Title: Children of the Prophets
Author: Judith MacQuinn (odogoddess@pcmagic.net)
Series: DS9 - first season
Rating: PG
Last Posted: n/a - initial posting
Expected completion: story is complete
Summary: Kira comes to terms with Kai Opaka's abandonment with Odo's help
(friendship tale, no sex-- this was first season, remember?!)

Gentle reader:

This story was written many years ago, which means it can now be
released to the internet without fear of breaking Orion Press net-fiction
publishing rules and risking the wrath of our grand puba, er, publisher,
Mr. Randy Landers.

It is neither very long, nor particularly profound, but it does capture the
essence of what the first season of this phenomenal show was like...as well
as foreshadows the relationship of Odo to Kira, which I must in all modesty
state I saw coming from the proverbial block away. Comments, questions
and/or rave (rabid?) reviews can be sent to: (odolover@swlink.net) FAIR
WARNING DISCLAIMER: all flaming e-mail is doused in bucket kept by side
of desk and Changeling sleeping inside will immediately search out and
dispatch the sender...

All that said, hey...enjoy!
All rights are reserved, this story was written out of love for Star Trek:
Deep Space Nine and is not intended to infringe upon the Star Trek
copyrights of Viacom, Paramount Pictures Corporation, DC Comics, Malibu
Comics, Simon & Schuster, UPN, PsiPubTech, Starlog, nor those of any other
legal holders of Star Trek copyrights.


by Judith McQuinn

Quark dipped his head obsequiously, then as soon as the woman in the
skin-tight leather Larius Spacer outfit turned away, leered from
ear-to-ear... which in Quark's case was not that difficult, being Ferengi.

"You should wipe the drool off your shirt while you're at it, Quark,"
grumbled Odo, Deep Space Nine's chief of security as the view on his
console changed from Quark's bar to the outer docking ring, section four,
then five, then eight - the only ones in current use.

While Odo wasn't so naive as to believe the areas of the station not in use
wouldn't serve as meeting places for the unsavory, neither did he have the
time at the moment to waste watching all the various levels and sections of
the docking ring. Currently, he was experiencing something he called
annoyance and what nearly everyone else would have described as anxiety.

The safety of everyone on the station, whether resident, vagabond or
transient was his responsibility. When someone who was scheduled to be on
the station was not on the station, that was also his responsibility. At
least that was what the Bajoran Provisional Government's council had
informed him. They were most adamant in their vehemence that the visiting
dignitary, Kai Opaka, be retrieved and brought back to Bajor with haste,
despite the fact that Odo had no idea where the Kai currently was.

He had discovered, to his chagrin, that Commander Sisko and Major Kira had
taken the Kai on a "sight-seeing" excursion to the Gamma quadrant. The
council had not taken that news with the equanimity that Odo had hoped for.
In point of fact, the governing council had not even been mollified to
learn that she was in good company and expected to return.

They had also not been pleased to learn that he could not leave the station
and track her down and bring her back himself. The minor matter of being
station security chief had not swayed their demands. They had given him
thirteen hours to bring the Kai to Bajor or else.

Odo wondered what the 'else' could possibly be? He was a shapeshifter - no
punishment could truly be effective with him unless they wished him dead.
He did not believe that would be a consequence of failure, although a small
part of his mind considered this option. More likely the 'else' meant a
dismissal from his posting. Such a happenstance, however, would only
provide him the freedom to...

"Dax to Security Chief." Despite interrupting his thoughts, the Trill
Lieutenant's calm voice was balm to Odo's ears, replications though they

He sighed, tapping his communicator. "Go ahead."

It was the only thing he actually was "wearing" despite the uniform he
appeared to wear. While he could easily reproduce a working communicator,
he had grown accustomed to using the one issued to him. It's slight weight
against his chest was oddly comforting; when he released his shape every
sixteen hours, the device made its way to the bottom of his pail. When he
began to reform, his first action was to push the communicator to his
"surface" and then establish his customary humanoid form against it. It
provided an excellent focal point for him to utilize as he took humanoid
form. Despite fifty-odd years at it, he still had difficulty with the
shape. It simply wasn't natural to him as so many other shapes seemed to

Dax abruptly recalled him to the problems at hand. "Chief O'Brien and I
are docking at Port Three. You wished to be informed of our arrival."

