As soon as Odo stepped into his quarters, he knew they had been altered. Nothing was taken, nothing was moved, but he knew just the same that something was different. He knew it in the way he knew immediately when he was being lied to, in the way he could always spot a thief in a crowd, and in how he always managed to predict the winning team in the annual springball playoffs. He knew it by instinct, by that third-eye sense which had preserved him through all these years as an investigator, and Odo always made it a point to listen to his instincts. Rarely had they ever steered him wrong.
Moderating his step to wary stealth, Odo moved further into his quarters, eyes searching for the slightest sign of invasion. He swung his head from side to side, looked ceiling to floor, taking in every detail and comparing it to his perfect recall of how he had left his quarters, over a week ago now. So far, there was nothing out of place. The only foot tread in the carpet was his own. There was a light layer of dust on the large central sculpture, but no fingerprints or telling swipes of a cloth disturbed it. The pictures were straight, his PADDs and computer console just as he'd left them. What,then, was bothering him?
The constable moved passed the living area to check the bedroom. There, he finally found the problem. Someone had definitely been altering things. Before, the space had been open, empty, no furniture or personal items or any of the other trappings that cluttered a humanoid’s quarters. After all, Odo had been a Changeling, and what did a Changeling need with such things? Now, however, Odo’s deliberately blank space had been filled.
Someone had brought in a bed, by transporter most likely, since none of the rest of the room had been disturbed. The bed was well-sized and well appointed, not a station standard-issue piece of furniture. The headboard was hand-carved Bajoran oak, Odo guessed, heavy and masculine, but modern, not an inexpensive piece, and whoever had left this bed had seen fit to outfit it with plush-looking blankets and pillows. The whole effect was quite luxuriant and inviting, actually, if he was forced to admit it.
Odo let go of some of his wary tension and leaned heavily against the door frame, considering this unfortunately necessary and anonymously donated part of his new life. He wondered who’d had the foresight to assume he’d need it. Perhaps Sisko or Dax had called ahead, had arranged this, thinking to do him a favor. It was no favor, though. That bed, that place where he would now sleep instead of regenerating, instead of returning to a natural Changeling state, was a reminder of all he had lost, all that had been stolen from him. It was entirely too humanoid a thing, that soft, comfortable bed.
Odo’s bunk back on the Defiant had been much more acceptable. Its single layer of padding was punishing, hard, and not at all relaxing. The bunk was too narrow for him to stretch out in, too short to accommodate his long, lanky frame. A soldier’s bunk Odo could deal with because not in a thousand years would he ever get used to it. This attractive and generously-sized bed, however, he thought, as he moved to it, as he pressed his hand into the yielding but firm mattress, was something he could certainly get used to. A thing he could learn all too easily to accept.
He would accept it, Odo thought, because he had to. At this point he was so tired, so desperate for some real rest, he didn't really care where he slept, just so long as he did. On that narrow bunk aboard the Defiant, as they made their way back to the station from his trial with the Founders, Odo had pulled a pillow over his head night after sleepless night, trying to block his ears to the low-pitched dirge of the ship’s engines, the electronic hums and tweets of the running ship, the voices of the crew memebers that sometimes seeped through the walls, disturbing noises that ran through his locked-in, solid form and added a layer of vibration he'd never felt before, a thick burr in his head that had left him unable to rest.
Yet in his waking hours he’d strained to hear the layers of sound he was missing, especially in higher pitched tones, like the pleasant hum of the warp drive shifting over factor four, or that dulcet timbre in the last note of the comm chirp. Or the lovely ring in Dax's laugh. To his Changeling senses, the sound of Dax’s laugh had been like the music of a stream rolling softly over small stones, and it was always Odo’s favorite thing about her. Now his inadequate human ears had made Jadzia’s laugh flat, hollow, half of the joy stripped from it. At least for him.
Thinking about Dax's laugh only made Odo more exhausted, and despite his doubts about its origins and its presence in his life, Odo felt himself pulled by the siren's call of his new bed. He moved further into the bedroom, removing his uniform tunic as he went. He hung it carefully over the back of a chair, yet another addition from his anonymous benefactor, but he was too tired to care about that anymore. He removed his undershirt, too, and scratched his bared chest, sighing with relief and ignoring the chill as warm skin met cold air. Goosebumps were better than being itchy, though not by much. Odo had never expected clothes to be so uncomfortable since humanoids spent so much time parading around in them. Dr. Bashir had explained that his new skin and tender nerves had not yet conditioned to the chafe of fabric, but they would. Eventually.
