1. Chapter 1 by Queenix
2. Chapter 2 by Queenix
3. Chapter 3 by Queenix
4. Chapter 4 by Queenix
5. Chapter 5 by Queenix
6. Chapter 6 by Queenix
7. Chapter 7 by Queenix
“Nerys, wake up.”
Someone was shaking her shoulder, trying to talk to her. Their voice sounded just like her Aunt Dassi's, which meant this must be a dream. Kira ignored it and went back to sleep.
“Nerys. Wake up.”
Firmer this time, more demanding. That voice had to be Aunt Dassi's. Only Aunt Dassi could spread a layer of 'do it right now' on her words like that. Then again, Kira heard her Aunt Dassi come out of her own mouth more times that she cared to admit. Father had always said she was just like his sister... Father...He was gone, just like Aunt Dassi...
Go back to sleep...
“Nerys! Get up, right now!”
Kira startled awake. Her eyes snapped open, and she sat up quickly, scrambling back on the bed. “What the—”
“Easy, Nerys. Don't be frightened.”
Kira blinked dumbly at the woman before her, shaking off the last of sleep. Disbelief rendered her silent. The bedside lamp had been turned on, and Kira could clearly see the woman's face. It was like looking in a mirror, though maybe a mirror from a few years ahead. The woman's eyes were the same deep brown as Kira's, but their edges had lines Kira's didn't, their expression careworn, weary. The woman's hair was longer, the body slimmer and sleeker, but the woman could still be Kira's twin. What woman could look so much like her, except her long-dead Aunt Dassi?
Yet why would Aunt Dassi be wearing a Starfleet uniform?
“Who are you?” Kira demanded.
“I'm you," the woman answered.
“What kind of answer is that?”
“A true one.”
“Bull,” Kira said, rubbing her eyes. Maybe she was still dreaming. “How could you be me? I'm me.”
“And so am I. I'm you, from the future.”
“Time travel, Nerys. I'm you, six years from now.”
Kira paused, looking hard at the woman, trying to find the lie. She didn't see it. It was possible that what the woman said was true, but dear Prophets, she hoped not. Kira hated temporal mechanics. Thinking about all of those potential paradoxes made her brain hurt, and if her future self from six years from now was in her quarters, waking her in the dead of night, it could only mean trouble.
“Okay,” Kira said. “Let's say that's true, and you are me. Why are you here?”
“That's a long story.”
“Well, you woke me up. I've got nothing better to do now than to hear a long story.”
“Will you believe me if I tell it?” the woman asked. “I haven't got time for games.”
“Depends on the story,” Kira replied. “You'd better make it good, too, because if I don't believe it, you might find yourself floating on the wrong side of that bulkhead.”
Fake Aunt Dassi gave Kira a full smile. “There's my girl. Now you're awake. I'll tell you my story, and when I'm done, if you still want to toss me out an airlock, you can. Deal?”
The woman sat down on the edge of Kira's bed, a long and weary sigh escaping her. It was then that Kira noticed how ragged the woman's uniform was, how dirty, as if she'd been in battle recently. Kira could smell battle on her, too. Phaser smoke, sweat, blood. What had fake Aunt Dassi been up to?
“Here goes...” The woman picked up Kira's hand and held it in her own. For some reason, Kira allowed it. She noticed a scar on the back of the woman's left hand, identical to the one on her own left hand, a sliver of a mark that was a souvenir from a slipped knife she'd cut herself with when she was thirteen. She'd never bothered to have it fixed. If this was a trick, someone had done their homework.
“Nerys, I've come because six years from now, the Alpha Quadrant will be destroyed. And you are the one who can stop it.”
“Great,” Kira returned, "as if I didn't have enough to do.”
The woman's brow went up, and she shot Kira a look, one that said she'd better straighten up right now, and listen. Kira felt foolish under that warning eye. Childish, even. Prophets, was her face really that intimidating when she was mad?
“I-I'm sorry,” Kira stammered, blushing. “That was inappropriate. Please, go on.”
“It's nothing to joke about, Nerys,” the woman admonished. “It will happen, just like I said. Everything you know and love will be destroyed, but you can stop it. We can stop it. I've brought the solution with me from the future. It was too late for it to do any good in my time, so I was sent back to this one. We have the chance, Nerys, to undo a great wrong, and save them all.”
“The solution to what? What happens to the Alpha Quadrant?”
“The Jem'Hadar happen.”
A chill ran up Kira's spine. “What did they do?”
The woman took a deep breath, looking away for a moment, collecting her thoughts. Her gaze was shadowed as she swung back to Kira. “I have things to tell you, Nerys, but I was warned not to reveal too many details about what will come. Some of the things that happen in the next few years are going to be hard, very hard, but they must happen. If I tell you too much, we might disrupt the timeline more than I already have, but still, I have to guide you through some of it. I'll do my best to answer any questions you might have, but you have to trust me that some things you just can't know...Deal?”
Kira swallowed around the lump in her throat. “Deal.”
“Alright, then. I'll tell you how Kira Nerys became desperate enough to travel through time.”
“The Dominion War hasn't fully started for you yet," future Kira began, "but I remember how sure you were that the conflict was going full scale. You were right, Nerys, and it was as awful and brutal a war as you thought it would be. However, we did win. The armistice was signed in 2375, right here on DS9. The Dominion left the Quadrant, Starfleet got back to business as usual, and we were finally at peace. Or so we thought.
“The way Starfleet won the war was the problem. Starfleet used biological warfare against the Dominion, poisoning the Great Link with a designer virus. Julian was the one to uncover the conspiracy. I can't tell you how, but he managed to get the cure for this virus through some questionable means.”
“I'm supposed to believe that?” Kira interrupted. “I mean, we're talking about Starfleet here. And Julian.”
"Dr. Bashir will surprise all of you one day,” future Kira replied. “And I had a hard time with Starfleet's part in this, too. The virus was created by an unsanctioned division of Starfleet Intelligence called Section 31. The real Starfleet Intelligence denied all knowledge of Section 31 and their activities, but looking back on it, someone had to have known what was going on. We were, however, at war with the Changelings, so Starfleet turned a blind eye. A means to an end, and all of that.”
