Rating: PG-13 Mild sexual content
Date: Revised 6/21/07
Disclaimer: Paramount Pictures owns the rights to Star Trek, DS9, these characters and situations, except for the ones I made up.
by M. V. Shaver
The door to Jadzia’s quarters whooshed open to reveal Odo and two deputies. Inside was a happy throng of people, laughing, dancing, and generally enjoying themselves. Kira just happened to be near the door, and so when Odo spoke, it was to her.
“I... have been getting complaints about the noise. Someone even mentioned a fight... ?”
“There was a scuffle between Morn and one of the Bolians, but they worked it out.” Kira didn’t look at him.
“How long will this... party continue?”
“This party will continue until further notice, on the personal authority of the station's first
officer -- who just happens to be me.” She laughed at her own joke, despite the nervous twisting of her thumb with her other hand.
“You're in a good mood,” Odo observed. He’d seen her smile so seldom of late. Not that she’d had much to smile about…
“It's a good party.” For the first time, Odo suspected she may have been slightly intoxicated.
Odo was about to leave, when Kira’s look sobered a bit. They had been avoiding each other ever since the terrible events of the Dominion Occupation. In a rush, Kira decided it couldn’t go on for a moment longer. “Odo. I think we have a lot to talk about.”
“So let's talk.” Kira’s voice was matter of fact, as through they were about to discuss this week’s Criminal Activities Report.
“Now?” Odo was alarmed at the idea of having that sort of talk here, among all these inebriated party guests.
“I think we've put it off long enough, don't you?”
“Enjoy yourselves.” Odo signaled to his deputies that they were free to join in the festivities.
“Let's find someplace... a little quieter.” Taking him by the arm, Kira guided Odo towards the bedroom of Jadzia’a quarters, hoping to find a quiet and private place for them to talk. As a last resort, they found themselves in Jadzia’s closet, a cramped and confined space, but one which offered the privacy they sought.
Kira’s mood darkened considerably as she surveyed Odo. She had been feeling lighthearted and slightly tipsy while enjoying the party, but now storm clouds replaced sunshine.
“So…” Both her voice and her body language bespoke of self-righteous anger.
“So…what?” Odo, who, under the best of circumstances, was never comfortable talking about himself and his feelings, and wasn’t comfortable with Kira under any circumstances, responded with sullen defiance.
This response only incensed Kira further. “I’m not the one who needs to explain my behavior,” she spat out at him.
“Oh, really…” came the sarcastic reply.
“What the hell does that mean?”
Odo was mute. His stubborn silence infuriated her, and she responded the way she reacted to most unpleasant things in her life – with actions rather than words. Her clenched fist met his jaw with a solid whack. He’d seen it coming, but chose to not soften his form. Consequently, there was more damage done to her knuckles than to his jaw. He merely blinked and looked at her as she reacted to the pain in her hand, shaking it vigorously up and down.
It seemed to deflate her, and her anger dissipated. “What’s happened to us, Odo?” she asked, her voice forlorn. “There was a time when we were totally comfortable and at ease with each other.”
“That was a long time ago.” His voice reflected his own wistful thoughts as he recalled happier times.
“When did it all change?” It occurred to her that their current difficulty went far deeper than his temporary defection to the Founders. Its inception was when she’d become romantically involved with Shakaar. When Odo had come to her quarters to announce the cancellation of their Tuesday morning meetings, with that look of inconsolable anguish on his face. Not that she’d seen it for what it was, at the time…
“I think you know.” His voice was flat.
Odo was in love with her. She wished she could just hit the ‘delete’ key and erase that information from her memory banks. Or better yet, she wished he wasn’t in love with her at all. The ferocity of that love scared her and, to Kira, fear was weakness. He’d loved her enough to endure in silence through two love affairs that she’d had with other men. He’d loved her enough to sacrifice the lives of 8,000 colonists on Gaia, where Odo’s counterpart had told her of his love. He’d loved her enough to reject his own people more than once, despite his fixation with them. It was the last encounter with HER, the female founder, that had driven them to this place.
“Are you going to talk to me, or leave me to draw my own conclusions?”
“You’ve been good at it.” His evasiveness fueled her anger anew.
“I wish you’d have just gone back with your people…” Her spiteful words cut through the air like a phaser set to kill.
“Why?” he asked, dismayed.
“Because I don’t want the responsibility…” her harsh, biting tone cut off suddenly, and she bit her lip.
“Odo,” she said, backpedaling now. She didn’t want to deliberately hurt him, did she? “I didn’t mean it like that.”
“No. Then exactly how did you mean it, Major?” His voice was hard. She’d hurt him with her words, and he succumbed to the impulse to hurt her back.
She was trapped. And once again she came out swinging, although this time with words. “I never asked you to love me,” she hissed. “Never wanted you to love me.”
