With thanks and apologies to Paramount, and proceeding on the assumption that forgiveness is easier to ask than permission:

-- This story takes place following "The Rapture", and before the next new episode The Powers That Be see fit to serve us, whichever one that turns out to be --

GreenWoman, 1/2/97

Lost & Found Out

Security Log
Star Date 1014.5, 07:00 hours
Lost child, Molly O'Brien, located and returned to parent.

Security Chief Odo, absorbed in his work, heard the door to his office slide open and looked up, annoyed. He'd come in early in order to finish his quarterly report; he didn't want any distractions and was prepared to let his visitor know it. The curious sight of a red rose wobbling unsteadily in the air in front of his desk caught him unprepared. Craning his head a bit and peering over the lip of the console, Odo could just see the top of a black-haired head.

"Miss O'Brien. What may I do for you?" he inquired gravely.

Molly O'Brien stretched out her arm and offered Odo the flower clenched in her tiny fist. "I brought you a present."

"I can see that," he replied, reaching down to accept the little girl's offering with a small smile. His eyes took in the damp, bent stem and bruised petals of the gift. "It is very beautiful. Thank you."

Molly pulled herself up onto the chair which faced the security chief's desk and leveled solemn eyes on him. "Con'table Odo, I need you to fix something," she announced.

"I'll be glad to help in any way I can," Odo assured her. "But first, do your parents know you've come to see me?" Molly frowned and shook her head vigorously. As if on cue, Odo's comlink chirped, and Keiko O'Brien's worried voice filled the room. "Constable Odo?"

"Don't worry, Mrs. O'Brien. She's here in my office. Would you like for me to walk her home?"

The relief in Keiko's voice was audible. "Oh, thank you, Constable! No, just keep her with you...I'll be there in a minute. Keiko out."

"You've worried your mother," Odo pointed out to his guest.

"I don't care. I'm a big girl, and I don't need anyone to take care of me!" came the rebellious reply. "And anyway, she's busy taking care of Auntie Nerys."

"Well, she seems very concerned about you just now." Odo clasped his hands before him and templed his fingers. "While we're waiting for her, why don't you tell me what it is that you want me to 'fix' for you?"

Molly knelt in the seat of the chair, bringing herself a bit closer to Odo's altitude. "I want you to marry Aunt Nerys so you can be my brother's parents and he can live with you." Molly's direct manner, normally a source of secret delight to Odo, rendered him momentarily speechless. He cleared his throat.

"Hmm. I believe your parents are rather set on having your brother live with you," he said finally.

"But he's in her tummy, not my mommy's," observed Molly practically. "If you marry Aunt Nerys, he can stay with you and we'll both have parents. And I won't have to share." The unassailable logic of her plan, coupled with her unquestioning faith in her odd-looking friend's willingness to carry it out simply because she had asked him to, seemed to settle everything.

"Ahh." Odo nodded in understanding. Actually, he thought with a wistful ache, it sounds like a wonderful plan. He sighed heavily; rising, he circled his desk, bent over and carefully lifted Molly from the chair. Unselfconciously she threw her arms around his neck, and something in the one-time changeling's belly felt suddenly, distinctly ... unsolid. He sat down and settled the child in his lap, thinking carefully about what to say.

"Molly, it's a very special thing to have a brother or a sister," he told her in a gentle voice. "It means that no matter where your family goes, you'll have a best friend right there with you, all your life. Don't you think that would be nice?"

"Well..." Odo could almost see the wheels turning behind the girl's eyes. "Maybe. But what about Aunt Nerys?" she demanded.

"Aunt Ne-- ah, Major Kira is rather fond of First Minister Shakaar. I don't think she would want to marry me," he said softly.

"But she says your name when she's sleeping, all the time. And when she has a scary dream, she calls you like I call my daddy. I just know she'd marry you, Con'table Odo," Molly assured him confidently.

Odo's heart lurched. His once-close friendship with Kira Nerys had been fading since his cancellation of their Tuesday morning meetings. When a shuttle accident several weeks ago had brought to light a terrible secret from his past, the last vestiges of their closeness had seemed to dissapate like mist in harsh sunlight. Yet he could think of no reason for Molly to have made up such a story.

"She must be thinking of another Mr. Odo," he said shakily.

Molly's face clearly displayed her surprise and disappointment at being so obviously patronized. Odo was suddenly reminded of another strong-minded, straightforward young woman he had underestimated once, long ago. :::Pretty girl like you shouldn't be eating alone...:::

His reverie was interrupted as the office door slid aside and a breathless Keiko O'Brien hurried in. "Molly!" she exclaimed, reaching for her daughter and lifting her from Odo's lap. "What are you doing here? You know you're not supposed to leave our quarters alone!"

"I had to talk to Con'table Odo." Molly glanced sideways at the security chief, hurt at his betrayal still evident in her eyes.

"Well, next time, ask me and I'll bring you to visit him," Keiko admonished. "I'm so sorry, Constable. Nerys was sick again last night, and we were all up late. Molly must have slipped out this morning while we were still sleeping."

"Major Kira has been ill?" Odo hoped his voice indicated only polite interest.

"She's been having a difficult time...I think we'll all be relieved when this is over." Keiko studied Odo's face carefully. "Why don't you stop by tonight and have dinner with us?" she offered. "I'm sure Nerys would enjoy seeing you." Her invitation was casual, but her expression was not. Odo felt Molly's gaze fixed on him as well. He tried to find a neutral spot on which to focus his own eyes.

"It's very kind of you to invite me, Mrs. O'Brien, but I'm afraid I can't accept." He gestured helplessly at the stack of datapadds on his desk. "I'm rather busy just now..."

"Of course," she conceded. "But if you should change your mind, we don't need much notice." Shifting Molly's weight from one hip to the other, she reached out and took Odo's hand in hers, squeezing it tightly. "Thank you again, Constable. Say goodbye, Molly."

"Thank you for the flower, Miss O'Brien," Odo said quietly. "I'm sorry I couldn't help you with your problem." His blue eyes looked hesitantly into Molly's black ones, and his heart twinged again at the immediate, unexpected forgiveness he saw shining there. Odo was once again her friend, and owned her complete trust.

"Con'table Odo," she said, "would you like me to share my brother with you?"

Suddenly unable to form words, Odo nodded silently.

"Okay," she said brightly. Keiko looked curiously from her daughter to the security chief, then smiled, turned and headed out the door. Odo watched the pair walk down the Promenade together until they disappeared from view. Returning to his desk, he sank heavily into his chair. It never ceased to amaze him, the variety of unexpected crises that confronted him in the course of his duties.

Not to mention the occasional unexpected joys.

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