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

-- This story takes place following "In the Cards"; it is loosely based on various spoilers for and not the actual events in (and was written prior to my viewing of) "A Call To Arms" --

Greenwoman - 6/16/97

I was born to rock the boat
Some may sink, but we will float
Ain't no room on board for the insincere
You're my witness, I'm your mutineer
"Mutineer", Warren Zevon

"I'll see you in the morning," Odo had told Kira that day on the Defiant.

And he had kept his promise, appearing at her bedside the next day, quietly solicitous as he replicated a raktajino and handed it to her. She sipped it slowly and in silence, but Kira's silences had rarely hidden anything from Odo. His secret had been revealed, and Kira's reaction was as he had always feared it would be. Odo sat with his hands folded and waited in quiet agony for her to speak the words aloud.

"Odo, I don't know what to say," Kira finally murmured, handing him the empty cup. Their fingers touched, and it was all Odo could do to keep his hand steady. He sighed and did the necessary thing.

"Perhaps it would be best -- if we don't speak of it at all. At least, not for a while. You need time to rest, to heal -- and to think."

Kira looked at him with gratitude naked in her eyes. "Odo, you always know the right thing to say to me." She reached out to him. "Still friends?" she asked gently.

Odo steeled himself and took her hand in both of his. "Of course, Nerys," he assured her. Now and for the rest of your life ...

They did not speak again about Gaia. The Major had filed her report on the mission and, after some thought, revealed Odo's role in the sabotage of the Defiant's flight plan and his motivation for that sabotage. Sisko had filed his own report, absolving Odo of blame, but the station commander had been well aware of the subtle shift in the changeling's manner, of his withdrawal from his coworkers. And then the Dominion forces had appeared at the wormhole, and there had been no time left to talk about anything ...

Major Kira Nerys, transitional Bajoran commander of Terok Nor, shifted her weight nervously from one foot to the other. Security Chief Odo, standing close behind and slightly to the left of her, noticed her disquiet. When the door before them opened, he knew that she would have to depend upon him more than she had ever before in their long association. He reached out and lay his hands lightly on Kira's shoulders; her weight leaned into his palms for a moment before her posture squared and she moved a step away from him. Odo's arms dropped to his sides, and without looking at each other they waited for the door to grind open and admit the Cardassians.

After a time, the heavy wheel rolled aside, gear teeth grating as they settled into their sockets. Gul Dukat, once and again the master of Terok Nor, stepped through the airlock and down onto the deck plates, flanked by two Cardassian guards. The Gul looked down at Kira, a head shorter than he, and smiled in a way that made Odo move minutely closer to her.

"Well, Major Kira, what a pleasure to see you! After all this time, who would have thought we would be working together again?" Dukat's voice was warm, but there was an iciness beneath its cordial tone that neither Kira nor Odo missed.

Kira clasped her hands behind her back, unconsciously taking the stance of Odo in a staff meeting. She relied on her rehearsed words to get her through the moment.

"Gul Dukat, the Bajoran Government would like to formally welcome you to ... to Terok Nor. We look forward to working in close cooperation with you and the Dominion toward achieving a peaceful and productive alliance for all." She squared her jaw and extended her hand. "I officially transfer command of this station to you, and pledge the cooperation of myself, my staff and my crew."

"I accept that cooperation with gratitude, Major," smiled Dukat, taking Kira's hand in both of his. She felt her gorge rise as one scaly thumb slipped inside her palm and ran smoothly in a circle against it. An involuntary gasp escaped her, and Odo immediately stepped forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Major. His blue eyes shot a blatant warning at the Cardassian. Surprised, Dukat dropped Kira's hand. She stepped back, wiping her palm on her hip.

"odoital" Dukat murmured, slurring the Cardassian word so that the universal translator did not recognize it and left it unaltered. Odo, however, knew Dukat was putting him in his place, reminding him of the "nothing" that he had been before Dukat had made him security chief of Terok Nor during the Occupation. "It's very rewarding to see my protege doing so well. I can't tell you how pleased I am to have you under my command again." He did sound pleased, in a way that chilled Odo to the center of his mass. The shapeshifter stood motionless and silent, allowing only his eyes to reply. The last vestiges of Dukat's artificial warmth dissipated.

"I assume you have made arrangements for quarters for myself and my staff, Major," he said to Kira. "Why don't you show us to them?"

"Of course." She turned her back on the Cardassian party and marched off down the hall. Dukat and his guards fell into step behind her.

Odo followed, his mind already wrapped around a single urgent problem, one that had been troubling him even before the arrival of the Cardassians ... how to get Kira Nerys off of Deep Space Nine and safely to Bajor. Clearly Dukat was reveling in the reclamation of his old command. It was only a matter of time before the volatile Bajoran and the domineering Cardassian lost patience with one another, and Odo had no doubt that Kira would be the one to suffer for it. He knew she would tough the situation out as her government had requested, but he feared for her safety. And the safety of Kira Nerys was Odo's sole concern in the matter.

Odo knew that Kira did not love him; he knew he would never stand beside her in any role beyond that of her friend, and now even that friendship seemed tenuous. But Odo also knew that the memory of two hundred years of grieving for her would not allow him to do anything less than all he could to keep her alive.

Quark's was much quieter mid-afternoons than it had been when Star Fleet was in occupancy. This fact had been a depressing problem for the proprietor for the past several weeks. Sisko's people might have been uptight overachievers who never understood the proper use of a holosuite, thought Quark, but at least they were a social bunch and kept the bar busy. And Dax was always good for a game of Tongo when I was short of latinum. The Cardassians were certainly drinkers and gamers, but they were not good tippers and were plenty destructive to boot. Quark had never thought that he'd long for the good old days of Sisko and company, but he was beginning to.

The Ferengi saw Odo enter the bar and glanced around, assessing the clientele with a critical eye. He and the security chief were engaged in a business deal, the success of which Quark knew depended upon no Cardassian interference. He noted the presence within earshot of two of Dukat's security goons. Quark met Odo's eyes and tipped his head in the direction of possible trouble before greeting the Constable.