“Yes, it’s proven to be inconvenient to you, hasn’t it?” His voice was rich with derision, aimed mostly at himself. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I didn’t set out to love you. I even told HER, if I could tear those feelings out of myself, I would.” There was a hint of triumph in his voice as he saw the stricken look cross her face.
For Kira, grief quickly gave way to fury. Without conscious thought, she leaned back, prepared to take another swing at him. Just before her fist made contact, however, Odo grabbed her wrist, bringing her to a jarring stop. Kira stood up, prepared to do battle with him. She jerked violently, trying to free her arm from his grip. When he released her without warning, her momentum overbalanced her and she fell back, striking the top of her head on the clothes rung where Jadzia’s clothes hung. Momentarily disoriented, and fighting to escape from the clothing that swirled around her, she slewed away, only to hit her head again. This blow was enough to topple a number of precariously balanced boxes that were on the shelf above the clothing, and they tumbled down on top of her and scattered around the small space. Kira completely lost her balance and fell back, landing squarely on her butt. Gasping for breath, she looked at Odo’s completely impassive face, and it all seemed suddenly so funny. Peels of laughter escaped her. For a brief, frightening moment, she felt overcome with near hysteria. She didn’t notice that in all this commotion, her dress had hiked up around her hips, giving Odo a glimpse of her he’d never dreamed of seeing. Quickly, he looked away. Her laughter died away as she smoothed her dress down modestly over herself.
“Oh, Odo, this is just so absurd, so ludicrous.”
“I agree.” He stood up to leave. “I don’t see much point in continuing this discussion, do you, Major?”
“Constable,” her voice had become serious, “don’t go.”
“Because if you walk out of here now, we’ll never have the courage to face this discussion again. Then we’ll be lost to each other forever. I’m not ready for that to happen. I hope you’re not either.”
He didn’t say a word, but Kira could see a weary resignation flicker across his face. He sat down with a thud, like a man carrying far too much weight on his shoulders. Spreading his hands, he gave her the floor to speak.
“Let's…let's try starting over. This hasn’t worked out too well so far.” Kira struggled to stand. Odo immediately reached out his hand to her. She took it, stood, and redeposited herself on the small divan. When he tried to extricate his hand from hers, she held it tight. “You were right. It has been a long time since we’ve had an easy, uncomplicated friendship. When our companionship, our camaraderie, seemed effortless. I guess a lot has happened to both of us since then. Part of me wishes we could return to that, but it’s not possible. But I’m deadly serious about not wanting to lose you. I don’t know where we go from here, but if we’re to go anywhere, we need to dig deep, and be completely open and honest with each other about what’s happened. If we’re to get past this somehow, we can’t hold anything back. I’m prepared to do that. Are you?” She gave his hand a little squeeze, and released her grip.
Odo studied her face. She was apparently sincere. “I think so, Nerys. But,” as he held up a finger, “it’s one thing to be honest, and it’s quite another to be vicious. I don’t recall that we’ve ever set out to deliberately inflict pain on each other. Whatever’s said, we must fight the urge to lash out. Do you understand?” His voice was soft, but with a firm edge to it.
“I know. I’ve been guilty of that far too often, lately,” she confessed, unable to offer even feeble explanations for her behavior. “I promise to hold my temper. So, you start, okay?”
“Anywhere you’d like.”
Nerys heaved a heavy sigh. “Okay, Gaia it is.”
“It’s been over six months…”
“You asked for some time to . . . decide how you felt…”
“Well, it isn’t like we haven’t had a few other things to keep us busy during that time. The war, the Occupation. Plus, you yourself put a hold on things before the Dominion boarded the station.” Kira was grasping at any excuse for her unwillingness to face the issue of Odo’s love for her. Unconsciously, she began twisting her hands around each other in a gesture of nervous anxiety.
“I only did that to preserve my sanity, Nerys. I knew we’d be alone here on the station when the Dominion took occupation. We’d been estranged from each other. I felt we needed to recover our friendship.” Kira could hear the despair creeping back into his voice.
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Why did you leave it to someone else to tell me, even if that someone else was you in a different time?”
“Is that relevant to the discussion?”
“To me, it is.”
He was quiet for a long time.
“Fear. Fear of rejection. I was afraid to risk losing what I had for more.” His hands were resting on his knees, and he dropped his eyes, as if intent on the study of those hands. She heard a deep, almost mournful sigh escape him.
“Was I so terrifying?” she asked quietly, genuinely shocked.
“No. But you’d never given me any reason to believe that you could care for me in the same way. You fell in love and got involved in two other relationships. The Founder asserted that you could never love me. You storm into my office, madder than a wet Targ, when the Romulans accuse me of caring for you. And then, when you do find out, you think it’s all some kind of joke…” He gave her a sad, resigned look. “To this investigator’s eye, that’s a pretty compelling body of evidence.”