“Then what's with the jacket?” Kira asked, jutting her chin at the woman's uniform. “Aren't those captain's pips on your neck?”
“I know how it looks, but it gets complicated after the armistice.” Future Kira fingered her collar, a mysterious smile curling her mouth. “Long story, like I said, and a hard one...” Her expression darkened. “There's more about the virus I need to tell you." The woman clasped Kira's hand a little tighter. "Nerys, this is the hardest part. Starfleet uses Odo as the carrier for the virus.”
“It's true. They've betrayed him. He has the virus already, though he won't show symptoms for some time. Section 31 infected Odo when he was on Earth just a few weeks ago.”
“Those bastards! I'll kill them! I can't believe that they—”
The woman raised a hand, cutting her off. “I know, Nerys, but calm down, and listen... Not too long from now, Odo will return to his home planet. The Founders are going to put him on trial. They will find him guilty—again, don't ask me why—and he will infect the Changelings via the Link when they exact his punishment.”
Odo betrayed by Starfleet? Put on trial by his own people? Odo punished? A sputtering, outraged Kira started to speak, but the woman cut her off again.
“Nerys, I know what you're thinking. You can stop it, now that you know. You can warn Odo, he won't go to his people, and they won't get the virus, but you can't do it that way. The disease has to spread, just like this, even if it hurts Odo. If you stop it from happening, the war will go on much longer than it's supposed to, and the Alpha Quadrant will eventually lose. The Dominion is, has always been, stronger than us. What Starfleet allowed to happen is evil, I know that, but the cure for the virus will be the only leverage the Alpha Quadrant will have against the Founders, and they will need that leverage. You can't tell anyone, especially Odo, about the virus. Do you understand?”
Kira crossed her arms over her chest and looked away.
“Nerys, look at me. Do you understand how important this is?”
Gritting her teeth, Kira swung her angry gaze back to fake Aunt Dassi and gave her a terse nod. She would keep her mouth shut, because unfortunately, she did understand. Prophets, she hated temporal mechanics.
“Good. Now we get to why I'm here. Julian's cure is flawed. He won't discover that until two years after the armistice, and the Link relapses. Section 31 managed to deceive Julian. Information about the virus got withheld so Julian's cure would fail. When we learn of the Link's suffering, Julian works tirelessly to fix his mistake, and he does his best, but it's not enough. Julian finds the real cure, but the Link is too far gone by the time it's delivered. They cannot be saved.”
Kira's eyes widened. “Wait, the whole Link dies?”
“The whole Link, Nerys. The entire Changeling race is eradicated.”
Kira shuddered. “That's horrible...”
“Funny how genocide changes your perspective, isn't it?”
“I guess so," Kira replied. "And now I get it...The Jem'Hadar...”
“The Jem'Hadar go insane. Truly, deeply insane. The loss of their gods unleashes a grief so dark they tear apart the universe itself, starting with the Vorta. The Vorta, though just as grieved, know that an unchecked Jem'Hadar army is the last thing the universe needs, and they make a valiant effort to control them, to stop them, but the Vorta are sorely outnumbered. They fail. The Jem'Hadar overthrow the Vorta and take over the Gamma Quadrant. They then maraud their own territory, destroying anything or anyone that has come in contact with Starfleet. And when they are done with their house, they enter ours. They pour themselves through the wormhole like a swarm of locusts, and we can do nothing to stop them.”
The woman paused, and looked away from Kira. She took a deep breath, letting out slowly before resuming. “Nerys, we didn't know just how lucky we were during the war, not then. The wormhole was sealed shut at one point, Sisko saw to it, and the Jem'Hadar trapped on our side were all the support the Founders had. We soon learned that for every one Alpha Quadrant citizen, there were three Jem'Hadar soldiers sitting on the other side of that wormhole, waiting...”
Kira curled a little tighter in her blankets. Three for one. Those odds were definitely not in the Alpha Quadrant's favor.
“And so,” the woman said, “the Alpha Quadrant as you know it was destroyed. Bajor—”
Tears welled in future Kira's eyes and spilled. She stopped talking for a moment, her hand over her mouth as she struggled for control. Kira's own eyes prickled with moisture. She wasn't so sure she wanted to hear about the destruction of Bajor.
Much to Kira's relief, she didn't have to. “I won't tell you about Bajor,” her future self said. “I can't. But there is more, something crucial you must hear.”
"I'm not sure I can hear much more," Kira said.
“I know, but you must...Nerys, Odo returned home after the war. He agreed to rejoin the Link, to take the false cure, and to take his knowledge of being a solid to his people. When the Link gets reinfected, so does he. When the Link dies, so does he. You lose the greatest love of your life, forever.”
“Now I know you're a liar,” Kira snapped, ignoring the painful squeeze in her heart. "Odo isn't the love of my life.”
Future Kira raised her eyes to the ceiling and heaved an exasperated sigh. “Prophets, I forgot how stubborn I am.” Looking back at Kira, she said, “I told you, I haven't got time for games. I know you, remember? I am you. In fact, because I'm you, I know the next thing you're going to ask me for is proof, and I can give it to you...I know about the dream.”
“The dream," Kira repeated. She pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged her arms around them.
“Yes, Nerys, the dream. The one you've never told anyone about. The nightmare you've had since Terok Nor, where you relive that night you shot the chemist. You watch Va'atrick fall to the floor in a dead heap, a smoking hole in the center of his chest that you put there, wearing that awful expression on his face. He was so surprised you'd shot him. It was the first time you'd killed one of your own, the first time you had to kill a Bajoran in the name of the cause, and the guilt ate you alive for years, even if Va'atrick was a collaborator."
"That doesn't prove anything," Kira argued. "That incident became public record two years ago."
"But your dreams sure didn't, did they? What happens next in your dream, Neyrs? What happens after the chemist dies, and you're standing over his body with the phaser in your hand, pagh screaming over what you've done, what you've become?”
Kira went pale. “He comes...”
