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Chapter Notes: Song lyric credits go to Marc Anthony, Tina Arena and Ultrabeat.

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17. Belated Reception

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The tiny transport shuttle zipped through space. A ship so small the transporter pad was almost situated between the two pilot seats. Kejal mentioned pitying anybody who tried to sleep in this thing before settling into his regeneration cycle.

Old holo-movies kept Odo busy during the five hour trip. He'd found them in Doctor Mora's study shortly before leaving Bajor. They contained Kejal's early life. Something Odo missed and was glad to see immortalized.

As he watched Doctor Mora read Bajoran nursery rhymes to a bowl full of two-day-old Kejal, his expression gradually morphed into a smile. It softened at seeing Kejal slowly grow up in each consecutive holo-video.

Kejal had toys to explore, which he did by engulfing them in his substance and mimicking them. Doctor Mora kept him in a beaker on his desk when he lectured at the Science Institute. He promised Odo to take care of Kejal, and the images showed just how hard he worked to keep it.

When Odo saw his son take humanoid shape in front of a mirror for the first time, his eyes developed a familiar stinging pressure. He let his emotions surface.

Kejal did it perfectly-- the hair, the eyes, even clothing. Immediately after taking form, he opened his arms.

Doctor Mora set the holo-imager down and they embraced. He didn't stop to poke, prod or take notes. He ran right into the hug.

"Kejal, look at you...can you speak?"

Kejal squinted and moved his lips. No sound came out. It reminded Odo of the moments immediately following his birth.

"Breathe in and try it again," Doctor Mora said. He let Kejal watch his lips. "And make sure you articulate your words."

"HUH! Heh. LUH...he-- luh. HELLO!" Kejal blinked. "I can TALK!"

"Yes, you can talk! Don't exhale too hard, or you'll shout." Doctor Mora smiled, deepening the wrinkles around his eyes. "Hello, Kejal, it's nice to hear you talk back to me."

"It's NICE to meet you, TOO! Oh...that was too loud." Kejal concentrated on controlling his breathing. He felt his own ears and nose. Then he touched Doctor Mora's. "Mine are different."

"Ears and nose ridges are difficult," said Doctor Mora. He chuckled and caught Kejal's wrist. "Odo has trouble with ears and noses, too, you know."

They both grinned. Facial expressions came naturally to Kejal right at the start.

"Odo is mother." Kejal said, "Mother told me I should call you 'father.' Do you mind at all?"

Doctor Mora covered his mouth with one hand. "Not if you don't mind me calling you 'son.'"

Kejal's face lit up. "I'd like that a lot, father."


And then Odo watched holo-footage of Doctor Mora sound asleep in his bed. Kejal crept right up to his face to capture the loud snoring.

"Captain's log, star date...I have no idea. Father makes this odd noise every time he sleeps." Kejal's voice spoke off-screen. "Let the examination begin."

Suddenly, two fingers plugged Doctor Mora's nose. Without even stirring, Doctor Mora started snoring louder through his mouth!

"As you can see, he has another orifice for creating this noise."

The holo-movie shook with Kejal's laughter. He tried pinching Doctor Mora's lips shut, and the snoring resumed from his nose.

Kejal made the mistake of trying to stop all air from passing. That was enough to rouse Doctor Mora from slumber. He had to sleepily explain the importance of breathing before he shooed Kejal away.

As he left the room, Kejal pointed the camera at himself. "Snoring means he's breathing. Huh, interesting."

Odo watched more footage. He couldn't stop his smile at the sight of Kejal playing, yes, playing with children in the field where Doctor Mora was now buried. At first, he just saw Kejal's auburn head popping up above the long grass. Three dark-haired children appeared behind him. Kejal squawked and disappeared again. The imager shook from Doctor Mora's laughter.

"Be a tree!" cried a young boy.

"Sure!" Kejal squatted and shape shifted into a knobby moba tree. The two girls and boy climbed into his branches and swung around, laughing.

