Unfamiliar pain welled up in his throat. The membranes inside his nose felt swollen. His eyes stung. Every beat of his heart hurt.
Odo was helpless. Despite all his efforts, he had failed.
He poured the gelatinous baby Changeling into his hands, offering the only comfort he could give.
"Please, don't die," he pleaded. "There is so much I want to show you. I was going to teach you how to be a Tarkalean hawk, remember?"
His palms stung as the baby Changeling disappeared. He gasped, showing his open hands to Doctor Bashir and Doctor Mora.
"What happened?" Doctor Mora peered at Odo's hands. "Where did it go?"
Odo's body tingled. The aching in his throat faded. A presence in his mind whispered its thanks.
Doctor Bashir ran a tricorder scan. He frowned. "Somehow it integrated itself into Odo's body."
Then the sensations hit. A mixture of agony and ecstasy. Odo staggered backwards with a hoarse cry. As Doctor Mora and Doctor Bashir caught him, he felt his internal organs collapse. His bones melted. Holding his shape took effort. The solid body he called a stranger-- a source of shame and punishment-- became once again fluid and familiar.
"Odo, what's wrong?"
Odo looked dazedly at Doctor Bashir. His clear blue eyes shone with realization.
"It can't be," he said.
"What?" asked Doctor Mora.
Odo's diaphragm twitched and dissolved. His quiet laugh sounded like a sob. He had only one desire.
Odo shook off the concerned hands holding him upright and walked through the medical bay doors. He willed his body to change, and it listened.
Startled onlookers watched the Tarkalean hawk soar across the Promenade.
Odo flew for the unnamed baby Changeling.
He landed and regained his humanoid form with his arms still outstretched in memory of flight. Being able to change shape again felt wonderful, but the price for doing so made him ache anew.
The baby Changeling he wanted to call his own was gone.
For Freedom's Sake
"Hold on, hold on so strong, time just carries on.
All that you thought was wrong is pure again.
You can't hide forever from the thunder.
Look into the storm and feel the rain!"
-- Josh Groban, "Brave"
Zero-hundred on the Promenade was the routine patrol hour Odo enjoyed. All the shops were closed for the night. Nobody was on the Promenade except for the night security detail and cleanup personnel.
Odo nodded politely to the crew members he passed. He watched a human female clean up discarded jumja sticks outside Garak's Clothiers and made a mental note to check his security footage. It had been awhile since he issued a citation for littering. Dax was the last culprit. Odo groaned at the memory. She left an empty glass on a bulkhead outside his office. The day after the citation, Dax broke into his office and covered every inch of the floor with replicated drinking glasses. Quark helped. Quark always helped.
The gruff Security Chief still didn't know what she found so funny about throwing his personal space into chaos. Neither Dax nor Quark cared about the fines they had to pay for their prank.
Grumbling, Odo shook his head and glanced at the lights cast by Quark's bar. Quark's back was turned as he tallied up the day's profit. Odo crept past the dabo tables and sat down at the bar. He folded his hands. And waited.
"...so Rom gets half of--" Quark turned, "AAH!"
Odo barely kept a straight face. He found sick amusement in scaring Quark out of his lobes.
"Good evening, Quark. I trust your business was profitable and legal today?"
Quark hastily put his PADD away. He took a deep breath and said, "Not that it's any of your business, but yes."
"It's always my business," Odo huffed.
"Nice to see you on duty again." Quark grumbled and wiped down the bar top. "How's it feel to have your shape shifting abilities back?"
The inquiry dug at a too-raw wound. Odo growled a warning.
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry about the baby Changeling. I can still get you your money back since it d-- okay! Fine! I won't mention it again!" Quark held his hands up in mock surrender. "By the way, you just broke your last record."
Quark grinned. "It only took me three seconds to rile you up. I can't remember the last time you were this grumpy."
"Oh, please. You're worse than a toothache." Odo narrowed his eyes. "And I am no more 'grumpy' than I usually am."
"Oh, yes you are." Quark said back.
Odo knew he'd been baited, but the reply came out before he could stop it.
