Ceqrian seated Odo and Kira in two soft armchairs, facing one another. They were close enough that their knees brushed, the frisson setting Kira's butterflies off again. The alien had also dimmed the overhead lights, moving the golden orbs together in a circle over their heads, so only their light remained. They shed a soft halo over the pair, casting anything beyond their reach into unreadable darkness. It created an atmosphere of intimacy, like a fireside glow on a dark, cool night, perfect for deep discussions.
Or making love...
Kira could have cheerfully phasered herself for that thought.
Ceqrian approached, carrying the bottle of elixir. "Please, Odo, turn your wrist upward and rest your arm on the chair."
Odo did as he was bid. Kira watched as Cequrian carefully removed the stopper from the bottle, the end covered with the precious liquid, and dripped some on Odo's wrist. It landed exactly on Odo's pulse-point, settling over his veins and onto his skin like a bit of starlight.
“Major, if you would, turn this wrist up to me," Ceqrian repeated the process, placing a shimmery drop on Kira's wrist. "And if you will excuse my touch." Ceqrian picked up Kira's arm and guided it across to Odo's, carefully aligning their wrists so that the drops of elixir met, leaving her hand to rest on Odo's forearm.
Kira felt Odo's warm hand clasping her arm, felt the rhythm of their hearts beating counterpoint at the place where their wrists joined. An anticipatory tingle raced up her arm with each little pulse, electric and faintly erotic. Maybe this wasn't so hot of an idea. She was beginning to regret dragging Odo into this. He looked uncertain as their eyes met, squirming in his chair. She managed a thin smile for him, hoping it looked something like reassurance.
Holding a spooned fingertip over the bottle's mouth, Ceqrian tipped it, and with a "Pardon me," ran a line of the stuff from the base of Kira's nose, down the hollow above her lip. She felt it tickle, then burn, then...nothing. Ceqrian did the same for Odo, and she watched, fascinated, as the elixir evaporated into a silvery vapor that traveled into his nostrils, leaving no trace of itself behind.
“This is the final step,” Ceqrian said from behind her.
Kira started as a black cloth fluttered over her field of vision, blocking Odo's face. This she definitely wasn't comfortable with. Her heart picked up its pace, tripping quickly under her ribs, but she willed herself to calm. Odo was right there, under her fingertips. There was no reason to panic. Ceqrian tied off the blindfold, and she heard the alien move away to do the same for Odo.
As Kira calmed and adjusted to the dark, the Diod began to take effect. Her head spun sickly, and she breathed against the nauseous roll of her stomach. The dizziness faded as quickly as it had come, replaced by an odd sensation that pressed inside her skull. The Diod had opened a place in her head, a place she somehow knew had been there all along. It was hers, this new place, but not hers, a part of her brain Bajoran evolution had left dead but the Diod had awoken.
Kira inhaled deeply, instinctively, flexing her olfactory sense's new muscles. The silk of her clothes, the soap she favored on her skin, the slight traces of wine from her dinner were there. She pushed passed herself, scented the carpet beneath her, the paint, the room in general, all of which would have been normal. But her new ability also told her the carpet was Idanian wool, replicated, and not more than a week old. There was a sting of chemicals in the air, and Kira recognized the sanitizer that mixed with the station's life support systems. She should never have been able to detect it as it was designed to be odorless when diluted, and until this moment, it had been.
Kira was enjoying her analysis of the room when she caught something else, something urgent to her heightened senses. She tilted her head, honing on it, separating it from the other scents as she tried to track its source. The scent was clean, like freshly washed skin and cotton, soothing and safe. She breathed a little deeper, intrigued by this mystery. There were other notes within the scent, ones that were spicy, masculine, and pleasantly strong, and something essential she couldn't quite identify. The faintest hint of musk raised goosebumps on her arms. This scent was very tempting, and her mouth watered a bit. It was also very familiar...
Kira realized with a start that it was Odo. She'd always liked the way he smelled, Changeling or Human, but this...This was on a whole new level. She felt her skin flush and hoped the palm resting on Odo's arm wasn't sweating.
