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Inside, the perfumer's shop was wall-to-wall with stacked shelves, holding all sorts of bottles, vials, and pots in every conceivable shape and color, as Kira had expected. Kira had also expected to be overwhelmed by fragrance but got only the barest hint of floral essence. By the ceiling, the proprietor had added a series of hanging orbs to the space that glowed with a soft yellow light, reminding Kira of tiny suns. She wondered at the trick used to hang them so it seemed they were floating on their own. They gave off a bit of heat, too, chasing away some of the constant cold. The walls were the usual dull metal the rest of the station was built with but were hung with tapestries of natural scenes from a world she didn't know. They relieved the drabness, giving the room a tastefully exotic feel.

She looked over at Odo and smiled as she watched him study the tapestries. He tilted his head in that way he had, from side to side, studying a particular one carefully. Kira was about to ask him what he found so fascinating when a voice from behind got her attention.

“Welcome, friends. May I be of service?”

Kira and Odo both turned to the melodious voice. A tall, violet-skinned alien stood before them. It appeared humanoid, having two arms and two legs, and only one head, but was from no species Kira recognized. She couldn't decide if it was male or female, shrouded as it was in voluminous robes. The voice hadn't helped any, either. She decided to accept the alien as neither and both until other information became available. Besides, not every species had a gender. Or had only two.

"Good evening," Kira replied, finding her voice. "We were just browsing. This is your shop?” The alien dipped its head in acquiescence. “I don't think I've met you before. You must be new to the station."

"Indeed, I arrived here most recently," the alien replied. "I am Ceqrian, from the planet Virin. I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Major Kira, and you as well, Security Chief Odo." The alien bowed slightly in turn to each of them.

“You know who we are?” Odo asked, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Of course," the alien replied. "You are both well-known figures aboard this station."

Odo and Kira looked askance at each other, chagrined. Neither of them was comfortable with such easy recognition. Over the years, they had both tried to ignore the fact that their positions brought them a certain local celebrity, but still, it came up from time to time. Living on the station would make it hard not to know who the senior staff members were.

Odo cleared his throat, looking back to Ceqrian. "Virin, you say? I've never heard of it.”

"Likely not, Odo. May I call you Odo?" Odo grunted his affirmation. "My homeworld is in the Gamma Quadrant, and my species does not travel off-world often.”

The mention of anything Gamma Quadrant always caught Odo's attention. Curiosity replaced his wariness. "So what brings you to the station?" he asked, leaning an elbow on a display counter as Ceqrian moved behind it.

"Trade, of course," Ceqrian replied. "There are whole new galaxies of planets to trade with, now that we know of the passage- the wormhole, as you call it. My people decided it would be best if there were a first-hand observation of the Alpha Quadrant. It has been long indeed since such rich opportunity for new knowledge has come to us, and I am here to collect as much as I can."

“Sounds like an adventure," Kira said, smiling. She liked this alien, she didn't know why. The Major didn't usually take to new people, and Odo was worse than she was, but he seemed to share her opinion of Ceqrian. He was all ears as he listened to the alien's answer.

"Indeed, I volunteered for this, Major," Ceqrian said. "I am unusual for a member of my race in that I do not fear to travel. I am, as they say, a bit of a rebel." With this, Ceqrian gave her a conspicuous wink. The gesture was so Human, Kira couldn't help but laugh. This one learned fast.

"Now," Ceqrian said, tone changing to that of business-minded merchant, "I find myself with the rare occurrence of having two of the station's most prominent figures in my humble shop. I would be remiss if I did not take advantage of the opportunity. May I share with you some of the rare goods my planet has to offer? I think you will find the demonstration most pleasing."

Kira looked at Odo and raised a brow in inquiry. He nodded once, and Kira answered for them both. 

"We would be delighted, Ceqrian," Kira said.

"Ah, wonderful!" Ceqrian exclaimed. "Let me mention, once again, this is a humble shop. What I have here is a mere sliver of what my people can create, using local essences from our own world, but also importing others from off-world. With new discoveries for my people here in the Alpha Quadrant, the possibilities are nearly endless, and the applications just as endless. It's an exciting time for Virin."

"Applications?" Odo asked. He and Kira watched as Ceqrian pulled various bottles and vials from under the counter, placing them on top. "What do you mean? Isn't fragrance for wearing, or freshening a room? What other applications are there?"

"Oh, many applications, Odo,” the alien assured. "The olfactory sense for most races is a powerful instrument, tying directly to emotion, memory, even basic survival instinct. On Virin, it is all. We possess the strongest sense of smell among the known sentient species, so naturally we have built our entire civilization on the study of this sense. Everything from worship to weaponry, from education to entertainment, relies on it.”