"Yes. Is the Kai alright?" was Odo's only question.

"I think the commander or Major Kira should brief you, sir," came Dax's
response. Her voice was oddly sorrowful and for a fleeting moment, Odo had
an inkling what the term 'pit of the stomach' meant.

"I'll be there," was his only response, though. He was already moving from
behind his desk and out the door before his communicator clicked to signal
the conclusion of his conversation.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Dax sympathized with Sisko. The tremendously supportive commander had
tried every tactic he knew to help the major come to grips with the
distressing events on the prison moon, but without success. Kira sat
unmoving, seemingly unmoved at the rear control console, eyes unblinking,
the picture of dejection.

Sisko was, on the other hand, holding a spirited conversation with Doctor
Bashir regarding Kai Opaka and the young doctor's findings from the prison
world they had been forced to leave her on. Dax knew he felt the Kai's
loss as deeply as Kira did, even if he wasn't as fully cognizant of Bajoran
spirituality, but he did not allow his regret to deepen into the sorrow
that seemed to have gripped Kira.

Despite her woeful appearance, no one in the shuttle had dared to approach
her, save Bashir who had merely scanned her injured shoulder, pressed a
hypo spray of painkiller against her neck, then left her alone in her cloak
of depression. The major hadn't thanked him or even given any indication
that she knew of his presence. Sisko had merely pressed his lips into a
thin line and shook his head at her lack of reaction.

Benjamin Sisko was a caring and immensely nurturing man, full of affection
for everyone, even if he did not display it openly. The only times her
symbiont-mentor could state they had seen him openly display affection was
toward his now-deceased wife and to Jake, his only son. Jadzia sensed the
parental amusement Dax felt toward the boy. A brief image crossed an inner
portion of her mind of a tiny squalling infant, warm honey-brown like a
hazel nut, cradled in the arms of a very young-looking Sisko, whose smile
encompassed all the joys of life. That was so many years ago... and
another's lifetime, not her own.

A momentary sadness etched Jadzia's features as she realized that she never
knew that Benjamin Sisko, filled to bursting with fervor and ambition and
happiness. She had never seen a smile on his face now that wasn't etched
slightly with worry or regret. No real joy in his life except for his son,
whom he was holding onto a bit tightly, too, if one judged by the inner
voice of the three hundred years old Dax and not the still ambivalent voice
of the much-younger Jadzia. Jake felt the bonds and stretched them as much
as he was able to on the station.

Still, despite his parental worries and personal tragedies, Sisko tried to
help others. He could feel pain besides his own. Prior to their first
fateful trip through the wormhole, he would not have been able to do that.
Jadzia had not known what to expect from this man she barely knew aside
from those memories present and passed on by Curzon. After her joining,
Dax had admonished her that even his memories of times past were invalid in
the face of Sisko's world torn asunder at Wolf 359.

Yet the major had undergone her own horrific experiences, Jadzia thought
now, having witnessed the destruction of her home planet, her family and
now - her faith? What affect would the Kai's painfully necessary
abandonment in the Gamma Quadrant have on the fierce, yet vulnerable woman
she was growing to respect? Dax and Jadzia were in rare and consensual
agreement; only time would tell.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Odo opened the airlock for the group, having made it from the central hub
where his office resided on the Station's main level, the Promenade, to the
outer docking ring in forty-two seconds flat. His visual receptors noted
the absence of the Kai in far less time.

"Where is Kai Opaka?" were his greeting words to Sisko and Dax as they
exited the shuttle. The Trill shook her head sadly; the commander sighed,
then cocked his head toward the runabout hatch.

"I'll leave it to the major to brief you, Constable. I'll be in my
quarters for a few moments." His voice was somber and even, but this was
lost on Odo.

The shapeshifter changed his tone slightly, exasperated. "I need an
answer, Commander. The Provisional Government expects me to return to
Bajor with her in less than seven hours. I don't have time for these
formalized procedures you Starfleet types like to impose..." His voice was
edged with a slight icing of contempt, which Sisko did not acknowledge.