"The bond is fast," Ceqrian said. Kira turned her head blindly to the quiet voice. “Please, each of you tell a deliberate falsehood to gauge the elixir's effect. A lie is a strong trigger for this sort of bond."
Kira went first. "I am the captain of the station," she stated boldly. Odo grunted a sound of disgust.
"Are you alright, Odo?"
"Yes, Major." Kira felt no reaction, so it must be true, but she didn't know for sure.
"And Security Chief, your non-truth, please," Ceqrian prompted.
Odo cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. "I am completely comfortable with this," he said.
Kira scented the lie. It was ugly, rotten, like soured olgla fruit. She stopped her nose and breathed shallowly until the odor passed.
"Very good!" Ceqrian said. "You are ready. Keep your arms clasped to hold the bond. You will know when it is over, and when to let go. I will leave you for a time." Kira heard the plink of clanking crystal and the rustle of robes grow distant as Ceqrian left the room.
"Well, that was interesting," Kira noted after the alien was gone. Ceqrian also had a unique fragrance and the lingering traces of it triggered Kira's first question. "Can you smell me, Odo? I mean really smell me?"
"Yes, Kira, I can," he replied tightly.
"Does it bother you?'" she asked, worried by his tone. She knew she smelled a far cry better than her days in the resistance, but still...
"Not at the moment. When you lied, it was distinctly unpleasant."
"But now it's okay?"
"Yes, you smell...ah...well...good." Kira caught the hint of musk again.
Kira caught the hint of musk again. "You, too, Odo," she replied, grinning. Maybe too good, she thought, her nose's receptors taking in his scent with relish.
"Well, Major," Odo said, "now that we've established we both smell nice, what shall we talk about?"
Kira gritted her teeth. 'Major' again. Bonded as they were and if Ceqrian was to be believed, it seemed a waste of time to make small talk, so Kira got to the point. "For starters, Odo, can you call me Nerys for once? We're the only ones here, and I think it's silly that you constantly use my title, especially in these circumstances."
"I'm sorry, Ma—" Odo caught himself. "Nerys."
"Why do you do that, Odo? Refuse to use my given name, even though I gave you permission ages ago. And be honest. We both know what happens if we aren't."
Odo paused, forming a response. His scent changed slightly, a drift that made her think of rain, and a touch of metallic-something. Fear, her nose told her, the scent sharp and oddly exhilarating. He didn't want to tell her because he was afraid of something.
She had to give Odo credit, though, for matching her frankness. "I didn't have the best time, as you know, in Mora's lab. Yet I...have feelings...for the doctor. Almost like he's my father. The disparity, Nerys, makes it hard for me to open up to others. The formality keeps the distance, so no one gets too close. I don't mean to exclude you, you're not everyone else, I know that, but it's just...difficult for me sometimes, even with you."
Kira's heart hurt for her friend, for the pain of his "childhood". There were rare occasions Odo had spoken of it. Kira had met Dr. Mora two years prior, and he had confessed his treatment of his charge. She believed the doctor when he told her that the experiments had stopped once he realized Odo was sentient, and that he regretted hurting him. But it had taken the doctor far too long to figure it out, and the damage had already been done.
"I'm sorry, Odo. Truly. But you know I care for you, right?"
"Yes, I think so," he replied.
Kira scented the faintest trace of a lie, not as strong as before. She knew then that self-doubt plagued him. He didn't believe her. "Odo," she gently admonished. "I do care for you. I wouldn't have made it through the last few years without you. Will you try to remember that?" She squeezed his bonded arm lightly for emphasis.
"I'll try," he replied. She caught the smile in his balancing scent.
Since Odo was in the mood to talk about himself for once, Kira kept her tactic of directness. She knew her next question was going to be tough, but she asked it anyway. It was something she'd wanted to know for a while. "What about your people, Odo? Do you still want to be with them?"
"No," he replied.
Kira was overcome with rotten fruit. "Odo! The truth, for Prophets sake!"
"I'm sorry, Nerys! It's gotten so automatic, I've tried to convince myself a thousand times...I guess it just came out. I'm sorry."
"Well, now we both know there really is no convincing yourself of a lie. Please," she said, "try again."
