Faith and Devotion by Queenix
Summary: Kira Nerys is nearing the end of her life, and Odo comes to see her, one last time.
Categories: Deep Space Nine Characters: Odo
Genre: Alternate Universe
Warnings: Adult Situations
Challenges: None
Series: Hindsight
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 6421 Read: 1148 Published: 27 Jan 2015 Updated: 27 Jan 2015
Story Notes:
Part of the "Hindsight" series, where Odo and Kira had a little more time together.

1. Chapter 1 by Queenix

Chapter 1 by Queenix

It wasn’t so bad, dying.

They had made her as comfortable as possible, all things considered. Kira had refused to die in a hospital, so they had brought the hospital to her, setting up what looked like a small infirmary in her room. Monitors, sensor posts, a special bed, and round-the-clock nursing staff, a revolving door of strangers attending her with their special brand of professional, detached compassion. She was grateful, yet hateful, of those sympathetic faces. They didn’t really care about her, but they treated her as if they did, and if she was in any condition to have her way, she’d have dismissed every single one of those too-knowing faces to somewhere beyond the rim. Without them, however, she couldn’t even lift her own head. This part of dying was not so good, this indignity, this losing of self. When in all of her troubled, difficult, ridiculously complicated life had she ever been so dependent on others?

Kira rolled a bleary eye around the room, and closed it again, disgusted at the contraptions of medical pretense around her, all things that only staved off the inevitable. She prayed constantly for a last burst of strength to simply rip it all out, and get this over with, but so far, the Prophets hadn’t answered.

An oxygen tube was stuck up her nose, keeping her lungs working, despite their protests. A feeding port provided nutrients, her metabolism no longer able to break them down itself. An intravenous unit dripped a constant cocktail of drugs into her failing body, holding back as much of the pain as was possible, but not all of it, no, definitely not all. The pain was still there. She could feel it through the haze of narcotics, could feel it running under her skin, and in her skin, and in her muscles and bones and tendons, even in the very roots of her hair. The drugs were a silencing hand over the incessant, shrieking scream that was her destroyed nervous system. They were a lie to hide the truth from her mind of what her body was really experiencing, as her organs failed, as her systems shut down, as her own body betrayed her, and Kira had embraced that lie, with arms wide open.

She had suffered enough from this mystery disease of hers that dying, indeed, did not seem so bad. When she’d learned of her prognosis, she’d done her best to fight it, had attacked this latest enemy in her life much like she had all of the others, ruthlessly, tirelessly, and without hesitation. Doctor after doctor, test upon test, drug after drug, no answers for what was wrong with her, and therefore no hope of a cure. All of the efforts that had gone into saving her life had failed, and all the while, her body had spiraled further and further down into a living hell she never knew was possible, until she finally gave in, and gave herself over to her fate and to her Prophets.

She would, however, go to her rest knowing she had done everything she could. She had fought well, but this time she had lost. The war against her own body was done. Kira Nerys would die.

It wasn’t, however, so bad. For starters, she was old. She had lived a full life, and renewal in the afterlife was waiting for her. She would enter the Celestial Temple and the pain would be gone, the suffering over, not just her suffering, but the suffering of her family. They were there with her, one of them always at her side, watching, waiting for the end. This was no way for them to spend their time, sitting at the side of their failing matriarch, watching as death took her slowly. They should be in the sun, outside, in the fresh air, enjoying the fresh life that powered their bodies. There would be time enough when their time came for sitting cooped up in sickrooms, and she’d tried to tell them so, but the disease, and the drugs used to treat it, had stolen much of her ability to speak. No one could hear her anymore, and when they did, they dismissed the things she said as the ramblings of a drug-addled old woman, and sometimes, they were.

No, dying was not so bad at all, really, when she thought about it.

“Mother?”

Kira eyes fluttered open, and she was greeted by a beloved face. Adassa. She was finally here. Her daughter was the only one Kira could really stomach having in this room, and Kira wished she had the strength to smile for her. If anyone could handle this with grace and capability, if anyone could wrangle the rest of Kira’s family and friends, could work around all the doctors and their protocols, and knew Kira’s mind well enough to speak for her when she couldn’t do it herself, it was Adassa. She had been away on business in the Gamma Quadrant when Kira’s illness had made its final attack, and brought her low. Now, Adassa was finally come home, to walk this last part of Kira’s path with her. Kira sent a silent prayer of gratitude to the Prophets, and reached for her daughter’s hand.

