“Daddy? Can you fix him?”
Chief Engineer Miles O’Brien looked up from his work to see his young daughter standing before him, holding a stuffed animal. No - it was what looked to be 2 identical stuffed animals.
“Oh, honey! What happened to him?”
Molly handed the stuffed items to her father. It was now obvious that she held not 2 identical stuffed animals, but a stuffed targ, and his right front leg, which was now a completely separate object.
“His leg came off!”
Miles O’Brien may have been an expert engineer, but he was not a seamstress. He was, in fact, fairly sure he had never picked up a needle and thread in his life. He was also a man who was physically incapable of disappointing his daughter. So against his better judgment, he took the injured toy from her with a dutifully serious expression.
“Oh no! Yes, of course daddy can fix it. Why don’t you go play with your other toys, and I’ll bring him back to you good as new in a little while.”
Molly leaned over and gave the stuffed toy a kiss and pat.
“See, I told you daddy would make you better.” She said to it, and ran off. Miles was sure he felt part of his heart breaking. If he didn’t have to fix this before, he absolutely did now. Where, on a space station, was he going to find someone who knew how to sew?
Miles scooped up the damaged targ and headed for the door.
Keiko’s voice rang out from behind him. Miles turned to his wife.
“Where are you going in such a hurry?”
“I’ve got to see a Cardassian about a targ.”
Garak wondered if Miles knew how to say his name without sounding angry.
“And what can I do for you, Chief?”
Miles heard his own voice in a moment of self clarity and softened his tone.
“I need your help,” he said, much more kindly, producing the injured targ.
“Molly brought me this today. She was heartbroken over it. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a seamstress. I promised her that I could fix him but it’s not even something I can begin to do. I’ll give you whatever you want. You want plans for the power conduits on this entire station? I can get them. But only if you can fix the targ.”
Garak took the stuffed toy and studied it carefully, turning it over in his hands.
“I’m sorry, Chief.” He began. “Those plans do sound ever so tempting. But this is…a little out of my skillset. Altering clothes and attaching legs are two very different things. This is a very different kind of sewing. Sewing on something like this requires different skills. Fabric, you can see both sides of. This thing has…” Garak held up the targ’s leg demonstratively. “…thickness.”
Mile’s face fell. He could see Molly’s precious little face in his mind, a single tear running down her cheek. The image was unbearable.
“If you can’t help me I have no idea what I’m going to do. She was crushed. That targ was her favorite toy in the world.”
Garak smiled, mischief apparent in every inch of his face. He handed the injured toy back to Miles.
“Attaching legs isn’t really a tailor’s job, is it? For that kind of work, you’d need, at the very least, curved needles. Though…” Garak paused for effect. “They’re more often known as surgeon’s needles.”
Miles’ face betrayed a complete self disappointment in not having thought of it before.
“Julian indeed. I do believe the dear doctor may be of more assistance to you than I ever could be. I think he has far more skill re-attaching legs than I do.” Garak thought, for a moment, about Kukalaka, sitting on a shelf in Julian’s quarters. He wanted to mention the bear, to provide the chief some hint of reassurance. Miles looked utterly panicked about the state of the small stuffed animal, and there was nothing Garak wanted more than to promise him that Julian was more than skilled at putting stuffed animals back together. Unfortunately, that meant concocting a way to mention this without inviting questions as to how he had any idea of anything that was in Julian’s quarters. That wasn’t a conversation he was in the mood to have – not with the Chief, and certainly not right now.
“In fact, I seem to remember the doctor mentioning once that his very first patient when he was a child was a stuffed bear. I’d wager our dear doctor has attached plenty of stuffed legs in his time.”
“I owe you one.”
Miles collected the injured toy and headed out of the shop in the general direction of his friend’s infirmary. He almost jumped when he felt a presence behind him and realized Garak was a half step behind.
“Did you need something else?” he asked, annoyance beginning to rise in his voice again. The tailor may have just been a help to him but no amount of gratitude was enough to change that his patience for Garak was always a little…thin.
“Forgive me, Chief. I always was a bit sentimental at heart. Observing the Doctor performing surgery on a stuffed animal is a sight I simply cannot pass up.”
Miles barely contained the urge to roll his eyes. He quietly rolled his soul instead. He couldn’t very well tell the tailor to go away, no matter how much of a frustration he sometimes was.
The two men stepped into the infirmary. Julian Bashir was leaning over a computer console, a trademark look of confusion on his face.
Julian looked up from his work.
“In the flesh, doctor.”
Julian took an inquisitive step towards his visitors.
“I’m tempted to ask what the two of you are doing together, but I have a feeling I am about to get that question answered.” He said, amused.
“We have a patient for you, doctor.”
Julian looked the two men up and down. Neither looked injured, and he saw no sign of anyone else accompanying them. Miles presented the targ.
“Is this my patient?” Julian asked, taking the stuffed animal from his friend’s hands.
“I know it’s a bit…unorthodox. Molly accidentally tore the targ this morning and she was completely inconsolable. You know I can’t even begin to sew. I brought it to Garak for help, but he made the point that reattaching legs was more your speed than his.”
“And to be honest, doctor, I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch you in action.” Garak added.
Julian could not contain his smile.
“This has got to be the easiest patient I’ve had in months. Of course, Chief. I’ll be happy to help. I’ll need some time to perform the repairs, though. It’s been a long time since I picked up a needle and thread.”
“Take all the time you need.” Miles nodded. “I’ll be back for him later. I’ll warn you now, I’ll probably have Molly in tow.”