"I can't believe you're only four months old," Doctor Mora spoke from behind the holo-imager
.

Then came the images Odo almost couldn't watch. Doctor Mora documented the progression of the morphogenic virus. Most were just holo-images showing the first symptoms. The videos almost broke the heart he didn't have.

Kejal laid in the casket-like bio-bed. His discolored skin cracked and crumbled. Doctor Mora panned the imager down to show himself holding Kejal's hand.

"Be strong, Kejal," whispered Doctor Mora. "The cure is on its way."

Kejal groaned. "I want mother."

At that, Doctor Mora shifted to pet Kejal's patchy hair. "I know, my son, but he can't be here right now. You have to get well, first. Shh, I know. I know..."

Doctor Mora forgot the holo-imager was still running and set it down at the foot of the bio-bed. He leaned over to gather Kejal in his arms and gently stroked his crumbling cheek.

And he started to sing
...

The lullaby took Odo's memory so far back it almost hurt. Impulsively, he switched to the next file, which showed Kejal being given the cure. He could barely watch his dear son writhe and scream in pain. The antidote for the virus worked slower and caused more agony than Odo experienced.

Doctor Mora leaned over the bio-bed. "Kejal, stay with me. It's going to be all right."

"Father!" Kejal's head thrashed back and forth. "Pain...this pain! Stop this pain!"

Doctor Weld spoke from off-screen. "It's working from the inside out. We should see visible effects momentarily."

"Good. Good! It's all right, Kejal. The pain means you're getting well. Hold on. It'll pass soon." Doctor Mora kept a tricorder trained on Kejal while simultaneously stroking his brow. "His vitals are getting weaker. Kejal? Kejal, stay awake. You need to stay-- dammit, he's unconscious! He needs to revert to his gelatinous state. Doctor Weld, power up the field emitters. I have to polarize his morphogenic matrix."

Kejal's skin began to bubble. The two men worked swiftly around the bio-bed. After several seconds, Doctor Mora told Doctor Weld to stand clear and slapped the keypad. Kejal's limp body jerked as though electrocuted.

"Again!" shouted Doctor Mora.

At the second shock, Kejal stirred and liquefied. Doctor Mora laughed with relief. "He's stabilizing. We got him back. We got him! Oh, thank the Prophets!"


The very next holo-movie showed Kejal taking his first steps since the illness. He was smiling and full of life again.

Consecutive holo-movies let Odo see Doctor Mora teaching Kejal all about gardening. Odo watched his son plant the tiny sapling that grew into the impressive deka tree he was so proud of.

Kejal recorded logs about his plants. Every new sprout brought him such joy.

There were videos of him dropping deka seed pods on Doctor Mora's head, videos of him singing at parties and videos of him making goofy faces at the holo-imager.

Odo chuckled and put the imaging device away. Kejal's personality hadn't changed much over the years, and for that Odo was glad. He gazed affectionately at the puddle on the floor near his feet.

Doctor Mora gave you all the love he wanted to give me.

The thought made Odo stare at his own reflection in the control panel. Unbidden, an image of Doctor Mora's face covered in blood rose to the forefront of his mind. He tried Kira's technique of finding a better memory, but he only came up with Doctor Mora lying pale and still in his cloth coffin.

It wasn't comforting.

Damn you! You had to traumatize me when you died, didn't you? Odo thought bitterly. He splayed his hands on his knees and picked up the imaging device. The first picture to come up was Doctor Mora and Spock.

It's not easy...I can't think of him as alive. Why is this so damn difficult?

"Approaching Deep Space Nine." The computer piped up.

Odo, grateful for something else to occupy his thoughts, typed a new command into the helm controls. He dropped the shuttle gently out of warp and let the autopilot system take over again

Deep Space Nine's familiar curved spires grew larger against the static stellar background. Such a majestic structure-- sometimes Odo found it hard to believe Cardassians built the thing. Its gleaming windows were compound eyes peering into the universe.

