DISCLAIMER: This is mine. I wrote it based on one of the best things I know in this life: Star Trek. So, thank you, Paramount.

First, a little explanation. This story is going to be presented in three parts: The Mind's Own Cage ; The Sun, The Moon, The Stars... ; and A Fool Among Fools. It was just easier for me to write that way.

Newborn Decisions
Part 1
by KyRoka


The Mind's Own Cage


Was he a complete idiot? How could he have let her slip away so easily without even trying to grab hold of her? He could kill himself for letting that chance slip away! Five words. He only would have needed to say five simple words and then... But they weren't truly that simple. They were wrenching words that tugged at one's heart and mind and core. Sure; they were *simple* words.

But now he could see the effect his silence had wrought. Kira and Shakaar were together. What was wrong with him, that he couldn't be truthful with someone he knew so well? There had rarely been something he hadn't been able to tell her...except for the one thing that most deeply concerned her. He tried to move his mind to a different topic. He had to stop thinking about Nerys or resign himself to his role in her life...as
friend.

Odo moved on, or attempted to, and told himself what he did every morning: that she did *not* love him, and that she never would. And so he tried to reconcile himself to being there for her and to being her friend.

"Odo to Kira."

"Kira here. What can I do for you, Constable?"

"I was wondering if you had any plans for this evening, Major."

"Not that I know of. Why?"

"Well, I was wondering if you'd care to share dinner with me."

There was a moment of silence.

"Sure, Odo. How about nineteen hundred hours at my quarters?"

Odo paused. What in the name of the Prophets was he thinking? What had ever possessed him to...

"Odo?"

"Of course, Major. That would be fine."

"Good. See ya then."

The channel closed and Odo took a deep sigh of relief. At least *that* part was over.


*We're just friends. We're just friends. We are just friends.*

It was repeated over and over again even as the door chimed.

"Come," she heard herself say, even as she quickly rearranged something on the table. "Hello, Odo."

"Major," he responded gently, but Kira could still feel a sense of formality between them...and she was getting tired of it.

"Odo, let's get one thing straight: no ranks tonight. You can call me Kira or Nerys, but not Major."

"Very well, Ma...Kira."

Kira smiled at his concerted effort.

"Shall we sit down?" she asked, indicating the dinner table.

Odo nodded in affirmation. The two sat at opposite ends of the table, but Kira was up again almost immediately to retrieve the food. Odo sat rigidly as he waited, concentrating on making a good impression with Kira and not embarrassing himself.

"So, Odo," said Kira as she set the dinner in front of them both, "what have you been up to today?"

*Lame, Kira. Really lame.*

"Well," said Odo, instantly warming to the topic, "today was actually quite interesting." He ate a small bite of food before continuing. "There was a peculiar case concerning a Rigelian who was trying to set up a vole fighting ring on the Promenade."

Kira ate while she paid attention to what Odo was saying. It was obviously something that had gotten him to relax and that was very important.

Both soon discovered that they had finished their dinner. Odo had cleared the table before Kira had the opportunity to protest.

"It feels good to be back here," Kira said as she moved to the couch. Odo followed.

"I imagine. How is it working out, you living with the O'Briens?"

"It's nice." A forced smile came to her lips.

"Really?"

"Yes, really," she contended frankly. "It's nice to be...to be part of a family. Living alone gets lonely after awhile."

"Sounds like you're happier there than here."

"Well, I would be except I made the mistake of telling Molly that she could play in my room anytime she wanted and she seems to have taken me up on that offer quite literally."

"Ah." Odo knew some people quite like that.

"Achoo. Achoo." Kira braced herself against any more sneezes. "And then of course there's the constant sneezing."

"I do believe that's one thing I haven't experienced yet."

"Count yourself...achoo...lucky."

Kira looked at Odo's calm face.

"You know, Odo, I think you're the only person not to find humor in my sneezing all the time."

Odo shrugged his shoulders slightly with indignation, something he had found himself doing a lot more often lately.

"I don't see the humor in such a natural thing."

Kira smiled. This was still Odo. Despite the enormous change he had undergone, he was still himself.

*Well of course he is. Who were you expecting him to be?*

"Something amuses you?"