"Weapons, you say. Are you a warrior people, then?” Odo asked.

“We were, long ago. My people were once divided by nations, all looking to outdo each other, using our gifts to conquer and control. Virins united in common cause when we let go of those pursuits, devoting all of our energies to common good. We became as we are today, a single-minded race, with almost no conflict among us. The Virin revolution was more than twenty thousand years ago, and we have enjoyed peaceful coexistence on my planet since that time.”

"Humph," Odo grumbled. "Sounds too good to be true."

"Yes, Odo, but true it is," Ceqrian replied. "The revolution was brought about when we became warp capable. As we encountered new races, we realized we were a unique species. None were as responsive to scent as we were, and we had difficulty communicating with outsiders. We came to understand that we were special, our society precious. We had to retreat in secrecy to preserve our way of life."

The merchant ducked under the counter, muttering and searching for something elusive. "Aha!" Ceqrian said, rising and setting out an especially ornate bottle, its contents iridescent and mysterious. Kira found herself lost in a swirl of colors, gazing raptly at the ever-shifting hues inside. "This is special. I most definitely want to show this one."

Kira watched the silvery fluid, her mind going back over what Ceqrian had said, and a question bubbled up. "Ceqrian, if your race is so secretive, why are you so open with your history? You seem pretty easy with Odo and me, and you don't know us."

"Ah, well," Ceqrian said, "normally my people are not so loquacious about our planet and its idiosyncrasies. We have even avoided the long eye of the Dominion thanks to our quiet habits. You two, however, can be trusted."

"How do you know that?” Odo countered. “You just met us tonight.”

"By your scents, of course. Both of you have amazing scents. Honest, and worthy of trust. I smell very little deception in either of you, especially for humanoids."

Kira raised a skeptical brow. "You can tell character traits by how we smell?"

"Yes, Major. The Virinian sense of smell is, as I said, extremely sensitive. You may equate it more locally with the Betazoid sense of telepathy. For instance, Major, I can scent that you are forthright and hardworking.” Ceqrian leaned closer, inhaling deeply. The alien pressed a hand to its breast, smiling broadly at her. “Passion, Major, an exhilarating base note. I also get faith, deep and pure...You are obviously lovely and clearly intelligent, yet I get no conceit or arrogance. Actually, there's a hint of self-deprecation, likely from a rather conservative heart note. I do detect a fair amount of pride, though, and blended with the passion, I would say you grow especially impatient and temperamental, dangerous even when crossed.”

Kira's eyes widened at the intimacy of all Ceqrian had said. She felt exposed, her ears and cheeks burning. Odo seemed to take smug delight in her discomfort.

“Well, Kira, I'd say that's pretty accurate,” he quipped, raising a brow.

Turning the tables, Ceqrian moved away from Kira and closer to Odo. “Well, we must be fair, Odo, and scrutinize your scent as well. We wouldn't want to be rude to the Major.” It took a deep inhale. “Your base note, sir, is order. No surprise there, and rather cool, but tempered by kindness... Ethical and fair, sometimes to a fault, creating a tendency to be judgmental...And such patience. Calculating, analytical, and unwavering restraint. Most disciplined you are, Odo. There's something else, though...” The alien inhaled again, third nostril whirring softly, brow drawn as it searched Odo for something that was eluding it.

Ceqiran held out a six-fingered hand. "May I?" Odo reluctantly conceded, giving Ceqrian his arm. Ceqrian brought Odo's wrist closer and inhaled, silver eyes closed in concentration.

“Ah, I have it now,” Ceqrian said, releasing Odo. "Well balanced throughout the bouquet, and not as spicy as the Major, but just as strong. No wonder I didn't get it right away. You guard your passion most carefully, Odo.”

Kira's mouth lifted in a one-sided grin. "Well, Odo, I'd say that's pretty accurate."

Odo blushed to the roots of his hair.

"Your veru scent, your 'together' scent, tells me you are quite compatible, promising a happy life together," Ceqrian noted.

"Well, the Constable and I have been friends for years," Kira added, thinking that was what the Virinian was catching.

"Oh?" the alien replied. "I thought I picked up scents of a more... intimate nature."

"Intimate?" Kira covered her alarm with a laugh. He could smell that, too? "The Constable and I are friends, not lovers."

Odo was staring at something that didn't exist behind Ceqrian, his skin flushed an even deeper shade of red.  

A quirk of a thin, white brow disclosed Ceqrian's amusement. "I see," Ceqrian said. "My mistake, I do apologize." The alien bowed low over its pressed-together hands. "I did not mean to make you uncomfortable...So!” the alien said, sweeping an arm over the selection of merchandise before them. "Shall we begin the demonstration?"

 



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