"Odo, welcome!" he said jovially, and loudly, for the benefit of the audience sitting nearby. "What can I do for you?"

"I understand that you have some kanar from -- questionable -- sources, in your private stock," growled the Constable.

"Oh come now, Odo," answered the barkeep, still keeping his voice loud enough to carry to the nearby tables. "Everything I serve here is legally obtained. You yourself are in charge of station customs -- you've inspected everything in my storerooms. More than once, I might add. But have I accused you of harassment? Oh no, not me! Because I like to keep a good working relationship with the law, and --"

"Don't overplay it, Quark," warned Odo in a harsh whisper. "I think I'd better take another look," he continued at a voice level directed toward their audience. "I'm not certain your last inventory was complete."

"Odo, after all the time we've known each other, I'd think you'd trust me by now."

"It's because we've known each other so long that I don't," retorted Odo. The Cardassians chuckled a bit at this as Odo rounded the bar and disappeared with Quark into the private office and storage areas behind it.

A short walk, Quark taking two steps to every long stride of Odo's, brought them to a bay with three sealed doors. Quark tapped a code into a control panel and one of the doors before them ground aside to reveal a darkened room filled with shipping containers. The two odd companions stepped inside and the lights came on; Quark led the Constable on a twisting path through the bulky stacks to the back of the room. The barkeep reached out and tucked his fingers into the seam where the wall joined the bulkhead and, with a muffled mechanical sound, a wall panel indistinguishable from any other in the storeroom lifted silently into the ceiling and immediately began to descend again. Quark and Odo ducked quickly inside and waited for their eyes to adjust to the gloom.

"Why, Constable ... a social call? How thoughtful of you."

Elim Garak unwrapped his arm from Tora Ziyal's shoulders and stood to greet the Constable and the barkeep. Other figures were recognizable in the dim light ... residents of the station who had much to fear from the Cardassian occupation but, being neither Star Fleet nor Bajoran, had not been allotted space on the overcrowded shuttles and runabouts that had hastily evacuated the rest of Deep Space Nine. In spite of his preoccupation with Major Kira, Odo had taken the time to persuade Quark to provide a hideaway for the unfortunates. Odo had called in every favor owed him to arrange a private transport, in the guise of a trader ship, to take the refugees off-station to Bajor. From there, they would be able to disperse in safety.

Odo had done all this because he had always watched out for everyone on Deep Space Nine. For once, he mused, a personal sacrifice he had made for others was going to benefit him as well. This unauthorized maneuver may offer him the only way to get Kira off the station safely.

"I don't make social calls," Odo snorted gruffly. "I've received a confirmation on a secured channel. Morn will be here within the next few days, in an unmarked ship provided by -- a friend of Quark's. Once the ship is here, we'll begin slipping people on board, one or two at a time, over the course of a day or so. I trust you've been working on the 'distractions' we'll require, Garak?"

Garak nodded. "Oh, I've come up with quite a few 'distractions', Constable." He smiled bleakly. "But Bajor, Odo? How safe do you think Ziyal and I will be on a planet which considers me a 'former Cardassian oppressor' and regards her father as an active threat? And just how long do you think it will take Dukat to have us found and brought back here?"

Odo barked a short laugh. He'd had to get rather forceful with First Minister Shakaar, who had objected to taking in several of the refugees, chief among them the "former Cardassian oppressor". But in the end Odo had got his way.

"This ship has no traceable ties to Bajor, and its flight plan will not mention a visit to any spaceport there. First Minister Shakaar is a very resourceful man," added the changeling. "It will be quite difficult for the Cardassians to extradite political refugees who cannot be found. Shakaar has promised that you will be well-hidden."

"Delightful," mused Garak. "I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to spending months languishing in some Bajoran monastery. My dear," he turned to face Ziyal, and the warmth in his voice belied the sarcasm in his words, "I fear we will learn much more about your Bajoran heritage than either of us ever wanted to know."

Ziyal, child of Gul Dukat and his Bajoran mistress, rose from her seat on a packing crate and came to stand beside Garak, taking his hand and smiling up at Odo.

"Thank you, Constable," she said warmly. "This is a very brave, and a very kind, thing for you to do. We know it puts you at great risk -- "

Odo huffed and cut her off with a cursory wave of his hand. "It's my job to maintain order on this station. If my jail is full of political prisoners, I'll have no room for real criminals. I'm simply being practical."

Ziyal looked unconvinced, and Quark snorted openly at this remark, but Odo ignored them both. "Garak, I need to speak to you privately."

Garak nodded at the serious expression on Odo's face. "Step into my office, Constable," he said dryly, and the shapeshifter and the Cardassian disappeared behind a large shipping crate.

"Major, I wish you'd be reasonable about this." Odo stood in Kira's office, his back to her, his arms folded, trying to remain calm.

"Constable, I am being reasonable! Asking me to abandon my post here is unreasonable!"

"Please, Nerys ... you're not safe here." He still did not look at her, but his voice conveyed his concern.

Kira stood behind her desk and addressed the Constable's rigid back. "My orders, and yours, are to remain on this damnable station and work with Dukat. I am not going to create a diplomatic incident by requesting a transfer planetside. Shakaar would -- "

Odo whirled to face Kira, his fear for her causing an uncharacteristic flare of temper. He slammed his palms down on her desk.

"To hell with Shakaar! What do you think he'll do when Dukat calls to 'regretfully inform' him that you've met with some 'unfortunate accident'?"

Kira rolled her eyes. "Even Dukat isn't that bold," she retorted, but her voice sounded less than totally confident.

The shapeshifter snorted. "I remind you that I know rather too well what Dukat is capable of. I've been watching him watch you. He's got his station back, but that's not enough. If he sees a chance to get to you, too, he'll take it, believe me."

"'Get to me?'" Her voice was derisive.

"It's about power, Kira. There's a quote Dax once used about Dukat. 'The purpose of power is power, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' He's stronger politically than before, and he has far fewer restraints on him. Whether his methods are crude or polished, Dukat will assert his power with a free and enthusiastic hand."

"I can take care of myself."

"Sometimes. Sometimes not."