"No, no, Odo. I was just thinking how glad I am that *you* are still *you.*"

"Who else would I be?" Odo asked.

"Who indeed." Kira readjusted herself on the couch. "You know another thing about being pregnant is that I always feel uncomfortable." Her hand flew to her swollen torso. "Especially when he starts to kick."

"Does it hurt much?" Odo asked concernedly.

"No, not really. It's just a bit of surprise when he starts up. Here," she said, taking his hand, "put your hand here." Kira guided his hand carefully.

Odo was instantly fascinated by the reaction he was getting. Something alive, something moving...it was quite a different experience. He could almost feel the contented happiness from the child. And there was something else...something very familiar.

Odo could sense the fluidity in which the child existed and he remembered...back to an all-too recent memory what it had been like to exist in just such a liquid state.

He scoffed the irony, that the baby would follow his footsteps and be thrust out of that safe haven. He had often heard that a newborn's greatest wish was most likely to return back from whence it had come.

*I guess I'm more of an infant than I ever thought.*

Odo drew his hand away stiffly and ran it through his hair a bit nervously.

"Odo, is something wrong?" Kira asked concernedly.

"I was just...just remembering something." He looked out the windows at the stars, and it seemed as if his mind was as far away as they were.

"It must be...difficult for you."

"Hmph. You have *no* idea."

"Well, I'm willing to listen." Kira sat as if she were preparing for an onslaught from an army.

Odo remained completely still. She was waiting for him to tell her, wanting him to tell her, but he wasn't sure if he was willing.

"Odo, please?" It was a soft gentle question, and Odo could feel the concern Kira felt at that moment.

He pulled his eyes away from the stars and readied himself.

"I might as well start at the beginning, for me anyways. As you know, I spent several years in a laboratory on Bajor. The Cardassians are very orderly, if nothing else and they wanted to make sure that they kept close wraps on everything the scientists were working on. Nobody was quite sure what I was so they simply labeled me unknown sample..." He glanced up to gauge Kira's reaction. There was a look of deep interest and understanding there. "The Cardassians overseer translated that into 'odo'ital.' The Bajorans eventually split it into a traditional name: Odo Ital. Nobody cared the implications it would hold over my head."

Kira looked curious. She wanted to know what "odo'ital" meant.

"You can't be saying that your name means 'unknown sample'?"

"No, but I'll get to that. I tried to fit in and managed to somewhat wherever I went. Even though being chief of station security is very gratifying, I still never really felt as if I belonged. I always seemed to be fighting against something or someone. But, when I went back this past time, when I finally joined the Great Link, I felt as if I truly belonged, as if the need to struggle was no longer necessary."

Odo rubbed at his temples as memories flooded back, but he continued before Kira could say anything.

"I felt as if I was important; my name no longer caged me. Oh, I had outgrown most of it, but small parts, small influences still stood in its wake. You see, Kira, 'odo'ital' is Cardassian for 'nothing.' Early on I thought no name could be more perfect. I had no past, no family, no friends, no home...It was almost as if I had come out of nowhere. But in the Great Link, that was all thrust aside.

"And then *I* was thrust aside, and all of that was ripped away from me. I had no voice, no say, no control over it. And I was *nothing* once again."

"But you're not just *nothing,* Odo. You know who you are, what your place is here on this station. You have plenty of friends who are here to help..."

"That doesn't change what I've become."

"And nothing ever will. You need to start trying to accept who you are right here and now. Trust me. It will make the transition a *lot* easier on you."

At first Odo couldn't understand why Kira was so impassioned on this point when he remembered the Cardassian incident...when she had been made to resemble a Cardassian. So, in a way she had been through the same shock he was experiencing now. Only he had lost so much more and had so much yet to learn.

"I realize it's been harder for you in some ways, but in others, you've got it a lot easier than I did. What you are may have been changed, but *who* you are hasn't. You've still got your friends, your job, your home...It shouldn't really matter as long as you have all that you truly care about despite what form or shape you are."

"Hmph," Odo said indignantly indicating he didn't have *everything* he truly cared about.

"Odo, what is it? Is there something missing in your life?"