"Kejal, we're about to dock."

The puddle oozed away. A Changeling's equivalent to the old 'five more minutes' groan Odo heard many times from Kira.

Odo rolled his eyes. "Docking will take less than five minutes. You might as well assume your humanoid form now."

A face emerged from the goo. Kejal's familiar features gradually formed until he stood there in his humanoid form. He'd chosen a Bajoran security uniform, albeit green instead of brown.

"Coming back here feels spooky."

"What?" Odo raised a brow. "Why?"

"Father was with us. Not in this same ship, but..."

"Ah. Yes. You're right."

"We're being hailed."

Odo activated the comm system. Kira's face appeared onscreen. She'd braided her hair and put on makeup. Her lips looked especially beautiful while painted shiny red.

"Odo, I just thought I'd warn you...the place went a little crazy when I got back and your arrival is, erm, anticipated. There is going to be a belated wedding reception in Quark's, so make sure you put on that amazing wedding tuxedo." She stepped back, revealing she'd arrayed herself in her wedding dress once again. "I didn't want you caught completely by surprise."

With a groan, Odo let his head fall chin to chest. "Wonderful...an audience."

"Oh, it won't be so bad. Just wave and you'll be fine." Kira smiled. "I'll see you in a few minutes."

"I look forward to seeing you, too. You look beautiful." Odo replied with a small grin of his own. "Odo, out."

"It's going to be a party." Kejal's eyes were already lighting up.

"You are not going to sing any Klingon opera."

Kejal's brown eyes widened. He put on his best innocent face. "Me? Why would I do a thing like that?"

Odo smirked. "Because you're my son and I know you far too well. Sing anything else, but no Klingon opera. My ears will thank you."

"Not even an aria from-- "

"No."

Kejal laughed and squeezed Odo's shoulders. "I promise not to sing any Klingon operas. But anything else is fair game! And I will be singing your first dance song."

"That's a human tradition."

"And it will be expected at this reception, mother."

Odo elbowed Kejal in the chest, knowing full well it wouldn't hurt him. He shape shifted his outer clothing into his wedding tuxedo, complete with coattails, red bow tie and gold waistcoat.

"Go sit down and let's get this entrance over with," he grinned.

Exactly six minutes later, Kira met Odo and Kejal at the airlock. Kejal went on ahead. Odo groaned at hearing him announce their arrival. An announcement followed by cheering meant a crowd.

Kira wrapped her arm around Odo's. "Don't look so grumpy. They're old friends."

Chuckling, Odo kissed her nose ridges. "All right. For you."

He took a deep breath and started walking. With her beside him looking more beautiful than any living creature, he knew the cheering crowd full of new and familiar faces didn't matter. They could tackle anything together.

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"You're his son?"

Kejal eyed the wrinkled Ferengi behind the bar. "Yes, yes, I am."

"Well, I'd like to know how he managed that." Quark cleaned out a rectangular shot glass. "Kejal, is it?"

"Mmhmm. It's a long story, but you talked to him more than once when he was pregnant with me." Kejal beamed at the two Bajoran dabo girls behind him. "Excuse me."

He approached the impeccably dressed women. "Ladies...is it warm in here, or is it you?"

The tall blonde in pink gasped. "Oh! Well, isn't he cute?"

"Mmhmm." The petite brunette wearing black leaned against Kejal. "Care for a game, darlin'?"

"I was hoping you'd ask." Kejal mimed cracking his knuckles and placed his chips on his chosen numbers. The wheel spun, slowed and flashed. Kejal's eyes widened. "Dabo!"

"Well, well, he's a lucky one." The blond cooed in Kejal's ear, "By the way, I'm Eyana."

"And I'm Palat. Feel like another spin?"

Kejal's face lit up. "For you lovely ladies, I'll spin anything." He placed his chips. "Let's go aga-- uh oh, security! Sorry, I need to scram!"