Kira absorbed all of this. He’s right, she had to admit. “You’re right.”
“So we’re back where we started – at Gaia….”
Frustrated, Nerys felt the need to pace, to release the tension in her body. Instead, she snapped at him. “Well, what do you want me to do, Odo? You’ve never even told me – He told me. And I can’t see much of a difference in the way you’re acting. You certainly aren’t treating me any differently.” She felt like stamping her foot. She refrained.
“He and I are the same person. He just had 200 years to contemplate the implications of his silence. Two hundred years worth of regret that he’d never said anything. And what, exactly, do you want from me, Nerys? Do you expect me to try and seduce you? Sweep you off your feet?” He sounded skeptical.
“That would be nice,” she muttered, almost to herself. Why did I say that? I’m not in love with Odo. Why would I want him to seduce me? She made a little fist, angry with herself.
“I don’t think you know what you want from me, either!” Odo jerked his head aside, but not before she glimpsed the hurt in his eyes. She felt a stab of guilt at her deliberate infliction of pain, but as her anger at herself grew, the need to project that anger onto Odo grew as well.
She didn’t heed his warning. “I don’t think you even understand the concept of ‘love.’ I don’t think you know what it means to be in love. You may have some strange obsession about me, but I don’t think its love.” She stopped, realizing she had crossed the line she’d promised she wouldn’t cross.
“So, you think me incapable of love because . . . why, Nerys, because I’m a Changeling?” When she didn’t answer, he went on, anger and outrage seeping through his normally neutral voice. “Or is it because you’ve never been loved by someone who accepted you as you are?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Looking anywhere but at him, Kira’s eyes fell on a loose thread on the seat cushion. Seizing on it, she tugged over and over at the thread, picking at it like an open sore.
“I’ve never asked you to be something you’re not. I’ve never tried to change you, to make you be or act differently. Can your other lovers make that same claim?”
This stung. While she considered her relationship with Shakaar as something best forgotten, she retained a stubborn loyalty to Bariel. Odo’s words cut through the veil, to reveal an ugly truth she’d never allowed herself to acknowledge. Because Bariel was dead, she could easily wrap their relationship into a fantasy that bore little resemblance to reality. She knew if he’d lived, she would have had to remake herself if she hoped to be a Vedek’s wife. His death had relieved her of that.
Why did Odo always do this? Make her see truths about herself she didn’t want to see? It briefly occurred to her that he loved her enough to respect the need for honesty between them. Her anger flared anew.
“At least Bariel didn’t betray me,” she hissed. “And neither did Shakaar, for that matter.”
“No,” he acknowledged, chagrined. Odo could feel it all sliding away. He badly wanted to escape this interrogation of him and his motives. He wanted to stop hurting. Neither of them spoke for a long time. The tension mounted as each tried to cope with the pain of raw wounds. Wounds freshly reopened by their words.
Nerys hung her head. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled, breaking the oppressive silence. Looking up, she stared at him, as if trying to divine some answers in his smooth, angular face. “Why, Odo? Why me?”
He just shrugged. “Why do some people love Earth jazz, and others love Klingon opera? I don’t think there are always rational explanations for the feelings we hold deepest. But, I suppose I began to care for you when you treated me like a person, not a freak. You saw past the strange shape-shifting alien, and saw me. You befriended me, not to use or exploit me, but because you genuinely cared for me. You can’t begin to know how that transformed my life.”
She nodded, looking up into his face. If she’d ever thought of him as a being without emotions, what she saw now forever put that notion to rest. It was like he was stripped bare – he was hiding nothing from her. She could no longer deny his feelings for her. It was all right there on his face. Love, passion, a look of hunger that wasn’t so much about sex as about the need to be an embedded part of her life. She shook her head.
“It’s all so complicated, Odo. There’s so much to sort out. It was only a few days ago that I would have killed you, if I could.” He could hear the indignation in her voice.
“I know, Nerys.”
“Tell me about HER. The female Founder.” Nerys spat out her name like venom.
“Her timing was impeccable, I’ll give her that,” Odo gave a small, sad smile. “The first couple of months of the Occupation, we, you and I, seemed to have grown very close. Oh, it wasn’t all I’d hoped for, but we were comrades again, and foolish as it may sound to you, I’d begun to hope that perhaps there could be more. Then Vedek Yassim shows up, and off you go, on your Resistance crusade, and all the ties that bound us together started to unravel. I could feel you slipping away from me, and it seemed there was nothing I could do. You’d got that look in your eye - that single-minded, focused, driven look - and I found myself on the outside, looking in.” Like I’ve felt all my life.
“You were only on the outside because you weren’t committed to what we were doing,” she interrupted him.