What could he tell her, that she was the only thing that mattered to him? that as long as she was there he could muddle through anything? He looked her straight in the eyes, and broke down the barriers that kept him locked up inside himself, the barriers that had made and kept him lonely, the barriers that hid the part that was in love with her.

"Yes," he said, and his voice rumbled under the weight of everything he had been feeling and thinking for so long.

Kira was paralyzed by his gaze. She didn't know what to say, didn't know what to assume he meant. He still held his gaze at her and a million things rushed through her head. All the lonely nights where she had toyed with the idea...but then Shakaar had come along. She was happy with him. Well, she had been until he had started spending less and less time with her. *Frankly, I think this pregnancy has bothered him much more than he'd care to admit.*

Kira finally looked away with a frown at the thought of Shakaar. It was something that happened more often recently.

*I understand that he has a life to lead and things to do, especially as First Minister, but...*

Odo looked out at the stars again, trying to resolve what had just happened. He soon saw however that Kira was having just as difficult a time as he.

"Kira, what is it?"

She turned and looked at him, still compassionate and still his friend.

"It's Shakaar."

"Oh." The barriers went up once again, and the electric blue eyes turned to ice.

*Nice going, Kira.*

"What...what about him?" Odo forced.

"He's just been so...distant lately. I don't know if it's the pregnancy or what."

"Sounds to me like you're making excuses for him." Odo guarded the rest of what he was going to say, fearful of driving her further away.

"Maybe. Maybe this relationship with him isn't all it's cracked up to be...or maybe I'm just being paranoid."

"*Or* maybe you're just being cautious with your heart. It's something I've found to be quite true with many people. Quite useful as well."

"Well, I suppose that that's true, but if you don't open yourself up, how are you ever going to know if something is real or not? If you don't let anything in past your surface barriers, there's no way you can get a real look at it and see if it will be right for you."

"But," Odo countered, "if you don't open yourself up, you cannot be hurt."

Kira's eyes took on a faraway look as she remembered tougher times.

"You'd be surprised." She grew a quirky ironic smile. "But oddly enough, sometimes it's the pain that makes it all worthwhile in the end. It's one of those things that keeps you going because you learn how to handle tough situations and deal with them."

"Perhaps," and the conversation ended.

"Well, I'd better get back so I can try and get some rest before my shift tomorrow," said Kira as she rose.

"That's not a bad idea," Odo conceded.

"See you tomorrow, Constable?" she asked once they were in the corridor.

"Of course, Major." And he flashed a smile that let her know he was better, not fully healed, but not completely wounded either.

* * * * * * * * * *

Newborn Decisions
Part 2
by KyRoka


The Sun, The Moon, The Stars...


It had been a few months since he and Kira had dined together, but he was still trying to cope with the change. Kira had known enough not to really say anything about it; she knew he was having a hard enough time as it was.

But small things had been making it easier...like the rumors circulating that Shakaar had a new girlfriend. He didn't know if it was true, but if it was, then Kira either didn't know, didn't care, or was hiding it extremely well. It worried him that she might be hurting, and swells of protective anger sometimes manifested themselves in Odo's mind.

It was something he hadn't had to deal with, not since he tried to gain protection from the never ending tests. Maybe a trip away from the constant strain of the station would be good. When he had first returned from his...judgment, the stability of his job had been one of the few things that had kept Odo going. Now that he was finding out and rediscovering who he was, Odo could rest somewhat easier. There was an upcoming conference on Bajor about strategic countermeasures against changeling infiltration. He didn't need the conference, but it would make for a good excuse.

*

"Captain, I'd like to request leave to attend the upcoming conference on Bajor."

"The one that starts tomorrow?"

Odo nodded.

"All right, Constable. I'm sure you have more than enough leave built up. How long does the conference last?"

"Four days...but I'd, ah, like to stay planetside for a full week."

"Constable," Sisko said, standing and walking over to Odo. He placed a reassuring hand roughly on his shoulder. "After what you've been through, I wouldn't mind if you took seven months off.." He stepped back and went back to his chair saying, "But, I know Quark would probably be running the station in that much time, so a week it is." Sisko ended with a smile.

"Thank you, Captain."