Odo sighed, and the smell of rain grew stronger. "It's hard to explain it all to myself, much less anyone else" Odo began. "I wanted to be with my people, to belong, for so long...When we met them the first time, and I experienced the Link, I knew my purpose, knew what it was to be whole. Now that I am a solid, the Link will only be a memory. I have lost that perfection, that peace of being accepted for exactly what I am. I guess I tried to convince myself I didn't want to see them, to help me accept what they had done..."
New smells wafted to her then, a smell she knew to be grief- dark, thick, potent, sticking to her senses like tar. There was another her brain linked to loneliness. It was dusty and dry, like an unused room. The scents together squeezed her heart. She knew Odo had been hiding much from her, from all his friends, about what had been done to him, but she wasn't prepared for the depth of what the Diod revealed to her. The Diod was giving her the chance to know what he felt, as he felt it, as it went through his mind and translated chemically through his body. Kira was more sure than ever that this elixir was dangerous stuff as it bared Odo's conflict to her, raw and open.
“I'm locked in this solid existence, and the Founders are the ones who put me here, knowing exactly what they have done to me, yet I persist in longing for a home that is no longer mine...Pathetic!” Anger infused with the other scents, creating a heavy blend of resentment that stung her nose bitterly. She felt Odo tense, trying to control his emotions. She smelled the war going on within, her enhanced senses catching every change in the phrase of his essence. It was like flipping through music channels.
Kira concentrated as Odo struggled, trying to form the things she felt into words, the right ones that would help him see what she saw. "Odo,” she began, “I know they took something precious from you, and I'm not going to insult you by pretending I understand. I don't, not completely. But this-this flesh-" She shook his bonded arm at the word. “-is not you. You are more than that. The station is your home, too. A home you once chose over your people because they threatened it. Sisko, Dax, O'Brien, even Quark accepted you when you came back changed, knowing that being Human instead of Changeling didn't change your pagh. They are the ones who have stood by you when your people couldn't...Doesn't that count for something?”
"Nerys, of course it does. Why do you think I haven't run screaming out an airlock? You, and the others, have seen me through this just by being yourselves, by letting me be me, without labels. It's just such a fundamental change...It's like that time the Cardassians tried to convince you that you were one of them by having you surgically altered. You told me you knew it was a lie, that in your heart you were Bajoran, and they couldn't take that from you no matter how hard they tried.”
“I think I get it... Your saying even though you're Human now, part of you is still a Changeling.”
“Yes, and it's a part that will never be anything else...It doesn't integrate well, Nerys. My own being chafes at itself.”
“You need to give it time, Odo. You'll adjust.”
“Maybe. But right now, it doesn't feel that way...I'm sorry, Nerys, I don't mean to put all this on you, I guess I just...I don't know...”
Kira focused elsewhere as Odo pondered, giving him some privacy from her new nose. As soon as she stopped focusing on Odo, the scents of the room piled back on her in a jumble. The Major challenged herself to use her borrowed ability to sort the chaos, and separated a compelling scent from the rest, its pleasurable distraction tantalizing her nose sinfully. It was chocolate, decadent and rich, her mouth watering as her nose broke down the milk, sugar, and cocoa used to make it. The chocolate shop was three doors down from Ceqrian's. She should never have been able to track the aroma from that far, much less detect the secret dash of cinnamon the confectioner added to his formula. This elixir stuff was growing on her.
Odo stirred, bringing her focus back to him. She heard him draw breath to speak, then sigh it out, hesitant.
"Nerys, I wanted to ask you..."
“Go ahead, Odo. Ask your question. It's fair enough; I've asked two so far."
"Well," he said, "I've- I've thought about your surrogacy, and its effect on you quite often. I've...worried about you. Are you...recovered from your experience?”
"Yes, I think so," she replied.
Odo whooshed out. "That, Major, was not the truth."
"Oh, Odo, I'm sorry,” she giggled and squeezed his arm in sympathy. "I guess that was my automatic response. I must not really know the answer. I admit, I haven't been able to sort out my feelings since having the baby. I loved carrying that little life inside of me, even with all the sneezing, and I always thought I would have my own someday, but..."