"You can't run my life, Odo. I make my own decisions -- when I'm allowed to," she added icily. The reference to Gaia was clear, and it clearly hurt him. Kira regretted it the moment she spoke, but it was too late; the confrontation had escalated to a hazardous but irreversible new level.

Odo's voice was flat. "I refuse to apologize for the way I feel about you. And I refuse to stand silently by and allow you to endanger your life because you're too proud to admit that you're in a fight you can't win. Nerys ...."

But he had stung her, and Kira's stubborn streak rose to the challenge. "I'm not leaving. You can if you want to -- I'll authorize your transfer myself." Her tone was cold. Odo met her angry brown eyes with an icy blue gaze.

"You know I won't leave you."

"That's your decision. I've made mine, Constable." She took her seat, deliberately returning her attention to her console. Her posture told him that he had been dismissed; he left her office without another word.

After that, things grew cold between them. Odo did his job, to be sure. He reported to her each evening on the events of the day, everything from the most minor incident to the more distasteful things he was being forced to do by Dukat. But his voice was flat, his manner formal and distant. The confidentiality that Kira had always relied on and needed so desperately from him now was gone. Odo withdrew completely from all but the most impersonal, official contact with her. Kira knew she was to blame but, as after Gaia, she was frozen in uncertainty. The words she knew would bridge the rift, she was unprepared to say.

The only thing that had not changed was Odo's constant presence at Kira's side. She did not understand how he knew, but whenever she was not in her office or in her quarters, it was only a matter of moments before she felt him fall into step beside or behind her ... wordless, cold, but comforting to her nonetheless. She allowed her fear of the Cardassians to leave her while he was near. Her fear for him, for the friendship they had lost, never left her for a moment.

The constant stress endured during weeks of working for Dukat had used Kira's physical resources beyond the ability of a night's sleep to restore them. She sat stiffly behind her desk, rubbing the back of her neck with one hand, fatigue and tension warring within her for the right to torment her body. The muscles in her right shoulder burned as if a knife with a heated blade had been slid into them. Her jaw ached from unconscious, unceasing gritting of her teeth, and her eyes throbbed with


"Computer ... time."

"17.35 hours."

The stylus tip tapped a march on the laminate console. Odo was verylate for their end-of-day debriefing. Ordinarily, the Constable's punctuality was a point of pride with him ... something must be wrong.

"Computer ... location of --"

No. I'm not checking up on him.

With a mechanical groan, the heavy door to her office rolled aside. The stylus snapped in Kira's suddenly clenched fingers ... the door framed not the slender figure of her Security Chief but the looming bulk of Gul Dukat. Kira sat very still and composed the muscles in her face, one by one, into a blank mask.

"Dukat." The name fell like lead shielding into the air between them.

"Major," replied Dukat, his voice smooth and polite. "You're working late."

"What do you want?"

"Actually, I was just passing by and saw you were still in ... I thought I might ask you again to allow me to take you to dinner. To cement our working relationship. Good morale makes for good administration." He smiled, and Kira shuddered beneath her uniform.

"I don't think so."

"Now, Major, I'm growing tired of taking no for an answer ... I won't allow it this time. You've done an excellent job of overseeing the assimilation of the residents here to our ... authority. I could not have done it without you, and I'd like very much to show you my gratitude." Dukat fixed his gray-blue eyes on her and Kira knew that he could see the anger in her own eyes at that "compliment".

"I'm sorry, but I can't leave now," she said quietly. "I'm waiting for Constable Odo ... I haven't yet received his report for today."

"Constable Odo can wait. There was no excitement on the station today. Oh -- I did allow Odo to release Vedek Craston from his little stint in jail. But otherwise, I can assure you that there will be nothing in the Constable's report that will demand your attention this evening."

"Vedek Craston is almost ninety years old. Putting him in a cell --"

"Allowed him some rest, which at his age I'm sure he needs, as well as some time for contemplation. Perhaps the Prophets will advise him to think more carefully before he speaks so unwisely in the future. At any rate, he is free once again. As a result of my generosity, I remind you. Now, I think that generosity deserves a reward, Major. You must join me this evening."

Dukat stepped behind Kira's desk and placed his hand on her shoulder, gently squeezing it. She felt his fingers trace the line of her collarbone beneath her uniform. It took all her self-control not to spring to her feet and fire her clenched fist at his face; instead, she pushed her chair back and twisted it away from him, breaking the contact. Dukat's smile disappeared, but he maintained the pleasant tone in his voice.

"I'm sure your superiors would feel such a 'working dinner' would be appropriate and productive, don't you?"

Kira looked away. She dropped the two halves of the broken stylus into the desktop disintegrator, clenched her fists in frustration, then rose to her feet.

"Very well." She tapped the console, shutting down her work and severing her computer connection. Silently she left her desk and stood before Dukat. He offered her his arm, but she looked at him with a distaste that caused him to drop it, bowing slightly from the waist instead and ushering her to the door ahead of him. As she passed, Kira felt the Gul's hand come to rest lightly on the small of her back. Kira consciously controlled her sudden trembling as she stepped out onto the Promenade. Odo, she thought silently, I need you ...

Looking up at the gallery over the Promenade she saw Odo leaning on the railing; his eyes were hidden beneath the shadow of his brow, but she knew that his gaze was riveted on her. She allowed fear to creep into her eyes.

Odo leaned heavily on the second level railing of the Promenade, exhaustion corrupting his normally impeccable posture. Keeping an eye on Kira as well as the rest of the station had been taxing; he had driven himself past his normal limits to make certain he was nearby whenever she left the relative safety of her office or her quarters. It was the sole personal indulgence he still allowed himself.

Odo saw the office doors open and Kira step out onto the Promenade. Dukat walked with her, one hand hovering behind her back. Odo saw her look up and see him, saw the blatant plea in her wide eyes, and knew that the situation had escalated somehow. But everything went to hell before he could even reach the stairs.