He simply turned and faced the security chief with two very tired eyes.
For the first time Odo noticed that Sisko's eyes were bloodshot and his
uniform was filthy, torn and marred with what looked like scorch marks and
abrasions. This stopped his headlong outburst faster than anything else
could have and despite his haste, he inclined his head in a gesture of

"I...understand, Commander. Don't let me keep you."

Benjamin Sisko bestowed a pale imitation of his normally wide smile on Odo
and turned to continue up the corridor with Dax and O'Brien who simply
exited the runabout and went past Odo without a word. The constable turned
to wait for the disembarking Kira. He hoped she would provide some
explanation the council would understand in regards to the Kai.

The young Human doctor suddenly exited gracefully from the cockpit,
carrying a medical kit and a tricorder. He looked briefly at Odo then went
down the corridor, oddly pensive. The major did not appear and finally Odo
was constrained to enter the runabout.

Kira Nerys sat at the shuttle's aft control panel, unmoving. Her uniform
was torn and burnt, and her face was pinched tight with what appeared to be
pain. With a suddenness that startled him, she slammed her fist onto the
console with a force that would have shattered less sturdy material.

Odo noted with alarm that blood began staining the shoulder of her uniform
tunic which was already torn open, and he stepped closer still, for the
moment forgetting his concern about Kai Opaka. "Major, you should get to
Medical. Let me help you." He extended a hand to help her up, but to his
surprise, Kira twisted from his touch and turned her face away.

"Major Kira?" He asked, surprised at and uncertain of the reason for her

He dropped his hand and waited, feeling as awkward as he had nearly four
decades before, when his touch had engendered suspicion and fear among the
Bajorans he had found himself amongst. Despite the fifty-odd years that
had passed since his inception in Bajoran society, he still encountered
those apprehensive of contact with him. This contributed to filling him
with the sense of being an aberration of nature or a curiosity, rather than
a sentient being, and he resented it intensely. When someone as familiar
as Kira Nerys pulled away from him, it troubled him greatly, although he'd
die before admitting it.

"She's gone, Odo," came Kira's quiet, pain-filled voice. "The Kai is gone
to us."

Odo's face registered surprise, a habit he'd acquired over the decades but
which was genuine at this moment, rather than being a gesture which he
emulated in the course of acting humanoid.

"The Kai... died?" He asked in a reverent tone. While unfortunate, he
thought this was an explanation which would not be construed as
insignificant by the Council. He could convey this message with
equanimity. His shoulders straightened as he stood back.

A sound suspiciously like a sob escaped Kira and she shook her head, turned
grief-stricken eyes to a startled Odo and said in a choked voice, "We left
her, Odo... on a prison planet. She couldn't be brought back. We had
to... abandon her there!" This last statement was too much for the major's
control, and she turned away from him.

"Major?" Odo was uncertain how to proceed, not cognizant of what had
happened to the Kai, but obviously it was worse than he'd thought. He
brightened suddenly. "If she's still alive, Major, surely we can retrieve
her. I could retrieve her myself, just give me the coordin--"

"No, Odo." Kira's voice was weary. She lifted her head and wiped at her
eyes then turned to look at him. "It's not that simple. We crashed onto a
prison world where some sort of energy field makes humanoids undergo a
cellular transition if they're damaged or killed. Once someone undergoes
this transition, they have to remain - they're a part of the ecostructure."
Her voice grew somber then, almost accusatory as she touched her wounded
shoulder and made a face. "Doctor Bashir repaired my damage as best he
could, gave me an injection of some antimicrobial agent. It kept me from
becoming part of the planet's transitional field. The Kai had died on
impact. Then..." Kira swallowed, continued, "she returned... intact. We
didn't know about the cellular change until she did. Once she came back
from... from dying, she was part of the planet's ecostructure. She's stuck
there now."

Odo's communicator suddenly whistled, startling them both. "Dax to Odo."

He tapped it with a frown still on his face. "Go ahead."

"There's an incoming message from Bajor for you from the provisional
government. They're demanding to speak with you, constable."