Adassa met her halfway, carefully, so carefully taking Kira’s hand in her own. Another thing about this disease, it had left her unable to tolerate even the lightest touch, twisting the comfort of a hug or a caress into a horrible agony. This time, though, Kira thumbed her nose at the pain. Let it hurt, let it scream. This might be the last time she could hold her daughter’s hand, and she would have that, even if it killed her.

Kira summoned a round of effort, licking her parched, cracked lips, working around her numbed tongue and throat. “O..des…sa?”

“Odessa is still here. She’s waiting in the hall with…with someone who would very much like to see you.”

“No.”

“Mother, I think you’ll want to see this guest. You need to hear what he has to say.”

“No.”

“I know, Mother, I know, you’ve refused all but family, but this isn’t any ordinary visitor. He’s come a very long way, all the way from the Gamma Quadrant, and I’m quite sure you’d not wish me to turn him away, not at a time like this. Besides…he is family.”

Odo was here, then. Unbelievable. What was left of Kira’s strength was rallied by anger. After all this time, now he shows up?

Adassa had been in contact with her father for years, but Kira could never bring herself to get on the transport with her, and go to the Great Link herself, as Odo had several times invited her to do. That didn’t stop her from grilling her daughter every time she had contact with her father, and the Link, but Kira hadn't been willing to break the promise she'd made herself so long ago. She had sworn to put her ex-husband behind her, and to move on with her life. There didn’t seem much point in seeking him out. The reasons for their separation had been clear. Odo was needed in his world, Kira was needed in hers, and the two worlds just did not mix. Going to the Gamma Quadrant to see him would only open old wounds, and she had done enough bleeding over the years on Odo’s behalf.

Then again, she was dying. What was a little more blood loss?

“Drugs,” Kira whispered.

“You need more? Is the pain bad?”

Kira felt her mouth curl up in the slightest smile. Was the pain bad? Oh, yes, it was bad, so bad, more than she would ever let her daughter know, and once she let her visitor in, it would get a whole lot worse, but Kira wanted her wits about her when that door opened.

“Less,” she breathed.

Adassa understood immediately what Kira meant, what she wanted, and smiled down at her. “I’ll get the doctor,” she said, and released Kira’s hand.

It did occur to Kira through her drugged state to wonder what was so important that it brought Odo all the way back to Bajor. If it was just platitudes about being sorry for her untimely death, Kira was going to tell him exactly where he could stick them. Adassa had made it sound urgent, though, so she didn’t think that was all there was to this visit. Besides, Odo was never one for platitudes. What either of them thought was worth taking up Kira’s last hours on this plane of existence, other than finally hearing ‘I’m sorry I left you to raise our child alone,’ she didn’t know. Then again, she really didn’t need to hear that, either. That bitter little part of her heart had let go of its resentment long ago, and seen the joy of raising her daughter for what it was, a gift. They’d certainly had their rough moments, but she wouldn’t have traded being Adassa’s mother for any amount of apologies.

Adassa returned, Kira’s physician in tow. Dr. Markot had been caring for Kira for the last year, being the foremost authority on neurological degenerative diseases in the sector. He looked so young, that at first, Kira had a hard time believing he was an authority on so much as his own breakfast, much less medicine. He had, however proven to be more than competent in managing her pain, even if it had taken a trip to Cardassia Prime to see him. Kira was never an easy patient, even when she wasn’t dying, and she’d taken secret glee in giving this earnest young doctor a hard time over making a Starfleet admiral go to him, but the doctor had handled Kira, and her case, with alacrity. He reminded Kira much of Julian Bashir, now over twenty years in his grave. Haranguing this young Cardassian physician seemed an oddly fitting tribute to the memory of Julian’s friendship.

“Admiral Kira,” Dr. Markot began, “I understand you want your medications adjusted.”

“Less,” Kira said. “Need to speak…man in hall."

“I cannot recommend that," he replied. "The balance of nerve blockers in your system will be disrupted, and you will suffer for some time even after I restore the dose. The pain medication will not be enough.”

“Know that…insolent pup…”

The doctor smiled at that. “Nice to know your spirit is still intact, though I will remind the Admiral I'm actually fifty-two years old." His smile faded and he said, "As long as you’re sure this is what you want, Admiral. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you, in your weakened state, this could be fatal.”