"I am not!"
"Really?" The shrewd Ferengi pointed to a dabo table behind Odo. "Then why did you get into an argument with Klingons at that table two days ago?"
"They were disturbing the peace." Odo said.
"And how about the four Yridians you ordered off the Promenade this morning?"
"They were loitering outside Garak's shop."
"Uh-huh...then explain the-- "
"I didn't come here to be interrogated!" Odo snapped.
"I rest my case."
"Fine, Odo. Why did you come to my bar at this hour?"
"The same reason I always come here. To keep an eye on you."
Quark rolled his eyes. "It's so nice of you to check up on my welfare. I don't know how I would function without you."
"Hah! Welfare." Odo pinned Quark with his best glare as he got up and left the bar.
The walk to his quarters was uneventful. It had been a long day. He looked forward to a quiet, relaxing regenerative cycle. Sometimes it felt nice to enter his quarters and splatter across the ground in his gelatinous state.
Odo fell to the floor, expecting his body to melt like it always did, but only his head, arms and legs spread out as a fluid. The results were akin to an egg in a frying pan. He reformed again, his face a mask of confusion.
Was that a fluke?
He attempted to dissolve into goo a second time. Just like before, only his head and limbs responded. He solidified and sat up. His brow wrinkled. He tried to shape shift into one of the spiraling sculptures he used for practice. Once more, all but his torso responded.
Odo stared at his hands. Terror clutched his mind like a vice. Was he losing his ability to shape shift again? He leapt to his feet, coming face to face with his reflection in a nearby sculpture. His eyelids fluttered. He squeezed his own limbs and pressed on his chest. No bones-- not that he could feel, anyway.
"Computer, is there a quantum stasis field active in this room?"
The computer responded with a beep. "There are no quantum stasis fields active in this room."
"Are there any present on the station?"
Another beep. "There are no quantum stasis fields active on this station."
Odo paced around his room. His breath, or what passed for it, caught in his throat. No, this couldn't wait. He tapped his combadge. "Odo to Doctor Bashir."
"I read you," came the sleepy reply.
"I'm sorry to wake you, doctor. I may have a medical problem. I'm on my way to the Infirmary now."
"You aren't solid anymore, remember?"
Now in a borderline panic, Odo shouted, "Just meet me in the Infirmary!"
"Whoa, whoa...easy. I'll be in the Infirmary in ten minutes. Bashir, out."
Ten minutes later, Odo stood surrounded by the blinking lights and monitors of Deep Space Nine's medical facility. He had already demonstrated his inability to fully liquefy. Doctor Bashir scanned him head to toe and frowned at his medical tricorder.
"What?" Odo asked.
Doctor Bashir ran another tricorder scan. The handheld device pinged. He said, "The density of your morphogenic matrix is normal in your limbs, but the surface area of your upper torso has increased in mass and density by twenty five percent."
Odo squinted down at himself in dismay. His body appeared no different than it always had.
"I've had trouble reverting into my gelatinous state for the past week, starting three days after losing the baby Changeling. Last night it was a struggle, and tonight...this." Odo looked at his hands again. "It's normally the other way around. Holding my shape is to me what keeping your hand in a fist is to you. Until tonight, I, ah, I thought the problem was just, as you humans put it, stress."
"I didn't know Changelings could suffer insomnia," said Doctor Bashir. "I can see it has quite the effect on your disposition."
Odo gritted the stubs he passed off as teeth. He was glad he didn't have molars anymore-- the last time he did this with real teeth, he broke one. Toothaches were the most annoying sensation he experienced during his time as a solid. More annoying than a full bladder. More annoying than Quark.
"Quark said I'm grumpier than usual," he muttered.
"Mmhmm. We'll get to the bottom of this, Odo." Doctor Bashir gestured to the biobed.
Odo grunted in dismay, but he complied and laid himself down. Doctor Bashir moved the sensor array up to Odo's torso and calibrated the diagnostic systems.
"Get comfortable...this might take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours."
"Wonderful," Odo said to himself. He relaxed the best he could and prepared to wait.
