could do more than wave goodbye.

"Maybe next time we ought to try having our game night somewhere that isn't Quark's," Jadzia suggested in a stage whisper. "I don't think Odo likes it here much."

"Nonsense, he loves me," Quark insisted, grabbing empty glasses as he rounded the table. "He just won't admit it because it would ruin his image."

Jadzia nodded solemnly, though her eyes danced with glee. "That must be it."

Ben stood, wobbling, and frowned when the room wobbled with him. "Think I've had too much to drink," he muttered, steadying himself against the table. "Any of you want to split a cab?"

Julian, in the middle of finishing off his beer, grunted and raised a hand into the air, flailing it around and nearly smacking Quark in the face. Swallowing the last of the beer with a gasp, he handed the mug over to Quark and sheepishly said, "I'm fairly certain I need one myself. Jadzia?"

Jadzia shook her head. "I'm fine, Julian - oh!" She snapped her fingers. "There is one thing."

"Yes?" He looked torn between curiosity and (deserved, given Jadzia's puckish nature) wariness.

"We never heard your story."

He frowned, brows furrowing. "My story?"

Miles nodded. "Yeah, she's right. How did you find out about the... y'know." He made a wiggling gesture with one hand. "Things."

Comprehension dawned. "Ah, that story." His expression puckered with embarrassment. "It's nothing much, really."

"Come on," Jadzia encouraged him, smiling enticingly, "tell us!"

Reluctantly, he smiled. "All right. When I was in med school, the girl I was dating moved into an apartment where weird things kept happening. Shutters flying open, lights flickering, pictures falling off the wall, that kind of thing. Turned out she had a ghost. Well, a poltergeist." When Jadzia didn't stop watching him expectantly, he shrugged. "Like I said, it wasn't much."

"On the contrary," Ben said, a tiny little idea coming to life in the back of his head. "That sounds... very interesting. How did you deal with it?"

"Well," Julian started to say, only for Quark to return to shoo them out.

"I'm sure you're having a lovely conversation, and far be it from me to stop you from having it - but might I suggest finishing it outside while you wait for your cab?" The friendly glint had left Quark's eyes - now there was only the impatient glare of the businessman Ben had met at his first council meeting only two months previously. And while Ben could shoot him down in the council room, now he was in Quark's house, and that meant obeying his rules.

"Come on, doctor," he said, letting a bit of New Orleans drawl come out as he pulled Julian and Miles to their feet. "Let's do what the ol' barkeep says, and you can tell me more about that ghost."

"I'm not your barkeep, I'm your host," Quark said as they wandered out the door, Jadzia assisting her less sober companions. Rolling his eyes and muttering about gratitude, he grabbed a damp towel from the bar and started wiping down the abandoned poker table. His cleaning grew more and more frustrated, until at last he threw down the towel and shouted, "It's not fair, Rom!"

Quark's brother popped up behind the bar. "What is, brother?"

"Them," Quark said darkly, gesturing to the huddle of people standing outside his doorway.

Rom considered the group. They looked pretty harmless to him - and one of them was even that Dax woman Quark liked enough to invite to his private card games. "Uh... what about them?"

"They say being different doesn't matter to them, but if that's true why didn't they ask me how I found out about humans?" Quark picked up his towel, only to throw it down again more violently. "It's discrimination, I tell you! Those people have it out for non-humans like you and me."

Rom considered this. "Or maybe... they just don't like you."

"Don't like me - pah! Nonsense, everybody loves me." His eyes lit up as a new idea occurred to him. "But say they don't - then why didn't they ask Odo? They all seem to like him well enough."

"Hm..." Rom thought this over as he tinkered with the soda gun. "You may have a point, brother."

"Of course I do!" Quark snapped. "I always have a point."

"So... what are you going to do about it?" Rom wondered. "Hold a protest?"

"A protest? Why, that's - that's..." Quark frowned. "Actually, that might just be the greatest idea you've ever had, Rom."

"Really?" Rom flushed. "Gee, and I thought that reconfiguration of the back room freezers to hide your illegal goods was pretty good."