“Yes, he comes. The one without distinct shape, who takes you away from that chemist's shop with its murdered corpse and takes you someplace safe, someplace clean without guilt and blood and occupation. When he comes, the dream changes, ceases to be a nightmare. It becomes erotic, very much so, and when you wake up and realize that the man filling you, pleasuring you, loving you was just a dream, you are left with an emptiness so black it hollows even your waking heart. You cry and cry when you have this dream, every time.”
Kira kept her silence, struggling not to cry now. Prophets, she hated that dream, but not for the nightmare images it brought forth. Va'atrick wasn't the only recurring nightmare she suffered, but this dream she hated most of all, for exactly what the woman had said. For the impossible joy it filled her with, and for the horrible sense of loss she always woke with afterward.
Kira sniffled softly, and her future self took some pity on her. She softened her gaze, and said, “Nerys, what color are your mystery lover's eyes in that dream?”
“That's right. Blue. Just like the shallows of Y'rava Cove where you and Reon used to play. Blue, like that piece of aquamarine your father smuggled out of the mines for your fifteenth birthday. Blue, like the highest part of the sky where the sun likes to sit on a warm summer day. His eyes are always blue, just like—”
“—Just like Odo's.” Kira sucked in a deep, shaky breath. “Oh, Prophets...”
The woman gave her a small smile. “It took me years to figure out it was Odo in that dream. After I did, the dream finally stopped.”
“What gave it away?”
Future Kira's eyes shimmered with unshed tears, and her smile widened. “The first time I made love with Odo, I knew. With him over me, inside—”
“Stop, that's enough,” Kira said, making a halting gesture. “I believe you, you're me alright, but this is all too much. Time travel, Jem'Hadar, engineered viruses, and now I've been dreaming about making love to Odo?” Kira raked her hands through her hair. “You have to give me a second to take it all in, to think.”
Future Kira reached out and brushed Kira's cheek, her smile gentle and understanding. Seeing that expression on her own face, Kira was painfully but plesantly reminded yet again of her Aunt Dassi, of that second mother she had lost so long ago. Amazing that it took such a strange and far-fetched mirror for Kira to realize how much her father had been right. She was just like her aunt, in more ways than one.
“Trust me, Nerys," future Kira said. "One day, making love to Odo will be all you think about. I do understand, though. I remember what we thought, how we felt about him when we were this age. It is a little out there for you right now, but it's all true. All of these things are your life, Nerys, and what will be, and unless we put things right, you will end up where I did. You will lose everything you love, forever.”
The next morning found a bleary-eyed Kira having breakfast with herself. To say that it was a strange experience was an understatement. As she watched her doppelganger stab a piece of fruit and take a big bite, Kira had to wonder if the Prophets were somehow playing a joke on her.
Speaking of the Prophets...
“Dassi, how did you do all of this? Was it the Prophets?”
“No, not the Prophets.” Future Kira's fork froze on the way to her mouth. “Did you just call me Dassi? As in Aunt Dassi?”
“It seems less confusing than calling you Nerys. Besides, with your hair like that, you look just like her.”
“We look just like her. Sound like her half the time, too...Alright. Dassi it is. To answer your question, Nerys, is another long story.”
Kira wasn't ready for more long stories. “Give me the short version.”
Dassi set down her fork and sat back in her seat. “I was on the other side of the wormhole when the Jem'Hadaar broke through. Starfleet had sent me to help the Vorta. I was deep in Dominion territory when they destroyed the Bajoran system and collapsed the wormhole. There was no way home, no home to go back to, so I took refuge with allies of the Vorta called the Virinians...Wonderful people, actually. They were very kind to me, watched over me during my...grief... The Virinians were the ones who convinced me to do this. They had the technology to send me back in time, to show me what could be if I returned.”
“What kind of technology?”
“Like I know," Dassi replied. "We aren't good with this stuff, you know that. Tech was always Dax's job, or O'Brien's. I can only tell you it was some kind of device that even the Virinians didn't completely understand. They didn't build it, but they knew how to use it. There was a part of the system that could show what would happen if specific threads of fate were plucked, rewoven. The damned thing was more like a magic mirror than a machine. We spent days changing things around, trying to find the right threads so we didn't alter history for the worse.”
As she listened, Kira took a bite of her toasted mapa bread. It was too dry, so she picked up the jar of tulaberry preserves that seemed always to be on her table these days. The exotic import had become a new favorite. Tulaberries were funny things. When picked and left whole, they were bright red, as was the wine made from them. When they were cooked into preserves with Bajoran sugar, the chemical reaction turned the preserves a distinct shade of sky blue.
Kira paused, turning the jar in her hands. She looked up from the jar and noticed about a dozen other items spread throughout her quarters that had that same shade of blue. A throw pillow, a small framed mosaic, a scarf she'd bought at a Bajoran farmer's market. Kira was never sure why she'd purchased that blue scarf in the first place, but she got it now.
“Dassi, does he...Is he really in love with me?”
“No, Morn,” she returned. “Of course Odo. Who else would I be talking about?”
“I think you need to ask him that yourself.”
“Well, that's helpful." Kira huffed. "What's the point of visiting yourself in the past if you can't answer a simple question?”
“Well, Nerys, let me ask you a question. Do you love him?”
“According to you I do, but...I'm not sure.”
“When you're sure, you'll be able to ask Odo yourself.”
Again, not helpful. Kira plunked down the jar of preserves and changed the subject. “Last night, you said the armistice happens in 2375, that Odo takes the cure home after. That's three years from now. Aren't you a little early?”
Dassi smiled cryptically over her raktijino mug. “No, I don't think so, Nerys. This is the perfect time."
Kira stared at Dassi, trying to decipher that smile. It made her nervous. She didn't like other people having anything over her, knowing something she didn't, even if the other person was herself. Whatever Dassi was hiding was obviously a big deal, but her face was carefully neutral. Kira gave up trying to figure it out and slid her eyes from that mysterious smile to the chronometer on the wall.
"Oh, Prophets!" Kira said, and shot up from the table. “The time. I have to get to Ops.”
Dassi rose and grabbed Kira's arm. “Nerys, wait. It's very important that no one knows I'm here. No one. Not Dax, not Sisko, not even Odo.”
“Why are you still here?" Kira asked, shaking her arm free. "Shouldn't you be zipping back to your time, now that I have what I need?”