As Kira and Dukat started down the Promenade together, two Cardassians approached them, holding an old Bajoran man between them. Kira recognized him as Vedek Craston, released from jail only that morning. Kira tensed -- she knew the Vedek had remained on the station voluntarily, "to protect the Temple from sacrilege", he had declared. A confrontation between him and the Cardassians had been inevitable and she had not been surprised when Dukat had had the old man jailed. Kira's heart sank as the Vedek and his escort approached. Dukat, however, seemed quite pleased at the encounter.

"Why, Vedek Craston," said Gul Dukat, his voice condescending. "I trust the Prophets have impressed the virtues of diplomacy on you during your stay in Constable Odo's custody?"

The old man scowled. "A Gul who presumes to believe the Prophets would advise me to do his bidding -- quite arrogant, young man."

"A Vedek who presumes to rely upon his Prophets in the face of Cardassian justice -- quite foolish, old man. See you are more temperate in your remarks from now on."

"I am an old man, and I am not afraid to speak the Prophets' will. And the will of the Prophets will be your undoing, Gul Dukat. Soon ... "

Dukat cut him off with a laugh.

"The Prophets! Absentee landlords to your pitiful planet for over fifty years. If they were so interested in Bajor's welfare, why didn't they take a hand sooner?"

"It is not their way to dirty their hands with petty tyrants like you, Dukat," retorted the Vedek, shaking a finger in the Gul's face. Without warning, a blow from one guard's fist struck the old man down. In almost the same moment, Kira launched herself at the Cardassian. He outweighed Kira by a good two hundred pounds; he swatted the Major aside as if she were an insect. Kira hit the bulkhead with an impact that knocked the breath out of her. Vedek Craston rose with an agility that belied his age and began to struggle with the guard. The second Cardassian's phaser burned him from the deck in an eyeblink.

Unthinking fury took possession of Kira. She propelled herself at the guards but was stopped solidly by Dukat's fist in her belly. Kira doubled over with a cry of pain, feeling ribs snap at the impact. She went to her knees, looked up to see the Gul's hand raised above her; she felt no surprise as the side of her face shattered in blinding light. Somewhere in the distance she heard her name, her given name, screamed in a voice infused with fear and anger. And then she felt the cold deck plates rise up and slam into her forehead, and she fell into blackness.

Odo cleared the stairs and bolted out onto the Promenade, too late; he saw the gray hand clench, the fist strike, and Kira go down hard at Dukat's feet.

The Gul turned, startled by the inarticulate cry that seemed to issue from directly behind him. He had a moment to react to the impossibly brilliant flash of golden light hurtling toward him before it hit him directly in his breastplate. The Cardassian felt the ridges on his chest crack under the impact and crashed to the deck, still unsure of what exactly had attacked him. He felt his limbs weighted to the deck, his chest caught in a crushing vise, and his breath cut off as a living mask of ... something ...

smothered his nose and mouth. The shapeshifter, he thought dimly as his consciousness left him. Odo ... The last image before the Gul's fading eyes was the vaulted ceiling of the Promenade filtered through the color of the sun.

One of the guards leveled his phaser at the Gul, encased in a roiling mass of golden fury. The other retained enough presence of mind to put a restraining hand on his partner's wrist and growl, "Change it to stun, you fool!" A flick of a scaly finger and a bolt of energy shot out at Dukat and Odo, still struggling together on the deck. The golden mass dimmed and sloughed away, leaving Dukat gasping for breath.

"Now you can kill it," muttered the second guard. The setting changed, the phaser leveled on the quivering amber puddle at Dukat's side. With amazing rapidity the mass congealed into a small, dull pile and without warning shot straight up, changing in mid-air to a Bajoran bat and flapping unsteadily but rapidly off down the Promenade airspace. Phaser beams shot after it but did not connect ... Odo was gone.

Dukat hefted himself slowly to his knees. "Get me to the Infirmary," he growled. "And lock this station down -- I am imposing martial law. I want the shapeshifter found."

"What about this bitch?" asked the larger guard, nudging Kira's limp body with the toe of his boot.

"Jail her. And call me when she wakes up. I intend to have a little talk with Major Kira."

Odo clung flattened to the ceiling in the cell area of what had been his jail, looking down at Kira. She lay on a bunkshelf in a holding cell; an ugly bruise ran from her left temple to her jawline; trails of dried blood snaked from her nose, her mouth and her ear, and seeped reddish-brown from the gash on her forehead where the metal cuff of Dukat's sleeve had sliced the skin open. Her breathing was shallow and uneven. She was unconscious.

Odo waited, quivering in impatience, for his opportunity. By pressing against the wall where it joined the vaulted ceiling, the changeling could pick up subtle vibrations that told him the guards in the outer office were stirring. Where the hell was Garak? It was past time ...

The station rocked slightly, and seconds later the muffled sound of an explosion rolled through its iron bones. Lights dimmed and the force field in the holding area powered down. Odo dropped to the floor, taking humanoid form and moving rapidly to the cell where Kira lay. He allowed himself no time to inspect the severity of her injuries; Morn and his ship were waiting, and this rescue would be a futile attempt if the ship was not safely away before the Cardassians regained control of their disabled power grid. Gathering the unconscious woman into his arms, Odo carried Kira to the holding area door and pressed his ear against it. The outer office sounded empty. Shooting a tentacle out, he activated the doorway and slipped through, his precious burden hugged protectively to his chest.

Odo had planned his route in advance -- back corridors, service passages and access tubes, sometimes negotiated in shapes other than his humanoid form, would take them swiftly and safely to the docking ring. Glad that Kira was unaware of her surroundings and therefore unaware of the more unorthodox shapes he was forced to take, Odo hurried toward the battered little freighter that awaited him.


He emerged from an access grate to see Garak and Quark standing in the airlock, their faces tight with concern. Garak smiled grimly. "I see you owe the Gul a debt of gratitude. You never would have gotten her this far if she'd been able to argue with you."

Odo hesitated for only a moment before surrendering the limp body of Kira Nerys to the Cardassian. Garak took her gently from the shapeshifter. "Don't worry, Constable," he said softly. "We'll take care of her."

"See that you do," grated Odo. The sound of booted feet could be heard approaching the airlock. Time was running out.

"Come with us, Odo," Quark urged. "You don't have any duty to Bajor." But Odo and the little barkeep had already had this argument. He shook his head.