“I know. You probably won’t understand this, but like it or not, our government, the Bajoran Council, entered into a non-aggression pact with the Dominion. They weren’t our enemies, at least not as far as our government was concerned. And we were on the station as representatives of that government. Sisko, your Emissary, gave us clear direction about what he wanted us to do – keep Bajor out of the fighting. Our personal feelings about the Dominion had to take a back seat. But Yassim got you all stirred up, thinking this was another Cardassian Occupation, and you became obsessed with the idea that you’d become a collaborator, and then everything started to fall apart.”
“Are you saying we were wrong…”
He held his hand up. “Right or wrong isn’t the point. You wanted to know about what happened with the Founder. I was feeling alienated from you over the Resistance issue. It drove a wedge between us. Then you begin to question my loyalty, and as if on cue, she shows up. At that moment, I couldn’t have been more vulnerable.”
“Oh.” Nerys shook her head, comprehending. If I loved someone as desperately as Odo seems to love me, and if I’d been treated the way I’ve treated Odo, I’d be feeling pretty vulnerable too. No wonder he fell for her. “Yes, I think I see, now.”
“The worst of it was, she’d learned from her past mistakes. Deriding you, belittling you, mocking my feelings for you – those tactics hadn’t worked, so she changed her strategy. She became oh, so, sympathetic to my plight. She gave me a shoulder to cry on, in my despair. She was so understanding and compassionate,” Odo’s voice became derisive in his self-loathing, “she never once scorned me for my folly of loving a Solid. And before I knew it, I was powerless before her. Spellbound. Bewitched. You warned me. When she linked with me, I was lost.”
“I know your people have always had some kind of mystical hold over you. I can understand that, in a way. But didn’t it scare you, even a little, to lose yourself like that?”
“I suppose, in a way. But my people are instinctively communal. We don’t normally exist as individuals, the way you do. So being in the Link with her didn’t really seem all that unnatural to me – at first. Then, things started to change. The thing is, I was naïve enough, and certainly beguiled enough, that I had no idea she was only projecting what she wanted me to feel. I had no idea she was holding things back, away from me.”
“She had hundreds and hundreds of years of practice, in the Link. She was far more skilled than you. Surely you can see that, now.”
“I should have seen it then,” he growled, contemptuous of himself. “The Link acted like a narcotic on me. All I wanted was more and more of it. It gave me such a sense of euphoria. Nothing to care about, nothing to worry about. No humanoid form to maintain. No humanoid behaviors to mimic. Total bliss. Pleasure without shame.”
“Sometimes I forget how truly different your species is to us humanoids. Sometimes I forget how different you are….” Her voice trailed away, embarrassed.
He blinked, stunned. “You mean you don’t see it every morning, when you look at my face?”
“No,” she confessed. “Your face is just… your face. I guess I stopped registering that it was different a long time ago.”
“Really?” This came as astonishing news to Odo. One of the various reasons he had never broached the subject of his feelings with her was because of the way he looked. She seemed to be attracted to handsome, charismatic men, neither of which he was.
“When did you realize you were being manipulated?” she asked, ignoring the tone of surprise in his voice.
Odo hesitated a long time before he answered. “I don’t know that it raised my suspicions, but I remember feeling very uncomfortable when I realized that I had lost three whole days. It was as though I had lost control of myself.”
“I remember. Quark tried to storm your quarters and nearly wound up in the Divine Treasury for his efforts, courtesy of the Jem'Hadar who was guarding your door.” Kira smiled at this. “Funny, by that time I had not only lost faith in you, I considered you the enemy. But Quark still believed in you. Quark had more faith in you than I had,” she mused, almost to herself.
“Quark hadn’t seen for himself how much I’d changed.” Rivers of regret ran through his deep voice. He knew what he’d said to Nerys the last time they’d spoken, during that time - his indifference, his lack of concern, his otherworldliness. “She, the Founder, came into the room, after you’d left. She couldn’t keep the satisfaction, the triumph, off her face, out of her voice.”
“You seemed so defensive, when I came to talk to you, after you had linked with her the first time.”
“I resented you. I resented your condemnation of my people. Your clear-eyed appraisal of what I didn’t want to see. Your wanting to shatter my fantasy about my people. And I resented your extracting that promise from me, not to link with her again.”
“I’ve never known you to succumb to such self-deception. You’re usually so practical…”
“If you want something bad enough, you find a way to rationalize it. I wish I had a better explanation.”
“You’ve always been like a Derna moth to the flame, when it comes to your people. It seems no matter how dangerous or risky, they have this almost magical pull on you.”
Odo said nothing, but his bowed head was a silent acknowledgement of the truth of her words.
“So what else made you suspicious?” Kira decided that was territory too treacherous for them.
“I started to notice gaps in the fabric she had draped around me. She made reference to 'breaking' you – Solids – of your love for freedom. That shocked me. It was right after she’d said that to me that I tracked you down and tried to apologize… I’ll never forget the look on your face – the disappointment and disgust you had for me.”