Dassi's smile was sad this time. “It doesn't work quite like that. And I want to see what happens in the next couple of days. I want to make sure things are going the right way.”
“Fair enough,” Kira replied. Her mouth turned up with a smirk. “I would say make yourself at home, but under the circumstances, that's probably not necessary. I guess I'll see you after work, then...Dassi.”
Kira left her quarters and started her trek to Ops. It was going to be a rough day. Thoughts about altered timelines and specific revelations about the station's chief of security were filling her head, not to mention that she'd had no sleep. Staying focused on her duties was not going to be easy. Her future self had had kept her awake the rest of the night, explaining what it was she needed Kira to do.
In three years' time, after Julian had his showdown with Section 31, Kira was supposed to give him the missing information so that Odo would receive the real cure, and the Link would be saved. It seemed simple enough, except Kira was going to have to figure out a third party intermediary to deliver said information, since apparently she wouldn't be on the station when all of this happened. Of course, Dassi wouldn't tell her why she wasn't on DS9, only that Garak was off the list of helpers. As if Kira would ever tell Garak anything anyway.
She boarded the turbolift, and did her best to put it all out of her mind. Kira did, after all, have three years to figure out a plan. Nothing had to be decided today.
Kira arrived at Ops, stepping off the lift and heading straight to her workstation. She greeted Dax like she always did, said hello to Channing and O'Brien, doing her best to chat and gossip like normal. When Ensign Smith asked her to take a look at some strange chroniton particle activity in the habitat ring, taking place very near Kira's quarters, Kira smoothly steered the ensign's attention elsewhere. It was just a few particles, after all, nothing to worry about. No unusual fluctuations in the space-time continuum were detected. Besides, hadn't Kira asked for that compilation of docking clamp failures on pylon three two days ago?
As the ensign scurried off to get her report, it struck Kira what an unfair position her future self had put her in, a position she was dismayed to find she was already adept at handling.
For the next three years, in order to protect them all and keep them safe, Kira would have to lie to everyone she knew and loved.
"Major, have you heard a single word I've said?"
Kira pulled herself back from her reverie. "I'm sorry, Odo. I'm not much use today. I didn't sleep well."
Odo's seemingly permanent scowl shifted slightly, into what Kira knew was concern. "Any reason in particular?" he asked.
Oh, no reason, Odo, except that I met my future self last night, and she says you're walking around with an engineered time bomb in your DNA, and that at some point before it explodes, we fight a war, fall in love, and have epic sex...
Kira felt her cheeks start to burn. "No, no reason. Just..couldn't."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Major," Odo replied, studying her carefully. Kira squirmed under the scrutiny. "Your cheeks are a little flushed, Major. Maybe you're catching something. I can finish these plans without you if you'd like to get some rest."
Kira plastered on a quick smile. Prophets spare her from too-observant Changelings. "I'm fine, Odo. We need to get this done. The First Minister's visit is going to keep you busy. If we get the docking protocols straightened out now, it's one less thing you'll have to deal with later."
"I really can do this without you, Kira."
"I know," Kira replied, "but I like working with you. We work so well together. Besides, we don't get to spend time together like this that often, do we?"
"No, we don't." The constable cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. "So, as I was saying, security at the airlocks will be doubled. When First Minister Shakaar disembarks, it will be a vulnerable moment. It's the most dangerous part of his visit, not to mention that you and Sisko will be at the airlock, as well, so—"
"Odo," Kira said, "can I ask you something? Something personal?"
The Constable gave her an arch look. "You can ask. That doesn't mean I'll answer."
"Does it ever?" Kira returned. "Anyway, I was thinking about something. All the times we've talked about relationships—specifically romantic relationships—you always scoff at the idea of romances, yet you always sit there and listen to me go on about mine. You even offer advice when I'm having problems."
Kira paused, and Odo's expression grew wary. "You are my friend, Major. Isn't that what a friend does? Listens, and offers advice? Even if it is probably useless and uninformed."
"Actually, your advice is usually pretty sound, which makes me think you're not as uninterested in the subject as you say you are."
"Major, what is the point of this line of inquiry?"
"Is it for real? Do you really mean it, the whole 'romance is for solids' routine? Or are there...circumstances where you would change your mind?"
"I'm a Changeling, not a solid."
"But you're also a thinking, feeling being that obviously likes the company of said solids—"
"—Only certain solids."
"-and I wonder if you really mean it."
Odo heaved a sigh and looked away from her. He was composing an answer, she could tell, looking for the right thing to say. Kira tried to read his expression, looking carefully for anything that would tell her what he was thinking. Odo was so hard to read, but once in while, Kira had some success.
Today, however, was not one of those days.
"I don't think so, Major. I am a Changeling. We don't need romance."
Kira heaved a sigh and rose from her seat. "You know, Odo, I really am tired. Maybe I will go rest. Can we reschedule this meeting for tomorrow?"
Odo tapped the keys on his computer terminal, checking his itinerary. "How about ten-hundred hours?"
"Fine. I'll meet you here."
Odo stood as Kira left his office. "Very good, Major, I'll see you then. And rest well."
On the way back to her quarters, Kira turned over her conversation with Odo, trying to reconcile it with what her future self had told her. How could someone who could be so cold about relationships be the man, the lover, that was from her dream? Except for the eyes, she couldn't find a single thing Odo had in common with that dream man, nor could she find anything in her waking self that responded the same way. Odo was the same as he had always been, her friend. Nothing at all about him suggested the grand passion that took her in her sleep. She was seriously starting to hope that the whole time travel, 'I know about the dream' thing had been a dream itself. Maybe she had hallucinated the whole ordeal. Maybe DS9 had finally cracked her up.
As she stepped over the threshold of her quarters, Kira's heart sank. Pleading insanity was not an option. It was all real. Dassi-who-was-actually-Kira was still there, wearing one of Kira's dresses. It was the red one with the long skirt, Kira's favorite.
"You're early," Dassi said, looking up from the PADD she was reading. "Everything alright?"
"Not really," Kira replied. "I just came from security."
"And I don't get it," Kira plopped next to Dassi on the couch. She picked up a throw pillow and hugged it. "How is that stiff, stubborn security chief the man from our dream?"
