“Are you sure he’s in his room, Data?” Geordi asked, thumbing the rim of Spot’s water bowl. “He’s the CMO of an entire space station, maybe he’s still on shift.”
Geordi La Forge hadn’t been particularly excited about stopping off at Deep Space 9. However, Picard had insisted it was the best place for the Enterprise’s 2nd officer and chief engineer to pass through before they headed down to Bajor. Not to mention that Data needed someone to look after Spot, and it just so happened that he had become a sort of pen pal with DS9’s doctor.
“Doctor Bashir went off duty approximately 2.57 hours ago,” Data said.
“Maybe he didn’t come back to his quarters right away.” Geordi shifted the water bowl from one hand to the other. He’d never met the doctor, but he had heard his name come up once or twice at their poker games; Deanna and Beverly were regularly keeping up on all things new in the medical world of Starfleet. “Did you check his location?”
“I did,” Data said, sounding what Geordi would describe as incredulous and anyone else would describe as completely and utterly blank. Spot shifted in his friend’s arms and Data took a moment to stroke his fur. “Computer, locate Dr. Bashir.”
“Dr. Bashir is in his quarters.”
The pair shared a look.
“He could be sleeping?” Geordi suggested.
“It is unlikely that the doctor would be resting at this ti-“
Data was cut off by the hum of the door opening. Bashir stood in the doorway, hair sticking up at odd angles and uniform zipped up only halfway, revealing his purple undershirt.
“Data!” he said, out of breath and eyes wider than Chancellor Gowron’s. “I wasn’t aware you were on DS9.”
He looked between the two of them before Geordi took pity on the man and held out his hand. “Lieutenant Geordi La Forge.”
Bashir seemed stuck on pause for a moment before he grasped Geordi’s hand and gave it a loose shake. “Doctor Julian Bashir.” Bashir made a half-hearted attempt to smooth his shirt. “Data’s told me a lot about you in his letters! He seems like quite the social butterfly.”
“Geordi is my best friend,” Data said with a hint of pride that couldn’t keep Geordi from grinning. “He knows my neural network almost as well as myself. In fact-“
“I hate to cut the introduction short,” Geordi interrupted, “but Data and I really have urgent business to take care of on Bajor.”
Data nodded. “I would have notified you ahead of time, however this mission was, as Captain Picard said, last minute.” He directed his gaze down to Spot, who had finally given up her squirming. “Since our fairly regular exchange of letters has solidified our friendship, I am here to ask if you would take care of Spot until Geordi and I return from Bajor.”
Bashir looked slightly baffled, though Geordi wasn’t entirely sure if that was just how he normally looked or not. “Oh, of course,” Bashir said, taking Spot from Data’s hands. She immediately lept from the poor doctor’s arms however and rushed off into his quarters.
“She will need to be fed twice a day,” Data instructed. “She prefers Feline Supplement 25. She also enjoys being pet at unspecified intervals throughout the day, if it is not too much trouble.”
Bashir smiled, despite still appearing a bit frazzled. “Oh, I really don’t mind. I always wanted a pet as a kid, I’m sure this’ll be fun.”
“Doctor,” Data said, hesitantly, “Are you certain you are alright? Your face is red and you are sweating at a much higher rate than the average human tends to.”
Bashir’s eyes widened again. “Oh, I’m just a bit tired is all,” he stammered.
“These are all clear signs of overexertion,” Data continued right along, not picking up on Bashir’s clear discomfort. Geordi gave him a slight nudge.
“Really, Data, I’m fine,” Bashir insisted, tone edging on earnest.
Suddenly, another voice from inside Bashir’s quarters called out: “My dear, what could possibly be taking you so long? You know how impatient Cardassians can be whe-“
“I’d better go!” Bashir practically shouted, snatching the bowl from Geordi’s hand. “It was a pleasure to meet you, La Forge.”
And with that, Bashir disappeared into his quarters. The door hissed shut behind him, leaving a curious Data and a stunned Geordi in its wake.
“My dear, you really must introduce me to your friends more often,” Garak said, joining Julian on the couch. “You have such colorful acquaintances.”
“I’d prefer not to acknowledge any of my friends when you and I are in the middle of ‘consummating our relationship,’ as you so eloquently put it.” Julian gave Spot, who was now curled up in his lap, a soft pat.
Garak lifted a hand to his chest in mock offense. “I would never say something so unabashedly obvious.”
“Oh, I’m sure.”
“Really now, it i-“ Garak paused, a strange look crossing his face. “A-a-achoo!”