“Dying anyway, idiot…Do it.”

“You’re the patient,” the doctor returned. His smile turned sad as he looked down on Kira. He met Kira's eyes, looking younger than ever as he searched her for truth, for assurance. Kira gave it to him.

“Alright, Kira,” he said softly, giving her a small nod. He looked up, across the bed. “Nurse, I will need a couple of hypos prepared….”

As the doctor walked away with the nurse, Adassa returned to Kira's side. “Mother, are you sure about this?”

Kira closed her eyes once, slowly, and opened them again. She was sure.

The doctor reappeared, the nurse hovering over his shoulder. “Admiral, are you ready?”

“Ready.”

“Nurse,” he said, watching the monitors by Kira’s bed carefully, “reduce IV drip by thirty percent, and deliver the two hypos.”

Somewhere in the background, the nurse did as she was asked. At first, Kira felt nothing at all, like she had been feeling for the better part of a year. Then, a tingling began in her limbs, a hum that quickly escalated to a searing pain. Her tongue, her mouth were freed from their paralysis. She knew she could speak, could cry out if she wanted, but if they heard her, they would drug her up again, silence her again. No, she had to hang on, but the pain, oh the pain. It was incredible any one body could feel so much, it hurt, make it stop, oh Prophets, make it stop, MAKE IT

“Stop!” Kira cried. “Oh, Prophets, make it stop!”

“Nurse, enough! Her heart rate is out of control. Admiral, I’m sorry, this isn’t going to work. I’m going to have to sedate you,”

“No!” Kira yelled. “Give me- Ahhhh! IT HURTS!”

“Mother? I’m here, I’m right here.”

Kira gripped her daughter’s hand in her own, the pain that Dr. Markot had so carefully drugged away ripping through her with a vengeance. She had forgotten how bad it had been before they’d stuffed her full of meds. It had been too long since she’d felt so much, had so much sensory input from her own body. They had medically and strategically cut her body off from itself, and her head spun with sensation after sensation as it returned to her. A wave of nausea roiled her stomach, and Kira was more than glad there was nothing in it to retch up. She squeezed her eyes shut, doing her best to hold her sanity inside the firestorm of her pain, but she was losing, losing...

“We’re losing her! Get the heart unit, stat!”

“Mother? Mother, can you hear me?”

A burst of sound from the other side of the room, a bang of wood against plaster as the antique door of her bedroom slammed the wall.

“Clear the room! Now!”

Kira knew that voice, that gruff tone, that imperial way of ordering people about. The owner of that voice brooked no refusal when he spoke like that, and it meant serious consequences for anyone who didn’t listen. To Kira, though, that voice meant she would be safe, that nothing would hurt her. She clung to it against the misery that was squeezing her chest, trying to throw her down in darkness, and did her best to tune out the argument that ensued over her bed.

“Father,” Adassa said, “maybe this was a bad idea. I don’t think-“

“Adassa, go. I will take care of your mother.”

“But-“

“Just go. I can help her, but you need to leave, all of you.”

“Just a moment, I am her doctor, you can’t just-“

“If you care about your patient at all, you will leave this room, right now, and let me help her.”

Kira raised her hand weakly in the air, reminding everyone that though she wasn’t in such great shape at the moment, she wasn’t dead yet. “ S'alright,” she slurred. “You can go.”

The arguing around her bed ceased, and she heard the shuffle of feet as the room was cleared.

“Nerys,” Odo said, taking her hand, “I can make this stop, if you’ll trust me.”

“Not trust,” Kira heaved. “Not anymore, but…I still want to.”

“Fair enough. Bear with me a moment.”

Eyes still closed against the pain, Kira winced them tighter as she waited for the greater pain to come. She heard a soft fluid sound, the sound of Odo releasing his solid form, and felt an all-too-familiar semi-solid heat move around her. He did hurt her then, unbearably so, but only for the briefest moment. Odo’s substance moved under her frail body, under her hospital gown, lifting her from the bed as he reformed to his solid self. Part of him remained melded with her skin, a small part of his chest to her back, and Kira gave a cry of relief. Her pain was gone.

Her heart stabilized as her agony faded, her respiration returning to normal, and her thoughts began to run clear again. Kira eased her eyes open, and found herself wrapped in Odo’s arms, cradled in his lap.

“Better?” he asked.