Kira trailed off, trying to frame her thoughts and explain all that had tangled her in the mixed emotions she'd suffered since giving birth. The mirth she felt at Odo's discomfort dissolved completely as her thoughts darkened, her brow drawing down as a memory rose unbidden to the surface.
I remember they were all so dirty, and so thin, and the crying made me angry because it never seemed to stop....
Odo's thumb made soft circles on the top of her arm. “Nerys, what is it? I can scent the grief. What's troubling you?”
"Odo there are things I never told you, never told anyone,” she began hesitantly, voice already tightening with tears. She cleared her throat and tried again. “I never told you because I never wanted to talk about it. I thought I put it behind me, but living with the O'Briens, carrying the baby, made it all come back...”
“Go on,” he encouraged.
“You know I spent my childhood in a refugee camp.”
“Yes, it's in your file.”
“Those camps were nothing but suffering and death. Whole families were lost in those places. Most children under twelve didn't survive internment more than a year...So many children lost, Odo. They starved or died of simple infections, they died of hypothermia, of heat stroke, perfectly preventable causes. We were always packed in too tightly, there was never enough food, there was never enough water...
"The nights were the worst, lying in the dark, listening to the sounds all around me of people dying. Their groans, their screams, their rattles. Sometimes I would keep myself awake the entire night. Being a child, I thought that if I didn't go to sleep, if I didn't close my eyes, I couldn't die..." Kira broke off a bitter laugh and shuddered. "Isn't that silly?"
Odo gripped her arm tightly. “Nerys, I don't need the elixir to know how frightened you are. We can stop this. We don't need to talk about it.”
“No, Odo, I do need to. I should have let this out a long time ago.” She heaved a breath and steeled herself against her fear, Odo's grip on her bonded arm lending her strength. “Each morning the Cardassians would have workers remove the corpses of those who had died in the night. They hauled the dead off like garbage, Odo. Like they weren't even people. I would watch them drag the bodies away each day from a spot I had on a hill, and I could pick out the smallest ones...At some point, I made a game out of trying to count how many babies there were, my child's mind trying to make some sense out of it all. I sat there and counted dead children every day, and I became a dead child myself..."
Kira heard the wince of sympathy in Odo's voice, scented his pain, and it gave her tears permission to flow. They streamed from her eyes, absorbing into the blindfold. Kira tried to speak, to tell Odo what she was reliving as the Diod enhanced her recall of those camp years to horrifying clarity. Bajorans weren't meant for this ability, this scent memory. There was the reek of oily cook fires, the filth of people in close quarters, the rusted metal that reminded her of blood. There were smells of sickness and death and rot, things her mind had blocked but the elixir renewed. It was like she was standing in the muddy streets of the camp all over again, shivering in the cold and begging the Prophets for salvation.
The images were too strong, the recall too sharp, with the added layer of scent. A whimper broke from her, and Kira clapped a hand over her mouth. She tried to stop the flood of grief that threatened to pour from her throat. She struggled to control it, send it back, but it was too late. It escaped in huge sobs that hurt her stomach and stole her air.
"Shh, Nerys," Odo whispered, drawing her close with his free arm, careful of their bond. As he drew her close, his scent became a soothing balm, banishing those other smells back to her past. "Easy, easy..." She didn't resist what he offered, laying her head against the solid wall of his chest, letting her anguish flow freely. Tears soaked the blindfold to a cold, wet mess against her cheeks. "I'm so sorry I brought this up."
Kira hid her face on his chest, and reveled in the feel of him, his scent wrapping her in warmth. They sat that way for a time as Kira's tears abated, her grief soothed by Odo's soft words and gentle rocking.
As Odo held her, Kira realized the answer to his question, the answer that she'd hidden deep and away from even herself. “I didn't tell anyone, but I had constant nightmares while I was pregnant, of losing the baby, of the baby dying after birth, of me dying with it...I'm pretty sure Miles knew, but he never said a word. It's the real reason I wouldn't let Julian give me sedatives to sleep. I was afraid to sleep, and see more of what I lived through. It's been enough to convince me that I shouldn't get pregnant, shouldn't have children. There's too much fear in me when in comes to the idea of children and family."