“I’m sorry, Odo.” She didn’t know what else to say. She had hated him then.
“I understood it completely, Nerys. I’d betrayed you, broken faith with you. You trusted me, and I failed you. It was because of me that Rom was going to be executed. I’d promised you that I would disable the Security fields, and I broke that promise. Worse, the reason that promise had been broken was because I was linking with her, after I’d promised you that I wouldn’t do that, either. I failed you in every imaginable way.” Odo’s whole bearing was one of a man who had come face to face with himself, and who had been forced to acknowledge his own frailties and weaknesses. “As horrible as I felt after our unpleasant encounter,” he continued, “in a way it was just what I needed. She had almost made me believe that I didn’t care about you, or about what you may have felt for me. Seeing the outrage on your face, and hearing the revulsion for me in your voice, made me realize that I did still care for you, and I did still care what you thought of me.
“What finally jolted me out of my reverie was when she announced that you’d been arrested. When I asked her what you were charged with, she said it didn’t matter – what mattered was that you would be found guilty and executed. That rankled not only my innate sense of justice, but also, of course, that it was you who would be executed. I’d been willing to sacrifice 8,000 lives to save yours. But even then, I was too weak to act. It wasn’t until I found out you’d escaped that I finally recovered myself.”
“But didn’t she know all about that, from your link?”
“Of course she did. But I think she sensed her hold over me was slipping, and that led her to acts of desperation. She said she couldn’t allow me to throw my life away on you. 'Her death is your salvation.' That’s what she said to me. Funny,” he said, as though to himself, “that’s what finally snapped the spell.” He seemed to regain himself. “Whatever the reasons for my betrayal, the fact is, I did betray you, Nerys, and the others. I broke faith with you. It was unforgivable, what I did. I know it is completely inadequate, but you must believe me when I say how very sorry I am….”
“Odo, I think we’ve already established that I have some culpability there, too. You were bewitched. That’s clear to me, now.”
“Nevertheless, you have no reason to trust me, after what I did. I realize that.”
Nerys shivered at his words. There was so much for her to take in. She’d come so close to losing him forever to the Link, to his people, and this knowledge frightened her. But she was also frightened by his evidently limitless love for her – enough to give up what he seemed to want most. It was all very confusing. Impulsively, she got up and moved to his side, seating herself on the edge of the hamper. Taking his face in her hands, she said, “Show me, Odo. I need to see, to feel what you feel…” and she pressed her lips firmly to his. She could sense his brief internal struggle, before he pulled roughly away from her. Stepping over her, he made for the opposite corner of the small, confined space, trying to put as much distance between them as the tiny closet could offer.
“What do you want, Nerys, a demonstration?” His eyes narrowed into a hard stare. “That’s no different from what she wanted. Prophets, I feel like I’m back in the lab, or putting on an exhibition for the Cardassians.” He shook his head.
“Odo, what are you talking about?” Kira’s head was spinning with confusion and…something else. Desire? She didn’t want to examine that emotion too carefully.
“She wanted to experience humanoid intimacy.”
“Prophets, she raped you?” Kira rose up in anger.
Odo shook his head and gave her a sad smile. “No. I wish she would have. At least that would have meant I was fighting back. No, at that point, I was so under her spell, I would have done anything she asked.”
Kira sat down heavily and pressed her fists into her eyes. His voice was so filled with hopeless resignation, she wanted to weep.
“The thing is, when it was over, I felt so empty, and ashamed. It was just a mechanical act. There was nothing behind it – no love, no emotion.” Odo reached Nerys in one stride, knelt down and pulled her hands away from her eyes. “Don’t you see, I don’t want that from you.” His voice was rich with emotion. Nerys looked into his eyes and it was all right there, laid bare for her to see. She choked back a sob and, wrenching her hands away from his, turned away.
Odo hadn’t moved. He was still kneeling before her, though she had her back to him. He reached a tentative hand to her shoulder. “Nerys?”
She faced him. “What did you mean, about the lab, and the Cardassians?” She needed to ratchet down the tension between them, somehow.
Odo gave a dismissive wave of his hand. “Oh, just the experiments Mora did on me. They were painful and intrusive.”
Kira sensed there was a volume of things he’d left unsaid about that horrible time, but he’d remained stubbornly silent about the details.
“And the Cardassians?" she managed to croak out.
“I provided the ‘entertainment,’ at their parties.”
“Odo, you don’t mean….” That he’d said what he’d said in the context of his sexual encounter with the Founder gave Nerys a painful stab of insight. Suddenly, his use of the term, ‘entertainment,’ went far beyond turning into a chair or a razor cat. She felt a nauseous spasm in her stomach, as the truth, the gruesome reality of what Odo had endured, caught her like a blow to the gut. She felt the blood drain out of her face, as a wellspring of anger surged up within her. “Slimy, stinking reptilian monsters!” She couldn’t control her temper. She stood up and punched the wall behind her, nearly breaking her knuckles in the process. The release of her pent up anger and the pain in her hand deflated her, and she sunk to the floor. “I can’t imagine what possible reason you have to want to stay here, Odo. You’ve been abused and mistreated and vilified all your life. What could possibly possess you to want to remain here with us?”