Julian quickly covered his mouth, attempting to hide the laugh that had come bubbling up. “I’ve never heard you sneeze before,” he said. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve heard any Cardassian sneeze.”
“Achoo!” Garak let out another one before he had a chance speak.
This time, Julian couldn’t contain his laughter.
“Please, if you could just-achoo!-control yourself for one moment and-achoo!- remove this creature from your living room-achoo!-it would be greatly appreciated.”
Julian, still bursting with laughter, managed to lift Spot from his lap and close her in his room. On his way back to the couch, he grabbed the tricorder off his desk. While Julian scanned him, Garak continued to sneeze louder than a pregnant Bajoran woman.
“Well, my dear Garak,” Julian said, placing the tricorder back onto the table, “It appears you are allergic to our good friend Spot.”
Garak shot him an irate look. “I wouldn’t call it an allergy, do-achoo!”
“You know I might’ve known about this not-an-allergy if you came in for a physical every once in a while,” Julian said, sidling up beside Garak.
“It’ll take a lot more than a feline to get me into your infirmary,” Garak said, his tone lighter. “I can assure you.”
Julian grinned. “And it’ll take a lot more than a few sneezes to keep you out of my bed.”
“I wouldn’t be too certain about that, my dear.” Garak pressed a hand to Julian’s chest, keeping him from leaning any closer. “Because if you want me anywhere near your bed, our good friend Spot will have to find new accommodations.”
“C’mon Miles, please?”
Miles shook his head, crossing his arms in defiance. “That cat hates me. She’s evil, I swear it.”
“Spot?” Julian raised his eyebrows, glancing down at the sleeping cat in his arms. “She’s a sweetheart!”
Miles looked skeptical. “Why can’t you take care of her?”
“Uh, apparently, Cardassians are incredibly allergic to feline hair.” If he hadn’t been a medically trained professional, Julian would’ve sworn he saw Miles’ eyes pop out of their sockets.
Miles leaned in closer, voice low. “So you’re telling me,” he said, “Garak is allergic to cats.”
“He can’t stop sneezing,” Julian replied with a wicked smile.
Miles laughed. “If only we’d known about this ages ago.”
“You’re telling me!” Julian sighed. “Garak refuses to come into my bedroom, let alone share a bed w-“
“Alright! I’ll do it!” Miles cut off Julian with the wave of his index finger. “As long as you swear to never mention anything involving you, Garak, and a bed in the same sentence again.”
Julian handed Spot over with a grin. “Deal.”
“Major, I hate to bother you,” Miles said, shifting the struggling cat in his arms. Kira looked at Spot appraisingly.
“It’s alright but…” She paused. “Is that a Terran cat?”
“Yes, this is Spot. She belongs to Commander Data.” Miles tried to grip her tighter but the little bastard slipped out of his hands and nimbly crawled up along his shoulders. “It’s, well, it’s a bit of a long story but she tore up Keiko’s lilacs this morning.”
Kira chuckled. “I’m sure Keiko wasn’t too happy about that.”
“That doesn’t even begin to describe it,” Miles said with a shake of his head. He managed to grab Spot from where she was perched on his shoulder, thankful the habitat ring was fairly empty at this time of night. The last thing Miles needed was for any of his staff to see him wrestling with a tabby cat outside of Kira’s quarters. “Is there any chance I could get you to watch her?”
“Me?” Kira asked. “I don’t know the first thing about taking care of animals, let alone one from Earth!”
“It’s simple, really. You just feed her, pet her a bit, and make sure she doesn’t get into too much trouble.”
Kira seemed doubtful. “I don’t know…”
“Trust me,” Miles said. “You two will get along better than Quark and gold-pressed latinum.”
“Let this be a lesson to you, Quark,” Odo said. “Don’t try to sell animal hair that is still on the animal.” The station’s constable crossed the room, eyes fixed on the report in his hand.
“How was I supposed to know Terran felines were so hostile?” Quark rubbed at the gash on his right lobe.
Odo glared at the Ferengi from over his padd. “Anything would be hostile if it had to be near you for too long.”
“That creature assaulted me and one of my best customers!” Quark complained. “In my own establishment no less! Morn and I should be compensated for the mental trauma we were put through.”
“Doctor Bashir said you’ll both be fine.” Odo returned his gaze to his unfinished report. “Your injuries were minor and the creature has been contained.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Quark muttered. “You weren’t the one almost mauled by some human pet.”
Odo simply harrumphed in response.
“I see you’ve met Data’s cat,” Jadzia said, sweeping into Sisko’s office with the bustling energy she always displayed. She glanced at Spot, who was pawing at the baseball on his desk.