Odo resisted the impulse to snort, instead looking dour and saying, "I'm
sure they are. Let them cool their heels, Lieutenant. Route it to my
office and give me a few moments; I don't want to receive communications

"Understood, Chief. Dax out."

Odo eyed Kira briefly, who still looked dejected, then simply nodded at her
and exited the runabout.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"What do you mean 'you can't retrieve her', Constable?"

"What part of my sentence don't you understand, Minister Varn? I'll be
happy to repeat it." The shapeshifter had shed all pretense of politeness
the moment he saw the council's collective face; all bloated with
self-importance and their own idea's about how to govern.


"*Chief* of Security," Odo calmly interrupted, then as several of the
ministers frowned at his statement, added, "I am the Chief of Security on
this station, please address me as such, Minister."

"Chief Constable, we are puzzled by your apparent lack of concern for the
Kai's well-being." Varn sat back and steepled his fingers, unconsciously
trying to emulate the calm and poise which Odo naturally possessed.

"Not at all, Minister Varn. I'm just as concerned as you about Opaka's
condition, however, I am constrained to point out that there is nothing I
nor anyone else can do about it. She is quite literally, out of reach."

"Const... Chief. You..." Varn's voice faltered as Odo looked away from him
deliberately, taking note of Commander Sisko entering his office without
preamble. He came straight to the desk and stepped into the desk screen's
field of view.

"Minister Varn. How pleasant to see you. How is your wife and little
daughter?" Sisko was polished and shiny-clean, one could never tell he'd
been filthy and tired only moments before. His uniform was spotless and
creased, an affectation that normally irritated Odo, but in this instance,
he was pleased to note the ministers' reaction to Deep Space Nine's
commander and his authoritative presence.

Varn was only momentarily taken aback. "Commander Sisko. What an
unexpected surprise. I and my family are quite well. I hope the same can
be said of your own intrepid son?"

Sisko was profoundly glad that his dark skin didn't show enough of a blush
response to be picked up by the viewscreen. His son's latest prank had
been an embarrassment to all involved. Despite the fact that it had taken
place in Odo's office, the security chief's expression did not change.
__*Bless* Odo__, he thought briefly before smiling broadly and responding,
"Thank you, Minister. Now I take it you are as distressed as we are about
the Kai's situation?"


"Of course, I have contacted Starfleet Medical and my chief medical officer
and my science officer are relaying all pertinent information in order to
study and rectify the problem. Until that time, I am afraid we are as
concerned as you are in regard to her well-being. However," he took a
breath, not permitting Varn to interrupt, Odo noted with well-concealed
amusement, "I have placed it as a matter of top priority to Starfleet. Our
best people will be working on this situation without pause, esteemed
Ministers. Until such time as a solution to the planet's transitional
energy field is found, we will gladly assist your people in sending
periodic food and communication packets as necessary to the Kai."

Odo sat up then, his eyes locked on Sisko as the ministers looked at each
other, stunned. __Brilliant__, he thought, __a master stroke. Telling
them so baldly means that there is nothing that can be done, but giving
them an option makes them feel that they are doing something instead of
just assigning blame__. For a brief moment, a smile hovered around the
edge of Odo's mouth.

The ministers all began to speak at once, then Varn silenced them by
lifting his hands and addressing Sisko directly. "Commander, I am certain
that my fellow council members can see you are doing everything in your
power to achieve what we both desire: the return of the Kai. In the
interim, we mourn her loss to the spiritual order of Bajor and will proceed
as she would wish us to. Existing in a united and cooperative way."

The screen went dark, even as Sisko and Odo both caught stray comments of
'an honor to those willing to traverse there' and 'drawing lots'. The
commander stepped back with a sigh as the security chief snapped off his
viewscreen. Odo said nothing, watching Sisko with his vivid blue eyes.

Sisko sighed. "Every time I'm grateful for being here, something reminds
me of how tedious caretaking is. Rather like parenting. You can't turn
your attention away in case something of import happens, but important
things don't happen twenty-six hours a day, only once in a while. But
damned if you don't miss them and the whole situation can explode in your

"Indeed." Odo's tone was bemused, "sounds like Security."

