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He’s walking as fast as he can, half because he wants to do this before he loses the nerve, and half because he always hates to leave the bar in the greasy, untrustworthy hands of his waiters. Sometimes, he actually wishes he had a second Rom around—a bumbling fool, yes, but at least one too stupid to skim off any of Quark’s profits.

He’s halfway to the infirmary when the doubts start up again; he should turn right around. He’s not one of those weird... deviants... that every once in a while pops up on Ferenginar with a predilection for the wrong sort. He’s interested in females. Only females, and not even any of the wishy-washy, in-between aliens the Federation lets in. Just females, with breasts and child-baring organs and small, delicate lobes.

Which is precisely how he justifies it to himself: all humans have such laughably small ears that they may as well all be female. The entire species. And Bajorans too, for that matter. At least the Cardassians had extenuating ridges, and Klingons don’t do anything small, but humans? Tiny, lobeless, too-soft creatures, the lot of them. Why, they’re practically built for giving oo-max; they couldn’t get it back, wouldn’t know what to do with it. And it’s just oo-max Quark wants, anyway, hardly a commitment. What does it matter who’s on the other end of the hands that he has pleasure him? He can just close his eyes and think of proper, naked Ferengi females, like he should.

He gets right outside the doorway and tells himself the last piece of the pep talk; he can’t not do this. The want will just haunt him. It’s already been a week, and he can’t stop thinking about it, hazily remembering the last appointment he had in the infirmary, with long, thin fingers trailing gently around the outer rim of his lobes, peeling back bits of cartilage to shine some inane light into the little crevices. Nothing was found to be wrong with Quark’s ears, fortunately, and he doesn’t mind a superfluous checkup here and there with these Federation fools charging nothing for their services, but there was a disturbing side effect in another area. Quark’s over-active imagination. Now, Quark can’t stop fantasizing about the way those delicate fingers spread their warmth along his skin, rubbed in sweet little circles to soothe his nerves. Every time a certain doctor comes into the bar and idly fingers the tall stem of a whine glass or twists a fork mindlessly in his hand, Quark finds himself ogling a worthless human when he should be eyeing the dabo tables. This distraction is a problem, and it only makes sense, good business sense, to get it over with and move on with his life.

So he walks straight through the self-opening doors, passes a Bajoran nurse with fat hands on her way out, and parks himself right beside Dr. Bashir, who’s bent over a whirring console. “I need another checkup,” he announces loudly, which has the desired effect; the other human nurse at the end of the room lifts her eyebrows and surreptitiously makes her way to the door. Somehow, Quark’s made his way onto the ‘problem patient’ list, which just goes to show how much these Federation lackeys know about anything. Bashir glances over his shoulder and down at Quark, like trying to judge how serious he is, and Quark steels himself for that no-nonsense, ‘my business is invaluable’ look.

Bashir says calmly, “You look fine to me.”

“Thank you for that opinion, Doctor,” Quark practically sneers—why do humans have to make everything so difficult? “But I would hope the Federation pays you for a bit more work than that.”

Sighing, Bashir asks, “What is it, Quark?”

“It’s my lobes.”

“I checked your lobes last week.”

“And obviously you didn’t do a very good job, because they still hurt,” Quark lies through his sharp teeth. In actuality, Bashir did a more than excellent job, but if Quark is going to resort to getting oo-max from a male, the least he can do is stick to his cover story and make sure no one ever knows the truth. Bashir doesn’t look too pleased, but he closes off his console, picks up a random instrument from the counter and gestures towards the table at the back of the room. Quark’s already off.

The tables in here are awful—Cardassians never take comfort into account with their designs—but Quark makes an effort to stretch out and relax. He tugs his long jacket over his lap to hide anything that happens as a result of the exam. This time, he’s going to concentrate, take it all in instead of clouding over in fear of pleasure. There’s a split second where he worries he’s made a terrible mistake, but then he watches Bashir’s hands skim the sleek casing of the device he picked up, and with a repressed shiver, Quark knows he’s made the right choice. It’d be a shame to have access to hands like that and not put them to use.

Besides, if the Divine Treasury has anything to say about it when Quark gets there, he’ll just tip extra until the questions go away.

He taps his right ear when Bashir comes up to the bed. It’s slightly more sensitive, and he lies, “This one’s tingling.” Bashir sighs and shines the light on. As they established last week, not all Ferengi infections can be picked up on the medical tricorder. Sometimes a solid look around is necessary.