"I have a duty to her," he replied, nodding at the oblivious Bajoran cradled in Garak's arms.

"Odo, has it occurred to you that she might rather wake up to a live mutineer than a dead hero?" Garak inquired dryly.

The sounds of pursuit were growing louder. Oblivious to the presence of Garak and Quark, Odo took Kira's hand and pressed it to his thin lips, then tucked it against Garak's chest. "Get her out of here," he hissed before he melted to the deck plates and vanished into the access tube. Hastily formed tentacles pulled the grate into place behind him.

Garak, carrying Kira, disappeared into the airlock. Quark looked after Odo for a moment, then shook his head and activated the airlock door. Moments later the shapeshifter in the crawl space near the docking bay watched through a tiny view port as the freighter, unrestrained by any tractor beam, pulled away from Terok Nor and fired its engines for a hasty departure. His golden mass quivered and turned dark; he huddled there until the ship was out of sight.


"Bajor, Nerys," repeated Shakaar to the groggy woman on the biobed. "Now be quiet. You've been seriously injured. The doctor says you need to rest."

"How in hell --" Her head throbbed. She could feel Edon's hand folded around hers, but his voice sounded far away.

"Don't you remember? You've been treated for a concussion, among other things. You've been ... asleep ... for a long time. The doctor said you might have some short-term memory loss."


"You provoked him, Nerys." Shakaar smiled. "I don't know how ... you're usually so diplomatic. He beat you, and jailed you. Odo smuggled you off the station to Bajor."

"Odo ... damn him. I want to talk to him," she huffed weakly.

"He's not here," Shakaar said gently. "He stayed behind."

"Stayed ..." Kira blinked.

"Yes. He's apparently running his own little one-man resistance up there. It's only been two weeks since you got here, but already we're hearing reports about sabotage all over the station." He chuckled. "The Cardassians are starting to call him the Ghost of Terok Nor."

"Why ... did he stay ... " Shakaar's voice was harder to hear.

"I asked Quark, and that Cardassian Garak, the same thing," Shakaar said quietly. "They said he stayed because of you. Do you know what they meant by that?"

"No ..."

Kira's eyes closed, and her breathing changed. For once, the First Minister of Bajor didn't care if he had pressing appointments, or what the Prophets had to say about the future. He looked ruefully at the battered warrior that a skinny Bajoran girl he had once known had been forced to become. He knew the scars, physical and otherwise, that the Resistance had left on her, and he knew somehow that she had just suffered another wound. Shakaar sat next to the biobed and held Kira's hand while she slept.

Odo was learning a great deal about shapeshifting. He found that he could stay active much longer if he didn't take a form other than his natural amoebic state. And so he abandoned the humanoid shape that had been his facade to the world for so long. He was a ripple of gold flowing down an access tube, only forming a tentacle to slip into a control box, or a hand to tamper with a control panel. He was a very effective saboteur.

Odo also found that the longer he abstained from taking humanoid shape, the more elemental his thoughts became. He focused on his work, as always; causing disruptions that made day-to-day life on the station hell for the Cardassian occupants, but which actually caused no serious injury to anyone. He'd come close to killing Gul Dukat, there on the Promenade; he'd been furious enough to do it. Odo swore he would not indulge that desire again.

He stirred in his hiding place. He had been regenerating for only a few hours, and he was still exhausted, but he knew he had to move. Resting in one place for too long left him vulnerable to detection. Besides, the day shift was almost over ... time for the Ghost to walk. Odo rather liked the title. He did not enjoy the job.

Tonight's target was an incoming transport, due in a few hours with supplies and replacements from Cardassia Prime. A simple prank, thought Odo ... he would redirect the airlock controls to short out and freeze the doors at both portals when activated by a docking ship. The first few unfortunates to disembark would be trapped in the airlock itself until they were beamed out. The rest of the passengers and cargo would also have to be transported on board the station from the ship, and the airlock, and thus the docking bay, would be out of commission for at least a week or two.

In his unprejudiced form, free of restriction to two human hands, the reprogramming was easy, even for a changeling unskilled at such things. Odo allowed his mind to drift as he worked. Inevitably, his thoughts turned to Kira. He had no way of knowing, but he hoped she was all right, recovered from her injuries and safely under the protection of the First Minister. She was probably furious with him for his role in evacuating her from Terok Nor. It didn't matter much; Odo never expected to see her again.

His work finished, Odo withdrew from the hollow space behind the control panel, literally melting around the wiring in the bulkheads and squeezing through the seams between the wall panels adjacent to the airlock itself. Ordinarily he did not linger to see the results of his sabotage, but tonight was his first attempt at tampering with a docking mechanism and Odo was curious as to whether or not it would actually work. He was also simply too tired to rush off to another hiding place if it wasn't absolutely necessary. He contracted into a spare small shape and tried to rest.

The transport was early, and he waked from his changeling equivalent of a doze when a solid thud shuddered through the framework of the station. He heard voices on the other side of the wall and slid up through the hollow wall to an access tube. Soon he was perched behind a grating with a vole's eye view of the airlock door.

Automatic lights switched on as the first passengers came through the airlock to the interior door. Suddenly an alarm siren blared; sounds of heavy metal grating were background to a hiss of escaping air and a spattering of sparks.

Odo rippled in distress ... he'd done something wrong. The airlock filled with smoke and licks of flame. A Cardassian waiting for the transport fumbled futilely with the control panel, while others tried to manually force the door. Muffled cries, terrible to hear, came from the airlock; scaled hands disembodied in the roiling smoke scrabbled desperately at the inside of the door. Odo watched in horror as one hand pressed flat against the transparent panel for a moment before disappearing into the darkness.

A child's hand.

"Gul, the diplomatic pouch to Bajor -- the transport is leaving shortly. Have you approved the contents?"

Dukat looked absently up from his desk at the young Cardassian aide. "In a moment," he said. "Hold the transport, and wait outside."

