The next morning, on the third day of Odo’s leave, he learned yet another hard lesson in being a thing. He awoke to a pounding, merciless, absolutely horrific pain in his head, and a foul-beyond-reason taste in his mouth. Odo equated the flavor with something that had crawled out of Quarks ear. As he dragged himself slowly, carefully, out of bed, shielding his eyes against the too-bright light of his quarters, Odo decided that he might petition the Bajoran Council of Trade to join with the Federation. Saurian brandy was dangerous stuff after all, and not just to Vulcans.
After a stop in the bathroom, Odo stumbled out into his living space, heading to the replicator, seeking a very cold and very large glass of water. Odo asked for it, and grabbed it quickly from the replicator tray almost before it was fully materialized, swallowing it in huge gulps. He emptied the glass and heaved a relieved sigh, resting his head gratefully against the wall for a few minutes, and decided that cold water was about the best thing the universe had ever invented. He was about to ask for another glass, when the door chime sounded.
“Oh, for Prophet’s-” he exclaimed, slamming down the glass. “Now what?”
Odo stomped toward the door, ignoring the pain in his head over the bigger pain on the other side of the door. Whoever it was, they'd better have a very good reason for bothering him, or he was going to forever redefine the meaning of antisocial.
“Enter,” Odo barked.
The door slid back and revealed his latest visitor. Garak stepped into Odo’s quarters, two garment bags held aloft.
“Good morning, Constable,” Garak began, setting the bags carefully across the back of the sofa. He looked back to Odo, his gaze sweeping him quickly up and down, taking in Odo’s disheveled morning state. “Though by the looks of things, I see that it is, in fact, not a good morning.”
“Garak. Aren’t you supposed to be in holding?”
“Yes. I am. And I will be returning there shortly. Aren’t you supposed to be dressed by this time of day?”
Odo glanced down at himself, face reddening, remembering too late all he had on were the scrub pants Bashir had given him when he was first brought back aboard the Defiant. His head had been spinning too much when he'd went to bed to be bothered with the shirt, and he hadn't even thought about how he looked before answering the door. Changelings, after all, didn't have this problem.
“Dr. Bashir and Chief O’Brien were here last night,” Odo replied, as if that were an excuse. He ran his fingers through his hair, trying to smooth it back into place, but it was no good. An errant strand insisted on falling over his eyes, and fussing with his hair made his head hurt even more. Odo gave it up, and dropped into an armchair, shielding his eyes from the light. Why were all the lights so damned bright this morning?
“Ah,” Garak replied, “I see…Computer, Julian Bashir hangover remedy number…I’m sorry, Constable, what were you drinking?”
Garak winced, and shook his head. “Number three,” he finished. The replicator complied, and a hypo appeared on the tray. Garak retrieved it, and brought it to Odo. “Dr. Bashir’s own formula, used by him personally for recovery from an exceptionally overindulgent evening…How much did those two let you drink, anyway?”
“I only had two glasses,” Odo replied, eyeing the hypo warily. Taking anything Garak offered seemed like a bad idea, especially if it was in a hypo, and right now, so did taking anything Dr. Bashir had concocted. “What’s in that?”
“Don’t trust me, Constable?” Garak smiled. “Well, you shouldn't, but if I wanted to poison you, I’d come up with something much more creative than this. The formula contains, if I recall, an analgesic, some electrolytes, and a counter-agent to remove any remaining… cheer from the bloodstream.”
Still keeping a level eye on Garak, Odo took the hypo. His head hurt so much, death by poisoning might have been preferable, but as Garak had said, if he wanted Odo dead, he’d come up with something better than a hypospray. Throwing caution-and suspicion- to the wind, Odo shot the hypo into his neck, and immediately heaved a sigh of relief.
“Better?” Garak asked.
“Yes,” Odo replied, letting his head roll gratefully back on the chair. “Thank you…Now why in the hell are you here? Who let you out?”
“Captain Sisko, so I could bring the extra uniforms we discussed,” Garak replied, nonplussed by Odo’s gruffness. “They’re all finished. I also brought the personal clothes you ordered, which are obviously very much needed. Those pants are an abomination. I recommend burning them, now that I’ve brought you proper sleepwear.”
“You could’ve just sent a message,” Odo returned. “I would have come and picked them up.”
“I could have, Odo, that is true, and I certainly do not deliver, not under normal circumstances. I am no errand boy, not even for my own shop, but given the current tensions on the station that are due to the unfortunate revelation you made on the Promenade, and Captain Sisko’s wise decision to hide you away until those tensions are relieved, it seemed best that I deliver this order myself. Besides, it gave me the opportunity to…stretch my legs.”