He hid his winnings in his substance before grinning innocently at Malath. Behind him, Palat and Eyana laughed.

"Ah! Malath!" Kejal approached his Andorian friend. "My favorite blueberry pie!"

"Says the jelly doughnut." Malath folded his arms. "So..." He whacked Kejal in the back, causing him to literally cough up the latinum he won. "What is this?"

"I won it legally." Kejal sniffed in mock contempt.

They chuckled and hugged each other.

"How is your father?"

At that, Kejal's face fell. "He died not long ago. Delfeya syndrome is an awful disease."

"I'm sorry." Malath picked up the latinum Kejal spat out. "I hope his passing was painless."

"It was." Kejal accepted his winnings. He thought he saw Mora walking into the bar, but when he blinked there was nobody there.

Instead, his eyes fell upon a beautiful Deltan organ. Authentic crystal keys activated by lasers, transparent pipes and two accessory microphones for singing.

"Oh..." Kejal licked his lips. "Malath, how long has that been here?"

Malath's antennae twitched. He was an excellent organ player and Kejal knew it. "One month. Are you in the mood for a song or two?"

"You read my mind. But hold on, here come mother and mom."

"Ah."

Kira and Odo existed in their own little bubble. They offered fleeting acknowledgement towards the people bustling into Quark's with them.

"Great. Odo shows up and gets married and the whole place erupts." Quark snorted. "Fine. All first drinks are on the house, but you're paying for everything else!"

Odo stopped walking. He faced the bar, put on his best scowl and snarled, "QUARK!"

Quark grinned. "Don't bother. You aren't the security chief anymore."

"But I am." Malath pinned the Ferengi with his best glare. "I have my eyes on you, Quark."

Kira laid her head on Odo's shoulder, smiling. "Some things never change, do they? So, first dance? The people insist."

Kejal noticed Odo's curious glance. He leaned on the organ.

"Malath?"

Malath seated himself behind the glistening instrument. "Which song do you want, Kejal?"

Grabbing the cone shaped microphone, Kejal winked one eye shut. "Do you remember-- "

"Hey!" Eyana joined Kejal by the organ. "You're a singer? So am I!"

"That's great!" Kejal's face lit up. He named a popular Bajoran love song. "Do you know that one?"

"Mmhmm, never had a duet partner for it." She batted her eyes. "Think you can handle me?"

Kejal's eyes gleamed wickedly. "For a lovely lady like you? I'll handle anything. Malath?"

Malath cracked his knuckles and wiggled his fingers. "Of course I know this one. I thought you were challenging me."

Laughing, Kejal slapped his blue-skinned friend on the back. "Tch! I will with the next one. Hit it, old friend!"

In the middle of the bar, Odo and Kira stood together. Everyone cleared a space just for them. They still lived inside a world including no one else. Their eyes remained locked.

Malath's fingers rippled along the organ keyboard. Kejal tapped his foot. At just the right moment, he lifted the microphone to his lips and began.

"'Moon so bright, night so fine. Keep your heart here with mine. Life's a dream we are dreaming...'"

Eyana sang into her microphone next. A clear, ethereal soprano that made Kejal grin in delight.

"'Race the moon, catch the wind. Ride the night to the end. Seize the day, stand up for the light!'"

Kira and Odo moved slowly to the song's beat. Odo brought Kira's hand to his chest. It looked practiced, yet Kejal knew they improvised each perfectly coordinated step. They were so attuned to each other that they didn't have to guess the next move. The dance steps just happened.

Together, Eyana and Kejal burst into the chorus.

"'I want to spend my lifetime loving you. If that is all in life I ever do...'"

A few partygoers clapped at seeing Odo spin Kira and pull her close again. He smiled impishly, which made Kira mirror his expression. Their moves slowly grew more elaborate.

Kejal and Eyana kept singing, feeding off each other's energy, and together they sprang into the song's bridge.