Dassi didn't answer. Instead, she rose and went to the replicator. "Two deka teas, hot," Dassi said. The replicator created the requested beverages, and Dassi brought them back, handing a mug to Kira.
Kira wrapped her hands gratefully around the mug, enjoying the heat as it seeped through to her cold-numbed fingers. No matter what she wore, she was never warm enough on the station, especially if she was tired.
Blowing on her tea, Kira cast her glance at Dassi. "Is this going to be another long story? We only drink tea with good books or long stories."
"Or when we're troubled," Dassi replied. "After what you said this morning, you've had me thinking about Aunt Dassi all day. She always said a hot cup of deka tea could fix anything."
"Too bad we never saw any while she was still alive," Kira replied. "Maybe the Occupation would've been over sooner."
"I would have drank deka tea morning, noon, and night if I thought so," Dassi returned. "I still can't answer your Odo questions, Nerys. The answers are something you have to figure out on your own. You have to come to them naturally, like I did. I could tell you everything you want to know, I remember every moment like it was yesterday, but if I give you-if I give myself- too much information, I'll sour your relationship before it starts."
"Because I'll feel forced. Which I'm already feeling."
"Exactly," Dassi smiled. "We are, after all, Kira Nerys. We do things our own way, in our own time."
"Hear, hear," Kira replied. She yawned and let her head roll back on the sofa. "Prophets, I really am tired."
Dassi took Kira's mug and set it aside. "Lay down, then. I'll keep watch."
Kira smiled widely at her twin. "I haven't heard that in so long...Aunt Dassi really was there for us, wasn't she, after our mother died? I think I've missed her more than our mother."
"Makes sense. We were so young when mother left us. Aunt Dassi was with us until we were ten."
Kira shifted on the sofa to rest her head in Dassi's lap, ignoring the strangeness of the fact that it was actually her own lap she was lying on. After all, if you couldn't be a friend to yourself, if you couldn’t trust yourself, then who could you trust?
Dassi started stroking Kira's hair, the gentle tug as her fingers ran through the short strands comforting, soothing, and Kira let her eyes drift closed.
"I remember Aunt Dassi doing that, too," Kira said sleepily. "I've missed it."
"I know," Kira's future self replied. "I remember..."
The next morning Odo was in his office, a little earlier than usual, working on a case file. The investigation report was an annoyance, and Odo was only writing it to soothe the ruffled feathers of the authorities on Kelvia Prime. It seemed a member of the planet's ruling class wanted to file charges against Quark, claiming he had been cheated while playing Dabo. Ordinarily, Odo would have sided with the Sigil, and launched a full investigation. Quark was not above cheating anyone, from ruffian to royal, but for once, the Ferengi was innocent. Odo knew Sigil's charges were false. Quark's Dabo tables were honest. Keeping honest Dabo tables created the illusion that the rest of Quark's was honest, which Odo knew was also false.
While Odo was composing the report, he was simultaneously running his weekly security scan. Doing two things at once was the only way he could give Major Kira the time she'd asked for, not that he minded, nor did he begrudge the earlier start to his day. The Constable would always make time for the Major, anytime she wanted.
Odo was typing the last paragraph of his report, relieved this waste-of-time placation to the Kelvian Royal Counsel was almost done, when the Computer chirped at him.
“Warning. Quantum activity exceeding specified limits detected.”
Odo paused, hands hovering over the keyboard. That was unexpected. Fluctuation in quantum activity was something Ops should have caught.
“Computer,” he called, “identify activity."
“Acitve chroniton particles detected in the habitat ring. Recommend full scan and sweep.”
Odo started typing again, but a few seconds later, the Computer made a sound of protest.
“Unable to comply. Source cannot be confirmed. Particles are localized in habitat ring, level 27, section 9.”
Informative, but not informative enough, Odo thought. Section 9 had over one hundred rooms. “Computer, can you be more specific?”
“Unable to comply. Recommend manual analysis by tricorder.”
Odo rolled his eyes. A piece of technology as sophisticated as the Computer ought to be able to handle a few stray chroniton particles on its own, but apparently today, it wasn't in the mood.
The Constable saved his file and logged off. Rising from his desk, he moved to a wall storage unit and took out a tricorder. With the Computer's assistance, he configured the tricorder to scan for the chroniton particles, and then set out to find the source of this latest annoyance.
Odo took the turbolift to the habitat ring and stepped off, tricorder open and ready. Odo was quite familiar with this part of the station. He'd walked it several times before, but he was starting worry as the turns and twists the tricorder guided him through became more and more familiar. The tricorder picked up stronger chroniton levels just ahead, leading him on, until Odo found himself standing before an all-too-familiar door.
“Computer, confirm. The particles are coming from Major Kira's quarters?”
“Confirmed. Chroniton particle count exceeds safe limits in room 117.”
Odo's worry grew stronger. What was going on in Kira's quarters to create these readings? Maybe Kira would know something about it, but she was on duty. Should he call her and have her come to her quarters, thus disturbing her work day, or should he just override her locks and take care of the matter himself?
Odo decided not to disturb the Major. A few chroniton particles were not an emergency, and besides, she'd given him her door code, along with an open invitation to visit anytime he wanted. It felt more honest to leave the mark of his presence, however, so he used his security override instead. As he punched his code into the panel, he still couldn't help but feel a trace of guilt. It was strange, entering Kira's home without her.
The door slid open, and Odo entered. He would find the source of the chroniton readings, run the cleaning scan, and get out of Kira's quarters as quickly as he could. He would assuage his guilt by messaging the Major and let her know what he'd done. It seemed a sound plan, so the Constable proceeded more boldly, tricorder raised, sweeping it with a side-to-side motion as he hunted the stray particles down.
They were all over Kira's quarters. Chroniton levels were increasing as he went deeper. This was going to take longer than he thought. There were more, dead ahead, in her bedroom, so many more, in fact, that Odo knew that was where he'd find the source. Major Kira's bedroom was definitely not where he wanted to go, that was entirely too personal, but he'd tread this far into Kira's privacy, he may as well finish what he started. As O'Brien often said, in for a penny, in for a pound.