And that works out well for Quark, because Bashir is a professional. He does his job well and thoroughly. Be bends over Quark’s side, one hand holding up the light and the other gently skimming the inner shell of Quark’s lobe, thumb prying just beneath the overhang of cartilage along the brim. It’s an incredibly stimulating sensation—the first warning he got last time to shut down—but this time he shuts his eyes and leans into it, zeroing in on just that feeling of Bashir stroking his lobe.

The soft pad of Bashir’s finger is like Bolian silk, just the perfect little spike of warmth, and the blunt nail along the top only barely scratches Quark’s own flesh. It makes him want to clench his jaw and hiss; the scrape that follows in the wake of the softness is a divine experience. Bashir goes torturously slowly around the entire rim, and when Quark’s skin curls deeper, Bashir has to dig in deeper, the tips of his elegant fingers sucked into the overhang of Quark’s lobes. Those talented fingers continue to deftly probe at him, nimble and efficient. There’s something about the short, roundness of Bashir’s nails that gives Quark extra pleasure; he’s getting tired of the pointed, overdone nails of the dabo girls. Bashir’s are just the right length to please, especially when he has to curl in and press, hold parts of Quark’s ear open for examination. Bashir’s head is lowering steadily, until his breath is ghosting over the side of Quark’s face and the base of his lobe.

Quark does clench his teeth, arms tense at his side while his lobes stir in delight. Bashir is good at this, even without instruction, even without knowing what he’s doing. If someone paid him to do it right, he could probably be an expert. In fact, maybe Quark should try using Bashir’s parameters for a holosuite program... he knows of more than one client that would just love to defile the good doctor...

But then, who needs fiction when reality is so very easy? Without any idea what he’s truly doing, Bashir moves on to another inner ring, smaller and tighter around the middle, and here he has to use two fingers to scissor it and another inner ring apart, allowing for a better view. As he slowly traces down, kneading the flesh wider apart every couple centimeters, Bashir mumbles, “I believe this is the quietest you’ve ever been during a checkup, Quark.” Which is probably true, but the last thing Quark wants to do right now is have a male conversation. Even if he has so far failed to imagine a female doing this instead.

He opts for a short, “I want you to concentrate.” And he keeps his eyes closed, so when Bashir doesn’t answer him, he loses track of how Bashir views the situation. Maybe it’ll make him think Quark views this as more serious. Maybe it’ll make him look harder for some insidious, foreign Ferengi disease. Good. The fact that Bashir is so intent on this particular bout of oo-max only adds to Quark’s pleasure. What a dedicated whore. Oh, he may not be charging Quark for this, but foolishness doesn’t negate Bashir’s true status. He’s employed to be wearing that uniform, to be in this room, and he’s using that time to get Quark off, and in a Ferengi’s view, that makes Julian Bashir a naïve and cheap whore.

But at least a good one. Quark can feel his mouth grinning stupidly and tries to stop it, but hopefully the doctor isn’t paying attention to his face. Bashir’s movements haven’t stopped; there’s a solid, steady flow to this. It’s building Quark up for what he knows will be an amazing release. Finally, Bashir’s fingers slide their way sensuously to the inner circle, where they have to worm through the different layers of ridges and push tender flesh aside, rubbing every which way to expose every little hidden nook, and all five of Bashir’s fingers are in complete employ, working in tandem to stroke and caress and warm and stimulate, and Quark’s breath is catching, Bashir asks suddenly, “There? Does that hurt?” But it doesn’t hurt at all, just feels wonderful, and Bashir lightly pinches the skin right at the center, like checking if that’s where the mysterious disease lies, but the only problem in Quark’s body is that he’s about to come.

He spills himself in his pants with a ragged, shuddering cry that he tries to make sound like it’s out of pain instead of pleasure. His heart is racing against his chest, and Bashir’s fingers are still in his ear. The orgasm dies down quickly, leaving him with a sticky, pleasant feeling. Slumping limply against the table, he takes a moment to collect himself.

Bashir is squinting down at him, clearly bewildered. Humans can be so stupid.

Quark says anyway, smiling crudely, “Why, Doctor! I think you fixed it! Thank you!”

And then he pushes off the table, because he doesn’t need male fingers in his lobes now that he’s back to his right mind. Bashir’s hand falls away, and even as Quark is marching off, Bashir calls, “But I didn’t—”

The closing doors whoosh shut behind him, and with a shake of his self-satisfied head, Quark heads off to his quarters to change before he goes back to work.