"'...though we know we will never come again. Where there is love, life begins over and over again!'"

And then a sudden decrescendo...Odo and Kira following the slowing beat like experts.

"'Save the night, save the day. Save the love, come what may. Love is worth everything we pay! I want to spend my lifetime loving you...'"

Kira wrapped her arms around Odo's neck. Now they danced so close they created one shadow on the floor. Kejal noticed tears in his mother's eyes. Kira leaned forward. Odo's forehead rested against hers.

It was like watching a god love a mortal. Kira, so transient, held within the arms of Odo, a being destined to live longer than the stars.

Kejal glanced at Eyana. Eyana smiled back. They finished the song together.

"'...I will want nothing else to see me through. If I can spend my life time loving you...'"

Odo dipped Kira. They ended their dance with a passionate kiss and the bar erupted in cheers, cat calls and whistles. Somewhere, a champagne cork popped.

"Uh oh. Kejal! Incoming!"

Kejal turned his head liquid just in time for the cork to pass right through and hit the wall behind him. He solidified, looked behind him and faced forward again, laughing. "Nice one!"

Eyana stared. "So that's what it looks like when you shape shift."

"That was nothing." Kejal chuckled. "Nice singing, by the way."

"You, too. By the Prophets, I was so nervous!"

Kejal smiled, tilting his head. "Aw, I couldn't tell. You sounded great!"

"Thank you." Eyana blushed, brushing her hair off her forehead. "So, what else can you do?"

"I'll show you in a few minutes." He rapped on the Deltan organ and named something upbeat. "I need to stir this place up. Malath? Let's make this party a party."

Malath threw his head back and laughed. "If you insist, but don't blame me if it sounds horrible."

"Kejal!" Odo warned.

"It's not Klingon, mother. It's from Earth!"

Malath changed the organ's settings. His fingers lit up each key. The upbeat music started. Something definitely not Klingon. A centuries-old song played in "clubs" according to its history. Kejal liked it for its simple, happy lyrics and he thought it appropriate within the wedding reception atmosphere.

Kira was certainly tapping her feet.

Kejal winked at Eyana and clambered onto the bar.

"Hey!" Quark complained.

"Sorry, I need a stage. Just one song, I swear!" Kejal told the glaring Ferengi. Then he looked up. "Everyone, I'd like to dedicate this performance to Doctor Mora Pol, who is watching from the Celestial Temple. Father, I hope you're listening."

"Let's hear it!" shouted a Bolian on the second level.

Malath's fingers lit up the Deltan organ's keys. He played a series of quick, energetic chords.

Kejal brought the microphone close, counted the beats in his mind and let his voice fly.

"Each time I see your face, your smile is shining through. I can't help the way I feel. It's all because of you. You stole me from my world and said that you'd be mine. That's good enough for me, 'cause I'm on top and now I'm feelin' fine! Now I'm feelin' fine...'"

The pounding beat picked up. Kejal hopped in place, rattling the drinks on the bar. He couldn't avoid dancing!

Kira managed to get Odo swaying. He twirled her. She threw her head back, laughing. They exchanged playfully chaste kisses. Above them, the Bolian who shouted at him whistled.

Kejal leaned over to sing to the elderly Lurian sitting alone at the bar. Then he stepped past him and winked at Eyana and Palat. Behind them, Julian Bashir snapped his fingers to the beat. Quark pulled a beer mug off the bar. Three annoyed-looking Klingons headed straight for the door.

Kejal's grin widened. He was in his element, and it felt great!

"I looked into your heart. I know that you are true. No matter what I see, you're always shining through! I always looked at you and you give me a sign. That's good enough for me, 'cause I'm on top, and now I'm feelin' fine...'"

Amused, Kejal made eye contact with Malath, who leaned back and shook his shoulders to the beat. He was singing it too! And he claimed he didn't know Earth music that well!

"'Feelin' fine. Yes, I'm feelin' fine...'"