Odo moved next to her on the floor, and wrapped his warm hand around hers. “That’s all ancient history, as far as I’m concerned. The last few years have been nothing like that. I’ve built a kind of family of my own here, on the station. I’m respected by those who work for me, I think most of my co-workers like me, and I have friends, connections, people who care about me…a certain person who loves me, in her own way.” He looked up at her and smiled.
“But I’m as guilty as Mora, for abusing you. I ignored what was right there in front of me, for years, then, when you finally tell me how you feel, I treat that knowledge like it’s some sort of a toxic agent, rather than as a precious gift. I’ve been totally self-absorbed – thinking only about how it affected me, never even giving a single thought to how you were feeling, in reaction to my discomfort.” She shook her head, angry with herself. “Odo, I want to apologize….”
He cut her off. “It’s forgotten.”
“What about what the Cardassians did to you?” she left the rest unsaid. She could barely think it, much less say it.
He merely shrugged. “I survived. Others suffered far worse at their hands than did I.”
But Nerys wasn’t letting it go. “What about Star Fleet? They certainly haven’t shown you any affinity. They’ve tried to replace you more than once.”
“It’s understandable, through, isn’t it? How would you have felt if you had a Cardassian in your Resistance cell. I don’t begrudge Star Fleet their suspicions of me.”
“Well, I do! They didn’t trust you, even before we knew about the Dominion and the Founders.”
He was still holding her hand. “Trust you, Nerys, to rise up in defense of those you call friends. I have always considered it an honor to be included in that select group.”
“But friendship isn’t enough, is it? Friendship isn’t all you want.” He looked up into her face and blinked, dropping her hand.
“I can’t help how I feel, Nerys.”
“I just don’t get it. Maybe it’s because you’re a Changeling, I don’t know. But in my world, in my reality, men just don’t suffer in silence for years on end, without letting the woman they love know about their feelings. Even if they are too shy to come right out and say it, they find a way to send out unmistakable signals, to let the other person know how they feel. Maybe that was a consequence of the Occupation. We didn’t have the luxury of time.
“Now I know I’ve been pretty oblivious, Odo, but it isn’t like you helped. You even admitted you did everything you could to keep me from finding out how you felt. I guess that’s what I meant, what I said earlier about your not knowing what love is. In my world, men in love simply don’t act the way you’ve acted.” She could feel herself losing patience, and she struggled to master her temper.
Odo stared at her, uncomprehending. “But I didn’t want you to know.”
“And that’s what doesn’t make any sense to me. But even after I found out how you felt, even then, nothing changed between us. You didn’t treat me any differently, except that you were even more uncomfortable around me, if that’s possible. You showed no interest in spending time with me. You didn’t seem to want to be with me, and you certainly didn’t do anything physically…”
“I don’t understand, Nerys. You clearly didn’t – don’t - feel for me the way I feel for you. I’m not going to force myself on you.”
“Didn’t it ever occur to you that my feelings for you might change in response to your acting on your feelings? If I could only see, and feel, how you care for me, it might just have an effect on how I care for you. The way you treat me now, it’s almost like you are just waiting for me to suddenly realize I’m in love with you. Falling in love in a vacuum. I don’t work that way, Odo.”
“I suppose I never considered it that way,” Odo admitted, after a moment’s reflection.
“You can say you love me all you want. Only, they’re just words, unless you do something – act in a way to back them up. I guess I’m looking for something to show me that they aren’t just words to you.” Taking his hand, she drew it to her lips and kissed his knuckles, one by one, before leaning forward and pressing her lips to his in a tender, soft kiss that lingered longer than either of them expected. “Something like that,” she breathed, her heart hammering in her head and chest.
“I thought that came, afterwards,” he whispered. He closed his eyes, reliving that brief, delicious moment.
“Afterwards? After what?” She touched his cheek, and his eyes flew open.
“After we. . . established . . . after you . . .decided how you . . . felt about me.” He stared at the hand she’d just kissed, eyes wide with wonder, like he’d never seen that hand before.
She shook her head. “Its part of deciding how we feel about each other.”
“But I already know how I feel about you.”
“But I don’t!” Impatience got the better of her. She took a deep breath, and bridled her emotions. “Being close, talking, really talking, about things that matter – things that are important to us, being affectionate with each other. Those are the things that I need from you, now. Like tonight. I’ve learned more about you tonight than I have in years. Maybe that was my fault for not being more persistent in trying to tear down your walls of reserve. But I want to know you, understand you. I went for so long thinking that you couldn’t have those kinds of emotions. I wonder how many other misconceptions I have about you. But you have to open up to me, help me to understand you.”