Sisko chuckled, then shook his head and sat on the edge of Odo's desk.
"Constable, you never cease to amaze me."

"I think you mean amuse, Sisko. You don't sound very amazed." he replied

"No, I meant what I said. And I'm sorry for the council having put you
through this rigmarole. It's all bureaucratic nonsense."

"Yes, and you did an excellent job of removing all onus or burden of
returning the Kai from Starfleet and placed it on the Provisional
Government's shoulders. By now, the Bajorans would consider it an insult
for Starfleet to help them in any way with transporting supplies and such
to the Kai. Of course, when it comes to the actual engineering of removing
her from that place..." Odo's voice trailed off as he considered the

"Yes, and Starfleet is working on this, top priority just as I said," Sisko
stated firmly.

"What are the odds of her returning, Sisko?" the shapeshifter asked with
his typical astuteness, pointedly adding, "Honestly."

The commander sighed. "Not very good. Not anytime soon. Maybe not in our
lifetime," he admitted tiredly, adding, "Doctor Bashir is as good as they
come when it comes to bioengineering - he wrote a treatise on it in medical
school, but this prison moon's technology is radically advanced and there's
no one we can ask about it. The prisoners abandoned there had been there
for centuries."

"And so the search for a new Kai commences. I can see the daggers drawing
as we speak." muttered Odo. "The competition among Vedics is truly
staggering. I remember the last three Kai transits."

Sisko considered this. He often forgot how long the shapeshifter had lived
and worked on Bajor, among the Bajorans. His insight, while not Bajoran,
was also not human either, and therefore invaluable when one was seeking an
alternative option, something one might not have considered at all.
"Religious strife," was all he said though.

"In spades." Odo stood. "If you'll excuse me, Commander, I have something
that needs my attention."

"Of course, Constable." The commander remained for a moment, watching his
security chief exit the office, pondering the disquieting information he
had just been given.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Kira was nude.

She had finished washing and cleansing the wound on her shoulder, having
refused Bashir's offer to protoplase the tissue and attempt to ensure that
scarring would not take place. She had also allowed the painkiller to
dissipate without requesting another, feeling the throbbing of her flesh.
She wanted this scar; she wanted the pain. It would remind her of her

The Kai's abandonment was a heart-breaking failure for Kira; despite what
Opaka had said to her on the prison moon. She felt like a traitor in her
own eyes and knew that the feeling would be a long time leaving. It wasn't
the first time she'd had to do something personally distasteful to her, but
it was the first time she truly regretted having to.

Her indiscretions she could live with, the deaths she had inflicted in the
cause of Bajor's freedom was something else. The knowledge of having
someone else on her conscious was something Kira couldn't stomach. The Kai
wasn't dead, but she might as well be and the thought of having to leave
her behind was intolerable to her.

Kira sought her brown eyes in the mirror of her washroom as she considered
the happenings of the last day and a half. The only good to come of the
ill-begotten outing had been the time she had spent with Kai Opaka,
discovering and accepting what had created and nurtured her personality:

Prior to this day, Kira Nerys would never have admitted to even feeling
despair. Rage, hostility, sorrow, even guilt were her closest companions
since childhood, but despair was the key element that bound her personality
together from the time she was old enough to comprehend what it meant to be
born on an occupied world and of how little value her life was considered
to be worth by the occupying force. Despair was what every Bajoran built
their life on during the occupation.

The thing that the young, idealistic Kira Nerys had felt the most despair
over was discovering that some of her fellow Bajorans were even more
uncaring than the Cardassians. Some even sold out their own people for
favors from the enemy. It was this and the ensuing sense of outrage that
had created her greatest dilemma to date. A dilemma which some day she
would have to talk to Odo about, as the Kai had gently suggested in her
probing of Kira's mind. Some day when her shapeshifting friend was
receptive and she was open to confessions.

Some day was not now, however. Now she had to try and accept that she had
abandoned the Kai. Accept that she had not been strong enough to remain on
the prison world, to help Opaka, to try and protect her. It wasn't until
after Chief O'Brien had beamed the trio up that Kira had felt the enormous
sense of relief, followed by an equally enormous burden of guilt and shame
wash over her. The Kai had wisely understood.