Odo touched the panel to draw Kira's bedroom door open and looked in. Vaguely, he was aware of the tricorder slipping from his hand, of the clatter as it hit the floor, but that was unimportant. Nothing was important but what he saw in that room. Everything else in the universe faded away as Odo became mesmerized by the sight before him.
A thoroughly startled Kira Nerys was standing by her bed, towel in hand, dripping wet, skin a glowing, glistening vision of shimmering cream under the full light of her quarters. She was fully nude and turned frontally to Odo's position, her eyes wide with shock. Odo grabbed the door frame with one hand, crushing it under his grip, willing himself not to fly apart at the cellular level, not to fly right for her. He knew he should turn away, he should go, he had no right to see her like this. He needed to get out, to stop looking at her, but he couldn't seem to move. His cells wouldn't obey. What was wrong with him?
Kira took a step towards him. Were those tears on her cheeks?
“My Odo, my dear, is it really you?”
Her tone, those strange words, brought Odo back to reality. “Forgive me, Major,” he managed, dropping his gaze to the floor. “I'm sorry, I thought you were on duty, I didn't think you were here. I-I should have checked first, I'm...I'm so sorry. I'll leave, right now.”
“Odo, don't go,” she blurted. “Please, don't go. Let me dry off, and we can talk. Wait for me, I'll be right there."
Odo looked back up, careful to keep his eyes on Kira's face. Through the haze of his lust, and his embarrassment, it occurred to Odo that it might be dangerous for him to do as she asked. He really shouldn't stay, not with his matrix worked up like this. If he lost control of his form, he might give in to the urge to pour himself into Kira's lap, which would make this situation infinitely more embarrassing.
It also occurred to Odo this was not the reaction he should be getting from Kira Nerys. She should be throwing things at him, swearing at him. At the very least, the Major should be as embarrassed as he was, trying to cover herself. It didn't seem to bother Kira at all that he was seeing more of her than even Dr. Bashir had seen. Odo remembered his purpose for being here, remembered the high particle counts in this room, and suspicion added itself to his emotional turmoil.
Odo gave Kira a tight nod and turned away. He picked up his tricorder, saving the readings before he closed it. Maybe he would wait, after all.
Odo moved to Kira's living area and set the tricorder carefully on her table. He dropped on the sofa and groaned. Suspicious certainly didn't change gorgeous. He leaned back against the cushions, and dug the heels of his hands into his eyes, as if rubbing the artificial orbs would somehow erase what was forever seared in his visual memory. Prophets, she was incredible. How was he supposed to sit here, and look at her, talk with her, like he hadn't just seen the Celestial Temple itself?
Odo's head snapped around at the sound of Kira's voice. He shot up from the sofa. “H-Hello...”
Kira was wrapped in a soft white robe, relatively dry, but she'd rushed the job. Her hair was still soaking wet. It hung in long, dark pieces around her chin, pieces he wanted to reach out and...Her hair...
“You're not Nerys.”
“No, I'm—I'm Dassi. Kira Adassa, actually. Her aunt.” She held out her hand. “It's nice to meet you.”
“Her aunt?” Odo said, taking her hand. The woman's hand was trembling. Odo kept it, wrapping it in both of his, trying to still that tremor as he found himself caught by a pair of liquid brown eyes.
Odo slowly released her hand. “I'm sorry, I don't mean to stare. You look so much like Nerys.”
“It is a close family resemblance.” The woman gave him a one-sided grin. “With or without clothes on.”
Odo turned away from her and wiped a hand over his face. Oh, Prophets, Kira's family, her aunt. Was that worse, or better? The Constable was torn between feeling gratitude he hadn't embarrassed himself in front of the genuine article, and feeling like a degenerate for lusting after a member of Kira's family.
Yet Kira Nerys had said she had no living family. He swung back to look closer at this supposed aunt.
Her face was Kira's face, certainly. Her skin, her blush just like Kira's. The line of her shoulders, the way she tilted her head, the bow of her upper lip, all of it screamed Kira Nerys. There was something about her eyes, though, something about their expression. Even though she was smiling at him, her eyes were sad. Tired. As if she had been through things that had permanently fixed those finely painted lines on more than just her face, and Odo found himself falling into those dark depths yet again.
“Dassi," Odo returned. The name didn't feel right even as he said it. "Please, forgive me for my earlier intrusion, for my...indiscretion.”
“It was an accident, Odo. Please, think nothing of it.”
That was about as likely as Quark becoming the next Kai. Aunt or no, this woman was practically Kira Nerys herself, and Odo would be thinking about these unexpected events for some time. Even now, his fingers itched to take that robe from her, to reveal what was underneath, so he could run his hands over that beautifully pale skin, so he could cup one of those perfect—
The Constable took a deep breath. “I really should be going.”
The woman took a step closer. “Do you have to, Odo? Can't you stay, just a little longer? I've...I've heard so much about you, I feel like I know you already.” Her smile grew brittle. “I was looking forward to meeting my niece's best friend. You're all she talks about.”
“The Major. She doesn't actually know I'm here. Maybe I should let her know...”
The woman turned away from him, hiding behind her hair, but not before Odo saw her face crumple. He clenched his hand into a fist by his side, again resisting the urge to reach for her, to stop those tears.
“You're probably right, Odo,” she said, her voice watery. She heaved a breath and turned back to him, her smile plastered gamely back on. “You should go. You should let Nerys know that you've met me.”
Odo dipped his head, taking his leave. He swiped the tricorder off the table and moved to the door. Turning back, he took a last look at this haunted woman, who looked so very much like the woman he loved. The urge to run back to her, to sweep her up and hold her against whatever it was that was chasing her was nearly overwhelming.
“Good day, madam,” he said, and hurried out the door, before he changed his mind.
Odo rushed from Kira's quarters, and through the halls of the habitat ring, making his way back to security as quickly as he could. He mentally cataloged which of the Bajoran archives he would need to access, what offices he would need to call. There was certain information he wanted, and he only had two hours to get it before Major Kira showed up at his office. Kira and her houseguest were definitely hiding something, and DS9's chief of security intended to find out what.
On the turbolift, however, Odo lost his focus. He found he couldn't stop thinking about the lovely line of ridges on Kira Adassa's nose.