Odo stirred through the floating sensation of waking from sleep. His head and limbs solidified. He blinked.
Sleep? He hadn't required sleep since he regained his shape shifting abilities! Not that falling asleep wasn't possible-- he managed it a few times after becoming a Changeling again, but he always slid off his bed and woke up on the floor in his gelatinous state.
Thankfully, Doctor Bashir thought to surround the biobed with a containment field. Odo nodded to show he was fully reformed and the field dissipated in a flash.
"I'm losing my shape shifting abilities, aren't I?"
"I knew it." Odo grumbled. "I'll be a solid again by the end of the week."
Doctor Bashir scratched his head. "Well, um...it's about the only description I can give for your condition. Mood swings, changes in your body...just look here."
Odo squinted at the screen where Doctor Bashir was pointing.
"Your chest cavity is less dense than its surface area, which seems to be more dense than the rest of you. And then there is this."
Doctor Bashir zoomed the scan into Odo's chest. There was a fist-sized pocket where his heart used to be during his time as a solid. It fit perfectly between the rudimentary lungs that helped him produce speech and regulate his humanoid body temperature. Something liquid moved inside the pocket. Odo watched it form little tentacles and roll about. He placed his hand on his chest.
"How...?" he asked.
"Well," Doctor Bashir cleared his throat. "I think it's the baby Changeling you were trying to help. It integrated itself into you, transformed you back into a Changeling and now it's reforming inside you using your morphogenic matrix and biomolecular structure. You have essentially become its new progenitor, and your body is adjusting itself to protect it until it can survive on its own. In essence, it's a pregnancy. Congratulations, Odo!"
Odo peered at Doctor Bashir as if he lost his mind. Didn't the doctor realize the problem this posed? How was he supposed to attend his duties with unstable moods and a new life form growing inside his body? What if the Dominion found out? What if news of his condition leaked to the Founders?
No. This little miracle was his to protect.
"I wish to make a formal request that your findings remain off the record, and that word of this doesn't get around. And contact Doctor Mora."
Doctor Bashir paused, "Doctor Mora? I thought-- "
"He is the most qualified person to assist you with these unusual circumstances," said Odo. He stood up straighter and clasped his hands behind his back. "How long do you think this Changeling will...gestate?"
"I don't know. I can tell you the little one's volume is half what it was when it was when we thought it died. Didn't you say it will grow as it shape shifts?"
Odo nodded, his eyes still glued to the monitor screen. The reality of the situation sank into his mind. He hadn't lost the baby Changeling after all!
"Then I suspect your gestation period will be determined by how active Junior is."
Junior? Odo glanced at Doctor Bashir. "I see. Thank you, doctor."
Then a new realization struck him. The station stood on the brink of a war. While he had no doubt Deep Space Nine was a safe place, he knew he couldn't raise a baby Changeling here. It would be a liability. Something the Founders might use against him. He needed to come up with a plan. Fast.
Odo asked, "Computer, what time is it?"
The computer beeped. "The current time is oh-eight-fifteen."
"I suppose I should go. I'm on duty in an hour," said Odo. "When you contact Doctor Mora, please make sure he keeps my condition a secret."
"Will do. And I request that you contact me if anything doesn't feel right."
"I'll do that."
Doctor Bashir smiled. Anyone could see the situation excited him on a personal and scientific level. "Good luck, Odo."
That should shut him up for awhile.
Odo put his feet up on his desk and smirked to himself. He just returned from doling out a littering citation. Quark thought he could get away with it, but Odo reminded him otherwise. Seeing the Ferengi mutter as he paid the fine was worth the trip. The exchange made Morn laugh. Morn had the weirdest cackle, and even Odo liked to hear it once in awhile.
He looked up when he heard the doors to his security office open. A lovely Bajoran woman in a red uniform approached his desk. Her body hadn't yet regained its shape after recently giving birth, but her presence exuded strength anyway. Just one of many qualities Odo found most attractive about her.
"Major Kira," Odo sat up straight and regarded her with a polite nod.