"Tell our people that I have answered the call of the Prophets." Opaka had
instructed her. She had known what was in Kira's heart, not just in her
mind and accepted her own bitter fate without resignation. With those
words Kira knew the Kai expected no less of her.

Harsh lessons then and harsh lessons now. __The Kai was wise__, she
thought, then shook her head angrily as she noted her automatic use of the
past tense. __She's not dead! We'll bring her back...*somehow*__.

Still nude, she strode from her washroom and stood before her room's
shrine. She bowed her head in reverence, in what a Human would have called
prayer and what the Bajoran's called supplication to the Prophets. She
closed her eyes and began to meditate, the only light in her room from the
stars through her viewport and the candles of her shrine. Holding her arms
out caused her shoulders to protest, barely healing skin opened afresh and
blood seeped down her arm and breast. She ignored it.

"Forgive me, Opaka, I wasn't strong enough." Her eyes closed and her words
became a whispered mantra. "Forgive me, Opaka. I am a weak person."

"And a *liar*." The soft sound of Odo's voice made her eyes snap open, and
she hastily blew out the candles of her shrine, making the dark nearly
absolute. She swiftly made her way to the shelf where she kept a robe.
Slipping it on, she turned but could see nothing in the inky blackness of
the room.

"Lights." she ordered reluctantly, ashamed at letting Odo see her weakness,
even more than feeling shame at letting him see her nude, but the room was

"Constable?" She frowned, uncertain of her senses. She had clearly heard
his voice, but then she thought, __perhaps it was my conscience, giving his
voice to my thoughts__.

He would undoubtedly have told her as much if he'd heard her rebuking
herself. She sighed. __He so often is my conscience__, Kira thought,
turning to look out the viewport at the implacable stars. She shivered as
she recalled what she still had to tell him...some day.

She had trusted him with so much of herself that sometimes it scared her,
this friendship with a non-Bajoran which the young Kira Nerys would never
have believed possible and the older, battle-hardened Major Kira Nerys
would have a hard time living without. __I pray the Prophets don't ever
make me have to__, Kira pleaded silently.

The door signal caused her to jump. "Who is it?" she called, not desiring
company, but not wishing to simply dismiss a caller who had taken the time
to traverse to her quarters.

"Major? It's Odo." His voice startled her, partly because it was his voice
that she had thought she'd heard a few moments ago, partly because he
sounded very concerned. No matter how much he grumbled or what the
constable said, he did care very deeply about the people he worked
with...and his friends.


The security chief did so without preamble, assessing her briefly before
speaking. "I take it you've recovered from your ordeal, Major?"

Kira snorted indelicately, then shook her head, "I suppose so. I'm back to
fighting form, if that's what you mean." She touched her shoulder briefly,
made a face, then looked back at Odo.

"I don't want to fight, if that's what you mean, Major. I'm inquiring as
to your emotional health. You seemed distressed earlier," he said simply,
not one to dissemble.

"I'm fine, Odo," she said with a sigh. "I'm sorry for worrying you."

Odo pierced her with his clear gaze, a slight warning tone in his voice.
"I was understandably concerned, Major, for the state of mind of this
station's liaison officer. Your well-being is one of my responsibilities."

"You're a good friend, Odo. Probably the best one I have," she said
quietly. "I'm sure I don't deserve one, but there you are. And here I
am... and I shouldn't be."

The shapeshifter absorbed this information without expression, then asked
quietly, "You would have preferred to stay there, Major? With the Kai?"

Kira sighed again, then shook her head and ran her hands through her hair.
"No, I didn't want to stay with her. I wanted to stay instead of her. I'm
not necessary here, Odo. She is. Our provisional government splinters
more each day, insurrectionist groups and fanatics. New idea's of how to
fix the same old problems. Outdated ideas of how to fix new problems."

"The Kai, no doubt, understood the situation and capitulated with grace,
Major," Odo said dryly, adding, "She doubtless would have told you to
accept the situation in the same manner."