With an impatient shove, Odo slid a PADD across his desk. "Kira Adassa."
Kira caught it and turned it on. “What?”
“Kira Adassa," Odo repeated. "Born in Dahkur province over sixty years ago. Older sister to Kira Taban. Registered to the Ih'Valla in Dahkur City when she was sixteen, the normal age of Ren D'jarra. She was an icon painter, just like her brother. Kira Adassa never married, had no children of her own, but was close to her brother's family. So much so, she is the only person in Bajoran history to intern herself in a camp, just so she could live with them. She worked as a—
“Stop,” Kira said, and dropped the PADD on Odo's desk. “That's enough. What do you want to know?”
Odo rose from his seat and rounded the desk. He took a casual position directly across from Kira, leaning on the edge. “Kira, I got to see quite a bit of your Aunt Adassa today, and for a woman in her early sixties, she is...well preserved.”
“Yes,” Kira replied, blushing.
Kira's future self had filled her in on what happened with Odo, calling Kira back to her quarters after Odo left. Future Kira was distraught after seeing Odo, something she had wanted to avoid. The woman's distress kept Kira from thinking too hard about the fact that Odo now knew what she looked like naked. Yet it wasn't actually her Odo saw. It was all pretty confusing, but as they surveyed the damage Odo's grip had done to her door frame, both Kiras had managed a laugh. "Good luck explaining that to the repair crew," Dassi had chortled.
Kira used that moment of humor to make the smile she gave Odo look real. It wasn't. She was nervous as hell.
"Remarkable, isn't it?” Kira said. "Though Bajoran women do age well.”
“Truly well," Odo returned. "Considering Kira Adassa has been dead for over twenty years, she looks fantastic.” Odo crossed his arms over his chest, expression darkening. “Nerys, are you going to tell me who it was I met in your quarters this morning, or do I have to make this a formal inquest?”
Kira bit her lip. “I can't tell you.”
“Can't, or won't?”
“Both. Odo, look, you're going to have to trust me on this one. I can't tell you who she really is, but she isn't dangerous, if that's what you're thinking.”
Odo stood straighter. “I am the chief of security on this station. I have a right to know who she is, and I will determine who is dangerous to the station, and who is not!”
Kira sucked in a gasp. How dare Odo pull the constable routine on her? She shot from her seat, rushing towards him. Odo dropped his arms, leaning forward, and met her glare with one of his own as Kira pressed her way deliberately too far inside his space.
“And I'm its first officer!" Kira spat. "I say she isn't a danger, and I also say her presence on this station is classified, and that is all you or anyone else needs to know!” She moved even closer, pinning Odo between her and the desk. “Am I clear, Captain?”
Odo inhaled sharply, biting back whatever he was going to say. That got him. Kira never pulled rank with him. She could see Odo's outrage swimming in the depths of those sea blue eyes, lurking just under the surface, waiting to break free. Being so close to that amount of force so tightly reigned was electric, exhilarating. It also reminded her of something.
Before Kira could think it through, Odo stood to his full height. He took a step forward, forcing her to yield him the space. “Yes, Major,” he bit off, giving her an overly-correct salute.
Kira planted her feet, and did her best to stare Odo down. He was way too close, they were chest to chest, but she wasn't giving up her part of the field. She dropped her eyes first, getting out from under that blue and blazing gaze without giving ground. Odo's breath brushed passed her ear, and the flame of her temper burned itself into something much hotter, filling her with the urge to throw her arms around him, to press her body to his, a thing she could swear she had done before but knew she hadn't.
What color were your lover's eyes in that dream, Nerys?
Oh, Prophets. That's what this reminded her of. Suddenly, Kira found that everything her future self had told her made perfect sense.
“Oh, Odo, I'm sorry,” she said, anger evaporating. “You're right, you have every right to ask me, but I don't want to fight with you about it. I've got too much going on, starting with the woman in my quarters. I promise, there is a good explanation for all of this, but I can't tell you any of it, not right now.”
“Then when can you tell me, Major?”
“I can't tell you that, either.”
“Then what can you tell me?”
“Not much, Odo. Just...give me some more time.” Kira gripped Odo's shoulders, pleading with her eyes as much as her voice. “And please. Don't tell anyone about my...about Adassa. No one can know she's here.”
“You'd tell me if she was a danger to you? To the station?”
“Alright,” Odo said, standing down. “I'll drop the matter, though I still don't like it. I just need to know you're safe.”
The highest part of the sky, where the sun likes to sit...Kira reached down and found Odo's hand. “You do that a lot, don't you? Make sure I'm safe?”
“Well, you are a resident of the station, a member of the militia. It's my duty. I don't mean to—”
“Odo.” She placed a finger over his lips. “I understand, more than you know... And thank you. For always keeping me safe.”
Odo didn't move, held still by her touch. Kira stared at his mouth, at her finger resting there. She had the vague thought she shouldn't be touching him like this, but then her finger moved down, over his lips, tracing them gently. They were surprisingly soft. She drifted a little closer, wondering...
Odo lifted her hand from his face. “You're welcome,” he replied, keeping her wrist, his grip a little too tight. Kira's eyes slid up to his. For once, she could fully read the emotion in Odo's expression. It made her bold.
“Thank you, Odo,” she said. She brought his other hand to rest on her waist, and placed a light kiss on the corner of his mouth.
His grip on her waist tightened. "You're welcome,” he whispered.
Kira's mouth was still close to his, hovering, waiting. Odo released her wrist to brush her cheek, caress her neck. His fingers moved to the base of her hairline, massaging in careful little strokes. Kira closed her eyes, teased her mouth softly over his, heard his slight gasp. The hand on her waist slid around to her back, pulled her closer, but still Odo didn't take what she was offering.
“Odo, please. I need to know.”
The fingers on the back of her neck tightened, held her still, and Odo pressed his lips to hers.
He was shy at first. A little awkward, even. Her heart filled with the sweetest ache as she realized he'd probably never done this before. This was a really-really first kiss, and Kira did her best to stay calm, to not give in too far to the passion that was quickly heating her blood, to let him take his time, and to take hers.