The two exchanged nods, and Odo left to get things set for his short sabbatical.

"Sisko to Kira."

"Kira here."

"Could I see you in my office a moment, Major?"

"Certainly, sir."

A moment later, Kira Nerys strode through the doorway to Sisko's office.

"Major, I'd like you to attend the upcoming conference on Bajor."

"Me, sir? Wouldn't Commander Worf be better suited..."

"You wouldn't just be going for the conference; you'd also be going for the Constable."

"Odo?"

Sisko nodded. "He's requested leave to attend but I think he just doesn't want to admit that he finally needs a break. I want you simply to keep an eye on him, make sure he's all right." He could see Kira starting to protest and stopped her. "I know that the Constable's perfectly capable of taking care of himself, Major, but this has been a rough few months. I just don't want to have to worry about him."

Kira silently agreed.

"When do I leave?"

"Tomorrow, but not on the same transport as Odo. I *do* want you on the first one after him though. That way we can claim that this was a last minute decision. I doubt the Constable would appreciate being looked after. Now then, Odo plans on staying a week. I'd like you to do the same if possible. I realize that with the baby and all, it may be a little rough. And you're free to return at any time if you feel it's necessary."

Kira nodded, taking this all in. She'd do anything to see to it that Odo relaxed and felt even marginally better.

"Good luck, Major."

*

The conference was almost over (thank the Prophets), and for Kira, it had been deadly dull. The weather had been terribly dreary as well, with thunderstorms peppering almost each day's sky. She had talked to Odo a few times, about one of the points made in one lecture or another. And he seemed to be unwinding, ever so slightly.

Finally when the conference concluded, Kira found herself staring the next day at a lovely clear sky with the tell-tale promises of an extraordinary sunset.

"Would you care to go for a walk?" Odo asked, coming up behind her.

"Yes, I think I would." She turned around, not even startled by his unexpected approach. *It must be something about that voice.*

They wandered through plazas and gardens in the city before following a stream up towards the foothills.

"Kira, are you sure you should? what with the baby and all?"

"Don't worry, Odo. I won't go trouncing around like I did during the Occupation."

Slightly appeased, Odo told himself to lighten up. It was just a walk. What could go wrong?

*

They ended walking quite a bit. When they came to a set of boulders, Kira was adamant about climbing up to the next path.

"C'mon, Odo. You can even go first. Once you make it up, if you really don't think it's worth it, I won't climb then. But I do think you're being a little overprotective."

Odo conceded and climbed up once, then back down again so that he could give Kira a hand on her way.

"Just give me your hand. All that's really important is that you keep your balance."

Kira agreed and turned out to be grateful for his presence for by the time they had scaled the mere five meter obstacle she was panting from the exertion. She didn't even notice when they continued walking hand in hand.

"There's a small plateau just ahead. We should be able to see the whole city, and the sunset, from there." Odo pointed to a small bend in the path.

"Told you...that...it'd be...worth it." Kira wiped a hand across her perspiring brow.

Odo stopped to look at her. "Are you all right?"

"Phew. I...don't know. I didn't...didn't think I'd have that hard of a...time catching my breath again." Kira swallowed hard, almost as if she were trying to eat the air.

"Maybe you should rest for awhile...How about on the side of this hill?"

He indicated a small knoll barely a meter away.

Kira could only nod.

"Okay, now just sit down, nice and easy. I'll help you."

Kira was about to thank Odo for his patience and help when a wave of pain hit her so hard her knees buckled. It was a lot like the smaller cramping she had had earlier that morning.

Odo readjusted himself so as not to lose his balance. Kira finally was seated, but she seemed to be even more uncomfortable than before. Her breathing had increased *again* and her hand had tightened a vise-like grip on his.

Another wave of pain hit Kira and she felt a wetness in her pants.

"Oh, Odo," she said in a tone of disbelief. "We've got a problem."

"What?" he asked, concerned.

"The baby's coming."

Odo crouched in shock next to Kira.

"Dr. Bashir..." he started.

"Is at lease 2 hours away, if we contacted him now...I didn't bring my communicator; did you?"

Odo shook his head, but was still running possibilities through his head.