“Who told you?” Sisko sighed. “Wait, let me guess. It was Quark.”
“Odo, actually. He was escorting Morn and Quark to the infirmary for ‘mild cat inflicted injuries.’” She unclasped her hands from behind her back and gave Spot’s fur a stroke. “I’m surprised, I didn’t know you were a cat person.”
“I’m not,” Sisko said. “I found the Major chasing her around the Promenade this morning. She used a few Bajoran curse words even I hadn’t heard before.” He shook his head. “Apparently she’s not too good with animals.”
Jadzia shrugged, making no effort to hide her amusement. “Anyone on the station could’ve told you that.”
“And neither am I, for that matter.” He eyed Spot from his seat. He’d always preferred dogs to cats.
“Why’d you bring her to your office then?”
“Apparently she’s been passed around a few times today already.”
Jadzia’s eyebrows lifted in obviously fake shock. “Oh? Last I heard Julian passed her off to the Chief.” Her mouth curved into a smirk. “Did you know Cardassians are allergic to cats?”
A smile crept onto Sisko’s face. “I did not. Perhaps we should introduce Spot to Dukat the next time he feels the need to drop by.”
“Kira would approve, I’m sure.”
Sisko laughed wearily. He’d dealt with Cardassians, Romulans, and even the Vorta, but he wasn’t sure just how much more of this cat he could handle.
Jadzia obviously took notice. “Let me take Spot,” she said, lifting the cat from his desk. “Worf mentioned that he took care of her once when he was still serving on the Enterprise.”
Sisko rubbed his chin, giving her a shallow nod. “I suppose if there’s anyone who could handle this damn cat,” he said, “it would be a human-raised Klingon and an old man.”
“What is she doing in our quarters?”
“You don’t remember?” Jadzia picked Spot up from where she was seated at the edge of their bed. The ends of their sheets had been thoroughly shredded, but she figured scolding Spot would hardly make a difference at this point. “Didn’t Data ask you to watch her before?”
Worf stood up a little straighter. “I did not forget the experience,” he said. “I simply did not intend to repeat it.”
“He’s only joking,” Jadzia told Spot. In her arms, the cat tried pawing at her combadge. Worf eyed them both dubiously.
“I suggested Data find someone else to look after her,” Worf said. “You should return her at once.”
“Data’s still on Bajor for another two days, according to Bashir.”
Worf’s express darkened with distress. “Then return her to the doctor.”
“We can’t.” Jadzia was enjoying Spot even more than she’d expected and was wondering why none of her past lives had ever considered adopting a feline type creature before. “Garak is allergic.”
“So am I.”
Jadzia rolled her eyes. “You’ll be fine. Like you said, you’ve looked after her before.”
“As a Klingon,” Worf said, “I do not believe I would be the appropriate guardian for such a docile animal.”
“Docile?” Jadzia snorted. “Clearly you haven’t gotten to know Spot well enough. Come here.”
When Worf didn’t move, Jadzia stepped closer, Spot still pillowed against her chest.
“Hold out your arms.”
Worf stretched his hands far in front of himself. Jadzia snorted again.
“Not like that,” she said. “Hold them closer to your chest.”
Worf did as he was instructed and Jadzia carefully placed Spot into his arms.
Jadzia felt him tense up, but she quickly maneuvered her hands to Worf’s sides. She rested her chin on his shoulder, leaning against him in reassurance. Worf slowly relaxed.
He was quiet for a moment, staring intently at Spot as the cat began to doze off again. “She is…quite soft,” he said.
“And she’s quite a little warrior too,” Jadzia added. “Odo told me she was running around Quark’s and even attacked him when he tried to cut off some of her fur.” She’d also destroyed a few of Quark's barstools, as well as a Dabo Wheel, but Jadzia thought it best to keep those little details to herself.
“I suppose there is honor in defending oneself.” His eyes didn’t leave Spot’s sleeping figure.
Jadzia gave Worf’s torso a gentle squeeze. “Deep down,” she said, “you really are all fluff, aren’t you?”
“Please, Jadzia,” Worf whispered, “you will wake the cat.”
Picard set down the padd he’d been scanning and tapped his combadge. “What is it, Number One?”
“We’re receiving a transmission marked priority from DS9,” Riker said. “I believe it’s from Mr. Worf.”
“Well what does it say?”
There was a pause before Riker spoke again. “It seems Data’s cat has gotten around.” A hint of amusement tinged his voice. “Did you know Cardassians are allergic to cats?”