“Better?” she returned. “Are you kidding? It’s gone, the pain is gone.” Kira laughed giddily, touching her chest, her face. She pulled the oxygen tube from her nose and took a free, clear breath. “This is incredible. I feel twenty years younger. How are you doing this?”

“I’ve learned a lot in the last forty or so years in the Link.”

“Apparently,” she returned. “Why did you make everyone leave, though?”

“Because not many know we can do things like this, and we’d rather keep it a secret.”

“Even from Adassa?”

“Well, no, she knows, but I needed to see you alone, anyway.”

Kira was half-listening to Odo, flexing her hands freely for the first time in months, watching them open and close, eyes wide with wonder. “It’s like I was never sick.”

“Nerys, it’s not a cure. It’s only a stopgap, a trick, no better than the drugs they were feeding you. My neuromatrix is regulating your nervous system, but once we separate, the pain will come back.”

“Well,” Kira sighed, not bothering to hide her disappointment, “at least it gives us some time to talk.”

“Indeed, and you’ve wasted enough time for both of us as it is. I’ve been asking to see you for ten years, and I got tired of hearing no. What is it Sisko used to say? ‘If Mohammad will not go to the mountain…?’”

Kira tilted her head back, meeting his eyes. “It is good to see you, Odo. You look exactly the same…” She looked away quickly, at her own wasted body, her arms and legs thin and wrinkled sticks, all angles and knobs and sickly pale skin. Her face, she knew, was not in much better condition, and she found herself suddenly embarrassed by her deterioration. “I’m sorry I can’t say the same for myself.”

Odo smiled warmly at her. “You are humanoid, Nerys, and you have been ill. I didn’t expect to see you as you were, and I don’t care either way.”

He reached up and brushed her cheek, just like he used to do, and Kira nearly fainted with pleasure. “Oh, Odo, I haven’t been able to feel anything like this in forever…” Tears pricked her eyes and she sniffled, rolling into his touch. “You have no idea how good that feels. Thank you.”

“You never have to thank me, Nerys, not for this," he smiled. "I said always, and I meant it.”

Kira sighed, and took his hand, kissing it. She shifted to make herself comfortable in Odo’s lap, careful of their bond, like she had done so many times before. It felt as if their separation had never happened, that empires and bitterness had never come between them. It was almost enough to make her forget that illness was still eating her alive, from the inside out. Kira shoved that thought aside, refusing it to let it ruin this, basking in the freedom of feeling healthy and whole and loved, even if it was only temporary. Odo was silent with her as they enjoyed the quiet, and each other, even if that, too, was only temporary.

Odo spoke first, stroking her arm absently. “Nerys, we don’t have much time. I can’t do this for you indefinitely, and I need to tell you why I came.”

“And here I thought it was for the pleasure of my company,” she quipped.

“It was,” he replied, “it is, but there is a larger reason.”

“I figured as much,” Kira sighed. “Let’s have it, then.”

“Do you remember,” Odo began, “how our relationship started? Why it started?”

“Of course I do. It’s not every day one gets visited by a mysterious future self. It was the biggest relief of my life to tell you the whole story. I hated keeping what I knew about the virus from you, from the others. The guilt nearly killed me.”

“I remember,” Odo replied, “and the virus is why I’m here. Adassa brought me your medical files when you started falling ill, and no one could figure out why. She thought the Dominion might have resources not on this side of the wormhole, and she was right.”

“Odo, I saw the best doctors Starfleet has to offer, going as far as Vulcan. What does the Dominion have that we don’t?"

"Scientists with access to more than a thousand years of research Starfleet doesn’t have, especially in genetics. Did you forget how the Jem’Hadar and the Vorta are made?”

“But my disease isn’t genetic, or at least one other person in Bajoran history would’ve had it, besides me.”

“It is genetic, Nerys, but not for Bajorans, at least not usually. Up until now, we thought it only affected Changelings.”

“Odo, are you saying…that I have the Changeling virus? That what’s killing me?”

“Yes, Nerys, I am.”

“That can’t be possible…”

Kira rifled through her memory, trying to recall what Julian had told the senior staff all those years ago on DS9 about the virus in question. Section 31 had engineered it to wipe out the Changelings. It was keyed to a base pair sequence specific to Changeling DNA, and Section 31 had infected Odo with it in an attempt to turn him into a bioweapon. They’d almost succeeded, but Julian had found the cure. Well, almost found it. That’s where Kira’s future self had come in, bringing Julian’s real cure with her from a post-war future, preventing a galactic holocaust. Even all these years later, even though these events had happened right in front of her eyes, Kira still had a hard time believing any of it had been real, and she found herself having just as much trouble believing Odo now.