“Perhaps there will be a day when you change your mind, when you are healed enough," Odo said. "Don't give up just yet, Nerys."
Kira had her doubts, so she didn't reply. Instead, she sighed and nestled closer to Odo, still content to remain in his embrace. He didn't seem in a hurry to push her away. As she relaxed against him, the slightest tinge of sweat carried to her, bringing that same note of his scent she couldn't process before. It was essential, like oxygen or water or food. When she focused on it, so close now, images spun through Kira's mind, of summer sun and starry nights, of soft sighs and hard muscle, teasing the pleasure centers of her brain. Whatever it was it was good, and she breathed deeply, getting as much as she could.
Odo was breathing her in as well, his exhales tickling past the tip of her ear, and Kira couldn't suppress a shiver of delight. Odo's grip on her tightened, and his breaths began to in hitch short, rapid pants. A closely-shaven cheek scratched her skin deliciously as he traced his way to her neck. He nudged her gently, looking for the pulse-point under her jaw. Kira tilted her head to let him closer. A satisfied grunt vibrated against her throat as he found what he sought, as he took in the stronger essence there. She could feel his heart thumping faster through the bond, her own jogging quicker to catch up, an erotic charge shooting up her arm and into her core with each beat.
Kira breathed deeply, catching a third, unique scent as their essences commingled. It was bold, exotic, yet comforting, molten and sweet, and made her pulse pound even harder. Fulfillment and trust were the base notes, satisfying, rich and sure. A sense of home, of rightness, washed over her as the fragrance between them grew more complex, filled with things she didn't understand, so she stopped trying, and let sensation take over.
She took that third scent deeper, let its effects wash over her body, the juncture of her thighs opening, softening. Was this what Ceqrian had noted between them, this incredible blend? It was intoxicating, exhilarating. Her nails dug sharply into Odo's arm and he made a ragged, gasping sound. Prophets, she wanted to crawl in his lap right now and—
Odo broke the spell abruptly. He pushed her back as if it burned to touch her. The shock pooled tears in her eyes, and she blinked rapidly, lashes catching on the blindfold. They both sat dumbfounded, chests heaving, as that third scent faded from the air. Kira's cheeks flamed hotly when realized what she had been about to do. She scented that Odo was equally embarrassed, frightened even, gripping her bonded arm a little too hard. There was a cough and the rustle of fabric. Another waft of musk carried to her as he shifted in his seat.
What are you hiding from me, Constable? a feral part of her mind purred.
"Major, I'm sorry," Odo said. "I shouldn't have touched you, I have no right—"
"Odo, don't you apologize. I'm the one who's sorry, losing myself like that. We're not used to this enhanced sense of smell.”
“Still, I apologize," Odo said. "I just hate to see you suffer, I always have, and I couldn't let you grieve like that... Maybe we should stop this.”
“No,” Kira blurted, “not yet.” The thought of letting him go right now was painful. Besides, what had just happened raised more questions than ever, and she didn't want to let him off the hook just yet, not until some of them were answered.
Kira moved to change the subject. “Odo, let's talk about something else. Something happy. Something that hopefully smells nice, too.”
“All right,” he replied, resigned. “Like what?”
Kira couldn't think of anything, still distracted by the scents that lingered between them. There was a long silence as she struggled to find something. Kira was about to give the whole thing up when a gravelly chuckle came from Odo.
“What's so funny?” she asked.
“I was just remembering something... Do you recall that time on Loronia 7? When we thought we were walking into a pub, and it turned out to be-”
“-a strip joint?” Kira grinned. “Yeah, I remember. What made you think of that?”
“Well, Nerys, it is the only other time I can recall feeling this awkward in your presence.”
Kira giggled, biting her lip. “It was pretty awkward for me, too...Seeing all those naked men, grinding away on the stage. I've never run out of a room so fast in my life.”
Odo laughed then, a boom from deep in his chest that raised the hairs on her arms, and widened her smile. “Like a Denebrian slime devil being chased by a karthoc,” he managed.