Kejal beckoned at his audience. Most of them were dancing with each other and having as much fun as anyone could have at a surprise wedding reception.

He finished the song by back-flipping off the bar. Six points of light danced off the crystalline microphone in his hand. He landed in a crouch and straightened with a grin.

Malath clapped a hand on Kejal's shoulder. "Excellent performance. Now, give me that latinum."

"What for?"

"It'll pay your fine for disturbing the peace."

"Fine! Have it all!" Kejal handed it over. He snickered. "I have no use for it. The song was worth it! Besides, you'll just lose it all on the dom-jot table anyway."

Malath frowned in mock contempt. "Don't tempt me to double the fine."

Kejal made a face at the blue-skinned Andorian. He saw lines barely starting around his friend's eyes. Even he wasn't immune to time's inexorable march.

"They look so happy." Malath nodded towards Odo and Kira.

"They are," said Kejal. "This is a long time coming."

"Heh." Malath brushed imagined dust off his brown uniform. "I must get back to work. It was good seeing you again, Kejal."

Kejal hugged him. "Ah, I had an awful time with you. You're terrible company!"

They snorted.

"Take care of yourself." Malath said before he worked his way through the people coming towards the bar.

Kejal spotted Kira weaving between people and tonga tables. A slender Asian man wearing a gray Starfleet uniform walked beside her. He had a shy, gummy grin.

"Kejal," Kira smiled, looking to the young man, "I'd like you to meet Kirayoshi. Kirayoshi, this is Kejal. He is Odo's son."

"Kirayoshi!" Kejal clasped the man's hand and gave him a firm handshake. "I've heard a lot about you."

Giggling, Kira slipped away to join Odo at a table upstairs.

"Auntie Nerys is practically my second mom. And please, call me Yoshi," said Kirayoshi. His smile crinkled his slanted eyes. "You have a great voice."

"Ah, thanks! So, what do you do for a living?"

Kirayoshi's expression brightened with pride. "I'm the station's chief engineer. I learned from my dad."

"An engineer? Ooh." Kejal glanced at Palat and Eyana. Mischief flitted across his face. "Come on. Tell me all about it over the dabo wheel."

Just before Kejal made his bets, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"A rousing performance," said a familiar voice. "He would be pleased."

Kejal turned. He could recognize that chiseled jaw anywhere, hood or no hood. "Ambassador Spock...what are you doing here?"

"Merely passing through." Ambassador Spock kept his voice nonchalant. "I wish to express my condolences. I just read Doctor Mora's last treatise."

"Oh? What did you think?"

To Kejal's surprise, the Ambassador smiled. Faintly, little more than a twitch, but a smile nonetheless.

"Fascinating."

Kejal grinned at him. "Father would be glad to hear that."

"Indeed." Ambassador Spock respectfully dipped his head. "I must take my leave. Live long and prosper, Kejal."

"Live long and prosper, Ambassador." Kejal nodded back. "Hey, fancy a game?"

He felt rather than saw the Vulcan's slanted eyebrow quirk upward.

"Hm." Ambassador Spock studied the wheel carefully. He set one chip down on a seemingly random number.

Palat and Eyana nudged each other. Kirayoshi grinned like he'd won a jackpot. Ambassador Spock had that effect on people, Kejal noticed.

The wheel spun, stopped and flashed.

"Dabo!" Kejal cried jubilantly. "Here's your-- " He turned to offer his congratulations and latinum, but Ambassador Spock had already left.

Chapter End Notes:
**Chapter soundtrack**

Isolinear Memories: https://app.box.com/s/ygink81qq9hru4ls1884

Back to Deep Space Nine: https://app.box.com/s/xe0atxijbctgkrbl36pj

A Belated Wedding Dance: https://app.box.com/s/05iz6wqh633n9n2voe9t

Let's Party: https://app.box.com/s/hcvuakpv7hde2tl1aia0

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