“Odo, that’s a scientific impossibility as far as I know, but I’m no fancy geneticist, so correct me if I’m wrong. Wouldn’t I have to be a Changeling to catch a virus designed specifically for Changelings?”

“Ordinarily, yes, but not every humanoid can claim to have given birth to a Changeling child.”

“Adassa is not a Changeling. Her medical exams- and Prophets, did Julian run medical exams on her when she was little, he was so worried about her- they all showed her as she is, half Bajoran, half Human.”

“Yes, and she will always scan as such, but in her DNA, somewhere, is a piece of Changeling passed to her through me. The Founders were good, but not that good. They could change me into a humanoid, Nerys, they can do many, many things, but even they cannot change the stuff of stars.”

Kira raised a brow at him. “Odo, you’re losing me here.”

“We are all star stuff, Nerys. Everything living in the universe is of the universe, and somewhere, on some level even those ‘fancy geneticists’ haven’t discovered, we’re all connected. We came from the same cradle.”

“But that doesn’t explain how I caught a Changeling virus,” Kira scoffed. “Otherwise, I would’ve had the Cardassian flu about a thousand times by now.”

“The doctors are still in theory on this, but they think it goes back to how Section 31 designed the virus to be morphogenic. It is one sneaky, virulent strain of disease when presented with certain DNA chains, specifically DNA chains that are meant to shift, and mimic the structure of other life forms. The virus is designed to shift, too. Whoever made this thing has the admiration of the entire Dominion scientific community, despite what it was used for. Dr. Bashir’s research was handed over as part of the armistice, so Dominion scientists had already studied it thoroughly, and they recognized the markers in your blood tests. Starfleet Medical missed them, I’m sure, because no one has given the virus a second thought since the war ended. Why would they? Your pregnancy is the only way they can explain how this happened, that it passed to you then, and that it's laid dormant all these years. Something about the way Bajorans gestate, the vascular connection, the way the mother's system cleans the blood for the baby, allowed it to cross species.”

Kira flooded with panic, struggling to get up from the bed. “Then Adassa has it, too? Oh, my baby, my bean, she can’t go through this, too. Oh, Prophets, Odo, we have to-“

“Easy, Nerys, don’t worry,” he said, holding her to him, ceasing her struggle. “We tested her, and she’s fine. Had Mi’kal been a former Changeling, Adassa might have had the same problem, but as it is, no one in the universe can catch this, Nerys, but you. No one’s ever seen anything like it. You’ve become quite the famous case on my side of the universe. They’ll be researching your file for years.”

Kira sagged with relief. At least her family would be safe, even if she wasn’t. “Well,” she quipped, “if you’re going to do something, do it right. Leave it to me, and my dramatic life, to be dying from an impossible disease.”

“Which brings me to why I’m here,” Odo said. “We haven’t had time to figure out a cure for your strain, but we can still cure the disease, only not if you’re still a Bajoran.”

“What do you mean, still a Bajoran? What else would I be?”

“A Changeling, of course.”

Kira went still, sucking that one down. Kira Nerys, a Changeling? What fresh plate of confusing was the universe serving up for her now?

“Say I would even consider tossing aside a lifetime of faith and devotion to the theology of my people, Odo, how in the world would that be done?”

“The same as was done to make me Human, only in reverse," he replied. "The Link has been doing this for centuries. Long ago, before the rise of the Dominion, the Changelings used to make this offer frequently. They’ve preserved more than one existence this way, saved a soul, if you will, that they felt deserved immortality. That’s how they so readily knew how to change me to a Human, and still keep my consciousness intact.”

That seemed plausible enough, though it still sounded like playing Prophet way too much for Kira’s liking. The Vorta may worship Odo’s race as gods, and the more she heard, the more she was starting to think the Vorta were on to something, but Kira only had room in her faith for one set of gods at a time.