"But Odo, now the splinter groups will have no strong voice to reach them!
To teach them to accept peace with her grace, her calm acceptance and
devotion to duty. She was an inspiration to all of us. We *need* her
here, Odo! ...I need her here." The major's eyes grew suspiciously bright
before she turned her face away, embarrassed at the swiftness with which
her eyes watered.

Odo considered Kira's words, then said softly, "Major, we are all of us
bound by duty or responsibility or even physical constraints we have no
choice in."

She briefly glared at him, angered, but his expression stopped her and made
her look down, ashamed. Odo's eyes conveyed a unique and personal
understanding of limitations. Kira abruptly remembered Odo's expressed
frustration in having to dissipate into a useless and vulnerable puddle
every sixteen hours, unable to maintain the taxing humanoid shape he
assumed for the comfort of the society he lived in. He certainly didn't do
it for himself, since it was plainly exhausting. He placed himself in a
limiting form to ease the apprehensions most people had towards his
shapeshifting ability, to be slightly more acceptable in appearance to
others...others like her.

Kira met his eyes then, searching his face. __We lost our world to the
Cardassians, but Odo doesn't even have a world to lose. He doesn't know if
one exists or if there are people who loved him and wonder what happened to
him, or are searching for him after all this time, or even if there are
others of his kind at all__...

To Odo's utter astonishment, Kira suddenly stepped up and hugged him,
closely, allowing her cheek to rest against his chest for a long moment.
After his initial start, he simply stood, uncertainty on his face, but he
did not pull away or admonish her. After a moment, Kira let him go and
stood back, a tired smile on her face.

"Thank you, Odo," she said quietly, adding wryly, "I've wanted to do that
for a long time."

To his surprise, he found himself asking, "Was it what you expected,
Major?" Anyone else would have said that his tone was polite, perhaps even
distant, but they were not Kira. She could hear his earnest curiosity.

"Your heart doesn't beat," she admitted.

"I have no heart, Major," he replied levelly.

"Now *you're* the liar, Constable." Kira smiled.

"I beg your pardon?" his face developed a frown. The major noted the
intricacy of his formed features, in particular the crystalline blue of his
eyes. He could make them any color, any degree of opacity, she knew, yet
his choice was oddly appropriate. They were clear and sharp and
discerning, much as he was himself, and they didn't miss much. Unless
someone was being obscure as she currently was.

"A little rebuttal, Constable," she said with a smile, "to something I
thought I heard you say earlier."

He considered this for a moment, then shook his head. "I really need to
confer with Doctor Bashir. I'm going to send the provisional government a
conclusion report regarding the Kai. Otherwise, I'll spend all my time
responding to endless individual requests for information. I... I'm glad
you've recovered, Major."

"Thank you, Constable." She said. She watched him turn to go, then asked
suddenly, in a serious voice, "Do you know what else I've discovered, Odo?"

He turned. "What?"

"You're very, very warm." Kira said impishly, "snuggly almost."


"Don't worry, Constable, it will never leave this room." She favored him
with a smile.

"Just so long as you don't tell it to Quark, Major. He'd make my life
hell," Odo grumbled, still disconcerted and growing nearly inaudible as he
admitted, "he already does anyway, though, I suppose."

Kira smiled more broadly yet; if she wasn't certain he'd deny it, she would
have said Odo was embarrassed. __If he was Bajoran, he'd be blushing__...
"Your secret is safe with me, Constable," was all she said though, stifling
her smile a bit to let him know she was sincere.

He bowed his head in parting, then, to her amusement, he left her room with
haste, obviously flustered. After a few moments lost in thought, Kira
turned once again to the viewport.

She couldn't see the wormhole from this vantage point, but it was out
there. As was the Kai. __Odo was right. The Kai lives. Out there and...
in here__. Kira's hands clutched to her breast, slightly to the right,
where her heart beat rhythmically inside her chest. Maybe one day...

As the station's rhythm's quieted to night, Kira Nerys relaxed, at peace
for the first time in days and thanked the Prophets for blessing her with
one good, solid friend in her life. And for the time she'd been given with
the Kai.

~ The End ~

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