"Yes, sir." The officer nodded, turned briskly and left. Dukat returned his attention to the two items on his desktop -- items that had been enclosed in a sealed pouch he'd found resting there when he had entered his locked and guarded suite that morning. A Bajoran combadge, and an odd little locket. When Dukat held it flat on his palm, the release sprung open and a tiny ... something ... morphed out of the hollow confines to dance for him. Curious, he mused. Especially in light of the docking bay accident last night, in which several Cardassians had been severely injured, and two civilians killed.

Odo, my friend, mused Dukat, I'll bet you hadn't planned on that ...

The Gul slipped the items back into their pouch and closed it, not concerning himself with the broken seal. He buzzed his aide back from the outer office and handed the package to him. "Add this to the diplomatic pouch, and get it to the transport."

"Yes, sir."

"One other thing ... tell Security they can stand down from yellow alert. I don't believe we'll be troubled by the Ghost any longer."

The smile on his superior's face chilled the young Cardassian's reptilian blood. He took the small package from Dukat's hand and fled.

Kira sat at her computer console in the makeshift office she occupied down the hall from First Minister Shakaar's suites. No one had been assigned to replace either her or Odo on the station; after her departure and Odo's disappearance, it had been ceded to the complete control of the Cardassians. Now Kira was working at his request as the First Minister's personal consultant on Terok Nor, albeit in an anonymous, unofficial fashion. She hated being trapped behind a desk. The only thing that mitigated her frustration was her unlimited access to everything Bajoran intelligence could gather about activity on the station. It was the only way she could get news of Odo. And news of Odo was all Kira lived for of late.

Kira held in her hand a PADD with the latest security report from Terok Nor. The Ghost had been busy ... two turbolifts sabotaged and a replicator system failure that caused the units to deliver only hasperat and ginger tea. She smiled in spite of herself ... Odo's sly sense of humor, his way of sending her a message that he was all right, or both? Just watch yourself, Constable. Her eyes narrowed at the next entry ... a Cardassian woman and child had been killed in a malfunction of a docking bay airlock, the first deaths caused by the Ghost. Oh, Prophets, she thought, something must have gone wrong ... Odo ...

Her thoughts were interrupted when her office door slid open. First Minister Shakaar Edon stood there, staring at her. Fifteen years of experience reading that face told Kira to brace herself for bad news.

Wordlessly Shakaar approached her desk, and wordlessly he dropped a small sealed pouch on it. Kira heard a muffled clink of metal on metal. She reached for the package and read the display affixed to it. "Major Kira Nerys, c/o First Minister Shakaar Edon - CONFIDENTIAL". The display revealed that the seal had already been broken. She looked up at Shakaar.

"Dukat," he said shortly. "It came from Terok Nor. Whatever is inside, he knows what it is and let it pass. So much for the sanctity of our diplomatic pouches ..."

Kira tapped the release button on the pouch clasp and the violated seal opened; a Bajoran combadge and an oval metal locket on a fine-linked chain fell into her hand. The blood drained from Kira's body. She clenched her fist around the things and pressed them to her forehead. Shakaar suddenly realized how clawlike her fingers were, how haggard she had grown over the past months.

"Nerys?" he said carefully.

A long breath escaped her, hissed through clenched teeth. She dropped the combadge on the desk and pushed it toward Shakaar. The locket remained in her hand, the chain twined in her fingers.

"The combadge is Odo's," she said quietly. "It means ... he's resigned his commission. And this ... " She looked at the locket that she knew held Odo's 'cousin', the morphing key that he had once thought would unlock the secret of his then-unknown heritage, " ... this means ... " She closed her eyes and lowered her head to rest on the desktop, her cheek pressed against the hand that held the key. I've been such a fool, about so many things ...

"Nerys ... " Shakaar tried again.

"Leave me alone," she murmured. He did not see the tears that pooled on the laminate console.

Lwaxana Troi heard the chime and frowned. Getting ready for a wedding was always a busy time for her ... no matter how many times she married, she never seemed to be able to cut down the number of crises involved. Her staff were all engaged elsewhere in the large house, so Lwaxana herself answered the door. She had not expected her visitor to be Odo.

"What a welcome surprise!" she exclaimed, and reached out to take his hand. She reeled as a wave of anguish slammed into her.

Odo her thoughts went out as her eyes met his. She looked into two blue gates to hell ... hollow, empty holes that led to a bottomless pit.

He spoke slowly, as if he had not formed words for a long time and had to think carefully of how to do it. "I ... need a place to stay." He sounded apologetic.

Lwaxana did not hesitate. Understanding immediately that the being before her teetered on the brink of insanity, she set about charming him out of thinking. "Why, Odo, I'm thrilled to see you! Come in, come in!" She wrapped her arm securely around his thin shoulders and hustled the changeling into her home. A sensation of warmth, of comfort and safety caressed his thoughts and Odo's shape rippled; Lwaxana clucked sympathetically, as if he had simply sneezed instead of revealing the depths of his distress.

"It's a long trip from Deep Space Nine. You must be exhausted. Come along ... we'll get you settled in one of the guest rooms. There's a lot going on around here just now, Odo dear ... I'm getting married! Oh, and you'll love him, I just know it ... he's a diplomat, here on Betazed, and we met ... " She continued to chatter hypnotically to the dazed shapeshifter as she led him to a quiet, darkened room in a wing of the house overlooking the garden.

Kira sat alone in the window of her quarters. The glass panes had been thrown open to admit the soft warm breeze of a Bajoran summer night. In the sky, three moons overlapped, invitation according to ancient legend for Bajorans to make a wish. Kira smiled, her thin lips a wound across her face.

Wish on the three moons, Nerys. Wish on the wormhole, Nerys. Why do we have this crazy obsession with wishing? she wondered. Is it because we know damn well we can't make things right, but wishing still gives us a scrap of hope?

The three moons became six, then nine, as tears swam in Kira's eyes. Wishing won't bring Odo back to me. It won't let me go back in time and see what I should have seen all along. And it sure as hell won't give me a second chance to tell him what I should have told him when he was standing in front of me, needing so badly to hear it. Prophets, Nerys! she thought with vicious pain, did you ever miss a chance to hurt him? She fingered the locket which hung around her neck.