“Noted. I promise to present you with a 4-legged targ.”
Miles stepped away to return to his duties. Garak took a step forwards and studied the stuffed animal in Julian’s hands.
“Can you really fix that targ, or do you plan to employ a little…replicator magic? Neither Miles nor his daughter would be any the wiser.”
“Of course I intend to fix him!”
“May I ask why? You could scan that…thing with the replicator and have this problem solved in a few seconds with a few lines of code.”
Julian placed the targ on one of the examination tables and pawed through a drawer in search of a needle and thread.
“Because, Garak…it’s a little more complicated than that.” Julian tied a series of knots in the thread and began carefully attaching the stuffed animal’s leg. He continued to speak, or maybe ramble, as he focused on his sewing.
“Healing badly injured people is about speed and effectiveness. What’s the most effective treatment I can provide, the fastest, while causing the least pain. But that’s not all that medicine is. There’s a bit of theatre in it. With people who are only a slightly ill or injured, it’s as big of a part of my job to provide comfort and reassurance as it is to actually provide physical care. It’s not just about making people better, but about making those people feel safe, and building their confidence in you. It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the fastest, most modern therapies do not seem like enough to the patient. They want something tactile, something they can see and feel.”
Garak listened intently.
“Sure, I can heal a cut arm with a dermal regenerator. And a Vulcan might find that a perfect solution. But some humans would really like a bandage, too. Even if there’s no need for one, it seems to pick up morale a bit to give people a little something to hold on to that helps them to feel cared for, even if it’s completely unnecessary to the actual treatment. This is especially true of children. I have never met a child whose problems were not almost completely solved by a pink band-aid. It doesn’t matter what other treatment I can provide: It’s not the actual healing that helps, it’s the perception of it.”
“And let me assure you, there’s nothing that’s more medical theatre than sewing up a stuffed animal. It’s the only reason to involve a doctor at all. You’re completely right that this issue could be fixed with a few lines of code in a replicator, or just as easily by a sewist who had experience making stuffed animals. Handing a stuffed animal to a doctor is really just a request for reassurance. So honestly, I have no business fixing this toy with a replicator. That is not my job.”
Garak paused to consider all the doctor had said. A mischievous smile spread across his face.
“Well, my dear doctor. If this is all about the theatre, I have some suggestions.”
Miles stepped into the infirmary, with his daughter in tow. Molly walked carefully next to her father. She was never quite sure how she felt about this place. Julian turned to the two of them and smiled.
“Just in time! He’s just out of surgery.”
Miles raised a confused eyebrow. Julian winked at him and knelt down to the nervous little girl standing next to her father.
“Hello Molly.” He said softly. “Would you like to see your targ?”
Molly wavered. She was never quite sure how she felt about Julian, either, but her father seemed to trust him, which was generally enough for her.
“…His name is Tim” she said finally, stepping out from behind her father’s leg and inching towards Julian.
“Well then – let’s go see Tim” Julian said with a smile, scooping up the hesitant little girl. Molly’s concern faded as soon as she was in Julian’s arms, and she wrapped her arms affectionately around his neck.
“What are you plotting?” Miles asked. Julian simply nodded to him.
“Come on. You can both see.”
Miles followed his friend into the operating theatre. There, much to the shock of both Miles and Molly, they found Garak, hovering over the operating table.
“Ah! Come to retrieve the patient, have we?”
Molly reacted unsurely to the Cardassian’s presence.
“It’s alright.” Julian reassured her. “He was a big help in healing Tim. Who, by the way, is right as rain.”
Molly looked down on the operating table. Miles saw her face light up with amusement, and stepped forwards. He couldn’t help breaking out into a grin. The injured targ was placed gently in the middle of the operating table, a blanket pulled over it. There was an IV attached to one of its small legs, and a delta wave inducer carefully balanced on its forehead. Julian sat Molly on the edge of the operating table and removed the inducer from Tim’s forehead.
“You should be feeling much better now, little friend.” He said. He carefully detached the medical equipment from the targ. “He says he missed you” Julian added, and transferred him to Molly’s waiting arms. Molly grinned and hugged the stuffed animal. There were smiles all around the room.
“Thank you Daddy!” Molly exclaimed. She surveyed the other two men. “Thank you too, Uncle Julian.”
Julian ruffled her hair. “Any time, sweetheart.” He said.
Molly turned behind her and looked at Garak. “Thank you, Mister Garak” she said, in her small, quiet voice. Garak, for all his carefully performed coldness, nearly melted on the spot.
“Of course, my dear.”
Molly hugged her targ and grinned. As far as she was concerned, she had no problems left in the world. She sat forwards a little and contemplated the distance to the floor, and quietly amended her list. She had one problem.
“…Uncle Julian?” she asked quietly.
Molly looked down at the floor. “Help” she whispered. Julian laughed when he realized he had accidentally trapped the little girl on the table, and lifted her carefully to the floor. Molly paused to give her father’s leg a quick hug and took off out of the infirmary, targ in her arms. The whole room laughed.
“That was brilliant, Julian. The IVs? Thank you.” Miles said, turning to Julian.
Julian shook his head. “You’re very welcome, but you should know that a good part of that was Garak’s idea.”
Miles looked up at the Cardassian in shock.
“The good doctor was explaining the concept of medical theatre to me. I figured, why not take it all the way?” Garak answered the unspoken question.
“Well, whoever’s idea it all was, it was genius. She’ll be talking about this for days. Thank you both.”
“What are friends for, Chief?”
Miles smiled at both men. Friends, indeed.