“Faster than that, I think,” she replied, reveling in the sound of Odo's laughter. It was such a rare occurrence, hearing him laugh that way, she didn't want it to stop, wanted to keep him laughing, her nose tingling with scent of champagne and oranges.
After a time, the citrus splash of mirth dissipated. They sat catching their breath for a while, neither speaking. Odo's mood grew more somber as he leaned back in his chair, and his scent turned serious. She could tell something was on his mind.
“What are you thinking?” Kira asked softly.
"Nerys, can I ask you...are you in love, truly in love, with Shakaar?" A green, peppery smell wafted to her, like crushed vines, oozing their juices on a forest floor.
She concentrated on the question, deciphering the scent less important at the moment. Why was Shakaar on his mind? And what kind of question was that, anyway? Odo knew her better than anyone. Of course she loved Edon, they had been sleeping together, hadn't they? She wasn't some sleebok who sold herself. Her ire started to build, and she was about to burst out with an angry 'Of course I am,' when the scent of spoiled fruit, from her own skin, hit her.
Was she lying to herself, then? The Constable had phrased his question most carefully. He didn't ask if she loved Shakaar, but if she was in love with him. The difference was life and death.
"Smoothly played, Constable. I guess I never really was...Huh."
"Hmph," Odo agreed. "I didn't think so. I watched you all those months with Bareil. You were in love with him, and he with you, anyone could see it. I just don't see the same...spark in your eye when you talk about Shakaar. You like him, I know, but you're not in love with him."
"Since when did you get to be such an expert on love? I thought you hated this stuff."
"Not love, Major, but you. I'm an expert on you, or as much as anyone is ever going to get. Besides, I am the best investigator in the quadrant. I pride myself on my ability to read others.”
Pride smells like boot leather. “Very true,” Kira conceded.
“Are you going to be with him still? With Shakaar?" There was that green smell again, sharp, intrusive, like pulverized saplings, broken and sickly. Her brain finally found the word to go with it. There was envy coming from Odo when he talked about Shakaar.
Kira sat forward on her chair. "Why did you want to know, Odo?”
"Curiosity, I guess..."
Rotten olgla fruit assaulted her nose. "And you just lied to me! It's not idle curiosity. Why do you want to know?"
"I'm sorry I brought it up, Major. Ask me something else."
“It's Nerys! And no, I will not ask you something else. Answer my question." She scented his trepidation, and the smell of something sour and unpleasant she couldn't identify tied up with that dry, dusty smell again. There was something here, something important.
"Nerys, please. I don't think you'll like the answer."
There was no lie to his scent. Did he believe the answer would hurt her somehow? She hesitated, almost trusting he would know best, but then a trace of fear wafted her way. Why would he be afraid?
Kira paused for a moment, calming her irritation, and considered the matter carefully. The answer, after all, was often in the question. What could it possibly matter to him who she dated? Yes, she dumped on him about her relationships, she'd even listened to some of his advice, but that didn't mean he got to approve all of her partners. Unless...and it hit her. The green smell, the fear smell, and that little drift of loneliness. Oh my, oh my, Nerys thought to herself. Unless...
"Odo," she began softly, "are you asking because you want to know...for yourself...that I'm not seeing Edon?"
"Nerys, please. I don't want to answer." That sour odor was starting to overwhelm the others.
"Will you let me be the judge of that?" she countered. She concentrated the Diod- activated part of her brain intently, ready to catch any change in the wind. "Why..did you..want to know?"
"Nerys, I can't!" He tried to pull his arm away from her, to break the bond. She gripped him tighter and pressed his arm back to the chair.
“No, Odo. Not yet. This is important, and I want an answer.”
There was a heavy silence, the tension from Odo ominous, heavy, an electric scent crackling between them, like the smell in the air right before a lightning storm. Why didn't he throw her off if he wanted to leave so badly? He was certainly strong enough. The arid smell of loneliness flooded her nostrils, mixed with the sour stench from earlier, and she realized with a quiver of sympathy that it was shame. Shame was oozing from him, running out of his pores, a poisonous cloud between them. Why so much shame?
“Odo, please. Tell me.”