As she considered Odo’s offer, she was reminded of a long-ago mission from their DS9 days. The Defiant had crashed and caused a time rift on a rogue planet, sending the ship and her crew back two centuries in time, where they formed a new colony. The mission had been shortly after Adassa was born, and Kira and Odo had left her on DS9 with Keiko O’Brien. Knowing he had left his newborn daughter behind on the station, and that his wife died shortly after the Defiant crashed, Odo’s past self had released the Defiant and her crew from the time loop by altering their flight plan, preventing the crash and winking an entire population out of existence to save his family. Though Kira understood past-Odo’s motivations, that mission had caused a serious rift between she and present-Odo. Kira had believed then, as she believed now, that she had one path, one destiny, determined for her by the Prophets, and that Odo’s past self had interfered with that destiny.

And here he was, all these years later, offering to do it again.

“You know, Odo,” she said, covering her eyes with one hand, “I’m too damned old for this stuff. This is why I retired. Had you come to me years ago, had I more time to think and talk to a vedek, I might consider your offer, but we both know we’re out of time. Right now, I feel like I have to say no. My faith tells me it’s wrong.”

Odo sighed heavily. “I thought you’d say that, and so did Adassa. In that event, she wanted me to tell you something. The Link offered her the same choice ten years ago when she first came home. She refused, but only in the short term. When her husband dies, or her own death comes, whichever is first, she is joining the Link.”

Kira tried to hide her hurt at the exclusion she felt, from Odo and her daughter. Adassa’s decision didn’t surprise her, though. Adassa had never adopted her mother’s belief in the Prophets, and Kira had never forced the issue. After all, one either had faith, or didn’t, but it had caused a few fights between them over the years. What was the point of looking forward to eternity in the Celestial Temple if her daughter wasn’t joining her there?

“What if Adassa dies suddenly,” Kira asked, “and you can’t get to her?”

“The necklace I gave her when she was a child is for more than just decoration. If her life signs are failing, the lock on the stasis field breaks, and the stone goes back to its natural state-“

“-Which will turn Dassi.”

“Yes, much like the baby Changeling that turned me.”

“Nice of you to discuss that with me before you gave her something like that.”

“It was necessary, Nerys, to keep it quiet, for obvious reasons. We don't need the truth of what we can do getting out. We'd have every crackpot in two galaxies showing up and asking to join the cause. What if the wrong person learned the secret, and took the necklace from her?”

Kira couldn’t really argue with that, though she was trying to find a way. Odo caught on, reading her thoughts, her feelings, just as easily as he always did.

“I know this upsets you, Nerys, but to me, and to Adassa, your gods are no more than another mystery of the universe. The Prophets are godlike, I’ll give you that, but they are still alien entities residing in subspace pockets inside a wormhole. They are detectable, tangible things. You’ve seen the sensor scans yourself. While I know they are connected to Bajor, and Bajorans believe they will be with the Prophets in the afterlife, when in all of those years did we find any Bajorans in those pockets? I’m offering you something more concrete. I’m offering you eternal life, Nerys, with me, in the Link, and eventually our daughter, too. I am the definitive proof that what I say is possible. Can the Prophets give you that?”

Could they? No, they couldn’t, but it didn’t matter. “Odo, they can’t, but they don’t have to. We’ve talked about faith before. There is no faith without belief, and no belief without hope. I still believe in the Prophets, I always have, and I want to go to the Celestial Temple when I die so my pagh can be healed, and reborn. That has always been my hope, through every kind of hell, and if you and Adassa think I’m wrong, if you think I’m silly, then so be it. I'll die a silly, superstitious old woman, with visions of salvation dancing around her head.”

Odo hugged her tighter. “I never thought your faith was silly. But you are predictable, at least to me and our daughter. We didn’t think you’d say yes, so we have a B plan.”

Kira huffed a laugh. "You two sure spend a lot of time weaving plots around me.”

“Still part of that nefarious plan, Admiral,” he whispered, kissing her neck. Kira was instantly flooded with a memory of she and Odo in bed together, an eon ago now, but the passion and love of that night, and of many nights like it, had sustained her through some dark times after Odo left. Much to her amazement, she felt the familiar heat of that passion flare through her blood now, hot, swift, and tempting. She hadn’t felt true desire like this in years, she was passed all that at her age, and besides, she'd only ever felt it this deeply with him. She smiled, enjoying the rush, despite the tears that blurred her vision.

Kira's smile faded, and she let her tears fall. "Odo, I tried so hard after you left, I really did."

“Tried what?”