To Kira's delight, however, the Constable was a quick study. He wasted no time at all catching up with her, his lips teasing hers mercilessly, his tongue a soft but insistent slip into her mouth. Kira wrapped her arms around him, holding him as close as she could, losing all track of time as she returned his kiss in full.
Eventually, it was Kira who broke away first. She was breathless and shaking. She had no words. She could only lay her head on Odo's shoulder, and recover.
“I think it's my turn to say thank you,” Odo said, wrapping his arms around her.
“No thanks necessary, Constable,” she panted. “It was my pleasure. Really.”
Odo tilted her chin up, meeting her eyes. He brushed his thumb along her jaw. “Nerys, where did this come from? What is this about?”
“The future, Odo. Yours and mine.”
“That's rather cryptic. Does it have anything to do with the woman in your quarters?”
“Yes, but that's all I can tell you for now. Ask me again in three years.”
“That's a long wait.”
“I know,” Kira replied, "but I think I know some ways to help you pass the time.” She nibbled her way up to his ear.
“Oh, good,” Odo breathed, his eyes closing. “I like to stay busy.” His eyes snapped back open. “Time...Adassa...That's what this is about, isn't it?"
“Odo, please quit asking me. I really can't tell you.”
“Fine, I won't ask. But you should know I know about the nose ridges.”
“The nose ridges. On your supposed Aunt Adassa's nose. She has the exact same nose ridges as you do.” Odo traced them, from the top and downward, his touch soft but sure, and deliberately slow. Kira's thighs quivered, and she gave a little sound of pleasure as her hips rolled into his. “I know every ridge and every line of this perfect little nose. And no Bajoran has the exact...same...pattern...as another...”
And Odo leaned in to kiss her again.
“You were right,” Kira called as the door closed behind her. She bent down and started taking off her boots. “I had the worst day at Ops. I saw Odo this morning and all day long, for the rest of my shift, the only thing I could think about was...” She cut off as she realized she was talking to an empty room.
Kira tried again, her heart sinking. “Nerys? Are you here?”
Silence. Kira looked around her quarters, trying to find a clue as to where her future self may have gone. On her breakfast table was a PADD, turned on, ready light blinking. Kira jogged over and picked it up.
I had to write this fast so I wouldn't forget. My memory is growing jumbled, confused, all the tiny details falling through the cracks, whirling and skittering away like blowing grains of sand. Soon my memory will go in whole dunes, washed away by the wave of changes I've wrought. I didn't want to lose it all before I told you the rest of that long story.
I was sitting here, thinking about what meeting your Odo today might have done to the timeline, hoping I hadn't screwed us all over, when I felt the most awful feeling. I was losing a very precious memory about Odo. It was of our very first kiss. Imagine how it felt to have it taken away in bits and pieces, only to have it returned to me, rewritten. This new memory was of a different first kiss, one taking place in the security office. I could clearly recall my knees turning to jelly as Odo slowly traced the ridges on my nose. It was a lovely, soft sort of memory. It wasn't the same as the memory I was giving up, but it was still a treasure.
I am so happy for you, Neyrs. I'm happy for me, too. This means we've put things right, that the timeline will right itself. It also means that I can finally rest.
I have to tell you I've been a little selfish. You were right. I could have come to you three years from now, and given you the cure right before the war ended. You asked me why I chose this moment in time, and now, with that new memory floating happily around my head, I can explain.
What the Founders are about to do to Odo will nearly destroy him. This time, though, you can be there for him, fully, to show him what it's really like to be...what he will become. By returning to this particular point in time, a point that was a crossroads for both Odo and me, I knew I could change some things that should have gone a different way, and give you both a chance to change your fates.
Before Odo's trial, there will be a mission involving you, Keiko O'Brien, and Dr. Bashir. Get out of it. Don't question why, just do it. Find any excuse not to be on that ship. It is, however, of the utmost importance you schedule a young female pilot of decent skill in your place. I know this is all very mysterious, like the rest of my visit, but there is an excellent reason for what I'm asking you to do.
You see, at the end of the war, Odo is still going to leave you. I told you that on my first night here, and it will not, and cannot, change. He must return to his people and deliver the cure. The Link must learn about the solids, and Odo is the only one who can teach them. You will both see this, you will both hate it, but you will both understand when the time comes.
Remember that feeling from our dream, that hollow-heart feeling we talked about? When Odo goes, that feeling becomes a thing you can no longer shake out of your sheets and out of your mind. That feeling becomes your reality. You will wake with it every morning, it will shadow you as you work, and when you go to sleep, it will lay down with you in your empty bed. This is nothing we haven't lived with before. Our heart has been through more than its fair share, but without its sentinel, all of that old heartbreak comes back to you threefold. If you do as I say, and stay off that runabout, you and Odo might have a chance to bring something into being, something that won't leave you so alone when he is gone.
The choice is yours, but your window of time is small. Decide soon. Know that either way you and Odo choose, the timeline will be fine.
There is another reason that I chose this moment to come to you. I wanted to give you and your Odo a gift my Odo and I were denied. More time. Any earlier in your lives, and neither of you would have been ready. Any later and it would have been, quite simply, too late. Though the coming years will be full of danger, of death and war, and though you pay a heavy price by living with the secret you now carry, it's worth it. These years are also ones you and Odo can have together, where you can share the purest love, the sweetest joy, and, for longer than fate originally intended, simply be together.
Is it possible to be jealous of yourself? Because I am. Take care of him, Kira Nerys.
Kira closed the letter and set the PADD back on the table, staring down at it. Something that wouldn't leave her so alone. Something Kira had never thought she wanted, but with that kind of forewarning laid out for her, she had to consider. Was she ready for that? And even more important, was Odo ready? Right now, she was sure the answer was no in both cases.
Kira started to drop in a pulled-out chair, but her feet became tangled. She looked down and found herself stepping on her bathrobe. Her future self had been wearing it the last time she saw her. Now the robe was an abandoned heap on the floor, as if it had fallen right off the body that was wearing it. Kira bent down and picked it up, finding her slippers underneath. She rose slowly, crushing the robe to her chest as she stared long at those empty shoes.
Adassa was a family name. Kira had always thought it should be passed on.