"Nerys, I...I'm in love with you," he said, almost too low for her to hear. "Deeply. I have been for years."
Nerys sat silently for some time, thunderstruck. That was definitely no lie. How had she missed something this important? She thought back over all they had said and done together, adding her new knowledge to every late night conversation, every security office exchange, every heated argument, and it was all there, the whole time, right under her nose. Stupid girl, she thought. How did you not see it? The pungent scent of anger- with herself, not Odo- rose from her skin.
Taking her silence, and her scent, for something else he said, "Nerys, I'm so sorry. Sorry you had to hear this."
Shame was still pouring heavily from him and it broke Kira's heart. She realized she had been taking the wrong approach with her inherently honest but continuously mysterious friend. She took a gentler tack this time, softening her tone. "You said years, Odo. When did you know?"
"I think I loved you from the first time I saw you, all those years ago during the Va'atrick case, but I didn't know it for what it was, not then." No rotten fruit. Good. Honesty was clearing the air between them.
"And even when I was with Bareil? When I was with someone else?" Kira asked.
"Yes, even though I knew you were likely going to marry him. I couldn't be jealous of Bareil because he was such a good man. He made you so happy, and it made me happy to see it." Sadness, regret tainted the space. Grief was there, too. She didn't know Odo grieved for Bareil.
“Ceqrian said we were both in danger from the Dominion. It's not just because of the war. The Founders know, don't they?”
"Yes. I'm sorry, Nerys."
Kira's resentment simmered to the surface, hot and redolent. "How Odo? How did they know, and I didn't?”
"It's my fault, really. Do you remember that incident on the asteroid, where the Founder impersonated you?” Kira spoke her affirmative. “The Founder forced a confession from me by making me think you were dying. It was awful. When I think of losing you..." Odo shuddered. "She used your face, your mouth, and said 'I love you.' I knew it wasn't you in that instant. I should have known sooner, should have seen through it...”
Kira's anger evaporated. “That was the 'slip of the tongue' you told me about? Odo, that is a lot more than a turn of phrase!”
Kira reeled with the knowledge, remembering how he'd casually dismissed the incident, and she hadn't given it a lick of thought since. This was terrible. They'd used his love to deceive him, to hurt him. No wonder she scented so much shame and fear.
Odo agonized silently, waiting for her to speak, to be forgiven for his supposed transgressions, the Diod enhancing every bit of his misery. She wanted to end it for him, but Kira needed him to ask her one last question.
"Well,” she said, “here's the perfect chance to prevent any more misunderstandings...Odo, ask me if I'm in love with you."
"Nerys, I know the answer. It's been there before me all these years. You don't have to do this."
"Odo," she said more succinctly, "ask me if I'm in love with you."
Odo heaved a sigh. With no hope in his voice, or his scent, he said, "Kira Nerys, are you in love with me?"
Kira smiled broadly. The Diod had already told her the truth, the truth that had been following her through this whole night, and she knew without doubt what her answer was. "Yes, Odo. I love you. Very much."
The scent of Odo's shame disappeared, something else taking its place, something much more pleasant. Hope added its note to loneliness, peace to wanting, and they blended to a new fragrance altogether. She heard a rustle, and her blindfold was lifted. She could see him now, the emotions in his expression matching the ones in his scent.
"Kira Nerys," he said softly, reaching up and cupping her cheek, the scent of him righted now, solid and strong. "Tell me again. Do you love me?"
"With all that I am, Odo" she replied, joy releasing its aroma from them both, effervescent and pure. "I think I always have, and I never saw it, not in all these years.” Tears coursed down her cheeks. “Can you forgive me? For being so damned blind?"
"Nerys,” he gasped, pulling her close. The bond at their wrists was broken as he embraced her, releasing the hold of the Diod. Before its effects faded completely, Kira caught the essence of the perfume that was *them* one last time, beautiful and complex, full of love and sex and angst, and all those things that go with loving your soul mate.
"Ah, Nerys..." Odo didn't have any more words. He caressed her face, and finally...finally...pulled her to him for a kiss that set them both afire, sealing their love with a promise of perfection.