"Then I'll get someone from the city. You'll...you'll be all right, won't you?"

Kira nodded, biting down hard on her lower lip.

"I'll be back as soon as possible."

Kira nodded, concentration written boldly across her face.

Odo was off, his mind a jumble of shock, fear, and worry. But there was also a sense of need...Immediate need.

The boulders proved to be more difficult to climb down than scale up, especially with the diminishing light, and he had just made it halfway when a scream of pain reached his ears.

He paused.

Surely, it was the labor pains but...but what if it wasn't? He needed to make a decision, and fast.

It would take a good ten minutes to get to the city, perhaps another ten to find a doctor, and yet *another* ten to get back to Kira. That was, if he could *find* his way back.

Scaling the rocks a third time was as easy as catching Quark at something illegal. He was beside Kira again in a matter of moments.

He slipped his hand into hers, and eyes that had been closed in concentration snapped open in surprise.

"A...doctor?"

"There isn't enough time, and I...just couldn't leave you here alone. Not like this."

Another wave rocked Kira and silenced any reply. Odo could tell she was starting to bear down. He only hoped he could remember the thing he had read on birthing.

"Here goes..."

*

An hour later Kira and the baby were snuggled tightly against Odo for any extra warmth they could get. The baby had been wrapped in the jacket Odo had been wearing.

He had managed, with much help from Kira, to build a small fire which provided not only heat but light as the sun had set early behind the tips of the mountains.

Odo held Kira to him with one arm as she slept, and poked somewhat restlessly at the fire with a stick he held in his other hand. He could feel her heartbeat, and fought to keep tears of momentary contentment from his eyes.

The stars glittered in the sky above; some sharply, others softly. It was beautiful, peaceful, and incredible. Odo let his head rest against the rock behind him. If only it could last...

*By the Prophets, I wish this could last.*

It was a good thing that night that the Prophets can hear wishes...especially when echoed by two people. For Kira was awake, and she too was thinking how *right* everything felt.

*

When dawn broke, the trio headed back to the city, slow as it was for Kira was still rather sore.

"I've felt worse and had to run with a fifteen kilo-pack on my back," was Kira's response to Odo's query about how she felt and if she was up to walking back to the city.

By the time they reached the city, stores and such were just beginning to open up for the day. They quickly found a doctor, contacted Bashir and the O'Briens, and then waited.

They sat on a sofa outside of the doctor's officer, and Kira let her head rest against Odo's shoulder. It wasn't all that comfortable but...

"What is it, Nerys?" Odo asked, moving his arm so he could pull her closer. After all, it *was* a bit chilly in the room.

"It's just weird, I guess. I feel kind of...empty without that little rascal poking me all the time." Kira smiled ruefully, and didn't even notice the use of her given name.

"Well, it's understandable, Nerys. You've lost something in a sense. But, in another, you've gained a lot as well."

"Like what?"

"Like being able to sleep decently again."

"That's true," Kira said, yawning at even the mention of sleep. Odo stroked her head, trying to get her to sleep.

"You need your rest, Nerys."

Kira tried mumbling something but she was too tired, and Odo's voice too soothing, to be coherent.

As for himself...maybe he would *sleep* the last day of his shore leave.

*

It was a crowd of commotion that put Kira on alert instantly, but Odo calmed her down.

"It's okay, Nerys. It's only our people."

Kira's body relaxed as she saw Keiko and Miles both adoring their new bundle of joy. Bashir was talking with the resident doctor but neither's face showed any worry. Everything was as it should be.

Kira stood to go congratulate and talk with the O'Briens, but she was barely a step along when Odo was there steadying her.

"Guess I still need help with my balance," Kira joked.

Odo just smiled.

"Major!" came the stern reprove of Dr. Bashir. "Just what do you think you're doing! Sit right back down where you were. Now!"

Kira complied very willingly. The O'Briens came over to her to talk about Jason Kiro O'Brien.

"Constable, can I speak with you for a moment?"

Odo nodded and followed Bashir to the other side of the room. Odo ran a hand over his face, pausing to rub at his eyes.

"Odo, how long has it been since you slept last?"

"Two nights ago. About...um, 47 hours."

"47 hours! Good gods, man! You can't do that to yourself."