Prophets, she thought again, pleading this time, please walk with him, wherever he is ...

The being nestled at the bottom of the garden had grown up in steel ships and glass beakers and windowless rooms. Almost all of his existence he had been confined to artificial environments. Now he took pleasure in the simple novelty of sunlight warming his skin, of gentle rain washing over him, even the tickling of the insects who crept across him from time to time. He clung to the pleasant sensations the garden surrounded him with. He did not think often of other things; most times, he tried not to think much at all.

The earth shifted slightly beneath him. The creature contracted himself to allow the baby beetles hatching there freedom to crawl to the surface of the soil. He had long been aware of the eggs beneath the dead leaves. He had watched the mother beetle lay them and leave, and he had moved from his nest a few inches away to his new post over the cache. The long warm days had grown colder and shorter, but the berry bush had sheltered him from the wind and the rain and after a time the sun had returned and so had the activity in the garden. Now new life was creeping from beneath his body. He watched with wonder as the tiny creatures made their way into the world.

A sudden flurry of scarlet feathers, and several of the babies were gone, off to feed other babies with scarlet feathers. Dark waves of torment raced through the creature's golden body. He, too, had killed; he had not meant to, but he had taken life. Caring for the lives in this small corner of the garden was his self-imposed penance, but it brought him little peace. Innocents died, even here, and heaven remained indifferent.

A vibration echoed through the earth; the creature shifted slightly on the moist earth of the flower bed. He stretched his senses outward and felt the garden's keeper approaching. He contracted in upon himself, retreating under the berry bush.

Lwaxana had not come to visit Odo in a long time. At first, when he had fled the chaos of the house and the wedding preparations for the small spot at the bottom of the garden, she had allowed it; she knew that he needed privacy, and she was busy. After her marriage, she had tried to entice him back to the house, but without success. As her life returned to normal it became apparent to Lwaxana that Odo's showed no signs of doing so. Finally she had resigned herself to the idea that he might stay at the bottom of the garden forever, huddled under the berry bush, caring for the small things that lived there and retreating from thoughts of his old life.

Lwaxana watched him, and worried, and kept an eye on the news from Bajor. She also maintained unofficial contact with a certain Star Fleet officer assigned to a certain starship on the front in the Alpha Quadrant. And when Benjamin Sisko told her that Terok Nor would once again become Deep Space Nine, Lwaxana knew the time had come for her house guest to leave.

At the bottom of the garden, Lwaxana seated herself on the bench next to the berry bush. She caught a glimpse of honey-colored skin beneath its maroon leaves. "Odo," she said softly. "We need to talk."

Odo rippled slowly and carefully into his humanoid form, one he rarely assumed any more. He sat on the grass at Lwaxana's feet. "The terringer eggs hatched," he said. "Shall I show you?"

"Not now, Odo," she smiled, laying her hand on his shoulder. "You need to leave."

Blue eyes, childlike except for the pain lurking behind them, looked uncomprehending at Lwaxana. Her heart chilled at the sight.

"Leave?" he asked.

"Yes, dear. The Dominion has retreated back through the wormhole, and the Cardassians have abandoned the space station that guards it. Captain Sisko is resuming command. Your friends need you, Odo ... it's time for you to go home."

"Terok Nor is not my home."

"No, but Deep Space Nine is."

"I abandoned my post. I'm no longer part of the Bajoran militia. They won't want me back."

"It doesn't matter if they want you or not, Odo. Major Kira needs you. And you need her."

"Are you forcing me to leave?" he asked slowly.

"You'll always have a home here, Odo." Lwaxana pulled his head down onto her knee and gently stroked his hair. "But you're hiding, and you can't hide forever. Your 'forever' will long outlast mine, dear. Someday you'll have to leave this garden ... I think we both know it should be now, to go to her."

She felt him trembling. Reaching out with her mind, Lwaxana wrapped Odo's pagh in a comforting embrace, suffusing his injured spirit with a warmth more penetrating than the sunshine in the garden.

Odo, you can't forsake the future because of what has happened in the past, she told him gently.

He looked up at her and Lwaxana saw an awareness, a presence and a hint of sanity behind his blue eyes that had been missing from them for far too long a time.

"All right," he said quietly. "All right ... "

Kira was lost in thought on the trip from Bajor to Terok Nor, soon to be Deep Space Nine once again. A security team had already been sent up to disarm any booby traps the Cardassians had left behind, and a maintenance crew headed by Quark's brother Rom had shuttled up right behind them to begin reviving and repairing the station's operational systems. But Kira was the first administrative official to return; there would be no one to meet her, as Odo had when she first arrived on the station as a Bajoran officer. Reclaiming Deep Space Nine would be a long, difficult and dangerous task, Kira knew. But more than the work that lay ahead, Kira feared the memories that waited in the corridors and decks of the old Cardassian hulk.

Shrugging her backpack more securely onto her shoulder, Kira left the shuttlecraft through the airlock. She paused for a moment and breathed deeply of the musty air. Why had this place begun to feel like home only after she had been forced to leave? Bareil would have had a proverb to explain it, Kira mused, and started at the thought. So many memories here ... the air itself was full of them ...

Shaking her head to clear it, Kira headed for the habitat ring. Best to get settled before heading to Ops, she thought, thinking of her nerves as much as her backpack. A turbolift ride and a long walk down a dusty, debris-littered corridor brought her to her old quarters. Kira had to open the door using the manual override ... not all systems in this area had been brought back up, and while minimal life-support was stirring the dead air, doors and lights were only semi-functional.

Kira waited for her eyes to adjust to the half-light. The sight that greeted her when the door ground open, even though she'd expected it, hit hard. It was clear that no one had lived here in her absence, but the room had been torn apart. Her small altar had been overturned, and what remained of her things lay strewn across the floor. Kira felt nauseous. Overwhelmed, she turned her back and fled down the hall to Odo's old quarters.