"Constable," Kira nodded back. "So, what's the big secret you wanted to tell me in person?"
"Yes, that." Odo set his security reports aside and leaned across his desk. "I don't know how to say this, and it's going to sound preposterous coming from me, but..." He took one last glimpse at the door for prying ears. "I'm going to be a parent."
Kira straightened to her full height. She folded her arms and chuckled, arching one sculpted eyebrow. "Really? So, who is the mother?"
"Uh..." Odo glanced down at himself. "Technically, I am, since I'm carrying it inside my body."
The humor left Kira's face. She walked around the desk and gazed at Odo more closely. "Odo?"
"Do you remember the baby Changeling I told you about?"
"Mmhmm," Kira nodded.
"It...it didn't die like I previously thought. Doctor Bashir says it somehow integrated itself into my body after it reverted me to a Changeling. It sounds impossible, yet it's there. And as one of my closest friends, I felt I could entrust you with the secret."
"Secret?" Kira smiled. "Odo, this is great news! You should tell everyone."
"Kira," Odo took her hands. His own forwardness surprised him. The look on his face kept her from saying more, and the fears he had for the infant Changeling poured out before he could stop them. "Please, Nerys. I don't want this news getting around the station. If word gets back to the Founders, I fear they'll come and take it from me. I...I fear they will punish this innocent Changeling for my crimes. Secrecy is the only protection it has."
Her fingers closed around his. They were soft. Reassuring. For a moment, he wished he could tell her he loved her. Yet he could not. Burdening her with his feelings while she was with Shakaar wouldn't be fair.
"Odo..." Kira squeezed his hands. "I can keep a secret. But why me? Shouldn't you be telling Captain Sisko?"
Odo shook his head. He smiled wryly. "You are more experienced in childbirth than Captain Sisko is."
"Hm, true." Kira chuckled again and tilted her head. Her Bajoran earring glittered. She asked, "Have you thought of a name for the baby Changeling?"
"I...have something in mind. I was planning to name it before, but there wasn't time to get around to it." Odo met her eyes. "I want to name it Kejal. Because that is what you fought for. It's what we all fight for. And this one-- " he touched his own chest, " --will know it."
Her kind expression made his fingers tingle. "That's a perfect name. Do you know if it's male or female yet?"
Odo looked into her large brown eyes. "We won't know until it chooses for itself. I modeled myself after Doctor Mora because I didn't know any different." His head sank into his shoulders for a moment. He shrugged. "He'll tell you embarrassing stories about my first encounter with a female if you ask him."
"You know I won't put you through that," she replied.
"I appreciate it."
Kira's combadge beeped and delivered a message from the main computer. She straightened. "That's my reminder. I'm supposed to meet Dax in the holosuite. We're trying out a new relaxation program."
Odo's spirits sank. He was hoping to spend more time with Kira. His expression remained neutral, revealing nothing. "Oh...well, enjoy yourself, Major."
"I will...and I'll keep this between us. I promise." Kira smiled tenderly at him. "By the way, how are you going to give birth?"
"I have no idea," said Odo. The irony of the situation wasn't lost on him. "I don't even know how long it will gestate. I might deliver in two hours or two months."
"Well, let's hope it gives you some warning." Kira looked amused. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Nodding, Odo politely dismissed her. The door hadn't even closed yet when another Bajoran walked through.
Odo stood and greeted the man whose form he tried to mirror so many times. The hair was the only thing he got right.
"Oh, Odo!" Doctor Mora didn't disguise the grin on his face, "I came as soon as I heard."
"Well," Odo shrugged and forced his gravelly voice into a lighter, less serious tone. "I figured you would be delighted to be a 'grandfather.'"
Doctor Mora laughed. "It's quite a miracle, isn't it? So, when are you off duty?"
The Infirmary biobed became a familiar fixture. Odo willingly laid back while Doctor Mora and Doctor Bashir bent over the monitors. He stemmed the flood of unpleasant laboratory memories by mentally going through his security checklist.
Morning, afternoon and night patrols? Done.