Kira had politely excused herself from the O'Briens company to see what Bashir was talking about, and she had managed to catch most of the conversation.

"Odo! Didn't you sleep at all last night?!" Kira was surprised, shocked, angry, and...touched.

Odo hung his head in both reproach and weariness.

"I'm sorry, Julian. I wouldn't have kept him around here so long if I'd known."

"Well, the important thing now is for *both* of you to get some rest. Now, there's a transport car just outside waiting to take you to your hotel. So go, get some rest, and then," he turned towards Kira, "we'll talk about recuperation." He then promptly shuffled them both out the doors. With a shake of his head and a smile, Bashir turned back to the O'Briens.

"So, how's my newest patient doing..."

Babies were such a blessed thing, no matter how they came into the world.

*

It was 1800 hours by the time Odo and Kira reached their hotel. Both just managed to get to their floor.

"Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow then," Odo said, yawning, as Kira moved to open her door.

"Sounds like a deal. Good night, Odo, and thank you." She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek before retreating back into her room.

The door closed and Odo felt suddenly awake as if he had been infused with new energy.

He got ready for sleep but even laying in bed didn't help. He just stared at the ceiling and thought about the events of the past day or so. They brought an easy smile to his face.

A chime broke his reverie.

"Who is it?" he asked, even as he walked towards the door.

"Another sleep-deprived person," answered the familiar voice.

Odo unlocked the privacy code and let Kira in. She was wearing loose fitting pajamas as was Odo, but they seemed to match the mood. The two spoke simultaneously.

"I couldn't sleep."

"The baby?"

"I guess," Kira said with a shrug.

Odo sympathetically took her hand, and they sat down on the couch. A shiver ran through Kira's body.

"Are you cold?"

"No, no. It's not that."

"Then what?"

Kira hesitated. Was this simply the weariness she was feeling inside?

"Nerys, it's all right."

She looked up at the sound of her given name and saw blue eyes, sharp as if they had had a week of rest.

"Yesterday, when you left to get help, I...I was afraid."

"That's understandable."

"No. It was different. I wasn't afraid because of the baby or anything like that..." Odo's face was a picture of confusion. "...I was afraid that you wouldn't come back."

"You couldn't have thought that I would just leave you there?" Odo's voice was plaintively hurt.

"No. But, I guess the last thing I wanted was for you to leave, and it didn't really affect me till another contraction hit that I guess I knew..."

"Knew what?" Odo asked when Kira paused and looked away from him.

"That I never wanted you to leave me again."

Odo was silent. Could this really be happening?

"Odo, say something...please." *Well, Nerys, you've done your part. Now we just wait and see.*

When Odo still hadn't said anything, Kira turned back to face him.

It seemed to break the shock, and a smile spread across his entire fears while tears streamed down his face.

"Oh, Odo, don't cry," Nerys said, a smile spreading across her face even as she moved to wipe away the tears.

Odo tried to stop his tears but only ended up having a coughing fit.

Once both of them were calmed down, eyelids started weighing heavily.

"Nerys, don't leave. Not yet," he said when she started to get ready to do just that. His face had turned serious. "What about Shakaar?"

"He and I are over. We'd been on the rocks for awhile there, but that Nizza girl was it. I guess I fooled myself into believing I loved him because...because he was in love with me and ever since Bareil died, I'd been missing that. The baby made me sort of *reassess* Edon. And what I discovered was that he wasn't what I was really looking for. Trouble was, by that time, I didn't know how to tell him it was over. Lucky me; he solved that one." Kira yawned. "I'd really better go; otherwise I'll never make it to my room."

"Nerys, don't. Stay here; sleep beside me. I..."

She answered him with a tender kiss. At the touch of their lips, Nerys found herself free. There was no fear, no regrets, no sorrow.

And as they went to bed, falling asleep in each other's arms, Nerys knew that there never would be. As long as Odo was with her, and she with him, there would always be happiness and love.

And that would be all they needed, with enough extra to buy the sun, the moon, and the stars.

* * * * * * * * * *

Newborn Decisions
Part 3
by KyRoka


A Fool Among Fools


"Oh, no you don't, Constable. You're staying on Bajor for another week."