“Things are bad on the station, then?” Odo asked. “I haven’t paid much attention. I’ve been…preoccupied.”
“That’s unlike you, Odo. You always have a finger on the pulse of things. Even if it’s not your patient.”
“Don’t worry, Garak,” Odo said, sitting up to cast a Constable-worthy glare at him. “I’ll be back on duty tomorrow to keep an eye on it all, especially an eye on you.”
“You're certainly welcome to try,” Garak smiled. “Now, I didn’t come here just to bring your clothes. I also wanted to measure you for another set of garments, one you neglected to select when you were in my shop.”
“Oh? And what is that?”
“A suit?” Odo groused. “What would I need with a suit? I have a uniform, and that’s good enough.”
“Actually, I beg to differ. I’ve never cared for that dun color the Bajoran militia selected for their uniforms, far too drab and most unflattering, but as far as function and cut, well, it’ll do, when you’re on duty. There may be times however, when you are not working, and need to look your best. You need a suit for those occasions.”
“What does it matter what I wear, Garak?” Odo scoffed. “No one will notice."
“Oh, on the contrary, Odo, it matters, and people will notice. Shallow though it may sound, humanoids care very much about the outward appearance someone presents to the universe. It says so much about a person. What they do, where they’re from, their social status. Thumb your nose all you want, but a good suit is essential for a man who wants to give the right impression. And surely you can see, Constable, why giving the right impression is so essential in your circumstances.”
“Garak, my head still hurts. What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means, my dear Constable, that as I said, tensions on this station are high, and what has been done to you has become common knowledge. There are opinions on both sides of the issue as to whether the Founders’ actions were just, and plenty of speculative gossip about whether you’ll be able to do your job, now that you’ve been so grievously altered. No matter the gossip surrounding your transformation, when you leave these rooms and show your face again, the residents of this station will scrutinize your every move. Your detractors will look for signs of weakness. Your sympathizers will, too. No matter how your inward thoughts and feelings might run, you must present the outward appearance that you are in control, you are capable, and you will do the job of protecting them from the big, bad universe just as you’ve always done. On duty, a well-tailored uniform will do that for you, but off duty, you need something that has the same sort of…gravitas. That, Odo, is a good suit.”
“That’s putting a lot of faith in a piece of clothing, Garak. Are you making this suit out of metal, by chance?”
“Idanian wool, actually. We’ve already established that Bajoran wool doesn’t agree with you, and Idanian textiles are quite fine. You'll be pleased with end result. Trust me not for any other reason, Odo, but when to comes to matters of current fashion on the station, I would not steer you wrong. I would never allow you to become, shall we say, out of season.”
Odo heaved a sigh, and rose from his chair. “Alright, Garak, you’ve sold me. Take your measurements. How much is this fine wool suit going to cost?”
“A very reasonable rate, I assure you,” Garak replied, pulling the small sensor he used for recording measurements from his breast pocket. He snapped it on and said, “I would not charge you full price for your very first suit.”
“And why not?”
“Oh, to generate good will, I suppose, should you wish to buy even more fine suits in the future. Certainly not because I have any sympathy for your plight. I do have a business to run, Constable.”
“Offering locals a discount to gain repeat business? Now you sound like Quark.”
“Odo,” Garak admonished, “whatever have I done that would make you say something so terribly rude?”
“You’re right, Garak” Odo replied. “My apologies.” He watched suspiciously as the tailor moved the measuring sensor over his torso. “What color is this suit going to be, anyway?”
“All finished here, Odo. And I’m so glad you should ask.” Garak turned off the sensor, and put it back in his pocket. “I did give that some careful thought.”
Garak moved towards the door, and the Constable followed. As the door slid open to let Garak out, he turned back to Odo and answered the question.
“Gray, I believe, is the correct choice, Odo. You always struck me as a man who should wear gray. Color seems too, well...colorful for you, and black is too severe. White is only acceptable if one is vacationing on Risa. I did consider navy, but your dress uniform -which will be ready next week, incidentally- is already navy. That leaves us gray. And Odo, there are so many shades of gray. It's important to find the one that suits you best.”
Garak turned away from Odo then, a mysterious smile still playing the corners of his mouth, and began to walk down the corridor. He was quickly flanked by two security guards. “Shades of gray, indeed,” Odo mumbled to himself. He watched until the three turned the corner, and went back into his quarters, where he went straight to his computer terminal to catch himself up on what he’d missed.