Daily malware scans on all systems? Done.
All luggage scanned and secured? Done.
All cargo bays secured? Done.
Everyone coming and going accounted for? Done.
Harass Quark? Done.
"Yes, Doctor Mora?"
Doctor Mora showed him his tricorder screen. Odo recognized the pocket and moving mass of fluid within it. He lifted his head for a better look.
"Is this a live scan?"
Odo couldn't describe the emotions running through him. The infant Changeling was forming tentacles and curling them, only to lapse back into a gelatinous state again. It wasn't able to hold a shape for more than a few seconds at a time.
"It looks like it's...practicing," he said, unable to stop himself from smiling. "Just like I did when I learned to form tentacles."
"You sure loved to do that," Doctor Mora remarked. "Odo, have you thought of a name for it?"
"I have," Odo replied, his eyes shining. "I'm going to call it Kejal."
Doctor Mora's expression softened. He patted Odo's arm and chuckled. "A wonderful choice. My goodness, I do feel like I'm about to be a grandfather."
"Kejal?" Doctor Bashir asked. "I-I'm sorry, my Bajoran is a little rusty. What does it mean again?"
"Kejal is our word for freedom, Doctor Bashir."
"Ahh, thank you."
But Odo wasn't listening to them anymore. His gaze remained fixed on the tricorder viewscreen. The infant Changeling formed its entire mass into a tentacle no larger than his little finger. It slapped against the side of its protective pocket before melting into liquid again.
Odo jumped with a gasp. He felt that. "Oh...did you see that?"
Doctor Bashir and Doctor Mora grinned at each other.
"The pocket is actually full of air, not liquid like I first thought. And it hasn't changed its size at all, but the baby Changeling's volume has increased by ten percent since yesterday." Doctor Bashir leaned on the side of the biobed. "I suspect only two conditions will lead to it being born. One-- it outgrows the pocket and bursts free. Or two-- it can hold a shape long enough to work itself out of your body. Where it will emerge from is anyone's guess. Doctor Mora, what do you think?"
"I agree with your hypothesis, doctor." He leaned over Odo as well. "I think, regardless of what triggers its birth, it will choose the path of least resistance. Unlike a solid species, that could be anywhere on your body."
The idea of a baby Changeling coming out of his face almost made Odo laugh. That would be a sight to remember.
I suppose I'll just sneeze, Odo mused to himself.
Doctor Bashir and Doctor Mora moved away to talk quietly amongst themselves. Odo was grateful for the slight distance. He rested his hand over his chest. Lying flat on his back meant he felt more of the tiny movements inside him. The prickly sensations reminded him of champagne bubbles. Then, a tentacle-- a faint tapping under his palm. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
Little one, are you aware?
The response was a faint, primitive consciousness. Enough for an entity to recognize itself as alive and that it wasn't alone. Nothing more.
Odo let his hand drop back onto the biobed. He remembered Lwaxana Troi telling him about sensing the thoughts of unborn Betazoid babies.
'Such contentment,' she said...
"It knows it is alive," Odo spoke quietly. "I can feel its awareness. It is...like I was...ah, I need to rest."
Doctor Bashir reached out. "Doctor Mora, it's all right. This is what I've been telling you about. Watch his torso."
Odo stopped listening. His limbs and head were melting. He remembered Doctor Mora erecting the containment field. Then slumber claimed him, and he didn't fight it.
The early hours of the morning found Odo walking his usual patrol around the Promenade. He nodded to the shopkeepers who noticed his passage. The Yridians he cited for loitering were enjoying breakfast in the Klingon restaurant. They looked like a shifty bunch. No doubt up to mischief. Odo made a mental note to watch them. He clasped his hands behind his back, making eye contact with each Yridian as he passed the Klingon delhi.
At the Celestial Café, he paused to smile at Chalan Aroya. She noticed him, grinned and waved back. He gave a slight bow before resuming his patrol, ever-conscious of her eyes watching him pass. Aroya was a sweet girl. Her affections towards him were flattering, but she wasn't his type. Their differences outweighed their similarities.