He stared at her, blinking in confusion.
She kissed his hand again. “Just be with me, like this.”
Odo felt an uneasy fluttering within his form. Rising from the floor with the unconscious grace of a Changeling, he pulled her to her feet as well. “That must be uncomfortable for you.” They resettled themselves on their makeshift seats and reflected, as silence enveloped them like a mountain mist. Neither one looked at the other.
“May I ask you another question, Nerys?” The voice that broke the silence was soft, but tinged with anxiety.
“Of course. That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?”
“The question my counterpart on Gaia asked you…”
“What was that?”
“Just before Shakaar arrived on the station. . . I – I felt like we had come to a new understanding in our relationship, a new closeness. If I would have said something to you, then, before Shakaar had a chance to sweep you off your feet. . . how would you have felt?”
Nerys was silent for long enough for Odo’s uncertainties to blossom into full-blown fear. “If you’d rather not….”
“No,” she cut him off, “A couple of years ago, I overheard Sisko and Dax talking. They were in the replimat. I only caught the tail end of their conversation. They were joking about how we acted like an old married couple.” She looked at him. “I suppose, in a way, that’s how I felt. I mean, we were comfortable enough with each other to argue and bicker and know it wouldn’t threaten our friendship. We gave each other advice and emotional support. We were really all the things committed couples are to each other, minus the love … and the sex…” She stopped, embarrassed.
“I think I understand, Nerys.”
“No, wait, I’m not finished. I think,” she said, choosing her words with care, “it would have depended on how you approached me. But I don’t think I would have been. . . unreceptive. . . to the idea.”
“You mean, showing you, as much as telling you? I don’t think I would have been brave enough for that.”
“You were brave enough with Arissa.” Nerys could sense the tension building in him as she said the name of the woman with whom Odo had had a fleeting love affair.
“Arissa wasn’t weighed down with preconceptions of me.”
“What do you mean?”
“In a way, I was my own worst enemy, when it came to you. Because you trusted me not to lie to you, you had no reason to doubt things I said to you. So you had the memories of years of my making derisive comments about humanoid romance and the like. It colored your thinking of me as someone who could possibly care for you in a romantic way. Arissa wasn’t burdened with that. And for whatever reason, she found me . . attractive.”
“With good reason…” Kira looked him up and down with a nod of appreciation.
“So you’re saying, she seduced you?”
“I suppose, in a way. It was. . . nice. . . to have an intelligent, beautiful woman be interested in me. You were in what appeared to be a serious, committed relationship.”
“Did you love her?” Nerys hoped her voice sounded neutral.
Odo closed his eyes. When he spoke, his voice was a dry, choked whisper. “Yes.”
“Oh.” Kira paused, giving him time to recover himself. “I was incredibly jealous, you know,” she confessed.
“Were you?” Odo asked in astonishment. “Why? You didn’t love me.”
“I suppose it was more like possessiveness. I liked having you exclusively, all to myself. I didn’t want to have to share you. Pretty selfish of me, isn’t it?”
Odo just shrugged. “I’ve offered you . . . exclusiveness, Nerys.”
They sat together in silence, each considering all that had been said. Nerys thought it was the first time in years that their silence was again – companionable. It felt nice, comfortable.
“Odo, can we talk about something that’s been bothering me?”
He felt a cold shiver run through his form. “Of course, Nerys.” He was grateful his voice sounded natural.
“How was it that we found ourselves on opposite sides over the Resistance effort?” This had been nagging at her for some time now.
Odo sighed. “We are fundamentally different in some areas. This is one of those areas. I value order. The whole purpose of a Resistance effort is to create mayhem, havoc, disorder. It goes against all my instincts. I’m not saying I disagree with the results, I just have trouble being part of the process. Why, Nerys, do you think I never actively joined the Resistance when the Cardassians occupied Bajor?”
“I don’t know. I suppose I saw you as another branch of the Resistance movement, on Terek Nor. You seemed very heroic to us, back then.”
Odo shook his head. “No, Nerys, I was never part of any movement, and I was certainly no hero. In fact, it took me awhile to see the purpose of the Resistance. I couldn’t see past the need to establish and maintain order… Also, I don’t know if I could ever truly be a soldier in the casual taking of life. The idea of killing someone just because they are a Cardassian, or a Jem'Hadar. I can’t see myself ever being able to do such a thing. And there’s always the threat of harming innocent life…. That’s one of the reasons I was so opposed to your plan to set the Cardassians and the Jem'Hadar against each other. I saw the danger to others. Think about it, Nerys. When I was here, when this was Terek Nor, my purpose was to protect, and preserve life where I could. I failed often enough, but that was always my goal.”