The door there required some shoulder ... the small Bajoran leaned into it, glad of something to fight against, and the door reluctantly gave way. Odo's quarters had been ransacked as well. His shapeshifting sculpture was battered, the computer console overturned, and broken pieces of the odd objects he had collected during his residence there littered the room. A few slow steps into the dim, deserted space and Kira heard a faint crackle beneath her feet. Looking down, she saw the plant that she had given Odo as a housewarming gift, long ago. It had been uprooted from its home in his bucket and spilled out onto the floor where it lay, a skeleton of brittle twigs.

Kira sank to her knees, reaching out and taking up a handful of dried leaves. They crumbled to dust in her clenched fist. Tears stung her eyes. Had Odo died here too, alone in the dark somewhere on the station? Or had he managed to escape? And if he had, where was he now?

Kira let the leaves sift through her fingers as she knelt in the semi-darkness. She reached for Odo's bucket, shook the remaining dirt from it, and hugged it to her. After a moment, she set it down and lay her knapsack next to it.

This is where I'm going to stay, Kira thought. Where I should have been long ago, when it would have meant something to him. And maybe, if the Prophets are kind ...

She sat alone in the dark for a long time.

Shaping his old "body" had come back rather easily, but feeling comfortable in it had not, and so Odo had hoped to avoid meeting anyone he knew after disembarking from the shuttle. It hadn't been difficult to avoid meeting anyone at all ... the station was alive with activity, but there were actually very few people on board, and from the gossip on the shuttle he knew that Star Fleet was not due back for several more days.

Now, impossibly, one-time Security Chief Odo stood on his Promenade again. He surveyed the damaged shops, the broken railings and vandalized storefronts. Sparks flew as repair crews refitted shop doors, and finishers were hard at work on the decks and bulkheads. He noticed that the lights were on at Quark's, and his thin lips twitched ... no one, except perhaps for the barkeep or either of two women he had known, would have recognized it as a smile.

He loitered in the shadow of the bulkhead, purposeless for the moment. Across the Promenade he could see the doors to his old office. It was dark, and did not appear to be part of the reconstruction work being done. Odo wondered at that Had it been so badly destroyed by the departing Cardassians?

His body sensed her before his eyes saw her ... a short figure in a rust-colored uniform only slightly lighter in color than her hair. Odo noted with concern how the uniform hung loosely from her shoulders and hips.

"Major Kira!"

She stopped a few feet away from him. Odo dropped back into the shadows as one of the finishers left his work site to approach her. "Yes?" she replied. Her voice sounded tired.

"I know you asked us to leave the old security office alone for a while, Major. But the restoration is going pretty quickly, and we'll need a decision made soon. If nothing else, we could start gutting it tomorrow." The worker eyed her curiously. Odo could see her stare over the man's shoulder at the darkened doorway, and he strained to hear her reply.

"I suppose there's no point in putting it off any longer," he heard her say, almost to herself. Her hand strayed to her throat, and thin fingers seemed to search out the shape of something she wore beneath her tunic.

"Yes," she replied finally, in a firm but resigned voice. "Go ahead."

"Thank you, Major." The worker went back to his crew. Odo watched as Kira crossed the distance to the broken door of his old office. She stopped on the threshold. Odo saw her posture change from confident to uncertain; then she squared her shoulders and threw her head back in a movement so familiar and dear to him that it hurt to watch. Wedging herself between the jammed door panels, she disappeared into the darkened interior. Odo was drawn irresistibly to follow.

Quietly he mounted the steps and paused at the door, peering into the gloom. His computer console still stood amid the wreckage, covered in dust and debris. In the guest chair sat Kira Nerys. She was bent over the console, her head bowed, her arms stretched out toward where his chair had once been, as if in supplication. Silent sobs shook her shoulders. Without a sound, Odo slipped through the doorway to stand behind her. Her grief was so evident, his own emotions so profound, that levity suddenly seemed very important to Odo.

"Pretty girl like you shouldn't be ... ah ... shouldn't ..." he managed, before his voice failed him.

Slowly, as if not to frighten away a ghost, Kira raised her head and turned to meet his eyes.


A small smiled cracked his plain face. "Something I can do for you, Major?"

She rose unsteadily to her feet. Her lips parted, as if she was about to speak, but instead she simply opened her arms and embraced him, burying her face against his neck. Odo folded his arms around her and rested his cheek against her hair while she cried.

Finally she pulled away to look up at his face. Tear-filled brown eyes met worried blue ones, and slow smiles were exchanged. Odo brushed the moisture from Kira's cheek with gentle fingertips. "Are you all right?" he asked.

"I am now," she whispered. "Odo, I love you." She said it as if she were keeping a promise she had made to herself.

Further words seemed unnecessary. Slipping one hand gently through Kira's hair to cradle the back of her head, Odo kept a promise of his own, one he'd never expected to be allowed to keep. In the shattered remains of the tiny office where their friendship had grown and where Odo's love for Kira had been realized and kept hidden for too long, he kissed her ... a brief, tentative touch. Then Kira smiled, gently nudging the changeling's long nose aside with her ridged one, and her generous mouth drew him into a deeper, more enthusiastic expression of their feelings.

After a long time, it seemed, the kiss ended. Still embracing, Odo and Kira turned to look through the broken panels of the doorway out onto the battered Promenade.

"We're starting over again, Odo," Kira murmured. "Just like five years ago. You, me, this station -- "

"Yes. Starting over. But not like five years ago. This time, things will be different."

They left the office and, hand in hand, stepped out into their future together.

Much later, in the quarters that had once been his, and then hers, and would now be theirs together, Odo and Kira stood before each other. No more barriers were left between them ... clothing was shed and melted away and earth and water came together, drawing down air and fire around each other, beginning an elemental dance. Soon their bodies lay linked together, bathed in the starlight that spilled through the window which curved above them. Soft cries and wordless whispers drifted to the ceiling.

In the depths of the Wormhole, one of the Prophets paused as the awareness of two wounded paghs coming together to heal themselves caught his attention. The old alien smiled.

Children, he thought to himself, throwing open the Gate to the Celestial Temple. Light streamed out through the darkness and cleansed the spidery hulk of the old space station with the Prophets' shining benediction.

Long ago we laughed at shadows
Lightning flashed, and thunder followed us
It could never find us here
You're my witness, I'm your mutineer
I'm your mutineer.

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