A flicker caught Odo's attention. He looked up and forgot all about Aroya.
Quark had erected an obnoxious blinking sign outside his bar. The gaudy lights spelled out: Come to Quark's! Quark's is fun! Colorful bouncing arrows pointed to the entrance.
Even worse, it started playing music. The same obnoxious song Quark once installed on all the viewscreens.
Of all the obnoxious, energy-wasting... Odo strode up to the bar and summoned his most intimidating security officer voice, which boomed enough to make Morn jump. "QUARK!"
"Ah, good morning, Constable." Quark set two bottles of Aldebaran whiskey on the bar top. "What can I do for you?"
Odo folded his arms. He suspected Quark purchased the sign on purpose to annoy him. Still, busting him always felt satisfying. "Your sign is a blatant violation of advertising protocol."
Quark put on his most innocent face. "What sign? I don't remember a sign."
Odo loomed over the short Ferengi behind the bar. "You know which sign I'm talking about." He pointed over his shoulder with his thumb.
Suddenly, Quark 'remembered.' "Oh, that sign!"
"Yes," Odo smirked, "that sign."
"Pretty snazzy, isn't it? I paid good money for it."
"And you wasted good money for it, because it's a violation. I want it gone by twelve-hundred, or I'm throwing you into a holding cell and ejecting all of your profits into space."
"Now you're being sadistic." Quark fidgeted with a PADD containing the bar's menu. "Not only that-- you're grumpier today than you were two days ago."
"Oh, no, Quark." Odo narrowed his eyes and rapped his fingers on the bar top. "You haven't seen me grumpy yet. But keep testing me, and I promise you'll regret it. Now get rid of the sign."
Quark touched the heels of his upturned palms together and bowed. Odo turned away, ignoring Quark's voice when he told Rom to pay up.
"Gee, is it a good idea to get Odo all riled up?" Rom asked.
"Always, Rom. Always."
Odo shook his head and kept walking. That felt great.
He turned and regarded Kira with a polite nod. "Major."
Kira fell into step with him. She said, "I just talked to Doctor Bashir and Doctor Mora. You're free at thirteen-hundred, right?"
Odo clasped his hands behind his back and replied, "Yes, I take an hour long break to go over the midday reports. Why?"
"I booked us the relaxation program in the holosuite. I think you'll like it. Plus, you asked me about..." She dropped her voice to a whisper, "birth."
"I...yes, I did, didn't I? I would like to know how Bajorans go about it."
That made Kira grin up at him. "Then you'll love this program. I'll see you at thirteen-hundred."
Any reason to be around Kira was a good one. Odo knew telling her his feelings was impossible. But being near her, sharing the same space she did...to him, that was enough.
"Very well, Major. Thirteen hundred it is."
"Constable," Kira dipped her head. She stepped into the turbolift while Odo continued straight ahead towards his office.
He took out his security report PADD and prepared his team's assignments for the day. Then he went over the identities of everyone who entered the station since he came on duty. Today, there weren't many, and none fit the description of known criminals.
But there may be unknown criminals in the mix, Odo reminded himself.
The station records noted several shipments of fabrics arriving in cargo bay four. That always happened when Garak's replicator malfunctioned. Odo kept scrolling. A minor incident in the Replimat-- nothing worth noting. Two Klingons disturbing the peace also wasn't surprising.
He sighed. Concentrating on the text might have been easier if his chest didn't feel like a glass of champagne. Last night, he barely felt it at all, and when he woke today he found it hard to ignore.
"What do you think, little one? Should I run an extra security scan on cargo bay two?" Odo mumbled at his chest. He knew the being he carried didn't understand a word he said, but it was aware of him and his voice. Talking to the infant made him feel somehow closer to it.
"Hm, no? How about cargo bay six? Bubble at me for a yes."
A few minutes went by before he felt it.
"There." Odo activated the scan subroutine on his desk console. "I'm running the scan right now. Heh, maybe you'll grow up to be a security officer yourself. What do you think?"