“Other relationships. Seeing other people…It just wasn’t the same, I couldn’t... I could never…”

“I wish I could say I was sorry,” Odo said, gently wiping her face, “but I’m not. I loved you then, and I love you still, maybe now more than ever…Please, Nerys,” he begged, “come with me. Be with me in the Link.”

“I want to say yes so badly, Odo, but I can't. Please don’t make this harder for me.”

“Alright,” he said, struggling for a moment. He heaved a sigh and pressed his forehead to hers. “I won’t. We’ll go with the B plan.”

“What is this B plan?” she sniffled.

“The B plan,” he said, taking her hand, “is that I offer to help you die, instead of waiting around for this disease to finish you.”

“Odo, that’s still crossing fate. I'm paying the price now for doing it once before, and having our child."

“It isn’t changing anything, my love, not anymore. Earlier, when I came in the room, you were having a heart attack. A fatal one. You’re going to die as soon as I let you go, but I can offer you a different death, one with no pain, no fear."

A heart attack. That was the squeeze she had felt in her chest. Well, Doctor Pup had warned her, but still...Kira ignored the icy tingle that ran up her spine, and heaved a deep breath, blowing her anxiety out with it. Like Odo said, no fear. She wouldn't be afraid, not with him here, and anyway, hadn't she been asking to die for days now? Still, it was a hard thing, knowing she was finally at the precipice, ready to fall.

"Do I have time to see my family first?”

Odo smiled warmly at her. “Most definitely there is time to see your family.”

“Your family, too, Odo, don’t forget that. I'm sorry my stubborness has kept us all apart. You're right, I have wasted a lot of time, but don’t let my stupidity ruin your chance to know them." She reached up and stroked his cheek. “They’ll need you after I’m gone.”

Odo nodded once, unable to reply, his features blurring as emotion disrupted his form. He didn't need to speak, though. Kira knew that he would look after her family for her, that they would get to know him better, and the thought made her bold.

“Alright, then,” Kira smiled. “B plan it is.”

Without wasting any more time, she ordered the computer to call her family back into the room. Kira had to laugh as two seconds later, they came piling in on top of one another, Dr. Markot bringing up the rear, tripping over his own feet. They must have been hanging on the door the whole time, trying to listen.

Adassa, as dry-eyed as she could manage to be since she was in on the B plan, tried once again to talk Kira into joining the Link, but Kira wasn’t budging. After some arguing that threatened to ruin these last moments, Kira ended it by telling her daughter to shush up, and hug her mother goodbye. Ever the dutiful daughter, Adassa did as she was asked. As her daughter’s arms wrapped tight around her, as she reached out and took the hands of her granddaughter and her son-in-law, Kira found herself filled with the biggest sense of gratitude she’d ever had in her life. Odo couldn’t know what a gift this was, to hold her family again, to talk with them again, and to laugh, things she hadn’t been able to do in over a year.

They all talked and laughed and chatted for a time, Odo joining in with them, and Kira took in every second like it was her last, because it was. Eventually, though, Kira’s eyes began to grow heavy, and so did her limbs. She struggled to stay awake, to stay with her family as long as she could. The faintest hum of pain began in her hands and feet, and she tried to ignore it, but then Odo leaned in to whisper in her ear.

“It’s time.”

Kira sighed, resolved. It was time. She could feel it, too. With a final round of hugs, including a big one for her doctor, Kira cleared the room herself. She wanted this last bit of time alone with the love of her life.

“Odo," Kira said when they had the room again, "I know this has to be so hard for you, seeing me to the end. I can't thank you enough for this.”

“I told you, you don’t need to thank me, Nerys.”

“Odo, I’m dying. For once, accept my gratitude, and say, ‘You’re welcome, Nerys.’”

“You’re welcome, Nerys,” he smiled. He brushed her cheek again, and placed a gentle, sweet kiss on her mouth.

Smiling, Kira closed her eyes, and rested her head on his shoulder. She was so tired. She let herself drift further away from Odo and further into darkness, as if she was simply falling asleep, as if her pagh wasn’t preparing to shed its flesh and blood shell, and free itself from this life. It was a pleasant feeling, really...No, dying wasn’t so bad at all...

“I love you, Nerys. Always.”

“Forever, Odo,” she replied. The words felt as if they were spoken through a great distance, and it took all of Kira's remaining strength to send her last ones home. “Love you…”

This story archived at http://www.adastrafanfic.com/viewstory.php?sid=2152