"But, Doctor..." Odo was too tired to truly sound irritated.

"Odo, look at it this way. Major Kira is also going to be staying on Bajor for a while, probably close to a month, so she can get some peace and quiet while she recuperates. It'd be nice if someone she knew could stay with her and keep her company."

"All right, all right, Doctor. You win." Odo held his hands up in surrender. "Now, if I could just contact Lt. Cmdr. Worf and..."

"No."

"But, Doctor, I think you fail to realize..."

"Odo, I think it's *you* who fails to realize that another week won't kill you...or the station. Now, go relax, have fun, and don't you dare think about work. That's an order." Bashir closed the channel and left Odo staring at a blank screen.

"One hot Darjeeling tea, extra sweet."

The cup materialized and Odo was grateful for the soothing effect it had on him. He had not had a calm morning. The day had started when he had awoken to an empty bed. Kira had left, and he had no idea when, why, or where to. She wasn't in her room, and he hadn't had anytime to look for her elsewhere.

Then the conversation with Julian. That had been just plain exasperating. He had been looking forward to returning to work, looking forward to having something else to occupy his mind rather than the fiery red-head, it seemed, that his mind had etched into his every waking thought...and dreams as well.

Odo finished his tea and jumped into the shower. It seemed like the perfect start to a day, no matter how imperfect the day. Neatly fitted in a pair of light grey slacks and a blue shirt, Odo decided to...

To do what? The conference and Kira had taken up all his time until now. And now, away from the station, Odo found himself at a complete loss for something to do. The city had very little to offer. A few shops here and there were the biggest draw. Everything else was traditional necessity shops, where the locals could find what they needed.

Well, the hotel offered various activities, but most of them were aimed at tourists. However, there was a pool.

Water.

Liquid.

Fluidity.

It had been one of the first things he had learned to do: swim. The very nature of it was the closest thing Odo had found to being a Changeling.

*You need to start trying to accept who you are...* Kira's words echoed in his head. That dinner seemed so far away, and so much had happened since then.

Five minutes later, Odo had changed and was poolside. Nobody else was in the pool, most likely the fault of the gloomy, cool day. No matter. Odo dove in with precision, like everything else he did, without even testing the water.

The water was freezing but Odo tried to ignore the discomfort as stroke after stroke he tried to drive the unanswered questions from his mind.

Stroke after stroke. Lap after lap. He finally paused, but only to take in enough breath to plunge deep in the pool. He was just skimming the bottom when it happened: seemingly every muscle in both his legs cramped.

Odo spun in pain, desperately willing the sharpness away, but it would not go. Arms pumping as if trying to grasp hold of the water and pull himself towards the surface, Odo swam towards the open air. Every movement in his legs twinged but he needed oxygen.

A breeze brushed Odo's face as he broke from the water and clutched to the edge of the pool. His head and lungs throbbed. It wasn't the same. For a brief moment, he had been struck by the same sense of entrapment the Great Link had caused him that first time. He had left then, and he had left now. It was all the past and Odo let it drown behind him.

He lifted himself out of the pool before walking unsteadily towards where he had left his towel. The pain in his legs convinced him to sit down, despite the chilly breeze, and the exertion he had put forth took its toll as Odo fell asleep.

*

"My child, your pagh has already led you in the right direction. Why do you not trust the path?"

"I don't know!" Kira paused, realizing she was yelling at a Vedek. "That's why I came here. I need the guidance of the Prophets."

"Your pagh is strong, willful..."

"You mean stubborn."

"That as well, my child. It has taken a great deal for you to ask for help. This must concern you greatly."

"It does."

"Very well. You seek the advice of the Prophets. May they guide you down the right path."

Kira nodded. She needed to see the Orb...again. It always seemed to be the only thing to make sense in the middle of chaos...except for maybe Odo himself.

"Do not be surprised if your vision raises more questions than answers."

Kira stepped in front of the case and waited as the Vedek gently opened it. She peered anxiously and apprehensively at the glimmering hourglass of eternity and then it happened: the blinding white light to start off the vision.