More bubbling. That sensation was life. A veritable blank slate of potential. Odo couldn't help himself-- he laughed. He knew it wasn't really an answer. The timing amused him just the same.
His office door opened. He stifled his laughter; he had an image to keep up!
"Odo, it's wonderful to see you so happy."
Odo smiled up at Doctor Mora. "How can I not be? I've discovered something I thought I lost."
Doctor Mora folded his arms, amusement still present on his face. "I'm sure you didn't ask me to meet you in your office to tell me that."
Odo's smile slipped. He shook his head. "No...but I've been thinking. I...I'll just get to the point. Once this infant Changeling is born, I want you to take it back to Bajor and raise it."
Now the Bajoran scientist was peering at him with curiosity written on his aged features. Exactly what Odo expected.
"We're about to go to war with the Dominion. I don't want the Founders getting their hands on this Changeling." Odo's hand went to his chest. He leaned forward in his office chair. "Once it is born, I will link with it. I will tell it what it needs to know to shape shift, and then I want you to take it. I...I trust that you can keep it safe until the war with the Dominion is over. I, uh..." Odo tilted his head and met Doctor Mora's eyes. "It's my way of saying thank you for your help."
Doctor Mora seated himself across from Odo. His face practically glowed. He reached over the desk and rested his hand on Odo's shoulder.
"Are you sure?"
"Then I would be honored, Odo. Thank you."
Odo rested his hand over Doctor Mora's. "I am not off duty until zero-hundred, but if you want to have dinner sometime today...I don't mind sitting and watching you eat."
His dry humor wasn't lost on Doctor Mora.
"Oh, yes. You know, I still remember how you tried to copy everything I did. Even eating."
Odo rolled his eyes. "Yes...I thought the food simply disappeared after you chewed it up."
"And it was a mess when you tried to mimic me. Larish pie all over your face. Ah, those were the days. Though I never should have explained swallowing to you..."
That was a memory Odo found most unpleasant. "You had no idea it would just fall right through me. I only have an approximation of an esophagus."
"It was still an interesting experiment. Do you ever miss having a sense of smell and taste?"
"Not really. There were times where I found them almost overpowering." Odo admitted. "But I didn't mind them."
Smell-- sometimes he hated that sense. Until he had it, he never realized his office was a landing pad for everyone else's flatulence. He used to wonder why some people paused before exiting the door. O'Brien was the worst culprit. Odo swore he did it every single time.
"Odo's office is the best place to fart. He can't smell it and the doors help it disperse." O'Brien said once.
Odo's lips quirked in a half smile. No, he did not miss his sense of smell at all.
He sat back in his chair. The security scan completed. No anomalies.
"It feels like champagne bubbles," he said.
"You're feeling it move already?"
"Yes," Odo replied. "It's the same sensation you feel when you take a drink and let it sizzle in your mouth. Champagne...heh...it's the only drink I miss. Oh, it's moving. Here."
He moved Doctor Mora's hand to his chest. "There. Did you feel that?"
Doctor Mora's eyebrows went up. He adjusted the position of his fingers. "No, it must be too small for-- ah! I felt that."
Odo's memory of that hand stretched almost as far as he could remember. It reached out and touched him the first time he assumed a humanoid shape. Back then, his features were even more primitive than they were now. A week of sticking his tentacles into Doctor Mora's mouth and nose provided the tactile information needed to form them.
The scientist lifted his hand off Odo's chest.
Odo imitated the act of clearing his throat. "All I ask is you don't experiment on this Changeling. Teach it what I can't, but-- "
"Say no more," Doctor Mora held up a hand. "I understand...and I give you my word."
A troubled corner in Odo's mind quieted down. The sentimentality made him uncomfortable. He shifted in his chair and said, "So, about dinner..."
"Ah! How does eighteen-hundred at Quark's sound?"
Odo checked his schedule. Nobody was docking then. He nodded and added his dinner with Doctor Mora into that time block. "It's in the system now."
"Excellent. Hm, it's almost thirteen-hundred. I should eat lunch."