Odo eased himself down on the edge of the bed, thinking about the day’s events. He had headed straight from the Defiant to Garak’s shop to pick up his uniform, and from there, straight to work. Sisko had tried to talk him out of it, suggesting leave, but having unfilled time on his hands was the last thing Odo wanted. He needed to get right back to work, where he belonged, where he still knew himself. But as fate would have it, that was taken from him, too.
Odo’s revelation about the Klingon chancellor Gowron had the senior staff in an uproar. Immediately after Gowron’s transmission, Sisko had called them together to discuss what it all meant, what their plan of action would be against the imminent threat of war with Kronos. After the briefing, the captain had been obligated to inform Starfleet about Odo's suspected Changeling infiltrator. Consequently, Odo had spent his first day back on the job locked in a room and stuck on a comm, answering yet again to Starfleet and Bajoran intelligence agencies for the actions of his people. He was interrogated mercilessly the entire day, as if the two powers blamed the whole thing on him, as if he was an agent of the Founders and was somehow privy to what their plans were. How many times did he have to explain to the powers that be that despite his heritage, the Founders didn't tell him any more than they told the rest of the universe?
When Odo had emerged from that room, drained, disheartened, and so frustrated he was nearly in tears, Sisko took one look at him and changed his mind. He insisted Odo take no less than three days’ leave, both for Odo’s safety, and for his sanity. Odo was still simmering about it, but he couldn't fault the captain’s logic, and understood the why of it. In addition to being restless, sleepless and constantly uncomfortable, Odo had found himself become, of all things, emotional, a trait hardly fitting for a chief of security in a busy space port. Especially one so close to Klingon space.
As a Changeling, Odo’s emotions were a current that ran through his form like electricity, like plasma, and were balanced throughout his matrix, there for him to tap when his intellect found the need. In this new form of his, emotions showed up in fits and starts, in bursts and pops, springing on him unawares and taking him by surprise, creating all sorts of chemical meltdowns and wreaking havoc with his body. Now whenever he got upset, he flushed and stammered. He shivered and cried. He lost track of his thoughts and his mind wouldn't stay focused on the smallest of things, and though each day was getting easier, these messy humanoid emotions were proving damnably hard to master. 'To become a thing is to know a thing,' the Founder had once told him, and Odo had spent many, many hours masquerading as a humanoid, thinking he’d pretty much gotten it down. Only now did he see how wrong he had been. Thanks to the Founders, Odo was certainly getting a full lesson in becoming a thing.
Pushing off thoughts of the Founders and his trial, Odo looked again on the soft, welcoming bed, this symbol of his forced humanity, his humiliation, and he huffed a bitter laugh. After this harrowing first day back aboard the station, he was so exhausted, he was actually glad to see the dratted bed, no matter how it had come to be in his quarters, and Odo finally gave in to its beckoning call.
He bent down and took off his uniform boots, flexing his cramped-in toes, dropping the boots unceremoniously on the floor. He flopped back on the bed. The almost-weightless relief soothed his aches and pains as the mattress conformed to his shape, cradling his body in its soft, but not too soft, support. Whoever had picked this bed out, they had done an excellent job. The tension in his muscles began to slowly dissolve, and Odo sighed out, staring at the ceiling. In the silence of his quarters, as the rest of the day faded away and his thoughts began to settle, Odo heard-felt yet another disturbing sound. It was a distinct, unwelcome rhythm that was coming from inside very own his chest.
Odo moved his hand over the sound, over its source. Just to the left of center and hiding behind his ribs, there it was. The thing he’d done his best for the last few days to ignore. The thing whose rhythm as a Changeling he could only mimic before. That pulsing, pounding core that sent real, red blood coursing through his veins. The tell-tale organ that said he was now truly, and irrevocably, a solid.
The human heart, Odo thought as he felt its steady beat, was the one thing he'd never really understood, not in all these years. No matter how many observations he'd made, no matter how many careful studies he'd embarked upon, the heart had always remained a mystery, and now that Odo had one of his own, he found he was afraid. It was his secret and his greatest fear that before he’d even had a chance to learn the way of it, his heart was already broken.
Oh, for Prophet’s sake, Odo, stop being such a ninny. Just get some rest. You’ll feel better in the morning.
Odo finally let human nature claim him fully. He curled onto his side, rolled himself in his blankets and stuffed a pillow under his head. The former Changeling fell quickly into a deep and dreamless rest, and slept his first full night since his conviction in a Changeling court.