“I never thought of you as a collaborator when you worked for the Cardassians on Terek Nor, because you were always trying to protect the Bajorans as best you could. But this latest occupation, by the Dominion. Didn’t you feel like a collaborator, especially after what Yassim did? I’m talking about before you got lured into the Link.”
“No. As I said earlier, Sisko wanted Bajor to stay out of the fighting. That’s why he convinced the Bajoran Council of Ministers to enter into the non-aggression pact with the Dominion. He felt it was the only way for Bajor to be protected. Perhaps it’s a question of different priorities – or different instincts. You’re a soldier, Nerys. You wanted to be fighting your enemies. I think,” he paused, hoping she would understand him, “I think you should have left the station before Dukat and Weyoun assumed control. Having to be here, in your position – it went against everything that you are.” He leaned forward and touched his fingers to her chest, near to her heart. The strong, steady beat of that mighty organ pulsed through his fingers, and he drew in a breath. “Everything that you felt - here. You were placed in an impossible position, for you. You were being asked to work with your enemies, and in the end, you couldn’t reconcile it.” He gave her a sad smile.
“But you could? Reconcile it, I mean.”
“Yes. Your priority was to battle the Dominion. Mine was to try and protect Bajor.”
“When you put it that way, we really weren’t on opposite sides after all, were we? I think you’re right about my staying here. I felt, every day, after my talk with Yassim, that I was willingly bending over for Dukat and Weyoun. I felt like a whore. I’m sorry, Odo, that’s a vulgar way to put it, but that’s how I felt.”
“I understand, Nerys. I could see it in your eyes. A little bit of you was dying every day, and there was nothing I could do about it.” He reached again for her hand. “I could see what Dukat was trying to do, especially after he brought Ziyal aboard the station. He was trying to seduce you, the same way the Founder was trying to seduce me. The difference was, you were stronger. You didn’t allow yourself to be manipulated, the way I did.”
“I did get manipulated, for awhile. And I don’t think you’re being fair to yourself, to make that comparison. It’s always been one-sided, with Dukat. I’ve never been mesmerized by him. He’s never been anything to me but the enemy. I’m just thankful he never tried to…force the issue…”
“I’m thankful for that, too.” Odo’s voice was soft, but full of relief. He dared to run his thumb back and forth over the back of her fingers.
“You only stayed here to protect me, didn’t you?” Something like insight was dawning on Kira.
“That’s not the only reason. But I couldn’t have left you here alone with Dukat…. What I wanted you to do was leave on the Defiant. I regret not talking to the Captain about it, but I was afraid you would think I was interfering in your life.”
“I probably would have, too. I’ve never been very good at knowing where my own best interests lay.” Kira gave his hand a squeeze as she smiled at him. “I think I understand better about why you were so reluctant to get involved with our little Resistance effort, as well. It’s the same reason why you never carry a weapon, isn’t it?”
“Yes. They’re too dangerous for my liking. Even when I was a Solid, I didn’t carry one. I always worried that I would make a mistake, and the wrong person would get hurt.”
Kira looked into his smooth face.
“Why are you smiling?” he asked.
“I’m just beginning to gain a new appreciation of you, that’s all.”
“Are you glad now, you didn’t storm out of here?” There was a trace of amusement in her voice.
“I’m just glad you didn’t hit me again.” He smiled, and assessed her now swollen hand. “I think you should have Bashir take a look at this in the morning.”
“That’s so typical of you.” She gave him a playful smile.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I’ve seen you do this for years. You redirect the conversation away from a topic you don’t want to talk about. You’ve become a master at it.” She gave him a knowing look. “But I’m on to you, so don’t think you can get away with it so easily around me.” She squeezed his hand again.
Odo shifted in discomfort. He felt like Kira was dismantling many of the barriers he had erected around himself, and he wasn’t entirely sure if he enjoyed being exposed like this.
There was a small commotion outside, and the closet door whooshed open, to reveal Dax, somewhat disheveled, and the morose visage of Worf.
“Hi,” Nerys said automatically
“Hi,” answered Jadzia, looking somewhat confused by their presence in her closet.
“Is the party over?” Odo asked.
“You could say that. It’s 10:30….”
“In the morning? Kira asked, astonished. “I’m on duty.”
“So am I.”
They both hastily exited the closet. Kira stopped to give Jadzia a hug and tell her what a good party it was. By the time she left, Odo had vanished. Her eyes searched up and down the corridor of the habitat ring, but he was nowhere to be seen. She sighed, and wondered exactly where things stood between them, and where things were going. She smiled, taking a moment to speculate on what Odo must be thinking. He’d always ridiculed these ‘messy, humanoid relationships,’ but now that he was nearly on the cusp of one himself, had his thinking changed? “I’ll have to ask him.” She smiled to herself again. She and Odo…. Prophets!
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