"Thirteen-hundred?" Odo's eyes widened. Time sure flew. He practically jumped to his feet. "Doctor Mora, you'll have to excuse me. I'm supposed to meet with Major Kira at thirteen-hundred."
Doctor Mora shot him a knowing look. "Of course. I'll see you later, Odo."
The holosuite program wasn't anything Odo expected. He found himself lying facedown on a cushioned table while a holographic Bajoran woman kneaded his back. If he picked his head up and looked straight ahead, he would see the edge of a sheer rock cliff and the sparkling ocean crashing onto the rocks far below. Odo's favorite part was the bubbling hiss of the sea foam. It sounded like champagne.
Suddenly, it didn't matter that he lacked muscles to massage. This felt amazing. He almost melted into a happy puddle. Literally.
"...it's a natural process, and the body knows what it's doing. I let myself surrender to it. It's nothing to be afraid of. Fear causes tension, and tension leads to pain." Kira spoke from her massage table next to Odo's. She had just finished explaining the traditional Bajoran way of giving birth.
Odo twisted his head to look at her. "What was it like to have the O'Briens' baby?"
He understood the biological basics of Bajoran childbirth. Now, he wanted to know how she felt.
Kira inhaled in the salty ocean air. "It felt amazing, Odo. I slipped into another level of consciousness. I remember...he moved the whole time. It was so easy. I-I just breathed and let my body bear down. I felt him rotate as he crowned. I felt every inch of him leaving my body. It was...powerful."
"I'm sorry I wasn't there to support you."
She giggled at him. "Odo, you were busy with the baby Changeling. It needed you. It still needs you."
Odo let his eyes slide shut. "Nerys..."
"I would like you to be present when I have mine. I...think your experience with the process might put me at ease."
She reached out and touched his arm. It was bare, since he shape shifted his uniform away in favor of the pale blue towel draped over his backside. She told him the massage would feel better that way, and the mesh modesty screen between their tables meant he would not see anything inappropriate if she sat up.
"I wouldn't miss it for the world." She said.
Odo didn't hide his smile. How many times did he do that in the past few days? It was cramping his style.
Kira began, "One thing I'm still curious about..."
"The other Founders-- do they have names?"
"No," Odo said. "There is little individuality in the Great Link, so names aren't necessary."
Kira let go of his arm. She stretched and exhaled. "Do you miss it?"
"Sometimes." He opened his eyes to meet hers. "Until I remember they aren't the people I thought they were. They shunned me. Then again, I suppose I can't fault them either. They were always linked. They always had each other. They knew who and what they were. I had to muddle through alone."
He winced inwardly. Why am I pouring myself out to her like this? Ugh, Odo, get a hold of yourself!
The holographic masseuse asked him to turn over. He did so, adjusting the towel for modesty. There was no real need to since he refrained from shape shifting external genitalia, but he didn't want to make Kira uncomfortable.
Beside him, Kira held onto her towel when she rolled onto her back. She appeared self-conscious of her postnatal body. He wished she wouldn't be. She was beautiful to him no matter her form.
"But it isn't so awful," Odo went on before Kira could feel sorry for him. "I've seen and accomplished a great deal in my life. I have much to be proud of."
He sighed as the masseuse worked her fingers in circles around his temples.
"Mm...one thing is for sure. You keep the station in order." Kira grinned at him.
Odo stared up at the blue sky that matched his eyes. "I may not believe in gods the way you do, but I believe in justice."
"You can't go wrong as long as you believe in something."
"Mm." Odo's view was suddenly blocked by cleavage when the holographic masseuse leaned over to work on the front of his shoulders. She was wearing an obscenely low-cut white dress and no undergarments.
"Tell me something, Major. Did Quark write this program?"
"He helped," said Kira. "Why?"
Odo averted his eyes from the jiggling breasts. "Just wondering."
Story Notes: Note: This fic takes place during season 5 of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and is set between "The Begotten" and "For The Uniform".
(No text update, just an information update because the story wasn't reflecting the characters involved. Oops. Fixed!)
(No text update, just an information update because the story wasn't reflecting the characters involved. Oops. Fixed!)