She was naked, lying on a bed that was as cold as ice. She tried to pull into a fetal position but her body was locked into position. She barely managed to grasp the corner of a sheet.

But its cover didn't help, for it, too, was frost ridden. There was no warmth and Kira lay shivering helplessly on her bed.


And as quickly as it had started, the vision was over, but Kira was left with a deep chill in the heart and every bone in her body.

A hot bath back at the hotel would help. At least, Kira hoped it would.

*

Teeth chattering, Odo quickly changed into the warmest clothes he had. It had been well-night an hour before he had returned to his quarters, the chilly afternoon finally wakening him.

"Computer, increase temperature to 32 degrees."

The swift increase in temperature caused small beads of perspiration to form on Odo's forehead, but still he could not dispel the deep chill set in his bones.

*I wonder where Nerys is...*

He had left a message for her. Now, all he had to do was wait.

*

Why did you leave?

That had been Odo's message. Kira stared at it for the umpteenth time. Why *had* she left? She hadn't wanted to, that was for certain, but Bashir had contacted her to talk about recuperation. She had cited a late breakfast as why she was in Odo's quarters, and that bothered her.

She couldn't let herself admit to anyone else the eerie control Odo had over her. She felt it most when he looked at her with those crystal blue eyes. They cut through all of her exterior toughness, down to the core of who she really was.

And he was so gently and caring. Most people never knew about that aspect of the man, and Kira was secretly glad, for that meant he had more to share with her and almost only her.

But he was not perfect either. He was stubborn (just like she was) and he was fiercely proud (just like she was). And now... now he was just as fragile as she was, just as mortal. A shiver ran down Kira's spine as the thought of living without Odo crossed her mind. Only it wouldn't leave.

*

"Come in."

Kira was bombarded by what felt like the remnants of a heat wave. Wisely, Odo had not decreased the temperature as quickly as he had increased it. The chill settled farther into Kira's soul, as if trying to escape the warmth.

"Nerys, I... it's not too warm in here for you, is it?"

"No, Odo. It's fine." They both paused and Kira knew it was her fault. "Look, Odo, about this morning..."

"It's okay," Odo answered, cutting her off. "I understand. You just made a mistake, that's all."

"That's not it at all, Odo, and you know it. I just had some things to sort through, to figure out."

"And?"

"And I figured them out." She took his hand as she said it. "I love you. You are one of my dearest friends, but..." She could feel Odo trying to pull away and she smiled at what she knew he was thinking, at the doubt and fear swirling around in his head. "But," she emphasized again, "there's more than just friendship."

Odo's eyes changed from that of an innocent fearful child to that of a loving, caring man. Was she really saying this?

"Nerys, I..." Should he? Or would he be rushing things? Then again, she must already know he loved her.

As if sensing his thoughts, Kira spoke. "I wouldn't mind hearing if. I'm not a mind reader, you know."

Odo smiled at the irony before taking her head between his hands. He gently pushed the hair from in front of her eyes, softly caressing her face. Then he kissed her, kissed her long enough to make sure she knew he wasn't going anywhere that would take him away from her.

"Nerys, I..." Odo pause as he felt something building inside of him. It assaulted him, and for a moment he stopped breathing.

Then, it happened.

He sneezed. A shiver ran through his body.

"You're not getting sick on me, are you?" Kira asked, half in jest.

"I...achoo...don't know." He thought back to how cold he had been this afternoon with the pool. Hadn't there been something called a cold somewhere in Human history? He would have to talk to Bashir about it.

Kira handed him a steaming cup of Darjeeling tea, extra sweet, and guided him to the couch.

"Just sit down and get some rest. You've probably weakened your immune system with lack of sleep." She placed a blanket over him. "Drink some tea and then take a nap. I promise I'll be here when you wake up."

The warmth surrounding Odo was lulling him into sleep but there was something not quite right. A chill still lay deep inside him, and he could sense it in Kira as well.

"I love you, Nerys."

And with those words, the chill was forever driven out.

***

"I can feel it now, the empty and the ache
That bitter little pill that I don't want to take
Instead I'd swallow all the pride I ever knew
To crawl back if you asked, all that I would do
I can see it now..."

i can see it now-

Mary Chapin Carpenter

***
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